Food & Fitness After 50: Can we Sustain Cooking at Home after the Pandemic?

They say that with age comes wisdom. It seems that wisdom extends to the eating habits of those of us over 50. Ninety-five percent of adults over the age of 50 agree that fruits and vegetables have many health benefits and 89% say they enjoy eating them. Older adults are also more likely to recognize the short and long term health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables compared to younger age groups who eat them because they were told they were good for them or someone else prepared them.

A health strategy that dietitians embrace as a way to eat more fruits and veggies is diet1cooking at home and 2020 saw a big spike in home cooking. According to a recent research report, “Home Cooking in America 2020” from The Food Industry Association (FMI) 40% of American adults say they are cooking more since the pandemic. That might be the silver lining for these challenging and uncertain times. Like many of you I like watching “House Hunters” and I always get a kick out the couple whose wish list includes a gourmet kitchen even though neither one of them cooks! And, many love cooking shows yet they rely on take out for their meals. Of course, the resurgence in home cooking is forced upon us by stay at home orders, closure of our favorite restaurants, or feeling unsafe venturing out to eat, but it is getting us in the kitchen.

How can we encourage the cooking trend to continue once the pandemic is over? After reading the “Home Cooking in America 2020” report, several clues are revealed by the research. Here the highlights that apply to the 50+ demographic, and some personal tips to encourage the cooking trends.

iStock-Couple in kitchen 2“Shared cooking supports consistent cooking.” Those who say they cook a lot often have some help in the kitchen. The report suggests that retired adults may have more time and a renewed interest in cooking with their partner or family as a form of togetherness. While women still are the primary shoppers and chefs, now is a great time to get your partner in the kitchen.

Personal Tip:  I encourage my husband to cook by agreeing to be his sous chef; I get the ingredients ready, chop veggies, measure the spices or herbs, set out the pans or pots, and then offer help when needed. Turns out he is an inventive cook and more creative than I am in the kitchen. He also makes a mean weekend breakfast!

Bagels
Making bagels!

Bonus Tip: Now is a great time to pass along family recipes or favorite kitchen hacks to the next generation. Inspired by a neighbor, click here to access the post highlighting her ideas on paying it forward. But it is also a great time for the older generation to learn from the younger. My niece, Samantha, taught me how to make bagels and I’ve been perfecting my technique since her original bagel making lesson. My nephew, Reis, is also handy in the kitchen. On his visit he taught me how to make an easy, crusty French Bread. It was fun to watch him bake and I reaped triple rewards: spending time with my college-aged nephew, learning a new baking technique, and eating delicious bread.

“Cooking well is a path to eating well.” Tastes rules when it comes to choosing foods and cooking can be a path forward to both taste and health. It’s never been easier to find recipes that contain less calories, saturated fat, sodium, or sugar. And cooking is great way to incorporate more fruits and veggies into meals. Many of us are dusting off small kitchen appliances and rediscovering why we bought them in the first place…. from slow cookers (one of my faves) to Instant pots, we’re enjoying new cooking methods.

Personal Tip: I’ve written about my early pandemic purchase of an Air Fryer and I can’t believe it took a world-wide virus for me to fall in love with it. I use it all the time to turn indulgent foods (fried shrimp!) into healthier versions. It is a quick way to roast veggies, too. Cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts cook up crisp and flavorful in an air fryer. Plus, it doesn’t heat up the kitchen and it is easy to clean. I’ve turned several friends on to the virtues of air frying and we swap favorite recipes each time we talk.

Picture1“Sticking to budgets and reducing food waste has never been more important.” Fifty-one percent of consumers expect they will be better in the future about not letting food go to waste. With food costs on the rise and wanting to minimize shopping trips, getting creative with leftovers (or, as my friend calls them, “plan-overs”) means less waste.

Personal Tip: With late summer harvest fruits and veggies appearing at farmer’s markets, roadside stands, community gardens, and your local grocery store, make sure to use it all up to avoid waste and save money. My lake neighbor has an incredible garden and when he comes to his lake home, he brings bags and buckets of tomatoes, peppers, yellow squash, and zucchini. I’ve made salsa with the tomatoes and peppers, grilled squash kabobs, whipped up chopped tomato caprese salad (adding in my home-grown basil), and make easy stir-fries with leftover chicken and veggies.

“Scratch cooking can be fluid.” Many of us have an idealized version of scratch cooking. You don’t have to make your tomato sauce or fresh pasta to enjoy “scratch” home-cooked meals.

Personal Tip: Convenience items offer short cuts that can make cooking easier and less daunting. I can’t live without canned beans…black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas…are versatile, nutritious, and easy. Just open the can, drain and rinse, and they are ready for soups, stews, or salad. For those nights when you don’t want to cook, don’t overlook a frozen lasagna for dinner and add a big green salad and some crusty bread for a quick meal.

tgn_080918_nfmm_consumer_infographics_-9-outline_002Krystal Register, registered dietitian who leads the health and well-being initiatives for FMI, the food industry association, agrees that “now is the perfect time to embrace the many benefits we can all experience from home cooking and shared family meals. Research from the FMI Foundation, along with many other studies, shows that more frequent family meals are associated with better dietary outcomes and family functioning outcomes. Consumers are to be commended for adapting and discovering new skills and perspectives while cooking more at home. We encourage families to stay strong with family meals. While there are plenty of inspirational ideas, we hope that families stay connected by cooking at home and eating meals together, building habits that can lead to healthier eating patterns and improved overall well-being.”

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved

Food & Fitness After 50: It’s a Good Time to Pass Along Kitchen Tips and Family Recipes

Keeping our social distance, my neighbor, Amy and I were talking (well, sort of shouting) across our yards and she said she had an idea for this blog. After listening to her ideas, I am posting a Q&A to share her great suggestions for passing along her favorite kitchen hacks and family recipes to the next generation. Thank you, Amy Clark!

fuel-nutritionMost of us value family meals and for good reasons. A recent systematic review confirms that family meals improve fruit and vegetable intake and improve family connectedness, communication, expressiveness, and problem-solving. And, sharing family heritage through cherished family recipes and teaching children some easy kitchen tips and tricks can improve the bond between the generations.

Question: What made you think about sharing recipes with your family at this time?

Self-isolation and family lock-down is a perfect time to teach kids some kitchen basics that they can use for a lifetime and help to instill the love of cooking. I also think that showing our children how to master simple tips can help making cooking more streamlined to save time in the kitchen. This can help them realize that cooking isn’t a daunting task.

Question: What are your top tips to engage younger kids in the kitchen?

For the younger kids, get them to help with some easy tasks. We probably all know that overly ripe bananas can be peeled and frozen and used in banana bread*, muffins, or pancakes, but another use for bananas is this trick that I use. Have kids peel ripe bananas and slice into ½-inch to 1-inch slices and lay them on baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Slide the tray into the freezer for an hour or two and then transfer to a gallon-size freezer bag. I like to stack the layers on top of each other inside the freezer bag by reusing the parchment or wax paper. They don’t take up much freezer space and it prevents food waste of those tasty bananas.

The kids can pull out the slices when they want to make smoothies, put on cereal, or make pancakes. I like to use them for a breakfast bowl.

Amy’s Breakfast Bowl

½ cup uncooked oatmeal

1/3 cup pomegranate juice

1 Tablespoon of shelled, raw sunflower or pumpkin seeds

Handful of frozen blueberries

4 or 5 sliced frozen bananas

Mix together in microwave safe bowl and microwave for 40 seconds. Remove from microwave and stir and microwave for another 40 to 45 seconds.

LemonAnother kitchen hack that is easy to pass along to kids is how to save time by having lemon zest and juice at the ready. Wash lemons and grate the zest. Show kids how to use a cheese grater (carefully, of course!) by grating the lemons on the side of the grater with the smallest holes. If you have a zester, that works well, too. Wrap the zest/peel from each lemon in a piece of parchment paper and store flat in a sandwich-size freezer bag. Once zested, cut the lemons and squeeze the juice into a measuring cup, removing seeds in the process. Pour the juice into ice cube trays and freeze. (Your kids may have never seen an old-fashioned ice cube tray!)  Once frozen, remove the lemon cubes and store in freezer bags. One of my absolute favorite recipes for lemon zest and juice is a Lemon Dutch Baby, which the kids will love. If you’ve never tried it, search online and you’re bound to find several recipes using lemon juice and zest. Kids can easily help with this recipe. I like making it in a cast iron skillet because it crisps the crust and some of the iron from the skillet gets absorbed into the food, making it a richer source of dietary iron.

Question: You said that this is also a good time to pass down recipes from one generation to another. What treasured recipes do you have that you want to share with your sons?

I get concerned that some family recipes may be lost over time.  All three of my sons enjoy cooking and grilling but would rather come up with something on the fly or go online to look up a recipe. I want to not only share family recipes but teach them how to make them. My favorite recipes are those passed down from my husband’s grandmother, Estelle.  Grandma Estelle was an amazing woman and fabulous cook who lived to be 99 years old. Maybe she got her love of cooking because one of her first jobs was working at a dairy farm testing the milk for safety. My two favorite recipes are her amazing pie crust (for her famous Coconut Cream Pie) and chicken and dumplings. Both comfort foods to be sure, what we could all use a little comfort right now!

Homemade pie crust is easier to make than you might think. It is cheaper than buying a frozen or refrigerated crust and the taste and flakiness is unbeatable. Pie crust is a good recipe to make with your kids and watching them learn to use a rolling pin is priceless! The crust can be used for pies, of course, but also for homemade chicken pot pie. Once made, the dough can be frozen in individual balls until you are ready to thaw and roll out, which saves you time.

Chicken and dumplings
Amy’s version of Grandmother Estelle’s chicken & dumplings

Our family’s favorite is Estelle’s chicken and dumplings. To make the recipe a bit less daunting, I substitute a large rotisserie chicken for a raw broiler chicken. I remember watching her make it when she would visit us in the summer. I’m sure many of her generation cooked and baked the same way and trying to pin down the exact measurements was a challenge. She would say, “just use a little of this and splash of that.” But even though she didn’t measure a single ingredient, it always came out just right.

Even at 50+, I am still discovering unique family recipes that I can pass on. Last summer, when my husband Randy and I were visiting his parents, I saw his dad cutting up the entire rind of a watermelon. When I asked him what he was doing, he shared another family recipe I did not know about. My mother-in-law showed me how to cook the rinds down and create Watermelon Preserves. She learned how make the preserves from watermelon rinds when she was young from her mother-in-law! The preserves have a unique flavor and we really enjoyed it. When I got home, I made a batch and shared a jar with my son and his fiancé. (See photos below.) I told her the story and she was excited for me to teach her how to make them…another mother-in-law inspired recipe! I love how that recipe, which was created to use every part of the watermelon, is now something preserved (pun intended) and is being passed down by to another generation.

Question: What do you think is a good way to pass along the family recipes?

tgn_080918_nfmm_consumer_infographics_-14-outline_002Some of us have a little more time at home right now so it is a good time to clean up your recipe files and pass along your favorites to your kids…. you can create a recipe box, a recipe book, or more likely for this generation, a digital file shared on a flash drive! Along with each recipe, write a little history of the origin of the dish or why you like it. No matter which way you choose to share the family recipes, I think your kids will appreciate them for years to come.

Banana bread

 

*One of Chris’ favorite recipes for banana bread comes courtesy of California Walnuts, Old Soul’s Banana Walnut Bread. After baking and cooling the banana bread, it freezes well. I have a loaf in my freezer right now! Click here for the recipe.

 

Chris Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.