Nutrition-wise blog

Advice about feeding grandchildren — OK to speak up?

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. August 8, 2012

I'm a relatively new grandma of two granddaughters — one is 18 months old and one is 3 months old. Their mom and dad are juggling careers, keeping up the home front, and creating a wonderful family. We're fortunate to live close to one another and to be able to spend time together.

If you're a grandparent you probably know what I'm going to say next. Mealtimes with the grandchildren are an experience. My oldest granddaughter is at the finger-food stage, which is opening up all kinds of interesting family dynamics for mom and dad, and for grandma and grandpa.

I spent the first part of my career practicing pediatric nutrition and advising parents about the latest tips for nourishing their infants and children. However, this was back when I was single and childless. A number of years have since passed, and I have more experience and expertise.

Yet, it's interesting that now as a grandparent I find myself asking what my role in all of this should be. Here's what I've decided to do, at least for now:

  • Let mom and dad be in charge.
  • Give advice when asked.
  • Offer advice privately when concerned.

This sounds good, but is hard to do. If you're a grandparent, I'm sure that you've been torn between speaking up and holding your tongue.

Here's where I broke my rules — the minute I saw one of my granddaughters pick up an uncut grape. I flew across the room and took charge. I lectured and destroyed that mealtime.

Although I got the message across, I wonder if my family will dare ask for my advice about nutrition for my precious grandchildren. I still think that my commitment to letting parents be in charge and giving advice when asked is good. I'll work harder on offering advice privately when I have a concern.

If you're a grandparent, what are your experiences and suggestions? If you're a parent, what do you say when a grandparent joins your family at the table?

By the way, here are some tips to prevent choking:

  • Have preschoolers eat at the table, or at least while sitting down. Don't let them run, walk, play or lie down with food in their mouth.
  • Keep a watchful eye on children while they eat.
  • Cut food for preschoolers into pieces no larger than one-half inch and teach them to chew their food well.
  • Slice hot dogs and sausages lengthwise.
  • Cut meat and chicken across the grain into small pieces.
  • Slice grapes, cherry tomatoes and other round foods in half.
  • Cook carrots or celery sticks until slightly soft, grate them, or cut them into small pieces or thin matchsticks.
  • Spread peanut butter thinly on bread or crackers. A thick glob of peanut butter can cause choking.

Best wishes,
Jennifer

Aug. 08, 2012