What's Yellow with a Crookneck?
By Elizabeth Skenes Millen
As I was checking out at the grocery store, the young cashier held up one of my items and asked me what it was. “It’s a yellow squash,” I said. She proceeded to search for the item number so she could ring it up.
“Is it butternut squash,” she asked?
“No. It is yellow squash. It may be under summer squash or crookneck squash,” I replied.
As she continued to peruse the sheet of paper for the item code, it dawned on me that she must not eat vegetables—a sign of the times—at least not any form of squash. I found it sad that this 20-something obviously had not only ever eaten squash, but was also never in an environment to even know what it is. I had to wonder if I was the only one who had ever purchased squash and come through her register line. Surely not.
More puzzling than that, however, is how do you go through 12 grades of school in America and not know what squash is?
It seems as though the majority of the latest generation has gotten to adulthood where convenience is more important than health and test scores are more important than general, common sense knowledge. Here is why I say that:
Convenience is a wonderful thing as long as it doesn’t have diminishing returns. There will always be nights that are impossible to juggle everything going on. Your daughter has soccer and your son has tennis, neither at the same time or location. It’s crazy; not to mention the dog is out of food and you would like to watch "The Bachelor." A quick trip through the drive-thru at least solves getting everyone fed. Those are times when convenience is exactly that—convenient.
Then there are those nights where everyone is home but you opt for the drive-thru because it’s just easier than having to wash and cut broccoli and steam it for five minutes. This is where the convenience-over-health diminishing returns begin to take effect. Next thing you know, you have picky eaters who won’t eat anything but chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese. Yes, 3-year-olds telling you what they will and will not eat. Then, not so suddenly, we have 20-somethings who don’t know what squash is.
The next time you pull through the drive-thru for no good reason, except that you don’t feel like cooking, consider this nutritional information:
10 piece Chicken McNuggets® (McDonalds.com)
470 calories 900mg sodium 0% vitamin A
30g fat 30 g carbohydrates 4% vitamin C
5g saturated fat 2g fiber 2% calcium
0 trans fat 0g sugar 6% iron
65 mg cholesterol 22g protein
1 cup of Broccoli (nutritiondata.self.com)
31 calories 30mg sodium 11% vitamin A
0g fat 6g carbohydrates 135% vitamin C
0g saturated fat 2g fiber 4% calcium
0 trans fat 2g sugar 4% iron
0 cholesterol 3g protein
If this nutritional information happens to come to mind as you pull in for another night of fast food, ask yourself if you feel like feeding you and your kids healthy or not. You may suddenly perk up for an easier-than-you-actually-think meal at home for a change. Seriously, that is what it’s all about—putting in the perceived hard work it takes to cook and eat fruits and vegetables. My daughter tells me all the time she LOVES fruit, but it just takes so much time to prepare it. It’s easier to open a bag of chips than to cut an apple. She’s right; it is, but only by about 12 seconds.
I have to praise McDonald’s for looking into and adopting healthier options. The problem is going to be getting children and parents to change their mindsets and taste buds. Unfortunately, once we get a taste of fat-filled, fried, sugar and carbohydrate-laden foods, our brains like them and don’t want to change. It’s called addiction.
The main reason children these days don’t like vegetables is because parents have not exposed them to them or made vegetables a part of their regular diet. (Dirty little secret: Parents aren’t eating their veggies, either.) My son had a friend who would not eat any vegetables. Hardly any of us like ALL vegetables, but to not find one you like is not the vegetables’ fault. I asked him once if he had ever tried broccoli and, of course, the answer was no. My kids aren't the best veggie eaters in the world, but they will eat broccoli, squash, green beans (their favorite), corn, okra, sweet potatoes, raw celery (with peanut butter), Caesar salad and peas. Some beans, as well. You know why they don’t like Brussels sprouts? Because I don’t like Brussels sprouts. Not surprising—I never cooked them. See how that works?
It’s a crazy expectation when we want our children to excel and be the best in everything, from grades to sports, yet not give them the nutrition to support it. If nothing else know this: Nutrition makes a huge difference in how one performs life. There was a poster in my elementary school cafeteria back in the ‘70s that touted, “You are what you eat.” No truer words have ever been spoken, and the more I get into living a healthy lifestyle, the more I respect that poster's message.
So, if we really are what we eat, I have to ask, “What are you?” And to take that a step further, “What are your children?” Hopefully, you’ll like your answer. If not, start now to make a change. Eventually, after the fights over what’s for dinner, you will see a huge positive difference. Everyone will have more energy, less headaches, more smiles and more brainpower. And, chances are, they might even know what a squash is before they reach their 20s.