Merritt: Tasty tradition trumps contemporary health craze this time

Over two weeks ago, when many grandparents were filling Easter baskets with jelly beans, marshmallow peeps, and chocolate eggs, I was filling my grandson's basket with protein bars, granola "treats" and high energy snacks.

Although I love to please Ben, who is 17 years old, I've got to admit that searching for "healthy" to make him happy wasn't nearly as much fun as having given him in the past a pound or two of my homemade buttercream eggs — sweet enough to make your eyes water. (This year, I did, however, stash a few beside the healthy stuff.) Tradition, tradition.


Ben, who is in continuous pursuit of a healthy body, lifts weights intermittently and sometimes embarks on various muscle-building diets. Last month, when our children stayed overnight at our house, I doubled a breakfast casserole that would have fed twice the number of people, knowing that our grandson has a hearty appetite.

Only one of the two casseroles was partially eaten by my son, daughter and their spouses, all of whom are on low-carb diets and were polite enough to eat some of it. (No matter that the casserole, dubbed "Kelly's Favorite Casserole," was no longer healthy for her.) And I wasn't too happy to discover that Ben didn't touch his breakfast because he was immersed in the Keto diet, a carb-slashing, fat-burning diet that hindered him from eating the combination of bread, eggs, ham, cheese, milk and sour cream. (Now, what's wrong with an occasional glut of saturated fats?)

OK, I acknowledge that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. For many years, my husband Paul and I have avoided saturated fats in order to keep our cholesterol down. We're not big sweet eaters but will indulge during a holiday or special occasion. (We do have a thing for ice cream but we strive to eat the lighter varieties.)

Generally, I believe that we eat a healthy diet despite the fact that we aren't staunch followers of the current nutritional trends.

Still, what I see as the contemporary health craze seems to be throwing my family food traditions out the window. Gone are the cookies I used to make at Christmas and gone are homemade desserts. Birthday cakes have been replaced by cupcakes with a candle on top.

On occasion, I will buy a pie from Baugher's in case they might feel like eating something sweet. Unfortunately, Paul and I usually wind up eating the whole thing ourselves.

As far as family breakfasts are concerned, we haven't used our four-slotted toaster for quite a while. Instead, I've perused cookbooks to find carb-free egg recipes. (Actually, they can be quite tasty once you get used to a morning meal free of toast, English muffins or biscuits and cereal, fruit, home fries, and milk.)

Every year, my friends enjoy baking various kinds of Christmas cookies to be distributed among their families. The few cookies I make are for my husband, friends, and Ben but never for my children and their spouses. They won't eat them. (Mind you, my daughter and daughter-in-law also enjoy the fun of making cookies and other treats to be given to others — which includes us.)

For our Easter dinner, I was faced with the low-carb Keto-diet-dilemma and couldn't think of a suitable menu that would rise to the holiday occasion. So, I decided to serve my usual Easter-Thanksgiving fare of turkey, ham, stuffing, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, string beans, and applesauce, followed by a store-bought lemon meringue pie (from Baugher's, of course.)

Turns out, there was little turkey left and much of everything got eaten — including two-thirds of the pie, thanks to Ben. (Yes, he's off the Keto diet and made up for the foods he denied himself the last time he was here.)

I admit it. I had a sneaky suspicion that our holiday meal would be consumed. Why else does our son, Paul, always have second helpings during holiday meals? And why else does Kelly ask every Thanksgiving and Easter — regardless of her low carb diet — if I'm going to prepare the same foods she has never tired of after all these years?

Tradition, tradition.

Dolly Merritt writes from Westminster. She can be contacted via email at