Friday, January 14, 2011

Food, Children's Menus, and picky eaters

Have you ever tried to order healthy food from a children's menu? Generally speaking, it can't be done. And if you want vegan food, forget about. And vegetables??? Not likely. Rather than having smaller versions of adult meals, just about every restaurant that I've been to features the same things: chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese, hamburger, hot dog, grilled cheese, cheese quesadillas (no vegetables with the cheese of course). Kids all over the world eat real food, why can't ours?

My solution has been to never order off the children's menu. Restaurant food isn't healthy to begin with, but the children's menu has a dispiriting lack of variety and a high percentage of junk food. I generally order him a side dish, a soup, or just have him share my portion (which is usually too much anyway).

Where does this idea that children can only eat bland and unhealthy food come from? I'm not sure, but the idea that children need "special" food is sold from the first bite that they eat. That rice cereal for babies has got to be the most processed and blandest food ever. Nothing like the human milk they have been used to eating. Human milk is sweet and rich and it carries a taste of what mama has been eating too. Then there is baby food. The thrice-cooked (or more), pureed, strained vegetables, fruits, and meats. I tried feeding Caleb some green beans one time (and only one time!) from one of these jars, and I understand why hatred of vegetables begins very early. They were terrible! Then there is "toddler" food. Which, judging from the aisle at the grocery store, consists mostly of cracker type things, chewy "fruit" things, and other processed junk food.

Children should be eating real food, what the adults are eating, just less of it. This brings up the idea of the picky eater. I loved what I read at The Common Room blog about picky eaters:

I consider being a picky eater a character issue. I am totally sincere about that. Being a picky eater displays a certain self centeredness, a focus on self and bodily comforts that I think hampers maturity as well as the ability to be content. Being a picky eater demonstrates a certain sort of ingratitude toward those who cook and provide food for the table.

She wrote in her post about feeding a big family on a limited budget. She allows each child to have one thing that they won't eat, and aside from that they have to try everything that is served.

I hear about children that will only eat cookies and white bread and hotdogs and macaroni and cheese, or rather I hear their parents say this. My neighbor was just commenting that she had to get macaroni and cheese because her grand children were going to be there for lunch and they wouldn't eat cornbread and beans with her and her husband. I would never allow them that choice. From an early age, Caleb was fed whatever we were eating. I don't mind fixing him something different on occasion, but just like there is no kids television in our house, I don't believe in kid's food.

When we are at our own house (as opposed to my parents' house), he eats even more variety, because he has limited options. Our house is not full of everything under the sun. We only have so much, and so, he is content and eats whatever there is. I have never forced him to eat anything he didn't want to either. If he doesn't want something (currently he is boycotting white bean and roasted garlic soup-which is way to good to strike off the menu!), he can eat leftovers, toast, or fruit.

We never fight about food. As a kid, I remember sitting at the table long after dinner was over, because I didn't want to eat something. I don't think that's very productive. He wants to eat what he sees me (and my parents and brothers when we are at their house) eating. This goes back to the Continuum Concept idea that children are inately social. They want to fit in with adults. Forcing children to eat vegetables implies that vegetables are not something people want to eat. I love eating broccoli and asparagus and beans and tomatoes. If he doesn't want to eat something, I just shrug and say, "more for me." I tell him that adults don't want kids to have the good food, that's why they always give them the junk, because they think that kids can't appreciate real food. I don't think that's stretching the truth much either, judging from the way kids are fed.

Just say no to kid's food.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I've been enjoying your blog. :)