What are you feeding your children?

No lie!  This is a rant.  Remember, I promised you Recipes, Rants and Reviews.  Here it goes!

What message are we giving our children when we feed them differently than we feed ourselves?  I can’t tell you how many times parents have asked me for “kid friendly recipes.”  What does that mean exactly?  When I was growing up everyone in the family ate the same food.  We had our favorites for sure, but regardless, we had to try everything on the table.  I raised my own children with the same philosophy and guess what?  They lived to be productive citizens who are open to many food experiences and are raising children who also eat a broad spectrum of foods. 

One of my pet peeves is the “children’s menu” available at many restaurants.  Think about the message this sends, “You won’t like this.  It isn’t really good so I will order you something else.”  Somewhere down the line someone decided that kids will only eat junk food.  I notice when a child’s menu is available it frequently lists things like hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled cheese, chicken nuggets, and mac and cheese.   This is often true even in finer restaurants.  What’s up with that?  I understand not wanting to pay for a full adult meal that a child will most likely eat very little of,  but why not offer children’s portions of the same food we would order at a reduced price?

Ruth Reichl, author and former editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine, wrote an editorial (Gourmet, March 2007) titled “Teach Your Children Well”.  She agrees with me that “the notion that children are a separate species who require a different diet from the rest of us pretty much does away with the concept of the family meal.”  How tragic!  She goes on to say,  “Sitting down to dinner, at any age, should be an invitation to the fabulous banquet that is life.  The most important lesson we learn at the table is that great rewards await those who take chances.  If little Suzy and Sam get applesauce instead of salad, what we are really telling our children is ‘you won’t like what we are eating.’ ”

Children learn from their parents and one of the things they observe is the way grown-ups eat.  This is one of the lessons learned at the family table.  So please, share your food and give the message that these are delicious and desirable foods that can be enjoyed by all. 

At a recent birthday party for a four year old, I observed the little brother, age 1 year, joyfully eating feta cheese and other strong tasting nibbles.  I have never seen these children balking at their food but I have seen them happily eat peppers, tomatoes and other fresh vegetables from the garden.  I am sure they do not like everything but they are open to trying new things.  It is clear their parents have given them the right message with regard to good food.  Good food tastes good!  It makes my heart glad to see this.

I write this rant not as a criticism but rather, food for thought.  Forgive me my indulgence but I feel it is important to ask yourself “What message am I sending my children?”  It is never too late to change the course.  The rewards will be great.  I promise!

I welcome your thoughts and comments.  What do you think?


9 responses to “What are you feeding your children?

  1. Amen!! Well said! And hooray for little feta and olive eaters.

  2. Your family serves as a great inspiration to me. I will never forget the little guy eating feta at such a young age. You are great parents!

  3. Good rant. Same philosophy presented in new book “Bringing up Bebe”. That author also suggests only having snacks once a day – about 4 pm.
    That being said, having had an extremely finicky eater (who now eats about everything), it isn’t always easy.

  4. So true. Just last night I convinced the waiter to ask the chef for a kids portion of an adult menu item. The chef agreed and my son enjoyed real meatball and marinara pasta instead of the mac n’ cheese from the kids menu, and I was only charged half price. Maybe we just need to ask for a half order and advocate for good food for our children. Thanks for the encouragement!

  5. As someone who spent her most formative years traveling the world, I’m so happy that my parents fed me and encouraged me to taste/sample flavors from near & far! As a kid I ate squid, octopus, sushi, every vegetable under the sun, fresh eggs from free-range chickens (raised in my great grandparents backyard in Chicago!), dandelions, fruits of every color of the rainbow, and so much more! Today I’m one of the least pickiest of eaters!!

    I raised my daughters the same way: try it, you just might like it!!

  6. Hello Jeanne: I agree, our kids are people too and can eat all we do – I think kids meals are a way for parents to save money when going out, many times the entrees are just too pricey, but I never understood why it couldn’t just be a small portion of the regular menu – go figure! xo, thank you for your rants and delicious cooking ideas!

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