Thoughts on Cooking (Or Not) For Kids

As my pregnancy wends its way into the home stretch, and I am continually reminded by the ever-more-frequent interior pummelling I am recieving of the incipient arrival of Kat, a small being whose food choices I will have a great deal of input into, I find myself thinking on the issues surrounding food and children more and more often.

Both food and children are subjects fraught with emotion to Americans; the intersection between them is a particularly perilous sea of contradiction, conflicting advice, well-meaning but misguided theories, media manipulation, health warnings, fears, paranoia and worries. Every parent must think on this issue, at least a little bit (I refuse to believe that parents just go on autopilot and feed kids whatever the television tells them to feed them–for this, I may be rightly or wrongly called an idealist), as they blunder through their experiences as the guiding light and civilizing influence upon the wee humans under their care.

We must remember that every parent brings his or her own food experiences, good and bad, prejudices, likes and dislikes and attitudes to the family table when it comes to feeding their kids, and we must also remember that no matter how poorly we think some parents make thier choices, often they believe that they are doing the best that they can for their kids and so we should be gentle in our criticism.

I cannot help but think deeply on this issue myself, because my experiences with food growing up were very different than my peers in most cases. Because my grandparents farmed, growing enough vegetables, fruits, fish, fowl, eggs, pastured beef and pork, to feed most of our family at least most of the time, I was not as firmly ensconsed in the advertising-led descent of the American diet into fast-food, packaged food mediocrity. At the time I was growing up–the late sixties and seventies, processed foods were still more expensive than plain, fresh foods, and fast food was still seen as an extravagance or treat. Sure, I still was given Kool-Aid or Hi-C to drink now and again, but water and milk were the beverages of choice, and soda or tooth-achingly sweet iced tea (which I never really liked) were given only in small amounts and as a summertime treat. People who drank soda habitually were looked down upon, and my mother and Grandmothers decried the practice of giving little kids soda habitually as being “bad for them.” (Now, there was no real discussion as to what exactly was bad about it, except for the sugar content, but the practice was still widely condemned.)

So, I grew up with a mother and two grandmothers who cooked to different degrees from scratch, who used minimal processed foods, with aunts and a father who all could throw down and put a fine meal on the table, too. I learned to eat what adults ate, and little concession was made to my child’s palate. Yet, still, my parents were not “food Nazis.” We still enjoyed pizza and went out for McDonald’s now and again, and more infrequently, to “nice” steakhouses and restaurants, where I got my first tastes of aged, rare-cooked filet mignon, a meat so far removed from my mother’s thin, well-done steaks that I did not recognize them as the same food. I grew up with fishermen in the family, so, alothough I was a pre-teen before I tasted shellfish or seafood, I had a love of freshwater fish: lake perch, catfish, bass, and bluegill, with rainbow trout being my favorite food of all time.

And yeah, I ate my share of grilled cheese sandwiches made of Velveeta, with canned Campbell’s cream of tomato soup, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on white bread. (Though, eventually, my mother relented when my father and I pressed the fact that we liked whole wheat bread (or as we called it, “brown bread”) better and started buying it. I grew up with hot dogs from the neighborhood beer joint, piled high with chili sauce, raw onions, mustard and coleslaw, or fried baloney sandiwches doused in hot sauce.

But on the whole, I realized as I grew up and went over to friends’ homes for supper, that my food history was very different from theirs. At their houses I encountered many more convenience foods such as frozen pizzas, Hamburger Helper, and tuna noodle casseroles (a hideous waste of canned tuna, packaged noodles and cream of mushroom soup in my opinion, both then and now), and was offered soda or Kool-Aid to drink, even though I would have preferred milk. It got to the point that I was more likely to have kids over to eat at our home, (with Mom’s blessing) than I was to eat with my friends, because I couldn’t stand the food they served, while with my Mom, I knew that my friends were getting good food. (And my Mom, bless her heart, would cook extra food for my friends who came from poorer households, and would carefully make sure to leave the table while we were still eating so that my friends could clear out the serving bowls without being made self-conscious. Neither she nor Dad ever said much about it, but it was their way of making sure my friends got healthy food as much as possible without hurting their sense of pride.)

Now, with all of this history behind me, I am looking forward to what it will be like to feed Kat as she grows up, continually in my care, her feeding my responsibility until she is old enough (and hopefully wise enough) to feed herself. I am both excited and humbled at the thought that it will be up to Zak and I to introduce her to the wide world of food, and it is an awesome responsibility. I -do- wonder if she will be a “picky” eater, though I am not too afraid of that possibility. If it is indeed true that food preferences are influenced in the womb, I don’t think I will have to worry about Kat disliking anything, except perhaps large slabs of meat, as I have eaten a varied, whole grain, vegetable, fruit, dairy and egg-based diet from day one of this pregnancy with small amounts of fish and meat added in as I can tolerate them. If kids are affected by their parents’ food choices, then I am not too concerned, as both Zak and I eat heartily and well, and Morganna, too, is very fond of good food, to the point where she cannot any longer tolerate fast food. (When she lived with her father, through most of her childhood, she ate mostly packaged and fast food, to the point that at times, I despaired of her ever liking real food.)

And, if television marketing of “kids’ food” is influential, I am not too worried. None of the three of us who live in this house watch television habitually. In fact, we only have the television in order to watch DVD’s of selected films and television shows, so we seem to miss out on advertising alltogether. Even our magazine consumption is such that we tend to miss most mainstream ads, to the point that when we visit friends and they have television on, we watch the commercials, stuptified at their number, inanity and crude techniques used to sell products that none of the three of us consider to be either useful or desireable. All I can think of when I watch them is “This stuff works?”

Apparently, it does with those who watch television, though, if the thing isn’t even turned on, I guess marketing is pretty ineffectual.

I find myself cruising through the “inner aisles” of the grocery store, looking at all of the “kids’ food” options, and pondering them. The cereal aisle is a wasteland of high fructose corn syrup and processed grains–simple carbohydrates all made “appealing” by the use of artificial food colorings in hues never seen in nature and smiling cartoon characters on the boxes. The frozen food section is rife with entrees and snacks aimed directly at kids: pizza rolls, “cheese” filled pretzel bites, corndogs, and chicken patties shaped like dinosaurs or Nickelodeon characters. A glance at the ingredients list of these items shows me that fat is apparently the primary food group for kids, with sugar and salt coming in close behind. Even the baby-food aisle is not safe from ickiness–sugar and starch seem to be the order of the day in those cute little jars of pureed foods aimed at every baby in every highchair in America.

You notice I am not even mentioning the phenomina of green or blue ketchup, as I find them to be to horrid to contemplate, because they further the idea that food for kids must be as fake as possible, and further the idea that food is not just food, but entertainment. While this is the case with adult food as well (El Bulli’s novel approach to foodstuffs that surprise and delight adults comes to mind), I don’t think that food she be marketed as entertainment to small children on the basis of making it look as little like food as possible.)

(Okay, there–I did mention the green and blue ketchup, even though I told myself I wouldn’t.)

What is the point of this long and rambling post?

Well, that it really isn’t -that- hard to cook for kids, and that cooking isn’t even necessary in order to feed kids a decent meal, without resorting to crap from the freezer or from the fast-food joint down the street.

Kids don’t need to eat french fries, tater or instant mashed potatoes just to save Mom the effort of cooking from scratch.

It just takes a bit of planning and effort is all.

Look at the wee lunch pictured above. Whole grain bread from the local bakery, trimmed of crusts and cut into triangles. (Kids like novel shapes cut into sizes to fit their little hands. I remember this from helping prepare lunch for my younger cousins.) Cream of tomato soup from Pacific Organics that actually tastes like tomato, and is low in fat, but still flavorful. (I like it with a dollup of sour cream, myself, but a sprinkling of freshly chopped cherry tomato is great, too.) And, locally grown white grapes, just in from the farmer’s market on Saturday.

I didn’t have to cook a thing, but it is a nutritious, tasty meal, balanced and flavored appropriately for a kid’s palate. It is attractive, with contrasting colors and textures, and it comes on a plate with cute little Japanese cartoon character bunnies on it, with utensils sized to fit small hands.

What more can a kid ask for? And how long did it take me to put it together?

Five minutes.

I could have added cheese, in the form of a grilled cheese sandwich, made on that whole wheat bread, with some good aged cheddar cheese that is in the fridge. The only reason I didn’t was because I didn’t want to eat a grilled cheese sandwich after the photos were taken–so I ate bread instead. If I had done the sandwich, the time taken would have been upped to about ten minutes.

Ten minutes out of a day to make lunch is nothing. It isn’t hard.

It also isn’t hard to puree or mash a bit of what the rest of the family is eating for dinner to feed a baby. If you do more of it than is needed at a sitting, you can freeze it in ice-cube trays and pop the little portions into ziplock bags to be thawed up and reheated later. Heck, some adult foods care soft enough on their own without being mashed up much, and you get the added bonus that baby -wants- to eat whatever it is that is on your plate, and so will lunge for it heartily, while ignoring the very same thing that is right in front of her on her own plate. (Morganna was that way, as were all of my cousins. They saw what the adults were eating and wanted that and to hell with the crap out of jars that was being pushed at them.)

My point is this: I wish parents listened less to advertising, slowed down and spent more time in the kitchen and dining room with their kids, than worry so much about enriching their kids lives through playdates, early nursery schools, “educational” TV and infant swimming lessons.

Food is fundamental to human life. We -need- it to live, whereas a missed playdate is not going to kill us. The lack of Mozart in a baby’s life will cause no great harm (what did babies do before Mozart was born, I wonder?) but, a lack of nutrients is deadly.

Food is also fundamental to culture–it is intrinsically tied to our own sense of self and history, and to our families, and to our communities. How we eat, and how we teach our children to eat reveals much about us as a people.

Currently, the dominant American media-driven culture is filled with artificial foods of dubious nutritive value, and as a partial result, we have what is continually touted as an obesity epidemic.

Is this what we want to pass on to our children?

I don’t think so.

At least, I know that I don’t want to, and I notice that here in Athens, where local, sustainable food is a goal worked on by a large group of committed community members, there are plenty of other parents who don’t want to pass on to our kids the plastic, not so fantastic American fast food culture.

Instead, we opt to cook for our kids, and spend time teaching them what real food tastes like, where it comes from and what to do with it. We recognize the value of spending time with our kids in the kitchen and the dining room, teaching them healthy eating habits that not only help them grow strong bodies, but also happy hearts and minds. We opt to pass on older American traditions that value food as an intimate part of life, as a partner in creating bonds between family members and the community.

As we look back at these older traditions, I hope that we are also looking forward to a happier, healthier future for our kids, and others like them.

21 Comments

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  1. Apparently, it does with those who watch television, though, if the thing isn’t even turned on, I guess marketing is pretty ineffectual.

    I take exception to this. As someone who does, in fact, watch a lot of television I don’t find myself in any way swayed by TV advertising. I am continuously amazed at the number of non-TV watchers who seem to think that all people who do watch TV are ruled by the advertising companies (with the implication then that TV watchers must be dumber or more weak-minded than non-TV watchers).

    Advertising is everywhere. Not just on TV. Magazines, billboards, newspapers, online forums…. Most people I know are pretty immune to it, being surrounded by it every day.

    Comment by M — August 23, 2006 #

  2. It sounds like you were raised a lot like I was, food-wise. “Brown” bread and rice, limited sweets, unlimited fruit, vegetables in whatever form we’d eat them (even if one of us didn’t like something cooked the standard way, we’d often eat it raw, or, in the case of peas, frozen — how’s that for timesaving food?).

    Food habits taught at home do stick. (It’s true of all animals — I once watched a three-day-old pony following her mother around a field, lipping and playing with only the plants that she saw her mother eating.) My mother tried all kinds of interesting things in the name of healthy food. We didn’t always appreciate it at the time, but when I left home and went to college, what was the best comfort food on campus? Cold buckwheat noodles and seaweed from the Japanese restaurant.

    “Food must be as fake as possible” — absolutely, from an industry standpoint. Someone pointed out to me (in the context of my thinking about writing a cookbook about breaking out of convenience-food dependence) that prepared processed foods are marketed for all generations. There’s puree in jars for babies, slighty lumpier food for toddlers (yes, there is “toddler food” in jars now!), canned pasta and mac & cheez for older kids and teens and students, and TV dinners for bachelors and bachelorettes with “not enough time to cook”. And, of course, the idea that eating restaurant food every day at work is “normal”, and that you must be poor and deprived if you can’t do that.

    It creates dependence on the industry. A kid who is raised on this stuff, graduating from one product to the next, will develop a taste for it. She won’t *like* food that’s cooked from scratch, even if she had more cooking skills than opening a can and stirring a pot (which she wouldn’t have, if she never observed her parents doing it because they just fed her Spaghetti-Os.)

    Comment by Brenda — August 23, 2006 #

  3. I’ve had too many media studies classes to think that TV ads work like an injection directly into the brains of TV watchers–it doesn’t. At least, not with adults–with kids–that is a different story.

    For one thing, unlike most ad companies, I don’t think TV watchers are dumb.

    What it -does- do, and how it works, is it makes you more -aware- of what is out there to buy. Me–I am clueless. I don’t read many mainstream magazines or newspapers–I tend to read Buddhism magazines, Fortean Times, a select group of cooking mags (one of which has no ads whatsoever) and the newspapers I read are online, so there are WAY fewer ads.

    I don’t look at women’s mags, I don’t read print editions of big newspapers, and I don’t watch television. So the newest food items at the grocery store–the only way I find out about them is if a story is written about them in a newspaper I read, or I find them in my browsing, and then, I am usually puzzled.

    My parents, on the other hand, if they see an ad for some processed food item on TV that intrigues them, they will buy it and try it. That is how it works–it isn’t a brain-washing thing of “you must buy this,” but it puts the availability of a certain item into a person’s mind and hopefully interests them enough that they will buy it and try it out.

    FWIW–I -do not- think you or any other avid TV watcher is dumb or easily led by advertising. I remember when I saw the Tampax tampons with the “pearlized” plastic applicators, I was confused. When I looked at women’s mags in a doctor’s office, I saw that the ads for them went on about how pretty the applicators were.

    Pretty? Uh, um, er–why does it need to be pretty considering what the purpose of a tampon applicator is? Does pearlized plastic make a woman feel more feminine?

    Apparently, someone in some ad department seemed to think so, but I am pretty sure that no woman in her right mind is going to buy a tampon because the plastic applicator is pearlized pastel plastic. That just isn’t a selling point.

    When I saw that and thought about it, it really offended me at how dumb advertisers must think the average woman who uses menstrual products must be.

    So, rest assured, just because I don’t join in your TV watching, I don’t think you are dumb–I just think you are probably better informed than I am on what consumer products are out there for you to buy than I am.

    Comment by Barbara — August 23, 2006 #

  4. BRAVA!

    When my eldest was a teeny thing we were far too broke to mess with jarred baby food, I just pureed what we were eating. It worked so well that when his little brother came along, we did the same thing, even though we were better off financially. Cetain in-laws mocked us for that, called us hippies and the like.

    So now elder Monster is 14, Younger Monster is 10…and they have such wonderfully broad palates. Where my boys will eat pretty much anything that doesn’t run away from them, the children of the in-laws won’t eat ANYdamnedthing unless it’s Wonder “bread”, kiddy cereal and bologna. My boys bring friends home for supper, and the friends are just fascinated with all of the goings on in the kitchen and delighted to be allowed to help out and stick around to eat. It’s fun to hear them talk about how they’ve never had jambalaya or irish stew or leg of lamb before, and do we always eat like that?

    Start ‘me young with the good stuff and they’ll stick with it.

    Comment by Missy — August 23, 2006 #

  5. A current mom chiming in….
    I’m blessed with a naturally sensible daughter, so I don’t know how much of this we can actually take credit for as parents. But our daughter Em is nearly 4 and will quite literally eat almost anything. We’ve tried to raise her to be open-minded about food, above all else – not making one food “good” and one “bad, etc. Everything is open for eating, though some things, like candy, desserts, etc must be eaten in moderation and after something a little more wholesome. I mean, it’s not complete dinnertime anarchy. But she can eat McDonald’s if she wants to — and often, as she finishes her McJunk, she will ask for an apple, or a salad, or a glass of milk. Sometimes all she wants for dinner is vegetables, or rice. Sometimes all she wants is candy! We’ve tried to take an approach of “it all balances out” and look at her diet over the course of days or weeks rather than hours – if she eats poorly or little one day, we find she always makes up for it the next. She’s always been right in the mid-range of weight for her age, and a little tall, so we know she’s getting the right stuff along the way. The fact that she’s just turning 4 and has seen the doctor exactly *once* on the past year is a good sign too.

    We’ve always allowed her to try things from our plates, too, and not limited her to bland “kid-friendly” (this is such a myth!!!) tastes. As a result she eats things like sushi, jalapeno poppers, pickled ginger, stuffed mushrooms, roast duck, smoked oysters, green olives, you name it. It sure makes going out to eat easier!

    Other friends with young kids this age have found similar things – that their children would really be just as happy with “grownup” food or good fresh produce, and will eat the kiddie stuff if that’s all they’re ever offered. It’s definitely parent-driven. We’ve been grateful to Trader Joe’s for their many kid-friendly items – because when packing lunches, convenient packaging does sometimes come into play, and I’m way more likely to *remember* to toss in carrots and ranch dressing if they’re in a neat snack pack and -how convenient- organic to boot.

    Another neat thing we’ve discovered with Em – growing our own food has made her that much more of a veggie freak. Nothing’s better than a half-naked 3-year-old charging out into the backyard to raid the tomato plants for breakfast!

    I think a lot of parents underestimate how easy it is to cook for kids. Until we had to give up our own chickens (at which point Em developed an egg allergy – yeah, try to tell me there’s no connection there), dinner was often a scrambled egg or two with a piece of fruit and a salad or carrot sticks. A cookie or two for dessert, some milk, a treat (gummi vitamins) at bedtime. Easy. But kids even like to eat things as simple as plain cooked pasta, or toast with butter. No recipes required. I think a lot of parents have either never learned that, or are so kitchen-challenged that even making toast and eggs is daunting.

    Sorry for rambling – it’s something I think about a lot, too.

    Comment by Stacey — August 23, 2006 #

  6. Thanks for a lovely post as always Barbara.

    In Srilanka and India, the kids were always given what was cooked that day. The only concession made was the spicy side dishes. But, even that is given to then in dollops to try. Some kids were given ghee or curd(indian home made yoghurt). So, this habit of cooking seperate food for kids is something totally alien to me.

    My niece and nephews eat what is cooked at home. Infact they relish the srilankan spicy food. But, once in a while they do go for the supermarket frozen aile food. But, this is quite rare as my cousin would make french-fries at home, if the kids want it. along with kfc style chicken (marinated in srilankan curry powder and roasted in oven – yummy). It’s not really practical to have a food blog when one cooks for a single person and that too once in two days. :) Have been persuading my cousin to start a food blog, atleast in my native language. Lets see.

    Enough ramblings. :)

    This is one of the blogs that i am totally facinated by.

    http://dailytiffin.blogspot.com

    Comment by Mathy Kandasamy — August 23, 2006 #

  7. But you cannot feed local bakery bread, organic tomato soup, “good aged cheddar,” and farmer’s market grapes to kids on a fixed income, or food stamps (the bakery and farmer’s market don’t even take them), or a minimum-wage job.

    And not all children will even accept those options. I suspect I was either born a “supertaster” or had some sensory integration issues as a kid. I spat out the first egg my mother ever put in my mouth as an infant. Thank goodness I’ve grown out of it, but I was horrendously picky as a kid because some flavors and textures just were not palatable to me, particularly at the level of food quality we could afford on a part-time nursery-school-teacher’s salary. Thank goodness she eventually went back to work full-time as a Home Ec teacher, but even then the food we could afford was a lot of canned goods and low-grade meats.

    Convenience/”kids’” foods are not the only solution to the budget and taste problems, but they are what many harried, over-employed/under-paid, low-cooking-skills (thanks to the elimination of Home Ec classes) parents (let’s be honest: moms) are left with.

    Comment by Elusis — August 24, 2006 #

  8. I noticed this ‘kiddies meal’ section in American restaurants on my recent visit and my in-laws always ordered that for the kids, whethr we were eating Mexican or Chinese. I was surprised, since, as Mathy above notes, we never cook separately for kids. My sister, with a full time job and an American husband (no pun intended!), finds the time to cook fresh, though the same food goes on the children’s plates, in smaller quantities (this last bit may not be true for long). It’s the same when they visit us here. The kids have no problems, and have never had any ‘baby food’ out of jars.
    It is really in the parenting. TV ads cannot sway children if the parent is there to help them make informed choices. Some children may be picky but even they will learn to eat healthy.

    Comment by Anita — August 24, 2006 #

  9. Actually, Elusis, the farmer’s markets here in Ohio take WIC (Women, Infants and Children) coupons from low-income mothers. Here in Athens, I have seen plenty of Moms on fixed incomes use these coupons to buy fresh vegetables and fruits for their kids–and the farmers are very cool with the program.

    I have no idea if other states’s farmer’s markets do the same thing with the WIC (a federal program) coupons, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they do start doing it if they don’t now.

    In fact, WIC is one of the best programs out there for helping low-income families feed their kids healthy food.

    It isn’t just low income Moms who feed their kids “kid food.” In fact, I would tend to say that a lot of kid food is not in fact cheaper than real, honest to God food in the first place….

    Many of the upper-income parents I know tend to feed their kids “kid food” and in fact, I would hesitate to say that these foods are marketed to families of middle or upper income in the first place.

    With them, it has to do more with convenience than money.

    Comment by Barbara — August 24, 2006 #

  10. One thing I was thinking about the previous post is that when I was a kid (and I’m slightly older than Barbara), the adults ate relatively plain food by my California foodie standards. Kid menus had some of the same things, just in smaller portions.

    Not that my brother and I needed them long. We were right little hoovers. We were also often praised for our willingness to try things (or at least keep our mouths politely shut when we didn’t like it) because my cousins, who grew up with us, were a lot more finicky and vocal about their preferences, which bothered our grandfather.

    We ate lots of veggies because we lived in California farm country and my mother selected the best. (She never buys her tomatoes from the grocery, either.) I’ll agree that family modeling is important – I certainly learned a lot by watching my mother shop and cook.

    I wonder about my somewhat picky nephew some times (he didn’t get it from MY side of the family) but I was thrilled to learn that he loves fried calamari, and he was fascinated by the baby vegies I picked up at the farm stand when I was down there. There’s hope for him yet!

    Comment by Charlotte — August 24, 2006 #

  11. This was such a great post, thank you so much. I think about these same things all the time. I grew up much like you — on a farm, with fresh or home-canned vegetables year round. Although I had the opposite reaction — I hung out with people I didn’t like just because their moms let them have cookie crisp cereal for breakfast, and I think I lived off of Fruit Loops my entire freshman year at college. Of course the pendulum eventually swung back and I now eat almost exactly like I did when I was a child (with the exception of meat, which I eat far less of, and cooked in a far different manner than my mom, who also tended to overcook steak).

    You’re so right about the simple things being the easiest. I’m about the most disorganized person in the world, especially when it comes to anything related to the kitchen. But I still think it’s easier to feed our daughter a non-processed meal. My little girl *loves* cheese, and I often give her some cubes of mozzarella as a side dish. We have friends who think the Kraft mac and cheese is the easiest thing in the world to cook, but I think it’s way easier to give my child a piece of whole wheat toast, some cheese cubes, some apple slices, and edamame or other frozen veggie (which takes 2 minutes to defrost in the microwave). On days when I have more time, I usually make a batch of brown rice or pasta and steam a fresh veggie, usually big enough that the leftovers will last a day or two. And on days when I’ve been to the grocery store, we usually have plain yogurt, sometimes with raisins or a little maple syrup mixed in. And so far, she enjoys the simple meals so much more. Hopefully the day is coming soon that our little girl can eat with us (right now her dinner time is before my husband gets home from work), but until I just use my pantry/freezer staples and a couple of extras to follow the old food group rules, trying to get her some fruits, some vegetables, some starch, a protein, and a little bit of dairy.

    Comment by anon — August 24, 2006 #

  12. Great post!

    I was raised similar to you (except no McDonalds)…and I think this is why I have a broad palate today. I love vegies and eat pretty much everything. I can’t stand processed food – mostly out of frugality (I can do way better for cheaper), but also taste appeal.

    Most kids the world over do just fine without eating lunchables. Personally, I’d prefer tiffin to that any day.

    My other concern, is that often people don’t realize how much these convenience foods inflate their budgets. I mean, at some level they do, but it’s not front and center.

    Comment by Diane — August 24, 2006 #

  13. Thanks for such a wonderful post! It is so well written.

    As a vegetarian, I am amazed on the food choices other parents make nowadays. With all the information out there regarding sugars, salt, fats, and other processed foods, I really do not get why people still buy into the hype.
    As a mother, I made every single ounce of baby food for my daughter. We never bought one jar of baby food. It is so simple to make your own – I figured it was the least I could do for my child. Now, at age 5, I can say she has NEVER eaten at McDonalds, and she does not even know who Ronald McDonald is. She eats a well-rounded vegetarian diet, and yet, she is still a picky kid eater. I just hope this will help her in deciding what to eat when she is out in the world without us because who knows what she will encounter when she begins elementary school in a couple of weeks.

    Comment by Adria — August 24, 2006 #

  14. delurking…

    i agree fully.

    i was raised with food being strictly controlled by my mom, while not actually being healthy and from scratch, and pleasure in food something shameful. so most of all, i set out for food to be not a big fuss. we eat healthy, varied, from scratch meals most of the time, with occasional junk food thrown in, and it has worked well for our family.

    my six year old has become pickier than she used to be as a toddler, but her pickiness doesn’t run along the junk/healthy food line. she dislikes some cooked veggies, but she devours fresh fruit and raw veggies, loves ice-cream, whole grain bread, hummus, chocolat, broccoli, seafood, etc. (including shrimp, oysters, squid, sucking on fish eyes is a special treat to her).
    my toddler was nursed until she was ready for table food so i never had to deal with making baby food, and she loves to eat anything, including spicy dishes.

    Comment by yunape — August 25, 2006 #

  15. Cooking for kids really is easy. Start them off with a wde variety of vegis and fruits and as they grow their palette grows.

    jcho

    Comment by Jacqueline Myers-Cho — August 26, 2006 #

  16. I have an almost-11-month-old son who has eaten a wide variety of foods even with his short existance thus far.

    His babysitter is always perplexed at the parathas, dhals, Indian style vegetable prep, plain yogurt with spiced rice…it’s all ‘weird’ food to her.

    I’ve never been one to subscribe to the theory that a child should be eating Gerber, what in the sam hell were kids eating prior to the inception of gerber?

    Comment by Jenn — August 26, 2006 #

  17. You’ve just made me remember my childhood when all of my siblings had a designated cup, assigned by colour, and we could have a glass of milk with each meal. In between meals, we could fill our cup with water as many times as we wanted, but that was it. At breakfast we were allowed juice, and we were only allowed one glass of Coke only if we were having spaghetti or pizza. That practically sounds like a deprived childhood these days!

    Comment by risingsunofnihon — August 28, 2006 #

  18. Oops! Been away and just catching up on my reading.

    And here I was thinking I was a dying breed… My son is 20 months old today. I nursed him until 16 months old (when he decided to wean) introduced solids at 7 months (gradually) and those foods never originated from a jar. All of his food was home-made and usually home-grown. To this day, my son eats what I eat. Friends are amazed when they see my son happliy chugging down his sippy cup of milk, noshing on whole wheat pita chips and hummus, begging for peas and broccoli for dinner and oatmeal with peanut butter for breakfast.

    Yes, my husband and I had a lot of discussion about how we would set GOOD eating habits right from the beginning. It never was an issue for us, really. We tend to eat locally, perimeter shop the grocery store during the winter months (after we have exhausted our own garden and the local farmer’s market) and really try to fuel our bodies with the most nutitional “bang for our buck” so to speak.

    Does this happen by accident? No! My husband and I are this way because we were taught these principles by our parents many years ago. Despite being firmly ensconced in the digital age (city dwellers working in the technology field – and a hybrid driving family to boot!) we still believe this to be the very best choice for ourselves and our son. We as parents need to set as good an example as possible, reenforcing these priciples and hope that it stays and becomes a lifelong way of life for our children.

    Now, oddly enough, our own sibblings see us as some sort of “fanatics” or “hippies” as they happily munch on their conveneience foods and carry out as their preferred cuisine. Never thinking about what exactly it is they are eating, where it came from and if it is indeed even wholesome for their bodies. Keep in mind that we were all raised on the same values. Why my husband and I were the only two (out of 6) who still beleive in these priciples, I will never know…

    Kudos to you, Barbara… Kat (and Morganna, for that matter) are very lucky children indeed. You are putting their health and their needs FIRST.

    Comment by M Smith — August 29, 2006 #

  19. [...] Thoughts on <b>Cooking</b> (Or Not) For Kids [...]

    Pingback by Cooking Report » — August 30, 2006 #

  20. [...] Thoughts on <b>Cooking</b> (Or Not) For Kids [...]

    Pingback by Cooking Buzz » — August 30, 2006 #

  21. I am still puzzled by the idea that you need to cater to children’s tastes to get them to eat…

    I have raised five children, they are now raising their own, and they are bending over backwards to get their children to eat. I am not yet 50 years old, I cooked from scratch all my life and my kids ate what I cooked. There was no discussion, no “I don’t want to eat that today, Mommy” – I cooked, they ate. Everything from soups to cassaroles to meat & potatoes, always with veggies and always cleaned up. I was not obsessive with whole grains, although I am more consciencious of it now; I baked goodies now and then but rarely bought sweets from the store. I think you’re right; we DO create picky eaters… and I didn’t create any. My grandchildren, however, are another story…..

    Comment by Sue — September 1, 2006 #

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