Food News Roundup: More On Picky Kids Around The World, Family Dinners, Local Food in Schools and the Like

When I actually get to sit down and read the papers these days (I don’t know why I call them “the papers–” “the electrons” is probably a more apt description of what I am reading on my laptop screen), I have been finding articles of interest which I mean to post here, and then I forget.

Such is the life of a mother, I suppose.

But today, today, I found goodies, and by gum, I am sharing. (Besides, I can type without having my eyes swim around in circles. Colds suck.)

More on Picky Eaters

I was amazed at the response I got to my Friday post on the topic of picky eating among kids and the finding that much of this propensity has to do with genetics. The number and thoughtfulness of reader responses led me to believe that this is a topic which is in the front of many people’s minds, parents and non-parents alike.

So, I started reading up on recent news items relating to kids who are picky eaters.

First up, did you know that Jerry Seinfeld’s wife, Jessica Seinfeld, has a new book out on how she deals with their three kids, picky eaters all? Well, she does, and she has been all over the television talk shows promoting Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food, which is probably why I was blissfully ignorant of this bit of pop-culture preaching. (I don’t watch broadcast TV. Or, cable TV for that matter.)(Yes, I am weird.) Anyway, the premise behind the book, which has been presented previously by Missy Chase Laprine in her book, The Sneaky Chef, which came out this April, is simple: you teach picky kids to eat healthily by sneaking steamed pureed vegetables into the baked and fried foods they love. You know, like you put spinach puree into brownies. Or squash puree into “macaroni and cheese.” (Euww…ick..pthew!)

Okay, I probably shouldn’t knock her recipes without trying them first. But, I still have questions about her methods. First of all, if you pre-steam a bunch of vegetables, then puree them and throw them in the fridge for a week before adding them to another dish which is going to be cooked a second time, exactly what nutrients are going to be left from those vegetables? Vitamins and phytochemicals are notoriously heat-sensitive, so I cannot imagine that cooking vegetables twice is going to be a particularly good way to get those vitamins and phytochemicals into your kids. Also, a lot of vitamins are easily oxidized when exposed to air–so what do you think will happen when you pre-cook them, grind them up finely, thus exposing more surface area to the air, and then store them for a week before cooking them again?

There also is no nutritional breakdown in the recipes, to tell parents how much good this deceptive sneaking of vegetables into “kid friendly” foods is doing.

If you look at the reviews on Amazon, most parents (most of them mothers, at that–I don’t think I saw a single review, pro or con from a male) are lauding this book as being better than sliced white bread, but I found a review from The Philadelphia Enquirer by columnist Karen Heller, which is less sanguine about the concept and execution of the book. Her wittily acerbic review echoes much of my own thoughts on the issue of presenting “good food” in the guise of “junk food” to your kids as a means of “teaching” them to eat healthy food.

In my view, and in Karen Heller’s it doesn’t teach kids anything. It is a lie. It isn’t teaching them to eat healthy food–it teaches them to eat unhealthy food that has healthy food sneaked into it. In Heller’s words, “Hiding food perpetuates the idea that carrots and spinach don’t taste good. They do.”

She goes on to say, “This prolongs picky eating, common in early childhood, which can be easily remedied and should be, as swiftly as possible. Otherwise, you will be responsible for producing a high-maintenance adult who will have trouble sustaining relationships with attractive partners, thereby forcing you to serve bland food for decades.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. (Of course, Heller goes on to snark about both of the Seinfelds and their personalities, which may annoy or amuse you, depending on your own personality, which is why I am warning you about it here. I have to admit to chuckling, even if what she said wasn’t very nice.)

Interestingly, however, I found an older article, from last month, which shows that this picky kid problem may indeed be more related to American culture, especially our ways of shopping, and cooking, or more often, not, and the mass-media driven food marketing juggernaut directed at children.

This fascinating feature is an interesting twist to my assertion that people in other countries do not seem to have the same strange ideas about children’s food that we do in the US; instead of pointing out what kids in other countries eat, this article talks about what expatriate American kids eat in other countries, and what they eat when they come home. The families featured in this piece make me feel even more strongly that the genetic component to neophobia may exist, but culture and environment seem to be an even larger component of how neophobia manifests in a set of picky eating behaviors.

In the International Herald Tribune, a newspaper devoted to the English-speaking expatriate community, reporter Jennifer Conlin and mother of three tells a story about how her European-born kids exhibit much more sophisticated tastes than their US-born counterparts, much to the confusion of wait staff in US restaurants.

“Last summer, while on home leave in the United States, my family and I had dinner at a child- friendly Italian restaurant in upstate New York. Things were going fine until my Europe-born children, ages 13, 9 and 8, ordered their meals – spaghetti carbonara, seafood linguini and pasta primavera – and then turned down the waitress’s offers to leave out the spices or serve the sauce on the side.

The waitress was flummoxed. “This is the first time in five years of working here I have seen children order an adult dish completely unaltered,” she said. “Where are you from?””

She goes on to relate similar tales from the experiences of other parents and kids in the expatriate community, including the experience of a cooking teacher who had an eye-opening experience with another American expatriate mother in a state of culinary culture shock. Cooking instructor Katy Kinsolving blames this culture shock on the lack of cooking skills of many American parents.

“I know of a young American woman in Italy who found the grocery stores there very strange,” Kinsolving said. “‘They have no food here,’ she said. ‘Only things to make food from.'”

It is a fascinating little article–I highly recommend you read it, because it made me think that there should be some way to research the differences in cultural environment in the development of picky eating habits among American (and British) kids. A researcher could compare the lifestyles and food cultures surrounding American families residing in the US, and those residing in Europe, Asia or elsewhere. I think that the results would not only make a fascinating scholarly paper, but probably also a really interesting, general interest non-fiction book. (Hrm….I -was- thinking of going to grad school starting next fall or spring….)

It also spoke of how important the family meal is, and how in cultures outside of the US, that importance is still culturally relevant and alive.

Which brings us to our next topic of conversation:

The Family Meal is Still a Good Thing, Even if the TV is On

In the New York Times health blog, I found a post on the newest round of research on how the family meal is good for kids. This round of inquiry found, much to the surprise of the researchers, that even if the family has the television on while they are sitting down to a meal together, the benefits of the meal to the children, which include better nutrition, are just as apparent. This stands on its head the conventional wisdom that television viewing while eating leads to poor eating habits including over-consumption, and eating fat, salt and sugar laden junk foods.

This study, conducted at the University of Minnesota, shows that on average, families who eat around the dinner table without the television on and those who gather around the glowing video box, are both eating meals of roughly equivalent value. In fact, the results of the research point to the idea that in order to change a child’s diet for the better, a parent need only fix a meal and sit down and eat with them, whether at the table, in front of the television, on the ground in the backyard or on the roof of your apartment building. It doesn’t matter. Just cook (together, preferably) and sit down and eat together, and your kid will consume more vitamins, minerals, vegetables and other nutrient rich foods than he or she would if they ate alone.

This result doesn’t surprise me in the least. Humans are social animals, and food is not just fuel to us, it is culture. It isn’t just a bunch of chemicals that keep our bodies alive and kicking, it is sustenance for our minds, hearts and souls as well which promotes connection to each other and the world around us.

So, if you want to make sure your kids eat healthily, do better in school, and have a deep connection to you and the rest of your family, cook a meal together and sit down and eat it together.

It really is that simple.

(This report also made me feel a little better about the number of meals we have eaten seated around the television watching an episode of the X-Files from our new DVD sets, or the newest episode of Torchwood or Dr. Who we downloaded from the ‘net.)

How Hard Can It Be To Get Local Food Into Local Schools?

According to Kim Severson’s article, “Local Carrots With a Side of Red Tape” from this morning’s New York Times, the answer is, “Pretty tough.”

Chronicling the arduous process of hoop-jumping a local New York carrot farmer has had to go through in order to get local carrots in New York City schools, the article shines a light on the murky complexity that comes when the issues of local food, federal school lunch program funding, local school boards, budgets and the federal farm bill become enmeshed into a nearly impenetrable web of “It can’t be done.”

This article is enough to dissuade most inexperienced parents and farmers who want to go all “food activist” on their local school system, but fear not–there is help out there for those who want to tackle the issue.

Enter chef Ann Cooper, a self-described “renegade lunch lady” (-THAT- is a title to aspire to!) who has tirelessly worked to improve the nutritional and culinary value of the school lunches of New York and the rest of the US for years. Her new book, Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children serves as a primer to neophyte food activists who want to wade into the swift moving waters of local politics and help change the way children in schools eat for the better, but who have no idea how to go about it.

Transforming the way our school lunch system works is going to be a long, difficult battle, but is one that is well worth fighting.

And finally, a food story from Japan, by way of the Washington Post:

Rice Is Nice, But Bread Is Best?

“Sticky Times for Rice As Japan Breaks Bread”
by Lori Aratani outlines and elucidates the sad fact that per capita consumption of rice in Japan has halved since the 1960’s, in large part due to the growth in popularity of European and American style wheat breads.

While I am sad that the traditional food culture of Japan is suffering as more and more young people reject rice as a staple food, I cannot help but find this culinary cross-pollination fascinating, because it is led by the Japanese free marketplace.

During the US occupation in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, dietary change was attempted by forcing Japanese school children to eat several “bread meals” in school lunches per week. While this was nothing short of culinary cultural imperialism, this new fascination with bread among the youth of Japan is nothing of the kind. It is purely a case of cultural curiosity on the part of the Japanese themselves, which is probably a good thing.

Besides, it has led to a flowering of culinary innovation as rice growers, millers and marketers come up with various rice breads and interesting half-polished rice varieties which include some of the bran and germ, which not only result in better nutritive value, but tints the cooked rice fascinating colors like pink or violet, both of which have brpoven popular with the young adult market which has overwhelmingly begun to prefer wheat products.


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  1. I hate the sneaking in of foods. As you say, there’s no nutritional value. Besides, what are we teaching children? That it’s okay to lie and cheat if you’re the bigger person?

    I’m amused at the comment re Italian grocery stores. I just moved back to the UK after a blissful year of living in Rome, and you won’t believe how many times I heard that same comment (but from English people). They were utterly horrified to discover that you cannot buy soggy, gloopy, disgusting stuff in an aluminium box masquerading as pasta. People were totally indignant that you couldn’t buy the boxed crap you find in say Tesco or Asda. *head desk*

    Comment by Mamlambo — October 17, 2007 #

  2. barbara, i grew up in india, and i agree with you 100%. as kids, we ate what the adults ate – with all the spices. there were no ‘separate meals’ for us. there wa a wide variety and we could pick thins we liked. if we made a fuss, we had to wait until the next meal. processed food was a very tiny part of the diet.

    my nieces and nephews in the u.s. have a similar upbringing. their eating habits are completely different from those of their friends in school. i don’t get why it is so difficult to get a child to eat right (as you are doing so splendidly with your little angel).
    my four-year old niece ASKS for lentils and broccoli.

    i just don’t get why it is difficult to get a child to eat right if you introduce th child to the right kind of foods from birth. as for ms. seinfeld, she’s got it backwards. really.

    Comment by bee — October 17, 2007 #

  3. I was a horribly picky eater as a child, but it was because my mother can’t cook and served me canned vegetables and dry, lifeless overcooked meat. The school lunches at Piedmont Elementary (remember them?) didn’t help.

    I haven’t been a picky eater since I learned that food had actual flavours.

    Comment by Azalais — October 17, 2007 #

  4. I’m still bewildered by the puree idea.

    My parents have a house rule: don’t ask what’s in the soup unless you really want to know. That’s because soup gets all kind of vegetables in it and each one adds flavor. If you don’t like a particular vegetable, well… chances are it’s in the soup anyway. And you are happier not knowing it’s there.

    But that’s what soup is for… making a solid, nutritious meal out of a variety of vegetables (and other things). And if you can eat a given vegetable in soup, chances are the flavor or color will not be so offputting the next time it comes up as a star vegetable. Which leads to the second rule: you must try a taste of everything. Even if you *know* you hate it, you try it anyway. One bite. You may swallow it whole. You may disguise it how you like. But you must try that one bite.

    After being brought up with those rules, I’ll eat almost anything. I’m reluctant to try lobster, for there is a fair chance I could be allergic to it. I dislike most mushrooms for their scent, and find the texture of all mushrooms quite unpleasant. There’s a few other foods where I find the texture or scent unpleasant… but I’ve *tried* all of them. And I can eat them. And I do. Often there is a dish or two that uses that unpleasant taste or texture to good effect, so I can enjoy even my least favorite foods.

    The family meal rules were simple. No kid could miss dinner daily (about once a week was the limit). No eating except at the table. If you are hungry and start making a meal for yourself, make enough for everyone. This meant that most breakfasts were family meals. Most dinners were family meals. Lunches when everyone was home were family meals. The “not hungry” excuse was viewed with deep suspicion since it usually meant “but I must finish this book” or “but I want to keep watching TV” or “I want to beat this computer game”.

    I don’t know how they put up with us. I really and truly don’t. The rules seem to be good ones tho, since none of us ended up diabetic (a real risk with the family medical history), or with an eating disorder. None of us are picky eaters of the dreadful sort. Tho we’re all picky eaters of the “I’m not going out to *that* place, I can make it better myself” sort.

    Comment by Emily Cartier — October 17, 2007 #

  5. Though I have no children of my own (which would lead a lot of people to say I have no place at all even discussing this topic), it seems from my observations that children, in large part, follow their parents’ examples. Many children reflect the limited food range their parents expose them to. You eat foods from a whole range of world cuisines, and share them all with Kat. I doubt she’ll end up the kind of fussy eater these articles talk about, because she’s learning that new foods are interesting and exciting!

    I think the US is still recovering from the casserole-and-Jell-O-mold years. (Not that there’s anything wrong with casseroles and Jell-O molds in moderation.)

    Comment by Lucy — October 17, 2007 #

  6. I’m amused to read this series, as I continue to struggle with a picky eater. My partners’ daughter started out eating a wide variety of highly nutritious foods, but during the usual picky period she got down to a very few. When I moved in, I challenged her to tell me what vegetables she would eat and we serve them to her, though her mother no longer cooks a whole meal differently for her. Her repetoire of fruits is wide; she will eat a number of vegetables raw, fewer cooked, and almost no mixed foods (soup for instance is right out, which makes me scream with frustration). She eats candy and ice cream, as well as noodles, rice, bread, crackers– but no pastries.

    I’m convinced part of this is a power struggle with her mother; but part is probably also genetic, as her father is very sensitive to certain textures and texture combinations even though he will try most anything. (He has issues with undercooked meat and periodically will ‘go off’ all meat but sausage for months, then slowly go back to eating meat.)

    The real irony is that it is school lunches that saved me from going absolutely bonkers. Presented with a wider variety of foods than she would touch at home– and with no home adults around–, she began tackling pizza with red sauce, meatballs, macaroni and cheese, and other dishes we couldn’t get her to try. It isn’t just peer pressure either– apparently she devours the mushy school peas despite teasing from her peers. Very strange.

    Comment by Jennifer Heise — October 17, 2007 #

  7. I think that whilst there may indeed be a semi genetic make up to it – for example, nothing will persuade me that boiled / steamed brussel sprouts are nice and I don’t like lots of chilis; whilst my brother doesn’t like pastry, my boyfriend doesn’t like eggs … these are all minor dislikes.

    However, my parents brought me up to at least try everything at least once. And I can eat brussels if I have to. I think my dad realised I was no longer his baby girl when I rebelled one Xmas and refused to eat them – I was 28. “Picky” eaters to me are those that refuse to at least try something; who are scared of food or who come up with the most wonderous “allergies” to avoid foods they think they won’t like.

    I’m sure that the best parents in the world occasionally get a picky child. But making the dinner table a battle ground doesn’t help; and neither does catering to whims.

    I’m so reminded of a teenage girl I once knew. I was out shopping when I overheard her informing her mother that she’d “become a vegetarian.” Her mother seemed very confused by this, and I don’t think I helped when I pointed out that tuna mayonaise wasn’t veggie … The girl in question was the biggest spoilt brat in my class and it was blatently the latest in a powergame with her mother – who I may add refused to bow down to her on this particular occasion, and just cooked her vegetarian food rather than beg her to eat meat. Shame her daughter didn’t eat most vegetables, and come the following Sunday Roast she was suddenly no longer veggie … wonder why :o)

    Comment by Kath Minchin — October 17, 2007 #

  8. I am laughing at the picture of Kat. There is no way she is sharing her treat with her sister…

    Comment by Maureen — October 17, 2007 #

  9. I think the question of “sneaking” foods in depends on a number of variables.

    There are ways to make those veggies healthy. Just because Ms Seinfeld cooks the veggies twice and leaves them in the fridge doesn’t mean everyone does. It’s quite possible to cook them once and add them to the macs&cheese before serving. Even if the vitamins are (greatly? it depends on the vitamin, the food, the prep and the storage) diminished, it’s better than. Some people feel that freezing pureed foods also takes away lots of the vitamins.

    Another issue is whether not telling a child what’s in her meal is lying. I believe that depends on the child. If the kid doesn’t ask, is it lying not to tell? If you say “macs and cheese” is it lying to omit some of the ingredients? After all, macs & cheese includes unmentioned butter as well.

    Slipping food in can also be a valid way to test the proposition. It’s done all the time and some adults then realize they don’t hate onions. But even if she still hates them, she’s unlikely to consider you a lying liar who lied and lies, and never speak to you again.

    It’s great to have kids that try everything, or that don’t suddenly restrict themselves to 5 foods, or who don’t get sick easily. There are things that we, as parents, can do to make this more likely. Nor am I a fan of parents who indulge every culinary whim of family members grown or not (guests are different). I don’t think that sneaking in veggies teaches kids to eat veggies (until they’re older and realize that if they’ve been eating them all along maybe they’re not so bad after all). I do think it does get some veggies into the kids’ systems. And remember, we are not in complete control and our children have their own opinions.

    Comment by Harry — October 17, 2007 #

  10. Mamlambo–the comment about the Italian grocery stores totally blew my mind, too. When Morganna read it, she was stunned, and Zak–well, even he was confused by it–and he can only cook a handful of dishes.

    I don’t absolutely -hate- the idea of sneaking food in on kids–certainly not as a stopgap measure to get -something- in a kid. And I have done it with adults who needed to gain weight, like my Gram after she had lost so much weight after several bouts of pneumonia. But, it wasn’t so much sneaking as just overloading her dinners with more calories, vitamins, minerals and fat than most people really need to eat in a day, much less a meal. (This was on doctors’ orders by the way–he told me to boil all of her vegetables in cream if that was how I could get her to eat–he didn’t care. Just so I got her to eat and to eat well.)

    I think it is the whole idea of doing this sneaking thing for a long time that gets me–especially when the kids are much older than the usual toddler picky phase, as the author’s kids are. Then, it does seem to me like it would just prolong the picky period unnaturally.

    Of course, there are kids who are special cases. Autistic kids often have problems with flavors and food textures–and I am not going to crab at a parent for doing whatever it takes to help those kids eat healthy foods happily.

    Bee–The more I hear about how kids in other cultures are raised and how they eat, the more I am certain that this extended picky phase is a product of American food culture.

    And the more concerned I become.

    I am glad to hear about the four year old who asks for lentils and broccoli! That is awesome!

    Azalais–I never ate at your Mom’s place, but I did smell waftings from the kitchen once or twice and I felt bad for you.

    Piedmont’s food was bad most of the time, but I have to admit that I liked their chili and cinnamon rolls, which, for whatever reason, were always served on the same day. The rest of it was godawful. (Morganna read your comment and was like–omg! Who is that? She went to Piedmont, too? She didn’t recognize the name…so I that you were an Auntie she hasn’t met in her memory.)

    Emily–those were sensible rules, I think, too. And they worked, so that is what matters.

    And when it comes to being picky–I am like you. Why pay money for mediocre food when I can make better at home?

    Lucy–I like casseroles, so long as they are good! I make them fairly frequently, but none of them involve cans of condensed cream of whatever soup. But Jello molds–nope. I can do without those. I think the last time I ate Jello, I realized it tasted like solid Koolaid, and who the heck wants to eat that.

    My Dad was pleased that I had come to my senses about Jello. He can’t stand the stuff, because he ate so much of it when he was in the Navy.

    Jennifer–I agree–it sounds like a power struggle issue. A lot of kids will eat foods for other adults or on their own recognizance that they would never eat for or with their parents. I have seen this over and over with my cousins, neighborhood kids and kids at school. Heck, even my Dad will eat whatever I cook for him, but let Mom cook something unfamiliar, and he is skeptical.

    The issue with your husband and meat–I was that way when I was pregnant. I have always preferred vegetables, grains and dairy products to meat–especially when I was a kid–and when I was pregnant with Kat, I could no longer eat slabs of meat. I had to eat it ground, or as sausage, or minced. And undercooked bird meat bugs the crap out of me.

    But then, I eat rare to raw beef and raw fish and seafood without a problem, so who knows?

    When it comes to kids older than the usual toddler picky phase, I think that most of the time, it is some sort of unhealthy power dynamic between the parents and kids manifesting at the dinner table.

    Kath–I agree with you–picky eaters are the ones ruled by irrational fears of food and unwillingness to try. I don’t care if someone genuinely doesn’t like something–but if they won’t try it–how can they know they won’t like it?

    And the fake food allergies people have! Argh! It drives me nuts, because lots of people really do have life threatening food allergies, and the folks who pretend just because they don’t like something make everyone look kind of flaky, even if they are really allergic.

    Maureen–both the girls, when small, were obsessed with garlic, and would chew on it raw. Morganna was proud to see Kat chewing on the stalk of that elephant garlic, but she knew better than to try and take it away. When she did–Kat howled at her! It was funny.

    Harry–see, here is my issue with slipping in food. I don’t really care what other people do with their kids, so long as they are not abusing them!

    But, unless it is a stopgap measure, or something to get kids who really have food issues like kids with autism or eating disorders, I am skeptical of sneaking food into other food and treating older kids who are picky like they are acting reasonably. They usually aren’t.

    And maybe I am wrong about my worries about cooking vegetables twice, while I was cooking and pureeing food and freezing it for Kat to eat later. But, I still think that some real nutrition information on each recipe would be a help to the parents who want to use those recipes to get vegetables into their kids, so I will stand by that concern.

    But, you know, I still think it is kind of like lying. Kids can be really weird about parental deceptions–it can make them not trust their parents on a fundamental level. It sounds kind of weird, but it is true–some kids would take great umbrage at being deceived in that way, and would then wonder what else Mom and Dad were lying about.

    I know that I was rather put out about the whole Santa Claus lie. I didn’t think it was a magical tradition, and was fun–I thought it was a way in which parents assumed their kids were dumb and so it was okay to lie to them. And it made no sense–why not tell the kid the presents are from you–what–you are ashamed to give them presents? It was very strange.

    So, yeah, I do think that with some kids, the deceptions could not go over well and could make them distrust their parents more–and why would you ever believe the word of a parent who tells you that this or that tastes good if you know they have deceived you in the past?

    (Now, some kids, it may work perfectly well on. But when I was a kid, and on some other kids I knew, and some of my cousins, and Morganna—lies just didn’t cut it. Besides–I am an intensely honest person anyway who has a hard time lying to people I love and respect, so yeah–you can see my issue.)

    But as for the vegetables in macaroni and cheese–I put vegetables in mine all the time! When I make my baked mac and cheese–(another great casserole!) I put onions, peppers, chilies, garlic and greens in as a matter of course. None of them are hidden, and I have never had a problem getting any kids to eat it. And I am talking about taking it to potlucks and the like where there are kids of all sorts of eating habits around. As soon as they see it has cheese, and lots of it in there, they don’t really care what else is in there. They just chow down on it.

    And I agree that kids have likes and dislikes–and opinions. I just happen to think that most kids who are picky beyond the normal picky phase period are in situations where they cannot express their opinions or have control over anything except when it comes to what they will eat. So, it becomes a power struggle. As I have said before, I have witnessed this over and over all my life, with kids in my family and in other families, and almost all of them were trying to exert control in their lives in the only way they knew how–and often, when they were not around their parents, they ate plenty of stuff they supposedly didn’t like.

    Remember–I am not talking about the regular kid picky phase–I am talking about kids who are way beyond that. Toddlers who only like the same five foods for weeks, and then suddenly one morning wake up and hate them and want three different foods for another month–that is normal. That is that evolutionarily advantageous neophobia that keeps toddlers from eating belladonna berries out in the woods and dying. That doesn’t concern me–it is something that is best just rolled with and ridden out by parents–because it is a phase. It does pass. It just seems like it will take forever to do so!

    (Morganna’s toddler picky phase was extended by the way in which her father and grandmothers fed her. When she stayed with me–she wasn’t picky at all. With them–apparently she was quite opinionated and very adamant that she wanted french fries at every meal. She tried the french fries and fast food thing with me–and I refused, and she cried, and then she got over it and ate dinner, after I let her pick out the ingredients and help cook them.)

    Fear not. The normal toddler picky phase will end. It really will. (And until then, if you have to sneak stuff in–go for it–do what you have to do.)

    Comment by Barbara — October 18, 2007 #

  11. hi barbara,
    may be, i should write a post in my blog on ‘picky kids.’ for the time being, let me share my opinion with you, that personally, i think, this is another of the great obsessions of the america.
    when i was growing up (also my sis), the eating habits of kids were not considered a problem, at least, not what they ate. the problem was HOW they ate. and, every child i remember, including me, had her own meal time tantrums. but these never included the kind of food we ate.

    on the other hand, the meal time tantrums were usually restricted to simple refusal to eat ! not what type of food we ate, but we just refused to eat, until a certain mealtime routine was set ! now, i don’t know if this is a typical indian situation or typical non-american situation. but kids refusing to eat and parents cajoling them using umpteen imaginative ways including stories, to eat is a usual thing around me.

    i remember my father making small balls of rice mashed with buttermilk and the curries and taking each one in his hand, describing it as the vehicle of some of our family friends ! ‘this is chandran uncle’s scooter. here comes the scooter, wrrrroooom !’ and the ‘urula’ (ball) would be gulped down by an eager mouth. for my sis, each ‘urula’ had to be ‘sold’ for ten paise !

    now, my nephew (my sis’s son), will have his meals at home only if he is fed by his mother or grandma, or grandpa, from a plate, to the accompaniment of, you imagine, his computer game ! but, mind you, this is only for the home meals. at school, he is the perfect gentleman, eating from his lunch box, sharing with his friends. and when going outside for a sadya (traditional feast), he will eat with the utmost grace from the plantain leaf, even expertly scooping up the ‘payasam,’ (the liquidy dessert commom in kerala),using his full palm and fingers ! and even at home, on special occasions when there are any guests, he would insist on having his meal from a banana leaf, sitting with everyone else at the table.

    one more nugget of information for you, heh ?

    we consider his need to

    Comment by renu — October 18, 2007 #

  12. I would LOVE to shop at a grocery store that didn’t sell “food”, instead selling only ingredients to make the food. Imagine what that store would be like!

    A very thoughtful post. It’s too bad the media doesn’t pick up on the subject of picky eating from this angle, rather than spotlighting the idea of subterfuge.

    Comment by Erika — October 19, 2007 #

  13. I don’t really mind the idea of “sneaking” foods into other ones. I think the term is kind of nasty, but I like to think of it as bulking the foods up. And really, is making a sumptuous spaghetti sauce with eggplant in it “sneaking” it eggplant or is it an eggplant sauce? I like the idea of the latter. Adding prune puree to cakes to make them more moist and reduce oil? Fine with me.

    What I don’t like AT ALL is trying to disguise something into something else – maybe that is “sneaking”? Tofu stroganoff – erp. Fake meats (TVP) – blecch.

    Comment by Diane — October 19, 2007 #

  14. I don’t have kids, but I can remember moments of picky eating from my own childhood. The girl who used to declare a hatred of olives and pickles now finds them a treat! Although, canned black olives on pizza are still gross; same with floppy, flavorless pickles from fast food places and bad delis. I think often people will declare that they don’t like something because they’ve only ever had yucky versions of that food. Kalamata olives are great, but I still don’t order olives on my pizza because they’re never the good kind.

    My partner and I love all types of fresh fruits and veggies. I hope that should we start a family someday, that love will be passed on either genetically or by example.

    Comment by Laura — October 23, 2007 #

  15. I have a buddy that hates tomatoes like everyone else in his family, but he inhales salsa like a fiend. And yet he will freak out, I mean really freak out when they put tomatoes on his plate for garnish, like refuse the entree and will leave and go to another place to eat freak out.

    I can’t count the times, we have been served and had to leave because he didn’t want them to remake the entree without the tomato garnish, because he is convinced they will do something to his meal to get back at him for complaining.

    There are many Mexican places I can’t go with him because he thinks they are out to get him.

    Comment by Jumper — October 23, 2007 #

  16. Oh, Jumper. I don’t know how patient I could be with that kind of behavior from an adult. I think I would lose my temper eventually.

    Which isn’t nice of me, but man–wow. Neither is making a friend leave a restaurant and eat somewhere else because of a friggin tomato.

    I’d either lose my temper or just stop going out to eat with the guy.

    Or pull my own hair out in frustration.

    Comment by Barbara — October 24, 2007 #

  17. […] Food News Roundup: More On Picky Kids Around The World, Family Dinners, Local Food in Schools and the Like […]

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  20. When i read your article i felt that my kid is not the only one difficult to handle when it comes to eating habbit, when she started going for pre school i felt very desperate because she came home without eating in the first days. then i experimeneted with the food items and found out what all food she will eat at school. mostly that she is lazy and dont want to wash hands she prefers dry food. thanks a lot for sharing good information.

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