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The Kids Aren't All Right


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#1 maggiethecat

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Posted 29 November 2005 - 08:30 PM

I loved the Brenda bit where you took your son to Benihana, just because he wanted to go. and I remember thinking that for you it might have seemed like schlock food, dangerously close to fast food. But it isn't. Taking Nick out for flying the shrimp and chicken is so much more fun than a quick drive-thru for a Happy Meal. Your son and the children of folks here have a much better chance of learning to like real food.

I respect Jamie Oliver and Alice Waters for their commitment to teaching children about growing theiir own, tasting their own and cooking their own. The food media is all doom and gloom about childhood obesity, banning soda machines and endlessly repeating the new federal food guidelines. How could parents and food writers make a real difference? I doubt that journalistic scolds and no Pepsi in the break room is the answer. How can parents do the right thing?

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#2 Ruth Reichl

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Posted 30 November 2005 - 05:47 AM

I loved the Brenda bit where you took your son to Benihana, just because he wanted to go. and I remember thinking that for you it might have seemed like schlock food, dangerously close to fast food.  But it isn't.  Taking Nick out for flying the shrimp and chicken is so much more fun than a quick drive-thru for a Happy Meal. Your son and the children of folks here have a much better chance of  learning to like real food.

I respect Jamie Oliver and Alice Waters for their commitment to teaching children about growing theiir own, tasting their own and cooking their own. The food media is all doom and gloom about childhood obesity, banning soda machines and endlessly repeating the new federal food guidelines.  How could parents and food writers make a real difference? I doubt that journalistic scolds and no Pepsi in the break room is the answer. How can parents do the right thing?

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Kim Severson wrote a great piece in teh NY Times a few weeks ago about a program up in Harlem, which gives some of the answers. And it WAS about just feeding kids great fresh food and insisting that they try it. It seemed to be working.
My own experience as a mother is that Nick was, for years, one of those kids who only ate 5 white foods. Everyone thought it was hilarious that I had this kid who turned up his nose at everything but matzoh brei, Cheerios, French Fries and toast. For a while he ate nothing but chunks of Parmesan cheese and plain chicken. He literally never ate a fruit or vegetable until he was about 7. And he was this really skinny little kid. (Fast, though, the fastest kid in his school for years.) And I thought, well, we can make mealtimes a nightmare as we insist that he eat everything. Or we can just say, sit with us, eat what you want, and let him watch us enjoying food. I didn't want meals to be a trial, so we did the later, I was convinced that food would kick in for him at some point.
And it did! At some point he just started eating - everything. By the time he was 12 he was the world's most adventurous eater, which he continues to be. He loves food, loves to try new things, will eat virtually anything you put in front of him. Loves vegetables of all kinds. He also, incidentally, grew. Not sure if it's related, but at 16 he's now 6 foot 2.
So my experience is just eat well, have good food around, and wish really hard.

#3 Chris Amirault

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Posted 30 November 2005 - 11:59 AM

Most of the research on children's eating in early childhood confirms Ruth's anecdote. If you turn the dinner table into a battleground, the kids learn that food is about power and struggle against parents -- not good. If you patiently continue to expose them to good food, most children sooner or later branch out. You can't guarantee they'll become foodies by giving them the flexibility and freedom, but you can guarantee that they'll turn food into a weapon if you try to force them to eat things they don't want to eat.
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#4 helenjp

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Posted 30 November 2005 - 05:11 PM

While parents and schools have the best opportunities to instil good food culture, I suppose that the "good eating habits" concept is pretty wide, too.

My son2 will try anything once, even though he has a long list of "don't like" foods.

His best friend has wanted to be a Japanese chef since he was in kindergarten. He is *not* adventurous beyond the familiar palette of Japanese flavors..yet he likes sophisticated dishes which his classmates would surely refuse to touch.

The Japanese school lunch program definitely helps, and the Harlem program coincides with what I see here. The bane of son1's life at junior high comes to school late and hungry, and goes home to either no dinner or a bag of snacks. Not exactly an education in fine food. However, even though he comes and goes from the school grounds as he pleases during the school day, he's apparently always in the lunch queue, and back for seconds too. He's been eating school lunches for 8 years now, and has become used to the idea that vegetables, seasonal specialties, Chinese dishes, and other strange objects will be found on his lunch tray. People will eventually eat what they see being eaten around them.

Edited by helenjp, 30 November 2005 - 05:16 PM.


#5 Corinna Dunne

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Posted 01 December 2005 - 08:32 AM

The bane of son1's life at junior high comes to school late and hungry, and goes home to either no dinner or a bag of snacks. Not exactly an education in fine food. However, even though he comes and goes from the school grounds as he pleases during the school day, he's apparently always in the lunch queue, and back for seconds too. He's been eating school lunches for 8 years now, and has become used to the idea that vegetables, seasonal specialties, Chinese dishes, and other strange objects will be found on his lunch tray. People will eventually eat what they see being eaten around them.

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I think you've hit on another important point here: feeding children when they are hungry and not insisting that they eat when you want them to. It's amazing what a little hunger can do and I suspect that no child will intentionally starve itself to death. Thankfully, I've been very lucky with my 2 kids, but when I felt the younger one was getting over zealous about her likes and dislikes, I stretched out the length of time she had to wait for her dinner... and surprise, she ate it all up with relish. Her foraging skills have improved too as a result, so she will automatically reach for a banana or piece of fruit if she has to wait too long.

Edited by Corinna Dunne, 01 December 2005 - 08:33 AM.

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