Children naturally like healthy unprocessed food, but they are hardly exposed to it from the early stages of their life and as a result we end up with that so-called “picky” eater or the child who is perpetually sick. Children are not picky because it’s a normal behavior -like we hear at the pediatrician’s office- to an extent it is normal for them to pick and choose what they like (everyone has a taste preference) but they are mostly picky because we promote it as parents and as a society. By offering a kids’ menu we are limiting their choices and letting them eat highly processed food from the time they are able to chew, we set them up to fail at trying healthier foods as they grow older.
Starts when they are babies
After a few months of infant formula or breastfeeding, babies are introduced with their first processed foods in the form of infant boxed cereal and baby jarred food. Older infants are introduced anywhere from French fries, to goldfish crackers, to chips to boxed mac n’ cheese, sugary juices and the list goes on. Their palates get used to the taste of poor quality sugar, salt, and fat during the first years of their life, which do not provide the appropriate nutrients to protect them from illnesses. Then we wonder why they will only eat four things that of course do not include fresh produce.
What’s in the kids’ menu?
Whether at a restaurant, school, daycare, hospitals, parties or holidays…The kids’ menu is limited to certain “classics”
- Chicken fingers
- PB & J sandwiches
- Mac n’ cheese
- French fries
- And some other options that are not so healthy
The reason is because that’s what they like, and that’s what they will eat, but then again, it is thanks to us as parents by allowing these to be their only options and to our dysfunctional food system that markets these junk foods to kids. It would be much easier if healthful eating practices would be established as children, not only in our home but in our education system as well; but unfortunately children are eating more poorly than they ever did before.
Is this okay?
It’s funny how we wouldn’t let our children drink coffee, alcohol or smoke, because that is socially unacceptable but we are completely fine with letting them eat candy, fast food and drink soda (that are also devastating) on a regular basis. And that is because we are unaware of the potential harm and slow deterioration of health that can arise by the over consumption of these foods.
We can change it!
Kids are not able to choose their diets unless parents let or guide them; yet it becomes a difficult task due to many factors such as long works shifts, low-budgets, little time to prepare meals, commuting to work/school, etc. As parents we are also up against a monster industry devoted to suppressing our parental authority over food choices; which means that a great deal of money is spent in advertising food that has little or no nutritional value to our young children, especially food with toys. It is just part of our everyday lives and most of us are either in denial or blind to it.
Though discouraging and outrageously difficult it is to change a whole system, we can become health conscious parents
- Don’t become anxious or obsessed (I did for a while) about what our children are eating outside of our home
- Do set a good example inside our homes and in our kitchens to provide nutritious meals for our families
- Expose children to healthy meals
- Involve them in meal planning and food preparation as well as extending their food options, this lets them explore different smells, tastes and textures and eventually they will not be fearful of trying new foods
If we want them to grow as healthy teenagers and adults it is better to start now, it is never too late to start! It is amazing what you can do for your child’s health and well-being just by exposing them to delicious whole food.
About the Author:Alma Simmons
Alma is our Nutrition & Dietetics expert. She is a wife, a mom, and my friend. She received her degree in Nutrition and Dietetics with Licensure in Mexico, her native country. After completing her Dietetic Intership at The Ohio University she recently became a Registered Dietitian. Her professional experiences include public health, nutrition education and outpatient clinical dietetics.