We need to replace our range. I’m excited to get a double oven, which I have fantasized over for years. So, we are getting that double oven so I can slow roast that pork shoulder and hit the roasted veggies at 450…
Anyway, I almost lost it when I saw a button on the range I liked best that says, “kids meal.” What? How high, how long? I can almost handle that on a microwave, but had never seen it on an oven— one more clue to me that we are way off base with how we relate to food culturally.
Like the children’s menu loaded with only soft and brown foods, or the new “kid friendly” stamp for certain recipes in Cooking Light, what this kind of marketing and messaging does is reinforce the message that kids CAN’T:
- eat the same foods as the adults do
- like a variety of foods
- learn to like new foods without a whole lot of effort and hand-wringing
This message is ubiquitous, from ads telling us that Tyson chicken is the only food your kids will eat “100% of the time,” to that kiddy menu, to the Pediasure anxiety-provoking commercials, to the sample lady at Trader Joe’s offering your child plain chips without the salsa they are sampling (M loved the salsa.) It can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Every sitcom jokes about eating broccoli, products line the shelves to cater to picky eaters. It all changes how we view and feed children, and they respond accordingly. They live up to our expectations.
But they can. Assume your child can, and in fact wants to (in time) learn to eat and enjoy the foods you do.
Here are some tips:
- Never assume a child won’t like something. I once remember M wanting to eat raw brussels sprouts, and I started to say, “We don’t eat them r…” but bit my tongue. She ate three raw ones and a few ones I cooked too. Consider serving a little bowl of whatever veggies you cook with dinner, but put some raw on the table.
- Also, watch those preconceived notions. My little one liked spicy pickles and even cocktail onions (thanks Grandma!) Artichokes are a treat. I think she likes pulling the leaves and dipping them in balsamic.
- Try to include some of your grown-up favorites next time you eat dinner. Enjoy them yourselves, don’t goad, pressure or push and see if your children are curious…
- Have an expectation of mastery. Offer foods in a neutral way. Most kids are naturally curious about new foods. All the prodding and praise can slow that process down. The curiosity might not mean a taste and swallow this time, but someday it likely will.
- Avoid labeling or describing a child as “picky.”
- Kids like something one day, and refuse it the next. That is normal. Just keep serving what you want them to learn to like (with a few items they generally like.) Avoid rationalizing, explaining, pressuring. For example, M has liked salsa in the past, but had gone off it recently. I did not say, “Yes, try it M, be a big girl, you liked it before!”
- Don’t be afraid to introduce new flavors and cuisines.
What other ways do you see reinforcing the message that kids can’t be competent with eating? What has helped your family?