Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Mouths of Babes

I have been blessed when it comes to my child and food. As far as three-year-olds go, she's not exactly a picky eater, unless you count the fact that she doesn't like white bread and can taste when grilled cheese has been prepared with processed cheese food as opposed to real cheese (She calls it "weird cheese" and then says it's gross and won't eat it. And, for the record, only her father heaps this cruelty upon her, because I think the stuff is repulsive, too). And she has a pretty advanced appreciation for things like vegetables and savory foods. In fact, in the grocery store today she pleaded with me to buy squash. We were already checking out, so the answer was not right now, but it was very hard to say no- when a preschooler asks for squash, the answer should always be yes, yes, ABSOLUTELY!

Over the years, several of my friends and acquaintance have commented on my daughter's eating habits- amazed when she wolfs down tomatoes and fennel and, yes, squash. (Don't get me wrong, she still loves candy and ice cream and such, she just likes the other stuff, too.) They want to know how I get her to eat these things and my answer is always the same: she's always eaten them. From the time she started eating solid foods, we've given her whatever it is we're eating. I'm convinced that has a lot to do with it, but I'm not sure it's the whole reason. In some ways, I'm pretty sure she just came that way. There are probably some kids who would refuse to eat at all if they were subjected to seafood and beans and oatmeal and mountains of produce from the very beginning. Hell, my 30-year-old brother would refuse to eat if I subjected him to that. But when it comes down to it, I think we parents really do shape and inform our children's palettes. If we start them out with lots of processed "kid" food, they're going to flip out when we put a pile of sauteed spinach on their plate. If we teach them to want salt and sugar and fat and grease, they're going to want that. (Not that there's no place for those things in a well-balanced diet. I really believe that there is, just in a limited way.) But if we teach them to eat well from the beginning, I really believe we have a much better chance of getting them to do just that.

What do you think? What have your experiences with kids and food been? When you were a kid, what did you eat and how does that affect you as an adult? When I do have another kid, am I destined to have one who will only eat things in chicken-nugget form? Because I'm leaning toward yes on that. WIll my daughter's teenage dietary rebellion involve daily trips to McDonald's and deep-fried Oreos? Discuss.