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.


Frieda said...

Let's see...growing up,all I ate was Cheerios or jelly sandwiches. The only fruit I still eat is an apple. I am a serious texture eater with a sweet and carb tooth.

Yes, processed cheese is what I call 'plastic' cheese, because they forgot to take the wrapper off it when it melted.

It has taken me years to develop a taste for a variety of foods. For some kids it will take up to 11 different opportunities to taste a food and develop a liking for it. Me, on the other hand, was forced to eat it; ergo, as an adult, I still don't eat certain foods.

It's a balance of variety and opportunity, which I am sure you are already providing and will continue to provide~

Wendy said...

Frieda, I've heard that about trying a food eleven times. I'm always telling kids (and adults!) that. They say it takes your palette that long to adjust to the new flavor or whatnot before you can even judge if you like it. So interesting! It's also why we have a rule in our house that states that you have to try a food even if you think you don't like it. You don't have to like it or eat all of it, but you have to try it and you're not allowed to insult it.

Kira said...

Funny, I just posted a pic of my baby eating fresh steamed spinach. I never buy jarred food and have non-picky eaters. You will have to check out the post. kiracooks.blogspot.com

Mary said...

Vegtables are great for us. They are full of vitamins and nutritrients we cannot understand enought to duplicate.

What I have noticed with my kids is that if I only feed them white bread and cheese they are hungry all the time. When I give them fruits and vegtables it helps to fill them up.

With Jacob's allergy I've learned that allergic people have a self-preservation reaction that makes there mouth feel hairy and so it's good not to force but simply to offer.

I have found if it's always offered (ie, salad) there are times that they will eat it and times when they will not. I always put a little pile on there plate. I figure when they do eat it, it's because their bodies need it at that time. And if they don't eat it, oh well...

Whole Food for the Whole Family said...

Great post!

Jeanette said...

Yeah, i was terrified that my second child would be a picky eater, but he's not--because we don't give him the choice.

I find we often have fights over one part of the food or another, but it's 99% about the power struggle and only 1% about the food. I know this because I can feed my kids the same thing twice and one of the days they love it and one of the days they hate it. It's always changing.

That's why I never listen!

This is what's for dinner. It's good for you, and you can take it or leave it!

Natasha said...

I am a mother of four beautiful children. With my first child I was the best about not letting him eat sweets and making everything fresh. He is fourteen today and still does not eat candy and loves every fruit and vegetable known to man. But the second and the third kid came and I became overwhelmed and even if I could get a donut in them for breakfast I was doing good. Well from my first to my fourth kid their eating patterns are so different. I do believe that it is what we give our children in those first couple of years that are so important. But then again every child is so different.