i recently posted a link on my facebook page that caused a bit of really good conversation. the link was to a site for a product called "kid cuisine" a frozen "meal" designed especially for children (and daft parents) that boasts "real ingredients like white-meat chicken, real cheese, vegetables and premium beef." The ad copy goes on to extol the virtues of kid cuisine's whole grains, important vitamins, and minerals and nutrients like calcium and protein (none of which exists in usable form in this product - not to mention the microwave preparation which destroys nutrient value in food). for $4.99 you get to choose from bug safari chicken breast nuggets, grilled cheese, campfire hot dogs, cheese blaster mac and cheese, rockin' ravioli, deep sea adventure fish sticks, magical cheese crust pizza and many more, all with inappropriate sugar laden crap side dishes, blah, blah you get my drift. for some this might seem like a bargain but its not. it's effects are costly and dear. nowhere on the site does it say organic. nowhere on the site does it say no hormones or antibiotics. nowhere on the site does it mention the use of GMOs. nowhere on the site does it say a word about the plastic trays being BPA free. it's a pity this poison doesn't kill instantly, then we could easily illustrate how deadly it really is and have it ripped from the grocery store shelves. instead it slowly makes our children sick, fat and stupid. it distorts our children's perception of healthy nutrition and kills slowly and painfully. it hurts our kids and is definitely not what we should prepare to bring our family2table. okay, so, that's enough time wasted talking about this putrid, poisonous, empty, SAD (standard american diet) excuse for food that ConAgra Foods, Inc. is currently pushing on our innocent children via their uneducated and economically depressed parents.
the bigger issue here calls for an examination of what is "kid food" and why we as a culture have decided that children should be gastronomically segregated and eat differently (read:poorly). in my opinion there is really only one time in a human's life when they should eat food that is completely apart from all others and that is from the time we are born until we are between 6 and 8 months old. that food is breastmilk. nature's most perfect food (as is all raw milk). it nourishes for proper body growth and brain development, imparts an immune system, a digestive system and so much more. when a baby is able to sit up on its own and self feed, then it is time to introduce solids. that's when new mothers panic. i get a lot of calls from new moms asking me to teach them how to make baby food. my first reaction is sure, i'll get paid to show you how to mash up what you're eating (provided you are eating well). then i remember that new mothers want to do everything perfectly. rule #1 is stay away from jarred baby foods. they have additives, preservatives and are bland tasting which sets baby up for wanting more bland food. blech! this leads me to another great reason to breastfeed. the diverse flavors that make their way from the mother's diet into the milk change it's flavor at every feeding. a formula fed baby receives the same overly sugared flavor at every feeding and therefore becomes conditioned to expect and then want the same thing at every meal. the perfect petri dish for the birth of a picky eater.
"kid cuisine" should not exist. end of story. a proper diet for growing children should. however, if there has to be a category called "kid food," or as some people call it "kid friendly food," then i recommend changing the paradigm. a complete do-over. i would challenge that no one has ever had a hard time learning to love pizza, fried chicken, plain pasta with butter, hot dogs, burgers, grilled cheese, french fries, ice cream etc. these foods are easy to love and don't require much practice or education. i propose that we turn "kid food" on it's head. imagine going to a restaurant and seeing a children's menu (another vile invention) that offered the freshest wild sushi, chicken liver mousse, seared wild alaskan salmon, braised greens, lamb stew, caviar, fermented veggies, grass-fed burgers, pastured egg and cheese omelette, stewed chicken on the bone with fresh herbs, grass-fed butter and oxtail jam on sourdough toast and raw milk ice cream sweetened with maple syrup. what a revelation! nutrient dense foods designed to promote growth, brain development, healthy digestion and an educated palate. as for restaurants who want to offer a "children's option," i recommend a small plate option at a reduced price, or an appetizer size of an entree that already exists on the menu. on the rare occasion that my family does venture out to a restaurant these days we always share, as portions in most restaurants are already way too big.
as a mother, a chef and a cooking instructor, here is my big secret to getting children to be good eaters....come closer.....are you ready? children will eat what we feed them. we make the rules and we control the food supply. of course it helps if you, the parents (aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc), demonstrate good eating habits and include the children in the meal planning and preparation. but, from the time they are able to eat solids, we MUST consistently provide the foods that will shape their eating habits. once they are out of the home and in school -- and children are being sent to school and daycare earlier and earlier these days - we lose a certain amount of influence and the battle becomes more difficult. as a matter of fact i have a real problem with the way schools and restaurants undermine parents when it comes to feeding our children. school lunch menus follow the lead of restaurant "children's menus" and dumb down the choices to the usual toddler fodder and load them up with empty carbs that will not make for stable blood sugar during the course of a day. this results in the child needing to snack often (usually on more carbs - rice cakes, crackers, gold fish, etc that burn as sugar and keep the vicious cycle going) and leads to lack of focus and irritable behavior. in my humble opinion, no one should be responsible for feeding (nourishing) my kids except me. that is the sacred right of every parent to know exactly what is fueling their child's perfect body. that is why i recommend preparing and packing your child's lunch everyday. i also recommend having a conversation with the other parents in the class regarding snacks and those ridiculous birthday cupcakes that keep popping up every other day. sugar does not make for a very good time when it comes to children's developing bodies and brains. cupcakes are not kid cuisine. remember? there is no such thing as kid cuisine!
okay. i am going to stop now but i will not leave you all feeling depressed and without hope. you and your children are all going to be just fine. you will figure it out, eat well, grow to be big and strong and see your efforts pay dividends for generations to come. i love the saying "be the person you want your children to be." i am asking you to please eat the foods and practice the nutrition, health and wellness you would like your children to eat and practice. that is the best start. bring only real food into the house and they will only eat real food (fresh, local, organic and whole). family meal time is family real time. real food, real love and real relationships. that's what brings our family2table.