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Raising Chowpups/Great food experiences with kids?

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I'm a mom. There, I said it. Don't EVEN ask me how I find time to read and write on this site. Many people would like to know the answer to that question, and most of them probably think that my time would be better spent on THEM instead of all of you...

My own question is, who else out there is busy raising kids and trying to ingrain them with some real, meaningful appreciation of food? And if you ARE out there, what are the best food experiences you've had with your kids?

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  1. Great topic! I have found with my 12 year old that exposure is the key. If he does not like it - oh well. But he will try just about anything. He recently commented on the broth in some pho as compared to some he had with a friend elsewhere. I was silently shouting "yes!!!" We live in a very ethnically diverse area and I think that because he has been exposed to different things he is very flexible. That whole "breakfast is cereal, lunch is a sandwich" does not exist for him- so whatever sounds good at any time is game. Good luck!!!!!

    3 Replies
    1. re: Torty

      When my Chowpups were puplets they were exposed to a wide variety of food - stuff like stews, organ meats (I was brought up on a farm) and a lot of variety. Since I went to boarding school I never eat the same thing two days in a row now I'm a adult so I pushed a hard course with different foods. Grown Chowpup asked last week that I should make her kidneys with a mustard cream sauce for lunch. ChowSon wants roast pork with caraway seeds when he come down for Christmas plus a big mess of goulash with spinach salad. Go to lots of ethnic restaurants and its bound to rub off!

      1. re: Zoe

        I thought we were doing a great job with our chowpup when he was small -- he rejected mac and cheese out of hand, refused PB&J, loved calimari, guacamole, anything Chinese, salad with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Then he hit the teenage years. Now (at 18), his favorite food is beef (hamburger, steaks), he'll still do Chinese or Japanese (as long as it's beef or duck), will tolerate Indian (chicken tikka only plus the breads), and still prefers his salad with a balsamic vinaigrette, but otherwise is heavily into junk foods, pizza, and other college staples, and rejects our "fancy" dinner options. We have hope that as he gets older he'll remember his early years, but right now he is a dietary disaster.

        1. re: Susan H

          My sister and I are two years apart. We were raised exactly the same way. We were both Chowpups. I am a complete foodie and Chowhound. I have been told by a fellow Chowhounder that my parents raised me in the Chowhound vision (even though it was nonexistent at the time). My sister loves Chef Boyardee, powdered mac & cheese, lite oil and eats fast food regularly. There is only so much a parent can do.

          Top 10 Things My Parents Did Right:

          1) We ate what they ate. Everything had to be tried twice and then you did not have to eat it. If we did not make a big deal trying it they would not make a big deal about our not eating it. We could make ourselves a bowl of cereal, PB&J or yogurt instead. (I should mention that my stomach churns at the mere mention of those three foods.)

          2) The only canned veggies I (knowingly) ate until college were beans, black olives, and canned tomatoes from Italy. We only ate fresh food. From the challah to the chicken to the green beans at Shabbat Dinner was as fresh as possible.

          3) One of my earliest memories is of helping my mom fill the vegetable/fruit co-op bags when it was our week. Food was fun from the minute I remember. We got to touch it and squeeze it and drop it and taste it.

          4) I knew how to use chopsticks by about age 5. When we ate Chinese,Korean, Moroccan and Indian etc. we ate they way they ate.

          5) We could go out with my parents (most of the time) on the weekend when they tried different restaurants. My sister and I knew that we got to go because we were well behaved and tried new food without whinning. We also knew that if any of those behaviors disappeared it would be powdered mac & cheese with the babysitter.

          6)On our birthday, we got to choose the restaurant. We also got to pick a birthday dinner for home, which we helped cook.

          7) One of the reason's we traveled (which was not often) was to learn about the food of a new place. In Maine we had lobster every way. I have eaten oysters in every major city on the east coast from DC to Maine. Cony Island only for Nathans. Steak in Texas. Deep dish in Chicago. It was expected that if my father went to San Fransisco on business then he would bring home sour dough. Forgot once, and only once.

          8) Food shopping was fun. We got to help pick what we ate and were allowed to ask to try almost anything. "The picture on the package of those shumi looks pretty? Okay, We'll try them." We also knew better than to try it with junk food. Farmer's markets were also a regular part of my childhood.

          9) Once a year, for the week we were on vacation, it was a no holding back, anything goes, the less healthy the better week of eating. Sugar Cereals, Twinkies, potato chip galore and already made Chocolate Milk filled the grocery cart. The rest of the year, it cookies and chips a few times a week and no sugar cereals. Special box of cookies for your birthday and your sister's birthday. Same thing for McD's and Burger King. They were special treats too.

          10) I saved this for last because I think it is the most important. We ate dinner together every night of the week. At the dinner table, with candles lit, no answering the phone and good music in the background. This lasted until my sister went to college. There were very few exceptions and religous school and basketball practice and most meetings did not count.

          I did the top 10 list to make it short, but I guess it didn't work! They just did a really good Chowparenting job. On me anyway.

    2. We always try to make dinner at home: something simple but tasty and varied. If I'm crunched for time (which is about everyday), I'd make pasta with meat ragu, or pasta with vegetables, or a simple risotto, or fried rice if I have the ingredients. Once in a blue moon, I'd take my older chowpup to grocery shopping with me. I'd ask him what he would want for dinner. One day he pointed to some nice looking shelled shrimp. From then on, pasta (or risotto) with zucchine and shrimp has become a frequent dinner item at our house.

      I don't know about other kids, but my chowpup loves condiments. Whenever he sees us dressing our salad with lemon and olive oil, he'd ask for a drizzle of olive oil on his plate too. And he has learned to eat boil chicken with soy sauce!

      1. i have a 4 1/2 year-old and 20-month old. while i haven't been at this for quite as long as the rest of you, i've found the secret thus far to be exposure, exposure, exposure. once they both got beyond the milk and baby food stage, they've always eaten whatever we're eating! and i'm always experimenting, so their palates have tried most every kind of meat/vegetable/fruit out there (and liked them!).

        because we don't substitute food they don't eat with food we know they'll eat, they've learned to eat if they're hungry and usually that includes trying something new that they find out they like! last night it was sunchokes! (certainly there are exceptions to this approach, i.e. when they're not feeling well, we feed them anything nutritious that they're willing to eat.)

        admittedly, i'm not a patron of mcdonald's and the like, but i'm just fine with my kids experimenting that when the opportunity arises with other people. i think that's part of childhood. but my approach is to inform and educate them about the benefits of better quality food -- health, taste, culture, appreciation, love, etc! i don't want them to snub their noses at other people who make different choices, i just want to educate them about their own choices and the benefits of the choices they make.

        so whether it's taking them to the farmer's markets to hand-select food, having fresh milk or organic vegetables delivered to our door, i think it's all about exposure and appreciation. my 4 1/2 year old is now cooking with me and my 20-month old is frequently drawing on paper next to me while i prep food on our butcher block. i think just encouraging them to be in kitchen is having an effect.

        just learned last night that my 4 1/2 year-old turned down some macaroni and cheese made with velveeta at a friend's last weekend (direct quote: "the cheese is terrible"). i'm okay with him turning it down -- that's his choice -- now we just have to work on his manners . . . . . . .

        thanks for bringing this topic up. it'll be fun to see how others deal with this issue and incorporate some new ideas into our own household!

        4 Replies
        1. re: theconiglio

          Fantastic topic!

          We exposed our son (now 6) to lots of different cuisines from babyhood. He was open to trying new things and was one of those rare toddlers who could sit through a restaurant meal. His sister, now 2, gets less restaurant exposure (as does my son these days), because she just can't sit through a restaurant meal.

          She is pickier than he was (he would eat ANYTHING), and he is also pickier than he was. Is it peer influence? The fact that they're exposed to less variety than they were? Development? Who knows. I remember him scarfing down baingan bartha in an Indian restaurant when he was 18 months old. One of his first sentences was "Thai food 'picy!"

          We do hold the line at home. We don't prepare special kids' meals and just about everything available in the house is a nutritious choice. He may get pb&j in his lunch box, but it's on whole-grain bread with no salt/no sugar peanut butter!

          1. re: Susanne

            When my daughter was around 5 (so long ago) she ordered a salad with blue cheese dressing. The waitress looked at me and smiled. I said, "that's the only way she'll eat it".
            She still loves blue cheese, but became a vegetarian. I feel liked somehow I failed. :)

          2. re: theconiglio

            I'm not a mom, but I used to teach children's cooking classes, and I was blown away by what they'd eat if they were involved in the process. There were 5 year olds eating (vegetarian) sushi and potstickers, because they got to make the item and choose what went in it. For the pizza class, I prepped a variety of veggies and just let the kids choose what to put on their own individual pizza, and they chose everything-even weird stuff like cauliflower and broccoli I brought just to see if they'd eat it, and they did, happily.

            1. re: theconiglio

              I agree wholeheartedly that early exposure to a variety of tastes may really help.
              We, (ok, I...) made all the age-appropriate babyfood from scratch - steamed fresh veggies and pureed them - one half "greens" and one half "oranges" (beets, sweet potatoes, carrots), and fruits, and froze them in sterilized jars I would get from friends. Made my own yogurts too. As the chowbabies got older and could sit in a highchair at the dinner table, I bought a small plastic babyfood grinder and put whatever we were eating into it and made little balls of food for the chowbabes. That transitioned naturally into chunkier fingerfoods and we were off and running. They were exposed to so many different tastes, and I can think of very few that were universally disliked (asparagus maybe). We had very few processed foods and they never got refined sugar snacks or sodas. As young adults they have their preferences, of course, but they will still try just about anything. They all eat asparagus.

            2. Our chowpup is about to turn five, and I second the ethnic restaurant suggestion. Our daughter loves anything from the Far East (Chinese, sushi, Thai, etc.). It actually worked out well when she was younger because there were a lot of finger foods and condiments involved.

              We also have a small garden and she has been involved in planting and picking since she was a puplet. She also "helps" cook on occasion, and she can recognize a lot of herbs by smell or taste. She likes to sample as we cook, which I have always encouraged whenever possible (unless it posed a health hazard).

              We do McDonald's maybe once a month, if that. She's more interested in the toy than the food and has yet to actually eat more than a few bites of that crap. If we go to a continental restaurant, they usually give her a kid's menu, but we are at the point where we just order her something from the regular menu because the quality of the kids food is usually very poor (deep fried, high sodium, high fat, etc.) and she likes "real food" better anyway.

              1. Great topic! I'm also a new mom, and if it weren't for my job, where I'm occasionally able to slack, I would never be able to post here!

                This topic came up before, and i remember somebody posting that they had heard that breast-fed babies may have a bit of a leg up in the chow world. The argument was that formula fed babies learn that food is going to taste the same, predictable. Breast-fed babies learn that food is not predictable, tastes different from meal to meal. Not sure how old your children are, so this may or may not be relevant.

                The other thing I've heard (here? not sure) is that you shouldn't make an issue out of food and trying different foods. At meal times, give your child a variety of different foods. If there are some things they reject, that's ok, let them reject them. But don't consider it a permanent rejection. Try presenting said food again in a month or so and see what happens.

                Good luck, and thanks for posting the topic,

                Smokey

                1 Reply
                1. re: Smokey

                  My daughter was formula fed and she's a major chowhound. Her cousins - who have to be in the running for the pickiest children under 10 - were all breast fed. I guess there are always exceptions to every rule. What you posted makes sense, though, to a degree.