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What do they feed babies in.... ?

  • w

Prompted by the "My Chowpup Eats Everything" thread just below ... does anyone know what they feed babies and pre-teens in countries with notably spicy cuisines?

What does a baby in Sichuan province eat? What do little kids in India eat? Do they go for some (or all) of the spice?

I saw a Travel Channel show (just a moment of it in passing) where a street-market vendor (maybe in Africa???) was chewing on a fresh pepper and told the host to try it. The vendor was happily munching away, and the host nearly collapsed in pain - what do kids THERE eat?

So who's an overseas veteran who can speak from personal experience?

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  1. Mexico doesn't exactly count as overseas, even though I live here full time, but it sure counts as spicy.

    Mexican toddlers chow down on the same stuff their parents eat. I've seen lots of 18-month-olds snarfing down jícama with powdered chile, salt, and lime, robbing their parents' plates of other fruits (mango, pineapple, etc) with the same mix of spices on them, and taking pieces of *carne asada* out of Mom and Dad's tacos--the meat slathered with *salsa picante*.

    On the other hand, there are plenty of Mexicans who don't eat anything at all picante, and their kids usually grow up refusing to eat spicy foods.

    1. We're indian, and I have a 22 month old son. He's been eating indian food since he was 6 months old, and we eat pretty spicy food. We would just tone it down a bit by adding either plain yogurt or ghee into it to dilute the spiciness. Gradually, we began using less yogurt/ghee and letting him eat it the way it was prepared. Now he loves spicy foods -- he'll take a spoon and eat a spicy mint chutney right out of the bowl. He even likes to dip tortilla chips in chutney instead of salsa.

      If you baby them (for lack of a better word) then they won't be open to trying the foods. We have several indian friends who never fed their kids indian food when they were younger and now they complain that all the kids want are burgers and chicken nuggets. People are usually pretty surprised when they find out my son eats the same foods we do.

      1. I can't speak for spicy--because I live in Spain and they don't really do "picante" here--but I can attest to the fact that kids eat the same food as adults here. Even the baby food has fish and jamon in it.

        My son's school just sent home a note about the school lunches this year, stressing that if at all possible children really should go home and eat lunch with their families so that they can learn good eating habits and manners. If this isn't possible, then the school provides only one option for all kids (except a no pork version for muslims and a bland diet for those with a note from a doctor). There is no fried food or "kid food"--I've never seen a kids' menu here--they eat grilled squid, beans with chorizo, roasted fish, stews, pretty much all the same stuff you would see on a "menu del dia" at the grown up restaurants.

        When we were living in the US, my son ate spicy food--Thai, Indian, Vietnamese--without any problems, but after moving to Madrid, he learned that "picante" was a bad word from his Spanish friends and family and now he won't eat anything spicy, despite our encouragement. So I think kids' tolerance to spicy things is not only determined by what you are exposed to, but also the cultural attitudes of your peers...

        1. After living in Switzerland and Italy I noticed that while they do make and sell baby foods the selection is very small. Most children that I saw eating out and the children of friends I saw eating at home just ate whatever the parents ate. Along the coast the kids ate lots of seafood. In Switzerland I saw kids eating sweetbreads. And this included babies. The only modification done was in bite size and/or texture. More importantly there were no "short order" cooks for the little ones- you know those type of parents who cook a separate meal because their child would never eat xyx and then go on to cook 2 more things because the child still refused to eat.

          Sure some kids might be "born" picky but I found starting my son on full tastes by just using a baby food grinder to grind up what I was eating has kept him, at 4, still interested in new foods and tastes. he just doesn't like bland food. Even the times he does have the occasional box of WW Annies he wants me to add peas and carrots and lots of pepper.

          1. I believe you will find in cultures where breastfeeding is very common that children have more experienced palates.

            Children get so accustomed to the everchanging flavors in breast milk. I am still nursing my 2 year old, (in america), and he LOVES spicy food as much as I do. Just the other day my aunt tried some jalapeno peanuts. She had to run and get something to drink. Later my son grabbed them and started eating them. You should have seen everyone jumping out of their chairs to get them away from him. They were amazed at how much he loved them.

            My children eat the same as my husband and I. In fact my son can tolerate spicier foods than my husband.
            -Becca

            1 Reply
            1. re: Becca Porter

              I totally agree but was lambasted last time I said the chowpups were more likely born than raised because in my experience with friends and their kids was that all the breastfed kids were more adventurous eaters than the the formula fed kids for just the reason you stated: The flavor of breast milk changes daily while formula never changes and remains overly sweet. Also the moms ate a wide variety of food while pregnant and in general were adventurous eaters themselves. Sure there are other things that can influence a chowpup but breast feeding is a great place to start.

              I BF my son much longer than most Americans unfortunately are comfortable with but I didn't care about the stares and the comments. My son is healthy and eats anything and everything! Formula feeding was just a risk I wasn't willing to take (plus its free!)

            2. Well I'm pregnant and have read that what I eat affects the taste of the amniotic fluid (and later breast milk) - so I hope that the variety of foods, including lots of spicy stuff that I consume will help make a born chowpup. I expect I will have to temper my cooking a bit if I want to stay away from making something separate for the kids, but I don't do bland.

              1. I've seen parents in Szechuan restaurants dip pieces of food in some tea to wash off extra oils, and then feed the food to kids in high chairs.

                Still pretty darned spicy, in my book! Way to train a chowpup early.

                My mom swears this isn't true, but my dad used to gross us out by saying he would chew up whatever was for dinner that night and then spoon feed it to me and my sisters so we'd get used to eating anything and everything. You know, like a mother bird. Silly ol' dad.

                1 Reply
                1. re: nooodles

                  Upto the age of five, my father would chew 2 almonds for me and then give it to me. I loved it. I used to ask for it for a long time after i was able to chew them myself, but he began to refuse me when I could do it myself. I could never get the almonds to taste the same way. Is that gross????

                  Zaheen

                2. j
                  janet of reno

                  My husband was born and raised in India, and I have visited there with our then toddlers in tow. Our observation is that, like children all over the world, the little ones eat what their parents eat but develope their own likes and dislikes. I watched my sister-in-law feed her own toddler tastes of the spicy curries we were eating. Although my husband is not from South India, his family likes the spicy dishes from that region, and he ate them a lot growing up. (His family had a South Indian cook). I also saw toddlers in India who would eat nothing but puri (a fried bread common in Gujarat), rice, and dal. I think the attitude of the parents makes a difference. Even in India, some parents would make special food just for the babies, and that's what they would want later on. Others would just feed off their own plates; and these were the less fussy eaters. IMO, of course. Kids do develop likes and dislikes: even though everyone in his family loved bitter melon my husband refused to eat it. His brother would tease him by threatening to serve it to him...sort of how I used to tease my sister by threatening to force her to eat the dreaded peas.....

                  1. I used to work half the year in Mexico and half in the United States, and in Mexico, the parents would feed the children the same food they ate. I went to college in England, which, while overseas, is less "foreign" to Americans, and there, bland food for children was common.

                    My toddler eats breastmilk and tablefood, and I don't cook anything special for her. Aside from avoiding certain allergens and honey in her first year, she started eating our food when she was introduced to solids. We ground it up with a blender at first, but now she chews it herself.

                    She loves spicy foods, especially any kind of legume with rice, broccoli, asparagus, yogurt, and other "icky" foods. We just grazed our way through the Boy's Market this morning, and she ate every piece of cut-up fruit they had available. She's been exposed to a variety of nutritious and interesting foods, and so that's what she eats.

                    1. So, why is it that Americans seem to think children shouldn't eat the same food their parents do? It seems to be universal that they do eat the same, yet we seem to think that a place has to have a "children's menu" with bland and usually unhealthy food for kids to be able to eat there. Why are we afriad to let kids eat what we eat?

                      In my case, we grew up eating what the Sicilian adults in my family did. And growing up on the jersey shore, we used to eat a lot of seafood. I had my first clams on the half-shell, dug from the bay by my father and pried open by grandfather with a squirt of lemon when I was two. And I was hooked. I'd become a huge fan of those and raw oysters before my third birthday. But then I have a friend who won't let her daughter have ceasar salad because of the anchovies, saying it's "an adult taste."

                      I don't really get it.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Bunny-Bunny

                        While I share and practice the "feed them anything" parenting philosophy, remember that sometimes the children's menu is a function of finances.

                        An entree, side, beverage and dessert is often packaged as one offering and ends up costing $10-15 less per kid than a meal from the standard menu. It's also generally served with kid-friendly utensils and cups, and in smaller portions which controls waste.

                        That said, prior to my kids needing their own meals, I would just give them food from my plate, whatever that happened to be. I also avoid the kids' menu if it doesn't offer nutritious or appealing foods.

                        1. re: MSPD

                          If restaurants could just be a bit more flexible, then the kids menu wouldn't be necessary.

                          Here in Spain you can ask for a small plate or bowl of pretty much anything on the menu for a child and most of the time they give it to you free of charge along with lots of other kid perks. For what you get on most kids' menus (pasta with cheap sauce or a grilled cheese sandwich), I think it's still a rip-off.

                          But on the flip-side you definitely won't get the plastic cup with a lid, high chair, booster or other kid amenities.... even very small children are expected to drink out of a real glass and sit in a real chair. And they really don't have a problem doing so, but then again, it wouldn't be considered a big deal if they spilled or caused a commotion either.

                        2. re: Bunny-Bunny

                          Many American adults do view childhood in general as bland, saccharine, riskless versions of adulthood. Food just happens to be the right metaphor to make this visible.

                          Just a pet theory.

                          1. re: drdawn

                            I agree. You could have the same discussion about children's books, entertainment, museums, education, etc. It's a cultural mentality that permeates pretty much every aspect of children's lives.

                          2. re: Bunny-Bunny
                            m
                            Michele Cindy

                            It's not advisable to give a young child raw seafood period. Sadly, there are too many pollutants in the world today. I have a friend who ended up in the hospital for 2 weeks from a bad oyster.
                            Ceasar salad has raw egg, that's another off limit indgredient for young kids. I put anchovies in one of my pasta dishes, and my kids love it, but as soon as I say the word, anchovy.. they won't eat the pasta.

                          3. So, why is it that Americans seem to think children shouldn't eat the same food their parents do? It seems to be universal that they do eat the same, yet we seem to think that a place has to have a "children's menu" with bland and usually unhealthy food for kids to be able to eat there. Why are we afriad to let kids eat what we eat?

                            In my case, we grew up eating what the Sicilian adults in my family did. And growing up on the jersey shore, we used to eat a lot of seafood. I had my first clams on the half-shell, dug from the bay by my father and pried open by grandfather with a squirt of lemon when I was two. And I was hooked. I'd become a huge fan of those and raw oysters before my third birthday. But then I have a friend who won't let her daughter have ceasar salad because of the anchovies, saying it's "an adult taste."

                            I don't really get it.