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Jan 1, 2014 06:59 AM

Excellent book on feeding your kids

I first heard the author interviewed on CBC radio. She had moved to France with her kids and was amazed to discover that generally French kids eat anything. I too noticed that when I lived in France as a kid coming from Canada.
I bought the book for my daughter who has a lovely four year old.
I highly recommend this book for anyone raising kids today.

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  1. I have never understood why kids in the US have "special menus." Why don't they eat the same foods we all eat? It's no wonder picky eating and eating disorders are at such an epidemic level.

    Jacques Pepin once commented that his daughter always just ate what they ate. No discussion.

    12 Replies
    1. re: sandiasingh

      I read the book when it first came out. Being that I had a European father, it seemed perfectly normal to me.

      I agree with the whole "kids menu" and kids "needing" special foods thing, it drives me nuts. I am amazed that my intelligent friends are so ignorant about feeding their kids.

      Our son always ate what we ate with age appropriate adjustments - paying attention to choking hazards, etc.

      My father's family as well as my maternal grandparents always said there is no "picky" when food isn't plentiful and/or there isn't alternative options offered.

      Another great book to teach parents about feeding their kids is Child of Mine, Feeding with Love and Good Sense by Ellyn Satter.

      1. re: cleobeach

        Your father's family sounds just like mine. Any time we complained (which wasn't often), we got regaled with tales of eating squirrels from a nearby urban park during the depression or worse tales from times of famine in the old country.

        I have lived in Spain for ten years and have a 12 year old. The attitude is just so, so different. They eat totally ordinary "Madrid" food at school (lentils, squid, paella, lots of fish, beans, garbanzo soup)--one option, no exceptions unless you have a note from a doctor regarding an allergy or a religious reason. Kids are always included in sit-down meals--it's just such a huge part of the culture to be eating with family. Stuff like octopus is considered "kid food." Baby food has salmon and hake ground up in it (which I still find a bit stomach turning).

        That said, most kids can't even handle the spiciness of pepperoni. They've just never been exposed to it, so most parents are terrified of the idea of their kids eating spicy food.

        1. re: butterfly

          "That said, most kids can't even handle the spiciness of pepperoni. They've just never been exposed to it, so most parents are terrified of the idea of their kids eating spicy food."

          As a confirmed chilihead, I tried to introduce my first child to spicy food early and often. I had some early success, including a few cases where waiters at Indian and Thai restaurants expressed shock at how well she could handle some of the dishes we ordered. However, at some point -- between two and three years of age -- something changed and she started actively refusing to touch anything even mildly spicy. More recently (she's seven now) I've been able to ramp her up a bit and she's starting to even enjoy a small amount of heat, but it's been a battle.

          In any case, it's clear that her palate is much more sensitive than mine, and I suspect the same is true of a lot of kids when compared with adults. It seems to me that dislike of heat is not necessarily due in whole to lack of exposure. Or perhaps it can be said that lack of exposure is both purposeful and correct in this particular case.

          1. re: davis_sq_pro

            We saw a similar drop off on our son's consumption of spicier foods around 4 yo. He is 8yo now and has started asking about trying the adults hotter versions of dishes.

            1. re: cleobeach

              That was our experience as well. We just stayed the course, letting him opt out of the spicy dishes at restaurants and adding spice at the table at home. All while gently suggesting that his taste buds would mature some day and he could discover the wonders of spicy food. My parents did the same--I think nothing puts a bug in kids' bonnets more than the idea that they are missing out on something good.

              Now at age twelve, our son can handle a decent amount of spiciness. But his Spanish friends (and their parents) don't like spicy food at all, because they are so infrequently exposed to it. So while the diet here is much healthier in general, you can still see cultural relativism at work.

          2. re: butterfly

            Oh man, butterfly, you just summed up my whole theory on what kids should eat. You are my hero for today. Maybe all week.

        2. re: sandiasingh

          That's what the books author is saying.
          IMO we in N.A. use food in a lot of negative ways visa vi feeding the kids.
          Food can be a 'punishment' or a 'reward'. Wrong headed. Food ought to be considered a blessing and a most postive aspect in our lives. Not all the "if you stop screaming at me I'll take you to DQ" BS. It's little wonder their are so many neurotics out there.

          1. re: sandiasingh

            IME, American parents are afraid their children will literally starve if they miss a meal. They get so concerned that they will feed them anything to get them to eat.

            While there are medical exceptions an average child will not starve or become malnourished if they miss a couple of meals, or eat the same foods for a number of meals in a row. If you look at a child's diet over a period of time, say a week or a month they will eat a very balanced diet. Of course this assumes that the parents are consistently offering balanced choices.

            The rule I lived by when my son was small came from Ellyn Satter. it basically states that it is the parent's "job" to offer healthy, nutritional food on a regular basis and it is the child's "job" to eat (or not) as they see fit. No begging, no cajoling, no "one more bite-ing".

            The other is to not to sweat the small stuff. While I could control what came into the house (they can't "only" eat nuggets if we don't have them in the house) I can't control every situation. Birthday parties, trips to grammies, etc I didn't sweat it. If you treat those times like an exception the kids will too.

            1. re: foodieX2

              "IME, American parents are afraid their children will literally starve if they miss a meal. They get so concerned that they will feed them anything to get them to eat. "

              Yet so many are overweight, go figure!

              My husband falls into the "thinking they will starve" category, which is ridiculous. Our son tops the charts in height and weight, he isn't fat just a solidly built, very tall child yet my husband still panics when our son doesn't eat what husband considers to be "enough."

            2. re: sandiasingh


              By age 3 , our daughter was eating weekend dim sum along with myself and my wife.

              Now 15, my daughter has no food phobia, but I have a niece and nephew in their early 20's that fear almost all non-american cuisines, like Indian, Thai and even Chinese.

              I think myopic parents, social norms and lack of exposure to new things are the main causes of "food phobias" in youth.
              At least here in the US.
              It's all about exposure.

              I roll my own sushi.
              Dinner tonite is Chicken makahini and saag paneer.

              It's just food.
              There are a few things I will not eat as an adult due to my parents just making them so poorly or forcing them upon the family growing up (including sauerkraut,) but any more I meet more young folks with food "issues" then those without.

              Puffin3, as long as no allergies in your daughter, keep the food envelope open and push new stuff.

              That window closes at they grow but widens back up in the teenage years.


              1. re: jjjrfoodie

                I posted that "my daughter" has a "daughter' AKA my grand daughter.

                1. re: jjjrfoodie

                  My hat goes off to you. I raised my son the same way. He's so far advanced culinarily from some of his friends and relatives. Plus getting a part time job at a very popular restaurant when he wqs 16 helped a lot. Kids need to experience a lot of cuisine, hopefully before they don't hear from their friends that it's icky.

              2. Thanks for sharing, I'm curious to read this. I too never understood why kids ate differently than their parents...until I became a parent myself! My husband and I are knowledgeable about food and nutrition yet are no match for our 19 month old son. He ate everything when he was a baby but in the past several months has alternated between hunger strikes and eating only specific foods, despite our attempts to try otherwise.

                1. i have a theory:
                  i personally was raised with very broad-minded eating habits: basque style braised tongue, french escargot, czech sauerkraut... you get the idea. My kids were also exposed at a very young age to many cultures' foods. HOWEVER... when they went to school, after homeschooling, it definitely changed their perception. Their lunches were subject to scrutiny from the other kids, and it colored their opinions of what we ate at home. So even though were willing to explore different cuisines in private, they still, as young adults, are careful about what they order in front of others of their age.

                  All things are scrutinized by this generation, and much is made out of peoples' choices, even something small like the food we choose to eat.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: rmarisco

                    I had a similar experience way back in the 1970s. I went to school in a rural area and my citified parents sent bagels, corned beef sandwiches, matzo ball soup, sauerkaut, homemade granola, and all sorts of curiosities in my lunch box. The horrified responses of my classmates was one of the first (of many) indications I got that my family was pretty weird and different. At some point, it went from being a source of shame and consternation to becoming a badge of pride.

                  2. I'm not European and I fed my kids exactly what we were eating. It wasn't all that exotic in those days, but dinner was dinner.

                    That being said my son refused lots of food, including pizza because the cheese was next to the tomatoes which were next to the sausage and it offended his 3-year old sensibilities. A couple of years later he threw up when I insisted that he eat one green bean that was on his plate.

                    That son is now a trained chef with a love of all kinds of interesting cuisines.

                    I think it just takes patience.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: chicgail

                      Yes, it does take patience. It think it common for kids to go through phases where they refuse to eat previous favorites and the food touching problems, mime certainly did. We stayed the course and didn't comment or make an issue over the change in eating habits, just kept offering the same range of items we were eating at meals.