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Jun 27, 2014 01:34 PM

Article: Teaching Children the Joy of Food

By journalist Paul Levy, formerly of The Observer and The Wall Street Journal:

What are your thoughts about how to give children an easy and joyous relationship with food?

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  1. Of course parental/familial example is important in developing a child's attitude toward food but I believe there are innate personality differences that the author ignores. A friend of mine, who is single, is interested in cooking and in delicious, well-made, nutritional food, being more or less a "live to eat" type, like most of the people who frequent CH. This friend has a sister a couple of years older, raised in the same home, in the same way as my friend. The sister is married, mother to 3 now-grown children. That entire family is in the "eat to live" category.
    They have no interest in cooking, will eat whatever is in front of them without complaint, almost as if they have no taste buds. They host family gatherings, and appreciate the social importance of shared meals, but could just as easily be guzzling Soylent.

    1 Reply
    1. There have to be innate differences in children. If you look at families with multiple children born not too far apart, they don't all grow to have the same feelings about food or same tastes in food, despite being raised in similar (or identical) environments.

      That said, it seems that modeling healthy behaviors around food and exposing your children to a variety of foods would be best. All the girls I know with eating disorders can distinctly remember their mothers constantly dieting, making judgmental comments about weight, restricting food for themselves and/or the kids, etc. Obviously bad idea.

      My own mother is not a picky eater, but has several foods she absolutely DESPISES, and which we were never exposed to growing up. Beans of all kinds are in that category. Subsequently, none of us kids had ever had a bean until we were in high school. One of my brothers loves them now and they're a diet staple, one will eat them just in Mexican food, my sister avoids them, and I won't touch them. That seems to illustrate all of our innate child "food personalities"--one brother was always (and still is) a super adventurous eater. One liked most things you put in front of him. My sister loved food, but was very picky about certain things. And I was always the picky one of the bunch.

      1. When he was five, my son punctured his little sister's hand with his fork as he desperately fended off her attack on his Lima beans. She promptly punched him in the nose yelling "I shelled those and you got more!"

        It was a pretty proud moment actually.

        Fresh Lima beans, buttered and salted. Delicious. First of the season.

        Take your kids to the Farmer's Market. Enjoy foods in season. Let them see you appreciate food. Push them a bit to enjoy new things.

        1 Reply
        1. re: JudiAU

          Lovely story about the lima beans!

          Taking kids to the farmer's market is an excellent suggestion. My mother took us every Sunday, very early in the morning. It was considered a privilege, not a chore. We were to each pick out 2 or 3 fruits and veggies that we wanted to eat that week. With four kids, that ended up being quite a variety of fresh produce for school lunches, snacks, and dinner sides. My mother also encouraged us to sample fruits we'd never tried, and to buy veggies we'd never seen. I remember an incident where my younger brother bought a coconut and he and I spent 3 hours trying to crack it open by throwing it out the tree house onto the concrete driveway.

          Every night after dinner, my mother would put out a giant bowl of chopped fruit or berries and we'd fight over them. And well into my 20s, I had to have an entire head of broccoli with my dinner nightly.

          I think when kids see all those rainbow colors and get to pick produce out themselves, they are much more likely to eat it.

        2. A proud-foodie-mom moment from a few years ago -> out to dinner and we hear a 3yr old trying to order.
          "What's THAT mom?"
          "oh, you wouldn't like that." says the mom.
          "What's THAT mom?"
          "oh, you wouldn't like that either." says the mom.
          "let's get what you always get."
          MY (pre)TeenHound practically had to be restrained to keep from lecturing that mom about how to raise her kid.

          Now, I know about picky eaters and budgets and kids trying to buy the margarita based on a fruit drink looking picture, but
          It was the attitude of this mom. Shut the inquisitive kid down immediately.
          What would I have done? At least explained the dish to the child, even if you're trying to dissuade:
          "Oh, that's ___, which is sort of like ___ (dish kid didn't like)."

          1 Reply
          1. re: Kris in Beijing

            I get it when dining out--you don't want to spend $$$ on extra dishes or sides that you know your kid wouldn't touch. But at home or the grocery store, I think that mother should have said "Sure, let's try it!" and then figured out a way to prep the veggies that the child would be most inclined to enjoy. If they've also taught their children about wastefulness, hopefully the veggies would be (at least mostly) eaten, whether they were liked or not.

            When we were kids, I remember being so prideful about the vegetables I'd picked out... Even if I thought they were horrendously disgusting upon first bite, my ego wouldn't let me stop eating and concede defeat in my option/s for the week. My younger brother and I once sat across from each other, eating radishes we'd picked from the back yard, making these awful "gross" faces, but saying "Mmm, sooo good!" We were just too proud of our gardening skills to admit we hated radishes.

            My pops used to section off at least half of each dish on my plate when I was very young, and I had to sit at the dinner table until it was eaten. I was VERY picky. Mom didn't make big exceptions for me, and I was served what everyone else was eating, within reason (like putting sauce on the side, or omitting mushrooms from my salad). I can't tell you how many nights I sat at the dinner table until I'd fallen asleep on my plate. Even as young as 4 or 5 years old, I'd sit there, alone, til 10 PM. Eventually I figured I just had to suck it up and eat the damn meatloaf and carrots.

          2. Leave them alone. They'll figure it out...or not.