When Lunchables alone are a $1 billion dollar business, you know the concept of “kid food” is out of control. When children’s menus and kid parties offer nothing but junk as the (accepted) default, when veggies are something to be hidden and endured, and “picky eater” is a national bonding cry, you know we’ve all lost our everloving minds.
Click those links above, and you’ll see my many thoughts on the subject, but also click below for some great reads I came across this week. If we don’t expect more from our kids, no one will.
Feeding Our Kids, Kidding Ourselves
In this editorial from the journal Childhood Obesity, editor-in-chief and Yale University researcher David Katz tackles the idea that humans have failed in our evolutionary responsibility to feed our children well. An excerpt:
“Food, after all, is the one and only construction material for the growing bodies and developing brains of our children. Who among us would sanction building anything we care about and hope to see last — house, car, computer — from junk? How, then, do we tolerate building the bodies of our children and grandchildren from such dubious material? … We have created a separate universe of kid foods, which the practices of our fellow mammals might suggest is dubious from the outset. But, we have gone a step further and made that universe of foods home to our most deplorable dietary practices.”
We Must Be Kidding! The Case for Eradicating “Kid” Food
Also worth a read is this separate Katz article, which ran this summer in U.S. News & World Report. An excerpt:
“This, of course, is all about money. But since we have a hard time justifying profits that result from doing something to our kids that is at odds with their health, we have confabulated an entire mythology to veil the fact that we are doing exactly that. Our mythology implies that multi-colored marshmallows masquerading as food are part of what make childhood special and fun. Our mythology implies that without a little help from Madison Avenue and pseudo-food, we would be helpless to deal effectively with fussy little Homo sapien eaters. Without red dye No. 32, our offspring, apparently, would starve. Our mythology implies that ‘kid food,’ just like ‘junk food,’ is a legitimate category of comestibles.”
Even Little Kids Know That “Kids’ Foods” Are a Bunch of Sugary Bulls*&!
From the always insightful and entertaining Yoni Freedhoff, also a physician, comes this look at how children themselves view “kid food,” drawn from his colleague Charlene Elliott’s 2011 journal article, “‘It’s junk food and chicken nuggets’: Children’s perspectives on ‘kids’ food’.” An (unsurprising but still sobering) excerpt from the journal article itself:
“What is particularly troubling about how the children classified foods is that ‘adult foods,’ to them, are generally the unprocessed fruits, vegetables and meats that all North Americans should be consuming more of, whereas ‘kids’ foods’ are associated with processed, high sugar, low‐nutrient edibles.”
In her article, Elliott explores how “kid food” has been constructed entirely through advertising and marketing, and how that marketing has, in turn, reconfigured the very ways in which children think about food.
Now that is some scary s*&!.
Copyright protected by Digiprove © 2013 Christina Le Beau
I’m not a fan of kid food. Our children eat very close to what we eat, with the exception of extremely spicy food (we live in Thailand so some things are too spicy for our 3 and 5 year old). They like a good flavor, but the really spicy curries are dubbed “grown up food.” The difference though is they look forward to the day they are big enough to eat them.
One funny story, once we ordered fried rice from a street vendor. She asked if it was for our sons and did we want a “kid version”? We figured it meant not spicy, maybe the veggies and meat cut up into smaller pieces, so we said yes. When she brought it to us it was just rice and egg and meat, no veggies at all. We asked about the veggies and she said, no joke, “Kids don’t eat vegetables.” So there you go.
People thought I was beyond weird when we skipped “baby” food (“kid” food has never been on offer in our house either). My second daughter’s first food was an apple (an actual, whole apple), followed closely by a turkey drumstick (made for great photos) – many people were concerned that we didn’t feed her heavily processed mush. The health nurse was also terribly confused when I said that we didn’t puree foods…
Until it’s NORMAL to feed kids actual-real-whole-FOOD, “kids” food will be the norm.
I coordinate a Green Club at our elementary school. Last spring, the students and I took a look in the trash after each grade-level lunch and made some observations. The most frequently tossed items were whole pieces of fruit – apples, oranges, bananas and blueberry cups(!) that were served with the breakfast that day, closely followed by unopened milks – and the kids even have the option of chocolate milk (junk food in my opinion). Lunchables were frequently tossed with only 1 “compartment” eaten. We found whole sandwiches and an unopened Clif bar. School lunches were typically only half eaten. Yikes! I am trying to encourage the students (at least the ones who bring lunch) to take home everything including their trash so their parents can see what they are and aren’t eating. I always tell them they can save things for snack later. We are working on a No-Waste Wednesdays Lunch to see if we can improve this issue. Unfortunately, I can only pack lunch for my own kids. I have one who struggles with raw veggies but we finally have found a lentil dip that he loves with carrots – beautiful progress! All is not terrible – I do see a few kids in the lunchroom with real food lunches and I keep talking to other parents. Grassroots efforts are slow slow slow but it does work!
I am a young mother (21) and my boys are ages 4 and 2. My husband and I have adopted a vegan lifestyle and our boys, of course, have been participating as well. They’re amazing! We attend so many birthday parties, holiday parties, daycare parties.. and I’ve noticed the reoccurring theme is Cake, Cookies, Ice Cream! My kids just sit back and watch, they don’t complain, they don’t beg, they even turn down sweet offers from grandma! (big deal for us) I have had many conversations with other parents and my own family, because I see their kids drinking Pepsi, eating chocolate covered anything, with a plate full of potato chips and cupcakes, and it breaks my heart! I live in the recently named “fattest city in america” (somewhere deep in south texas) and I see babies with SODA in their bottles, children that are bigger than I am! pushing shopping carts at the grocery store while their parents throw in boxes of cereal, packs of sodas, juice drinks, snack cakes, donuts, white bread, the list goes on and on. The number of children diagnosed with obesity and diabetes should be absolutely unacceptable. But instead, it’s become the norm. We live in a world where parents could outlive their children based solely on poor health, poor nutrition, poor eating habits. I hope to start my own vegetable garden very soon and invite my nieces and nephews, friends, family and anyone who is willing to come and learn about our vegan lifestyle and how much it has impacted our lives. I sincerely appreciate your website! Thank you for sharing your experiences! It is very encouraging.