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Feeding Kids

February 13, 2015
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My little green goddess

My little green goddess

Hello and a very belated Happy New Year! Sadly, it has been nearly one year since my last post, but I’ve read a couple of inspiring articles lately about kids and food, and thought I’d take advantage of this little platform I have. In 2011, I began writing, what I thought (and hoped!) would one day become a book, but four years later, it still sits as a Word Doc. on my computer. A lot has happened since then; I, along with many of my friends have had babies or are pregnant, or are thinking about having a baby in the near future. So here I share with you the section of my “book” about feeding kids. I felt a bit hypocritical writing this pre-baby, but reading through it again years later (with a seven month old), I feel the same way. What prompted this post were the following two articles:

This video, found on MOTHER about American kids being introduced to foreign breakfast foods and this article: Death To The Chicken Finger from National Post.

Feeding Kids

Working as a private chef, I have learned that children can be incredibly picky when it comes to food. White foods reign supreme and vegetables still manage to have a stigma. In general, if the parent eats a variety of foods, in the presence of their children, so too will their kids. Involve your child in the preparation of food. Let them smell and touch each ingredient. Teach them the names of ingredients and where they came from. One afternoon I was breaking down a whole chicken into its parts for a client dinner and their child asked me, “What is that?” To which I answered, “This is chicken.” “But what is all that STUFF?” the little boy asked pointing at the skin and bones on my cutting board. “It’s the skin and bones”, I said. “But why is it there?” “Well because I bought a whole chicken.” “Why?” Because it’s less expensive and the bones and fat add flavor.” “Ew. Why didn’t you just buy beef?” Unless they are told, how would a child know that the crispy chicken fingers they eat out of a box actually came from an animal, called a chicken? Beef is the meat we eat from a cow. Steak is beef. This may seem like basic information, but unless taught to your kids, they really have no idea.

Kids demand 100% of your energy and attention and there is a niche market of prepared food products to feed them instantly and on the go. When buying packaged and prepared food, read the labels. When you do have time to cook at home, involve your children and make it a fun activity. Pick out a recipe together. Bring them with you to the grocery store. Play with shapes, colors and textures when composing a dish and creating a meal. When I’m at a client’s home and their children are hovering around my cutting board, I ask them to help me pick the leaves of fresh herbs from their stems or squeeze the juice from lemons and limes. Kids that are too young to handle knives make excellent prep chefs.

When it comes to eating out with your kids, don’t order off of a Children’s Menu, unless it offers smaller portions of what’s available on the standard menu. Generally speaking, kids menus are brainless and completely void of nutrition. The quality of children’s food should be held to the same standard as adult food. Don’t ever feed your child something you wouldn’t be happy to eat yourself. It is irresponsible to be careless with the food we feed our kids. Ideally, their menu should be the most nutrient dense.

Let’s talk about kids and sugar. Children are introduced to sugar from their first sip of breast milk or formula as infants, juice as toddlers and chocolate milk as kids. Just for the record, chocolate milk is not an acceptable form of getting your kids to drink milk: put it in the treat/ dessert category. As a side note, if your child doesn’t like milk, there are plenty of other ways to incorporate calcium into their diets. Cows milk contains calcium; because it is in the grass that the animal eats. Therefore, you can get the calcium your body needs from eating a substantial amount of dark, leafy greens. Not to mention other foods like, almonds, broccoli, figs, sesame seeds and fish with bones or shellfish with shells are all great sources of calcium. Back to kids and sugar. Curb their juice intake. Fruit juice, even if it’s 100% fruit, is a perfect example of carbohydrates void of fiber. Encourage your children to drink water and eat a piece of fruit. Or dilute a glass of juice with water, to decrease empty calories from sugar. Always remember that if you are going to eat sugar (and this includes juice and fruit), do so with fat and protein to avoid a spike in blood sugar. It is so easy to succumb to the convenience of sugary snacks, but even more so beneficial to try to avoid them. Remember that sugar is addictive, so if you reward them with lollipops and ice cream, not only will they crave the sweet taste, they will associate sugar with good behavior…not good! If you don’t introduce your children to refined sugar from the beginning, they won’t crave it.

As a parent, your number one goal in life is for your child to be healthy and happy. What you feed them matters. It matters because the foods they eat can either be nourishing, to support their physical and emotional wellbeing, or not. In his book, Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer writes, “Eating animals has an invisible quality.” I believe this, in addition to eating most food purchased from a grocery store; all have somewhat of an invisible quality. If it’s on the shelf; it is available to me – our thought process ends there. I realize we are in a modern, sophisticated world, but do you ever stop to think that every food that comes in a package has been made in a factory? Or that “fresh” produce (out of season) has made its way here from foreign countries, thousands of miles away? My intention is by no means to be a doom and gloom reality check. Rather to encourage you to pause and think. You chose what you put into your mouth and the mouth of your child. Also from Eating Animals, Foer asks, “Why is taste the crudest of our senses?” Why does it trump the health consequences of eating junky foods? I’m a realist and because food brings people together, symbolizes celebration and fuels comfort, it’s fun to eat what we want. Just remember, there are consequences to your actions. Make sure to balance your splurges with nutrient dense, whole foods.

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