My wife and I have worked hard to feed our 2-year-old daughter whole food, to keep sugar and processed crap out of the house. We try and do dinner together as a family every night (not always possible), and we always try to give her the same meal - or close to it - that we are eating.
I don't know what other kids eat/don't eat, but our daughter loves mushrooms, onions, peppers, carrots, peas, broccoli, lima beans, berries, banana, avocado, sweet potato, beef, chicken, turkey, shrimp, and eggs. She does some white rice (and loves going out for sushi). She still does some dairy - whole milk and high-fat cottage cheese and hard cheese, but we try to keep that in check. She also drinks water, eats some raisins and nuts for snacks, and, in our one concession to making our lives a little easier, organic, no-sugar-added applesauce.
We don't do snack crackers, cookies, cereal, pasta, cakes, juice of any kind, or other processed foods.
She seems to be thriving, is happy and healthy, and in our opinion and good and adventurous eater. Nothing has made us chuckle more than watching her eat about a dozen pearl onions cooked in butter like they were popcorn.
I think it really starts and ends with the parents. If you, as the parents, are eating those things, and that's what's in the house, then that is what the kid eats, and what the kid assumes is "food." I know we won't be able to keep all the other stuff at bay for ever, but I feel like every month we can hang on without it in our lives, the better off she'll be.
I think it's a bit of a holdover from earlier times in our culture. Americans ate very very bland food. You can still see older people go to foreign countries and get all huffy about garlic and spices in the food. It was believed that children shouldn't eat spicy food and shouldn't even be offered it until they were old enough to tolerate it. Nowadays there are so many more people living here originally from Asia and Latin America it seems laughable. Now the kid's menu has morphed into a pacifying device. It comes with crayons and toys. It features kiddie junk food. Parents seem incapable of teaching children manners anymore so they resort to pacification. Those kids grow up to be adult babies who can only eat yogurt and fruit smoothies on their Primal diets which they've had to take to due to obesity and diabetes. Ok, that last part maybe isn't true.
[QUOTE=Rosencrantz1;900433]I think it really starts and ends with the parents. If you, as the parents, are eating those things, and that's what's in the house, then that is what the kid eats, and what the kid assumes is "food." I know we won't be able to keep all the other stuff at bay for ever, but I feel like every month we can hang on without it in our lives, the better off she'll be.[/QUOTE]
I can't even count how many people I've seen who are trying to lose weight but still keep cookies and chips and other junk in the house because "I have small children! I have to have these foods in the house!". I also got a lecture from my diabetic grandmother that once I have children I am going to have to learn to bake cookies and cakes and such because that's what kids eat. I'm not sure where this idea that children MUST eat junky crap came from, but it seems that's what most people think children's food should be.
We make one meal for the family at home and my children have no problem gobbling it up. We do order off the kids' menu at restaurants though because it is a smaller size. Now that I think of it, though, we should probably just start ordering the two of them an adult meal and have it split between them. DS (2) gets mad if DD (4) has something different from him anyway. Something to think about for the rare times we go out to restaurants.
One really weird restaurant to me offered healthy sides for the kids (fruit/yogurt) but charged adults more to exchange fries for fruit. We will never go back there as it was crazy expensive and teensy portion sizes on top of that.
It depends. In the better restaurants, the children's menu has items from the regular menu, but in smaller portions (and lower cost). In chain-type restaurants, the children's menu contains garbage, which is what the adults are often eating as well.
Since I was raised by parents who were very militant about only eating "healthy" food (by 70's standards, they were far off CW), I take an 80/20 approach with our young children. I don't want them to end up with "food issues" the way I did. Since I cook nearly every night and they eat mostly Primal, I know they're developing a taste for good food (which as Crabcakes notes is really the key). If they want to eat junky stuff from time to time, that's fine with me as long as it's one meal or a snack.
I think for some kids, my 80/20 rule would create a lot of whining/begging for junk, but that's not the case for our kids - they know that will never work.
Teach: my boys split a salmon dinner the other night - splitting works great. We added some steamed veg, corn and they went to town and were stuffed.
I like sbhikes's theory. Sounds plausible.
I know I appreciate having the kids' menu around for myself. Putting aside the issue with the ingredients (I know it's not healthy, and only rarely would do something like this, so shhh), if I'm at Chipotle I can't eat and don't want an 800 calorie burrito for lunch. I'd rather pay half the price and get half the food. Kids' menu items are probably the same size as the grown-ups' menu items were 40 years ago.
While I do not discount the idea that parents help shape their chidren's eating habits I seem to recall that children and adults have different taste perception. A quick search on the subject brought up this:
A study conducted by the University of Western Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, comparing young male subjects between the ages of eight and 10 to adult males found that the adolescents had a higher anterior papillae density than the adults, making them more sensitive to sucrose or sweet flavors [source: Segovia].
Another study conducted at the University of Copenhagen involving 8,900 Danish schoolchildren discovered that there's a noticeable change in taste perception as a child develops into a teenager. Teenagers show an increased ability to distinguish flavors, together with a decreased preference for sweet flavors [source: University of Copenhagen].
[url=http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/menus/kids-taste-buds.htm]TLC Cooking "Are kids' taste buds different from adults'?"[/url]
So children may very well not be able to obtain the same satisfaction from a certain food as an adult. That said, as the article continues to say given that there is more to tasting food than tastebuds often perception of food matters also. This is where the parents approach seems to matter.
I know as a child I did not care for the taste of brussel sprouts at all (it was not vegetable aversion as I happily ate most other veggies). Now I could eat them daily. Tastes change. Not that I am advocating that kids only eat crap, I just tend to cut them and their parents a little slack.
i try to make sure my kids eat well at home; i've cooked from scratch since my first was a toddler, and we've been basically primal +whole grains since then (no grains since october 2010). i've always loved eating my vegetables, and do so frequently in front of them, as well as serve a variety of vegetables both at meals and as snacks. i don't usually bread/fry things because of the mess it makes and the extra hassle, but the kids will always prefer my breaded chicken strips (I use rice flour and spices) over plain chicken breast or roasted chicken thighs. they will always prefer french fries over baked potatoes or potato salad.
the rare times that we go out to eat, once in a while i let them order off of the kids' menu because they think they like those foods and it's a treat. sometimes, they find that the food they thought they liked isn't that great. Kind of takes the fantasy out of something they've been pining for.
My kids will eat certain vegetables and other foods that are typically not "kid-friendly," but they still refuse other foods. for example, they refuse almost anything that i've added spices to (like a curry or marinara), but both cheer whenever i buy artichokes. my daughter eats sardines and anchovies out of the jar, and my youngest gets quite mad if i don't share my sauteed greens. but they'd still prefer to eat off the kids' menu most of the time. they also like rice, and so we do include rice, rice pasta, and the occasional gluten-free baked good (usually made with rice and/or cassava flour). My oldest (8) came home from school one day incredulous that his friends don't like sweet bell peppers. apparently they made a huge deal out of the fact that he eats them; we think they're treats here at home.
also, yes it really bugs me that kids' menus suck so much. I'd hope that the kids' menu would have smaller portioned options that the adults are offered. my kids rarely agree on a particular meal choice, so splitting an adult meal isn't appealing.
I call it the fast food syndrome. If kids are fed as "adult" food growing up they will eat "adult" food in a restaurant. If they get used to processed tasteless crap that is what they will want hence the "kids" menu.
I can't remember my kids every eating from the kids menu, if they needed a smaller portion we would ask for a half portion or ask to order of the lunch menu for them. And because we never ate fast food they all hate it now.
We always order for our son off the regular menu for two reasons: 1. the portion size is large enough for him (he eats like an adult); and 2. the food quality is better.
We recently went to our favorite restaurant and DS had a beautiful med-rare steak (and cut it himself), with a rocket and roasted veg salad, and a fermented ginger ale. He also asked to speak to the chef, and they had a discussion about who his suppliers are because it "was the best steak I've ever eaten."
The chef took DS back to the kitchens to show him around, and to talk about how to properly cook a steak. They brought a chair in for DS to stand on. I wish I'd had my camera.
DS is a foodie.