Thoughts About Real Kids and Real Food

Miz Lettuce

Liz Snyder is full of ideas for healthier families, and she shares several of them in her fascinating article about kids and food. Snyder has a Master’s degree in nutritional anthropology, and she describes herself as a food activist. Snyder’s special concern is nutrition in schools, and she is also very interested in what the food marketing industry is up to.

Snyder, whose work often appears in Natural Life Magazine, writes in a pleasant, colloquial style, setting forth truly original insights and suggestions. For example:

Nutritionists say that you’ve got to offer a new food up to 20 times before your kid will try it for the first time. Without pressure or guilt or nagging. Tall order I know, but I’ve seen it work wonders in insanely picky stages of my daughter’s life. I offered her avocado 12 times — and on time number 12, it became food numero uno for 6 weeks in the running. Avocado’s gone platinum in this house!

Don’t worry about vitamin supplements, the author says, and don’t stress too much about trying to smuggle nutritional substances into unexpected dishes. She feels that the emotional ambiance surrounding food and mealtimes is more important than getting all worked up about minimum daily requirements.

Snyder believes that there is more than one way of healthy eating, and the best gauge of that is, does it make you feel good? Maybe this rule is better applied to adults. Little kids can’t articulate these things, or make connections. We parents have to do it for them. And teenagers are so boggled by all their adolescent upheaval, they’re not really in their right minds a lot of the time.

If there is one thing you can count on little kids to do it is to imitate their elders. Nothing is guaranteed, but the “monkey-see, monkey-do” mindset of a very small child is a powerful natural force working in your favor. The kids are keeping an eye on you, and they’re not buying any “Do as I say, not as I do.” Just set a good example.

Snyder is a wildly enthusiastic fan of gardening for kids. Her story about the radishes is great. When kids put emotional investment and actual sweat equity into a food-growing project, attitudes adjust, and even taste buds are miraculously reformed.

Snyder also cites an amazing study about what happens when kids spend at least three evenings a week eating en famille at the dinner table. Kids won’t live without media, but encourage the kind that doesn’t have commercials. Basically, you do what you can, within reason, and consider yourself a winner. Snyder says,

We kill ourselves in the kitchen, guilt ourselves over ‘failures,’ and chide our partners and relatives for undermining our carefully thought out efforts.

It really is a shame when other grownups sabotage the efforts of parents. Any non-parent can help end the childhood obesity epidemic. If you’re an aunt or uncle, or babysitter — whoever you are — don’t make a scene or try to embarrass or josh the parent into giving in. Don’t sneak forbidden food to the kids. Do everybody a favor — back up parental authority in this.

My favorite quotation from Snyder is,

If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, then don’t put it in your mouth.

Here’s a thought experiment: If there is nothing to eat but vegetables, will Nature really let a child starve to death? Of course not. Granted, most nutritionists would not recommend a vegetables-only diet. That’s why it was a thought experiment.

On the other hand, take a look at some superbly healthy-looking children raised on a raw food diet. The beautiful picture of a baby enjoying lettuce, on this page, is from The Garden Diet, a website of a group of people dedicated to spreading the word about the benefits of the raw-vegan lifestyle. Coincidentally, it features a whole sequence of photos where a tiny girl enjoys an avocado on her own for the first time.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Real Food, Real Kids, Real Love: 10 (surprising!) ways to raise a healthy eater,” Ieatreal.com
Image of Miz Lettuce is used under Fair Use: Reporting.

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