Raising good eaters

kidThe NYX magazine section a few weekends ago focused on the question “what should children eat”.  To some it might seem like an absolutely ridiculous question but to others it is a real concern.  This could be a stretch but I believe that children who are good eaters generally come from a family of good eaters.

There is no doubt that we all have different taste buds and there are just some things that do not taste good but in general it is about being exposed to tastes and textures from early on.  Mark Bittman wrote an article in the magazine about how him and his wife raised their two daughters and although I was not writing a cookbook as he was when raising our kids we basically did what they did.  We ate everything and there was never this conversation of us begging them to try something because we swear it tastes good.  They ate what I gave them and if they were unsure at least they would try it.

Whatever I made for dinner we all ate.  I was not a short-order chef.  If I was making a leg of lamb with a greek salad or a curry noodle soup or a chicken in the pot then that is what we all ate for dinner.  We didn’t do chicken fingers and frozen pizzas.  Sure I kept string cheese and some of those packaged products that kids love to eat for a snack but in general I made cookies and served a healthy meal.  They knew nothing else and were always amazed when their friends came over.  BTW, I converted many of their friends by just giving them what we were eating and prodding them to try it.

When Emily was about 13 months we have a picture of here sitting in a high chair at my Mom’s house with a stalk of broccoli in her hand chowing down.  I remember the moment quite clearly.  She just kept eating the stalks.  My Grandmother was still alive and was not only amazed at the eating frenzy but concerned she was putting away way too much broccoli.  She obviously liked it.

I even remember going to Barcelona with Josh when he was ten and the people at every restaurant were absolutely blown away with what he was eating and with what he ordered.  One place brought him out a few desserts on the house to acknowledge what he ate.  It was hilarious and the chatter among the wait staff.

Fast forward, all of our kids cook and bake.  They all eat about anything except for a few things here and there because they just don’t enjoy them.  They eat healthy and certainly enjoy a good meal.  Food is an integral part of our family life.  So in regards to the question what should kids eat I believe that they should eat everything and taste everything as soon as they can.  Don’t treat them as kids but as another mouth at the table.  Otherwise you could end up with picky eaters for life.

Comments (Archived):

  1. Ella Dyer

    Well said dear. Family meals should be a joy rather than a power struggle of pleads; trying to get a child to try something new or, which provides better nutrition. Thanks for being a parent!

    1. AMT Editorial Staff

      We do the “No Thank You Bite.” Try it and if don’t want to eat it, fine. But still must eat from what is being served. Our kids’ school also does the NTY bite.

      1. Gotham Gal

        I love that

  2. AG

    It’s amazing to me when I meet otherwise highly successful and normal people who have the finnickiest eating habits. One friend literally only eats kids food (burgers, chicken fingers, etx)…and then we have a family friend (60s), who apparently started protesting real food when his little brother was born over 50 years ago. To this day, he still only eats raw fruits and vegetables, peanut butter, and dessert. Insane.

    1. Gotham Gal

      totally insane.

    2. bsoist

      I know a 40 year old man that still orders an Italian sub with mayonnaise, meat, and cheese only. The only “veggies” I think he ever eats are potatoes. Yikes!

  3. bsoist

    I completely relate. Our children never gave us any trouble eating good food, because they ate what we fed them.Kids pick up all kinds of eating behavior from their parents. Our children knew how to order at a restaurant at a very young age, they don’t care for fast food, and they don’t like leftovers. (Terri tried to serve leftovers the other night. I’m not sure, but that might be the first time she has done that in 25+ years of marriage. )Every once in a while we do a “short order chef” type night where I take requests, though. I was cooking breakfast at my dad’s restaurant when I was fourteen, so I guess I get in the mood sometimes.

  4. daryn

    I agree. Our kids have always eaten everything we eat, and i’m always a little surprised when we run into a friend who only eats hot dogs with no bun and a cup of ketchup. Don’t get me wrong, we all love hot dogs and ketchup, but not more than once every couple of weeks!As the kids get a little older, they’re definitely figuring out their tastes, and there’s the occasional “eww, that’s gross” (not to the cook, of course!), but I couldn’t be happier with their willingness to try new things.Ruby still refuses to go on a date night with me to share a plate of escargot, but I’ll give that one a pass 🙂

  5. LE

    They knew nothing else and were always amazed when their friends came over. I was raised on (as an example) a piece of meat (small) boiled potatoes and steamed string beans.There wasn’t any butter or flavoring used and except for the meat or chicken juices (or fish) it wasn’t anything that you wanted to eat more of than you had to. When my mother made scrambled eggs she didn’t even use butter I believe she used “PAM” or equivalent. No cheese either. You didn’t eat for pleasure. At least we didn’t. How much fun is steamed string beans anyway?You didn’t eat more than you had to and there was no over eating. Nobody binged on that stuff for sure.On the occasion we got, say, chinese food it was something like lo mein no General Tso’s or anything tasty. Kind of bland actually. Actually I don’t think they even had General Tso’s back then. Takeout Pizza was super rare and a treat. And it wasn’t the era of going to restaurants other than 1 or 2 times per year for a special occasion.I one day (19 years old say) I end up going to my girlfriend’s house (1st girlfriend) and her mother says “do you want me to make you an egg?”. Sure but I don’t like eggs I say.And she puts butter in the egg and cheese. And I say “wow that tastes great!!!!” To circle back to my point I attribute the fact that I (and my sisters) not having any eating or weight issues (at all as in perfect weight control) to how we were raised – not associating eating with pleasure as well as obviously exercising.So to this day even though we all eat tasty food we don’t seem to have an issue with calling it quits and not overeating.

  6. pointsnfigures

    we did exactly the same thing. when my girls went away to school and ate the sodexo food from food service they developed digestive issues. the one that is a senior is cooking for herself now. Just didn’t make a big deal about food. They ate what we ate. contrast that to my father who shoved a whole bowl of broccoli in my face and smooshed it around when I complained. Of course, I like broccoli now.

    1. Gotham Gal

      our middle daughter had stomach issues too due to the food at college.

    2. Susan Rubinsky

      My 17 year old son is looking at universities now and one of his minor issues is the food. When we visit a college, he always arranges for us to have a meal there so he can see what they have. If there is no salad bar, he takes the school off his list. LOL.

      1. pointsnfigures

        Cook it yourself or the academies or Norte Dame. Best food I’ve ever had was at those places

      2. Gotham Gal

        That’s hilarious

  7. William Mougayar

    I cringe when I see parents with kids at the food check out counter load up with processed foods, shit snacks, packaged horrors, and the rest of it, with little or no fresh produce or wholesome foods to cook from scratch.I hate processed foods, packaged foods, junk foods, all that garbage is just that. And I hate even more the companies that keep producing them. The processed food industry should be banned and sued just like the tobacco industry was.Growing-up, processed, packaged, or frozen foods weren’t even part of our vocabulary.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I couldn’t agree more

  8. Susan Rubinsky

    I read a long term study somewhere once that kids who are breastfed eat a wider variety of foods as adults than kids who were not breastfed. This is probably because breast milk changes flavor based on what the Mom eats…I read that article in the NYT and it made me happy. Neither of my parents knew how to cook when they got married so they decided to learn together. This was the 1960’s and 1970’s. My Mom bought that Time Life cookbook series on different foods from all over the world and she and my Dad used to just try out all kinds of recipes from it.One other thing we did, was always visit the local farm for fresh produce. This was compounded by the fact that my Dad was a marine mechanic and we lived by Long Island Sound so we were always fishing, crabbing, and clamming too. We learned to eat what what we caught ourselves or what we got from local farmers. I think that has a big impact.I recall once being asked to a friend’s house for dinner when I was about 10 years old. I asked, “What vegetables are you having?” and my friend told me they don’t eat vegetables at her house. I declined the offer, hopped on my bike, and went home for dinner. LOL.I just raised my son the same way, without really thinking a whole lot about it. I found it weird that other people bought jarred baby food. I’d just throw a little bit of whatever I had cooked for dinner into the blender and feed it to my son. No biggie. really easy.When my son was three, he once threw a huge temper tantrum in the grocery store, jumping up and down screaming, “I want asparagus!!!” It was absolutely hilarious. Another time, after I got divorced and was dating, the guy I was dating asked my son, who was about eight or nine at the time, where he would like to go out to dinner since he had gotten such a good report card. My son named a rather pricey restaurant downtown and said he’d like to have the roasted duck. The boyfriend looked at me and said, “I’m never asking that question again, I thought he’d say pizza.”

  9. Marissa_NYx

    On most weekends my kids are over at my parents home and from time to time my dad (an Italian) gets them involved in his extensive veggie garden. They learned how to sow & plant veggies, pick tomatoes, shell peas and so on. My favourite story is the day my son, then 5 or 6 watched his nonno pick a fig from his tree, carefully split it open, show my son the oozing flesh and then handing him one of the halves. There they were the old man & the kid both eating that fig. It was his first taste & five years later it still is my son’s favourite fruit.Food, family & love go hand in hand.

    1. Gotham Gal

      great story!I was sitting shiva at someones home this summer and there was a plate of perfectly ripe figs. Nothing beats them. Two young women who were about 23 asked me what they were. I was a bit blown away that they had never had a fig or even knew what one was. I told them and split it half and told them to try it. How could they know if they didn’t like something if they never had tried it. One of the women refused. The other took the fig and popped it in her mouth. She then took another one. It was a great moment.If you don’t try if you don’t know.

      1. Marissa_NYx

        Wow! I would love to have seen the look on their faces as that unfolded.Hah! Doyou think our attitude to food is a reflection of our attitude to life ?

        1. Gotham Gal

          Good question. Possibly. Love that idea

  10. awaldstein

    This is an important topic and changing quickly for the better I think.I spent some time the other Saturday with the LuliTonix demoer at Whole Foods to touch the customers for a bit.I was focusing on mom’s not only because they are repeat customers but in this whole foods, many are super fit, many vegetarian and vegan and they are interested in talking about how they, as a vegan, address trying to get their kids to eat better and come closer without forcing their beliefs.The level of knowledge is heartening.And on the economic side, discovering that nut milk chia based raw blends are a perfect cow’s milk replacement for cereal in the morning, with choc as an afterschool drink and thrown into an icecream maker after dinner has discovered a great niche.BTW–is there a source that you use for nutritional info or know of one. A black hole still except for some MD rockstars as for the most part our doctors don’t study or know much about this (my doctor excluded).