The only special treatment my young children get when we walk into a restaurant are the crayons and kiddie menu to doodle on. Why in the world would we punish them with kiddie meals like chicken nuggets, hot dog, a reheated pizza, or whatnot, when they can be enjoying the fine Italian/Thai/French/Vietnamese/Californian cuisine that the adults are having?
Does this surprise you? It shouldn’t.
There’s this belief that children can’t eat grown-up food. They won’t like it. They don’t eat veggies. They can’t handle complex tastes, yadda yadda…
Same thing happens when grocery shopping at the supermarket. Entire aisles, product lines, and companies are devoted to that beloved niche market – our kids. Granted, there are some products for babies that make sense – a jar of Gerber to keep in a diaper bag for those cases when baby’s hungry and you’re not near the kitchen. But have you had a look at your pantry and fridge to count up all the things you bought because they’re for kids?
Whether it’s Danimals, a sugary cereal, or glow in the dark Mac ‘n Cheese – think about the real reason you bought these items. Is it because your children really need them? Or because of the clever packaging that has led you to believe these are better choice for your little ones?
What you’ll discover in many cases is that you’ve gotten something with more sugar and in some cases artificial colorings. Blue is a fun color to paint with. Not to eat.
If your children are still very young and not subject to too much outside influence other than parents and close family, it should be very easy to refrain from kid branded products. Problems usually arise when a child starts preschool or learns from older friends in the surrounding social circle.
Viewing TV commercials is a contributing factor, too. It would be great if manufacturers would refrain from using kid pop icons on their packaging. But the deal is just too sweet for both Hollywood and the brand manufacturers. Unfortunately, the industry self regulation is very lax, and the government does not and cannot effectively intervene.
So it’s up to parents to figure out a game plan that works for their family. There’s no one right solution.
Whatever you decide, try not to be too extreme. The 80 / 20 rule seems to be effective with many of our readers – if your children eat 80% of their food as healthful as you can muster, but the other 20% more leniently (including junk food and post-modern snacks), then you’re off to a good start. If you deny your children any of the treats that they see their friends consuming, you’ll be in for quite the rebellion once they hit the teenage years.
What food strategies are you implementing with your children?