As parents, we want a better life for our kids. We want to raise healthy kids who don’t ever experience that 3 o’clock slump that as adults we often fight off with caffeine and sugar. We want our children to eat better and to like it.
Look to other cultures around the world and children don’t often get special “happy” meals or sugary breakfast cereals. Once they’re able to chew and eat like adults, they are fed “grown-up food.” And it turns out, that develops healthy eating habits that last a lifetime.
Recently, the New York Times reported on what children eat for breakfast around the world. And while there are the occasions for colorful cereals, breakfasts were surprisingly healthy and grown up. In Japan it was miso soup, rice and squash. In Turkey, eggs, olives, cucumbers and tomatoes, etc.
A 2013 study also found that avoiding “kid” food leads to healthy kids who appreciate healthy foods. According to the study authors, “Eating the same food as parents is the aspect of family meals most strongly linked to better diets in children, highlighting the detrimental effect in the rise of ‘children’s food’.” The study authors looked at more than 2.300 five-year-old kids in Scotland, where obesity rates are extremely high for kids, and found that close to 30 percent weren’t eating the same food as their parents. It’s likely numbers in the U.S. are similar or even more imbalanced with kids getting “special” meals that favor unhealthy mainstays like chicken nuggets, tater tots and fish sticks.
The sooner parents start a child down the healthy eating path, of course, all the better. The medical community now advises against making rice cereal baby’s first food as it’s been linked to obesity later in life. Instead, start with a creamy and nutrient dense avocado and move onto other vegetables like butternut squash, sweet potato and peas. Introduce spices and seasonings in the first year so that kids develop a taste for grown up food flavors. If they reach for bites of your food, give it to them as long as it’s not overly salty or spicy.
Guiding kids towards healthy food options doesn’t mean being the opposite of fun and depriving kids of sweets and treats. But make them treats and not the norm.
Kid image via Shutterstock