I imagine a long time ago, cavemen and women gave their cave children some food, whatever it may have been, and those cave children duly ate it. Task accomplished. Done. Now everyone start looking for more.
Here in America in 2013 things are a might bit different. Just a might.
Now that we live in a land of mind boggling abundance, where food is easy to find, attractive to look at (have you seen Skittles?), and delicious (as in deliciously engineered to trick your body into wanting more), it is complicated to get your children to eat the food that is good for them.
Unlike the cave children of yore, our kids are picky, fussy, and I don’t know about yours, but mine eat like birds. I know a lot of parents who worry that their kids are not getting enough nourishment, that they are either not eating enough or are eating the wrong things.
Unfortunately, there are still some Americans who have trouble putting food on the table and may actually be suffering from malnourishment, but for the most part, we are not. For the most part, in America, the eating enough problem is much smaller than the eating the wrong things problem.
So, how do you get your kids eating the right things? How do you get them to make healthy choices in a land of junk?
Well, I did what I always do, which is, “Go to the books!” (Like “go to the mattresses,” you know, from The Godfather, but go to the books, get it?)
And these are the books I recommend:
The Omnivore’s Dilemma for grown ups and the new Young Readers Edition for kids 10 and up. It is very difficult to fill your grocery cart with processed food after reading this book. If you need a quick shot of what this groundbreaking book has to offer you can also watch the movie Food, Inc. which outlines the same argument as the book.
Anything by Jamie Oliver. He is on a mission to reform the way we eat and make Americans healthy again. Oliver believes that, “good home cooking is one of the most essential, fundamental skills that every single person on this planet should have in order to look after themselves, their families, and their friends.” He also understands that we are busy families and offers a lot of really simple, quick, easy and delicious recipes for family eating.
The Family Dinner by Laurie David. This is a really beautiful book filled with recipes, ideas, interviews, anecdotes, and encouragement. It makes cooking with your kids look so fabulous you will be chomping at the bit to get at it.
Once you know what you want your meals to be like, you can get to the nitty gritty of what to actually cook. These kids cookbooks are an excellent way to get your kids on the job. Kids are much more likely to eat something if they cooked it themselves, plus if you get them started early enough you may one day have the sweet, sweet delight of coming home at dinner time to a hot meal prepared by your kids. Can you imagine anything better than that?
Pretend Soup, a Moosewood cookbook. This is a great book for getting kids to work independently, even pre-readers. Each recipe is broken down into picture instructions and all of them are simple but delicious.
DK Kids Fun and Healthy Cookbook and DK Children’s Quick and Easy Cookbook: Both of these are big, bright, beautiful and kid friendly. I have seen cookbooks for family meals that make suggestions that no kid I know would touch with a ten-foot pole. These are not that type of book. These have meal suggestions that will genuinely appeal to kids and that are adaptable enough that your kids can tailor them to their likes and dislikes.
The biggest thing to remember is not to let feeding your family become stressful, guilt-ridden or too cumbersome. I think that a lot of kid’s fussiness about eating comes from two sources. One, being a picky eater is a luxury that we have because we are not that hungry. I always say, “Hungry people eat food.” If your kid isn’t eating that much or skips a meal, don’t sweat it, they will be fine.
Two, kids aren’t in control of much, but one thing they can control is what they put into their bodies. You can teach them about healthy eating, try your best to establish good habits, read all the books I suggested and they may never eat the way you wish they would. Kids are funny that way. The trick is to respect their choices and trust them to take care of themselves.
Happy reading… and eating!