Obviously, this is an ideal diet for a developing human child. The healthiest foods that are also the easiest to digest. Why then, as we get older, do we think it’s ok to go as far as we can to the other side of the edible food scale?
There is a point in development when a child can begin to eat more solid foods, rather than puréed, so our digestive systems definately get stronger and are able to handle more and more complex things. Civilized culture seems to be generally ignorant of what happens to food between the time we put it in our mouths, to the time it turns into poo. I think convenience has made us blind to that process.
At some point, children learn that there are kid versions of adult junk food that are made just for them. Of course, they don’t realize it’s junk food, or really they probably don’t even understand what “junk food” even means. Yet somehow, a list of standard foods that were once considered an indulgence for adults, have been marketed and sold in relatively smaller portions to children. Parents buy into this.
What causes kids to go from eating healthier than anyone as a baby, to demanding fried foods as an adolescent?
I was out having dinner the other night, and there happened to be a few tables with kids in the restaurant. Being the astute observer of other people that I am, I noticed that all of the kids between the ages of about 4 and 12 were dining on chicken fingers, and fries.
Mind you, this is at a semi nice Mexican restaurant. This is not Dairy Queen where the only things they have on their menu are burgers, onion rings, and chicken fingers. I understand that a lot of american kids would be opposed to eating an enchilada if they’re not used to it. But, the menu actually had some clear choices which were not “too Mexican” (i.e. a vegetable plate where you could choose 4 of any 12+ sides that aren’t deep fried or slathered in cheese). Things like corn, carrots, mashed potatoes, broccoli, beans, rice, zucchini. All good stuff.
This brings me to the Kids Menu at restaurants, and the fact that parents seem to have no problem letting their kids choose these items. Why does the kids menu at retaurants in the U.S. always consist of crappy foods? Let’s target a few big chain restaurants, like Chili’s (TexMex/American), TGI Friday’s (???), Applebees (American?), Olive Garden (Italian), and On The Border (Mexican).
Here’s what the most common items were when I looked up the kids menus at all of these restaurants:
- Chicken fingers
- Corn Dog/Hot Dog
- Ribs basket
- Cheese Pizza
- Cheese Quesadilla
This looks like the menu at a food stand in a carnival. Just add on the funnel cake and cotton candy and you’re ready to puke on the tilt-a-whirl.
Now, I understand that going out to eat is a treat for a lot of kids. But for them, I think it’s more about the experience than the food that is exciting.
While leading by example and making smart choices for your children early on are both great things, I don’t think that the parents should necessarily always choose for their children. I believe kids need to learn to make decisions for themselves. But, the parents don’t have to let them choose from the kids menu.
Almost all restaurants let you choose “sides” if you don’t want to order an adult sized portion for your child. If the kids don’t know that there’s such a thing as a fatty, cheese-laden kids menu, then they won’t kick and scream for it until their parents give them what they want.