Wednesday, October 20, 2010

They're NOT so Gr-r-reat!

When you walk down the isle of a grocery store, I’m just guessing on this number, but probably two thirds of the packaged food in the store would be categorized as “kid food”. Frozen dinners, rainbow colored cereals, string cheese, and Lunchables are just some of the examples of food marketed specifically at children. Even baby food gets me a little bent out of shape. I get the convenience factor of it, but if people are cooking for their families, they can simply puree some of the simplest ingredient in their meal for their baby. When I used to work at Globus, a lovely Thai restaurant in Ketchum Idaho, people used to come in and ask for the kids menu. Globus didn’t have a kids menu, not to say that it was restaurant that was unfriendly towards children, but I think, rather the opposite. Children are worthy of eating the same foods that adults do and they should.

The shock of the parent ordering the meal usually escalated when I explained that most children really enjoyed the cucumber salad and our Rama dish. “Oh they’ll never eat that!” They would explain. And you know what? The child probably won’t if they keep hearing their parent say that. I could go on about this forever really, but my point is that children should be eating the same food that their parents do, that is how we teach our children to be healthy eaters. A child that will “only” eat chicken nuggets and macaroni is “only” eating that because that is what is offered to them. Every child goes through a phase of rejecting food. Foods must be tried again and again in order to be accepted.

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Marion Nestle speak at the University of Washington. She spoke directly about the marketing toward children that the food industry is doing. The numbers are astonishing, Kellogg’s spent 21 million dollars last year in marketing Frosted Flakes alone! That is more money that Michelle Obama has to work with towards reducing childhood obesity. A professional term used in food marketing is the “pester factor”. A higher factor is good for the food industry because parents will buy that food simply to avoid a temper tantrum in the grocery store. Marketing food towards children is wrong and under minds the parents. Do not buy into the fact that these foods are made for your children. Packaged “kids foods” are high in sugar and fat, making them addicting and are a contributing factor to childhood obesity.

If you are trying to find real food for you child, look no further than whole foods simply prepared, that your whole family can enjoy together. Let’s face it, do you really want a cartoon character telling you what to feed you child?

Parents: for strategies on feeding you child I highly recommend looking at the work of Ellyn Satter. Here is the link to her website: