Are We There Yet?

WEDNESDAY, MAY 27, 2009, 9:06 P.M.

Salt, sugar, sushi, spices… What does your kid eat?

As a toddler, my son ate curry. Not the seriously spicy stuff, but when he was 2 or so, his favorite foods included rice and his grandmother's yellowish-green, Filipino version of chicken curry.

Even now, he digs ethnic food. But perhaps that’s because it was always part of his diet. But he also loves pizza and the occasional corndog. He’ll eat broccoli but he’d rather have cookies or cake.

Matthey Amster-Burton, a Seattle food writer andauthor of “Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father's Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater," told NPR that many children are actually able to self-regulate so it’s good for parents to let children try all kinds of food – even the ones that are often considered taboo.

The NPR report, “Let them eat sugar: A new guide for feeding kids,” Amster-Burton advised parents “to let their kids navigate the world of  food without getting between them and their plate. This includes providing access to salt, sushi, spices and, yes, sugar.”

Here’s an excerpt from his book:

My daughter's first meal was supposed to be, oh, let's say local organic carrots pureed with homemade chicken broth in a hand-cranked food mill. That's what everyone wants for their kid, right? I swear I was totally planning a feast of that nature when fate intervened and a doughnut fell on her head. …

There's no evidence that the doughnut caused permanent damage, but Iris, now four years old, does exhibit some peculiar tendencies. In her favorite video game, Chocolatier, she builds a worldwide chocolate empire. Her favorite foods are pizza and burgers, but also sushi and a spicy Szechuan noodle dish. And recently, she had a friend over to play, and after they'd made a mess of the dining room baking pretend cakes, they ran over to me crying out, "We need more garam masala!"

… We have a small, eccentric child. In most ways, Iris eats like a typical four-year-old. She prefers white food, takes her burger plain, and is skeptical of vegetables. But she's also picky about certain things that are clearly a result of her parents' food obsessions.

…Iris may be more of a bacon snob than I am, but I think we have the same overall philosophy about food: Food is fun, and you get to enjoy it three times a day, plus snacks.

This made me laugh, but it also hit home. I know childhood obesity is a problem and I do think our culture relies too much on pre-packaged food. But sometimes, a little sugar can’t hurt, don’t you think? Instead of keeping certain foods away from our kids, wouldn’t it be better if we encourage them to try different things and teach them to enjoy it all in moderation?




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