Sunday, March 20, 2011
We are what we feed? Kids, Taste, Nutrition, et al…
But I am easily provoked by food. Last month’s “Anti-Foodie” article in The Atlantic and recent comments by a friend have raised some big questions for me about what we feed our kids: at home, and in their lunchboxes. While the Atlantic article focused on our cultural fixation with upscale food I can witness to the fact that “trash food” is equally kicking in other circles that I am equally likely to frequent (By trash I mean processed things that have, in all likelihood, need never have been touched by human hands directly). My friend Maria works in a VERY upscale private school with a clear educational mission and a program for 2-year olds. She noted that the kids whose parents are foreign always have such “nice food” while the American kids tend to have bad stuff in their lunchboxes. Pressed further by Inquiring Mom, she explained that the foreigners tend to have leftovers for lunch: fish, meat, rice and so forth, while the Americans are more likely to have Lunchables. What’s striking to me about this is that it betrays a fundamental question of importance: the majority of the moms at this school are not financially challenged. And while they may be pressed for time, their financial situation generally means that they have nannies or other helpers who could assist them with making food for their kids if that were a priority on any level. But clearly, it’s not.
Why don’t they—we—care? And what should we care about when it comes to our kids’ food? For those of us with more than one child, and whose resources are more seriously limited than the parents at my friend’s school, there are competing interests:
1) Speed (Food that’s quick and easy to prepare)
2) Appeal (Food that kids will eat happily)
3) Affordability (Food that, uh, we can afford)
4) Healthy choices (Food that’s good for kids)
5) Affection (Food that shows love --this may sound dumb and peripheral as a category, but how else do you explain sandwiches cut into heart shapes?)
What’s absent from this list, naturally, is “sophisticated” food, though I am definitely in favor of trying to expands our kids’ horizons with food. It’s good to teach them to be open to life via their mouths as well as their hearts and minds. I’m torn on how to prioritize the list, though. I want to show my children that I love them in the kind of food I give them, both in quality and kind, but the realities of time and money put some serious constraints on all of us.
Here’s where I’ve come down on lunchbox food: I try to give a) something decent but easy and affordable: chicken noodle soup/ simple sandwich/pasta with butter and cheese b) some easy fruit or veggie (baby carrots/applesauce/Clementine orange and c) some small treat: “fruit” snacks/ small chocolate bar/ pudding.
At home, my mission is bigger…but more on that later!