Question: I'm a food snob – and I want my kid (an eight-year-old boy) to develop discerning tastes. My wife, though, wants to stick to the basics – meat and potatoes, mac and cheese. What's your take?
Answer: I tend to agree with your wife's approach, but at the same time you need to be commended for paying extra attention to the quality of what you eat.
Your wife's selection of foods for your child is a good start. I tell families to always begin with the common-sense basics and then, as the child gets more independent, one can introduce more exotic foods –what you call food for snobs.
One of the most useful studies ever published on how young children consume food is called FITS – Feeding Infants and Toddler Study. It revealed that our children are not getting enough daily servings of fruits and vegetables; they eat too many sweetened cereals; their snacks have too many calories and are too high in sugar; they do not get enough whole grains; they fall short in their lean protein intake but their dairy intake seem to be just right. These habits may get worse as the child gets older.
If you are looking for online resources to help in family meal planning go to www.choosemyplate.gov which offers plenty of ideas on the composition of an ideal plate. This website, which is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is like a Swiss Army knife – many tools in one place. From one single page, parents can electronically find additional ideas of how to provide an ideal variety of foods daily.
The question which intrigues many experts is just how early we can program a child's taste buds? Research published by the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia suggests that what mothers eat during pregnancy can influence the taste buds of the fetus developing in her womb. For instance, one study showed that moms who drank carrot juice during pregnancy gave birth to babies who were more likely to be very receptive to eating carrots.
Since you consider yourself to be a food snob, you may want to teach your son how to grow his own healthy foods. Planting produce in your backyard or community garden (which exist in some cities) is a way to engage your son in what he eats. And fresh vegetables from your own garden tend to taste a lot better than produce purchased at a supermarket. Research the benefits of organic gardening and share these ideas with your child.
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