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kids mealThis article in the National Journal details how we’ve created a generation of children who don’t enjoy food. A combination of busy, overly indulgent parents and a food industry all too willing to sell fat, sugar, and salt are the culprits:

For a generation, many North American parents have indulged children’s picky eating tendencies by sticking them in an endlessly repeating loop of chicken fingers, burgers, pizza, plain pasta, mac and cheese, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Anyone who has sat down for a meal with youngsters over the past 25 years will recognize this list of typical “kids’ foods.” Pushed out of the picture, to varying degrees for different children, are fruits and vegetables and anything else that might challenge them, from spicy delicacies to unfamiliar proteins…The 1980s and ’90s saw the advent of countless convenience and snack foods, from fruit and chicken nuggets pressed into “fun” shapes to sugar-laden yogurts and foods kids could assemble themselves. Grocery stores increasingly sold meals that resembled fast food. As Moss chronicles in Salt Sugar Fat, these products, many of them portable and/or frozen, helped transform the North American diet. Their flavour profiles, packaging, and advertising and marketing programs were often designed to appeal specifically to children with a sophistication that made the 1960s breakfast cereal explosion look limited and quaint.

And so now, paradoxically, as adults turn to exotic, nutritious, more adventurous foods, we’ve created a generation whose response to a lovely Tart Nicoise or Doro Wat is Yuk!

The solution is to take a page from the French way of eating:

Sit with children and serve them the same meal you get. Serve them challenging foods and encourage them to eat, but don’t force them. Fighting about it can create negative associations for that food. Listen to kids’ ideas about what they want to eat, but don’t turn the menu into a point of negotiation once dinner has been decided upon. Involving children in food preparation sharpens their appetites, so involve them whenever possible in grocery shopping and gardening, and let them watch you cook.

A food culture that cannot transmit its values to the next generation is no culture at all. The food revolution is sustainable only if we get the kids on board.

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