I have always been vaguely aware of foods that are aimed at children. Be it in restaurants, supermarkets, the media or family attractions, the menu for kids largely consists of some variety of junk food; sausages, chips, ice cream, sweet drinks, generally highly refined foods that most of us healthy folk (ahem) wouldn’t consider putting down our throats. I have intermittently wondered why it is drummed into our heads that this is what children enjoy eating, and I’ve perhaps worried that this sort of diet can’t be a great start to a person’s life.
Actually, I’ve done more than simply wonder and worry about this topic. What I’ve really spent the last few years ranting on about is how it cannot possibly be correct that a child is born with an instinctive appetite for junk. Babies are not born knowing about salt and vinegar crisps and Turkey Twizzlers. So why on earth is so much junk food marketed at children?
I am accustomed to eating a hugely varied diet of wonderful foods. I will try almost anything (bar the likes of balut), and I do consider myself a bit of a foodie. So when I found out I was expecting my first child, one of the things that excited me was the prospect of introducing all of these wonderful foods and flavours to my mini-me. I baulked at the idea of ever taking my perfect little person to McDonald’s et al. Heck, I wouldn’t even give him a Farley’s rusk (erm, sugar!).
You’re probably waiting for the bit where I tell you that my plans to wean my baby onto perfect, nutritious foods failed, and he has become a junk-food addict. Sorry to disappoint, but fast-forward two and a bit years, and I’m standing in my kitchen, preparing a meal for the kids. Among the ingredients being chopped are a few cloves of garlic. My eldest can see the cloves, and is reaching up to snipe one. I tell him it is garlic and it needs to be cooked, but he insists on trying a bit. So I indulge his curiosity and offer him a small piece, thinking that he’s probably going to find the flavour a bit much and retreat to the living room with his Duplo. Wrong.
So I gave him another tiny piece, and moments later he returned with the same question. Three cloves of garlic later and, “no, you can’t have more garlic until you eat it with your meal.” Unbelievable! And the previous day, he was caught shunning his pasta, chicken and vegetable meal for rocket leaves. Really? A toddler shunning lovely sautéed leeks, peppers, garlic, herbs, chicken and onions in favour of rocket leaves? And while we’re on the topic of onions, he loves them red, raw and thinly sliced.
I do passionately believe that we need to get it into our heads that children are not born with an aversion to good, healthy, proper ‘adult’ foods. Kids love flavour just as much as the rest of us, and this is precisely the reason why we shouldn’t be giving them junk courtesy of The Golden Arches or Bernard Matthews’ finest. These junk foods are brimming with salt and sugar – everything that makes you want to eat more and more of it. I will never understand how it is a ‘treat’ to put such harmful foods into the body.
I believe that we should get kids’ taste buds used to all the beautiful, natural flavours of raw vegetables, good quality meat and delicious fruit. Children should be given a little more credit – they can make good food choices if they’re steered in the right direction.
As always, I would love to know your thoughts.
Till next time.