May 11, 2021Liked by Kate Bittman

I am new to this community and missed the initial conversation. I am a mom to three very picky kids (3, 9, and 14) and a total food lover myself. My husband I cook elaborately and adventurously every week-- and always offer to our kids-- but they won't eat any of it. One of my kids isn't neurotypical, the second is extremely sensitive to smells and tastes (can't tolerate the smell of ketchup for example), and the last eats a more varied diet than the other two (more vegetables). But all of them will only eat single ingredients and they all will only eat raw fruit/vegetables. Actually oldest will ONLY eat apples. That's it when it comes to produce. The other two will eat lots of fruits as well as raw peppers, cucumbers, green beans, frozen peas, frozen corn, etc. When my oldest was small I used to enforce a one-bite rule, but he'd sometimes gag or even vomit after trying something and it became such a terrible battle of wills that I no longer do it. I've had to really let go of the idea that some foods are "good" and some are "bad" and remove the value we place on different types of foods. All food is food. Period. Yes I often cook three different meals because they are picky in different ways. I try very hard to make meals that I can just serve a plain version of for the kids to make it feel more like we are eating together. Sitting and eating together every night is a huge priority for our family. Exactly what everyone eats is less important. I also want to highly recommend the Ellyn Satter approach to feeding kids. At 14 my oldest is showing some signs of expanding his palette. He'll eat bbq sauce now, for example and sweet potato fries. He's also starting to appreciate the importance of eating more fruits and vegetables, even if that hasn't translated to branching out beyond apples yet. As with a lot of things in parenting, sometimes you have to have to let go of control and just have radical faith that the kids will turn out OK.

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I work in a grade school, and am amazed at what some of the kiddos are bringing to school for their lunch. A lot of chips, ramen, sodas, and energy drinks. I am all for supporting freedom of choice, but, I wish there was a way to ban these items from the school. I don't know what the answer to be?

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Raising kids to think critically about the impacts of the food we eat while maintaining healthy relationships with those who would rather follow the well-worn path of the status quo is a BIG part of my reality as a parent. Kids- teens especially, just want to fit in. But eating what everyone else is eating would mean subscribing to the false and ethically corrupt belief that “some lives matter more than others”.

Most people teach their kids to be kind to dogs while simultaneously providing them with plates of chicken nuggets and fish sticks, all the while missing the clear message hiding in plain sight: “it’s ok to violently oppress *certain others* as long as everyone else is doing it.”

The global animal-based food system ensures that the flesh and reproductive secretions of our animal brethren readily available, making it highly normalized & therefore attractive, putting parents in the awkward contradictory position where they’re teaching compassion while feeding kids the foods of oppression.

Harming the innocent is always wrong. Referring to the act of slaughter as “harvest” doesn’t change the fact that showing kids undercover footage taken in slaughterhouses would seriously damage their mental health & harm their emotional wellbeing. Plucking a strawberry from a plant is not akin to decapitating a pig. Euphemisms don’t change reality. Turning a living breathing being into a hunk of meat is an act of undeniable violence. It doesn’t matter who is on the receiving end: if we wouldn’t want it done to us... fill in the blank!! I used to think dairy and eggs were less cruel... I was wrong. Education about the source of my food has changed my life in the most wonderful ways.

We weren’t always a vegan family, and the transition has been challenging at times, mostly because we’re breaking a social contract by saying “NO” to systemic discrimination that most folks are totally fine with. The food is delicious and my kids embrace the plant-based meals we share as a family. The hard part is going out into the world that peddles the products of violence and oppression, promoting the insidious dominant narrative that is repeated like a mantra: “your pleasure must be pursued at all costs, and is more important than ecological stability as well as the lives of others.”

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I've tried my best since my kids were babies (10 & 12 now) to provide homemade whole, unprocessed foods. We enjoy shopping, cooking, and eating together as a family. As they have gotten older, "peer pressure" has set in and I feel like I am always swimming against the tide. I have noticed they are changing their food preferences to be more in line with what their peers are eating. We do allow sweets in moderation, but they are constantly bombarded by sugary foods, from friends, family, neighbors, and any social event (pre-covid). It's been nice having them home so that they don't have to deal with the constant pressure. I struggle with trying to find the balance between eating good food and dealing with outside influences working to shape their food experiences. In Kindergarten, one of my children was made fun of for bringing in blueberries and bananas. She loves fish, but no longer will bring it to school for fear of being laughed at. I want them to feel secure with their peers and have a healthy relationship around food, but they are often shamed because they are the only kids at lunch eating a fruit or vegetable. It makes me feel sad for a variety of reasons. I really enjoyed reading your recent articles on the topic of children and eating. I appreciate this forum and thank you for opening up about the struggles because they are real!

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We often get comments that our kids are great eaters, and we are so lucky... their kids are so picky and won't eat anything. True, our kids enjoy octopus, scallops, anchovies, tons of veggies, fresh herbs on things (little green flecks!), lentils, etc, but take them to a restaurant and they want the chicken fingers and pasta with butter. All kids want carbs and white foods. Heck most adults like that stuff too, and are often "picky" eaters themselves.

My kids didn't become good eaters by accident. It took a lot of work, exposing them to a wide variety of ingredients, flavors, textures and cuisines. When they were young, I never made kids' meals. We all sat down as a family, even when the youngest was in a bouncy chair on the table, and at the same thing. My middle daughter went through a phase (around 18-24 months) when she wouldn't eat anything I made. My husband would patiently sit with her after we'd all eaten and left the table, until she's made a good effort. We could have given up and given in, but we stuck to our guns. No special meals.

All my kids have their own preferences and dislikes. One hates nuts, another despises asparagus, they all hate mushrooms. But I don't cook differently for them. If they want to pick it out, by all means go ahead.

But maybe, one day, they'll get a bite by accident, and next time the same thing happens, and all the sudden they realize it's not so bad. It's a technique I've used to get them all to like eggplant, (and we're working on mushrooms). Try a little, in a way you may not have had before. It's probably tolerable the first time. Next time it's easier to swallow, and by the 10th time they forget about it, or even enjoy it!

As adults, we of course still carry some of that kid pickiness with us. I don't love beef. I think frisee is kind of weird. But if I go to someone's home, and they serve me beef on a frisee salad, I'm going to eat it. That's all I want to teach my kids. You are capable of eating anything (we all even ate lamb's brains in Slovenia when they were 11, 9 and 7), and to always be open to trying new things, you never know, it could be your next favorite (maybe not the brains, but hey, it's an experience we will never forget, and they were even a little bit good!).

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My son is almost 24 and is any has been always a great eater but a food snob. He went through a phase in about 2nd grade or so when he came home from school and declared all vegetables disgusting. I said to him, really...what about cucumbers? He said, I love them! I said what about sautéed spinach? He said, I love it! What about roasted asparagus? Love it. It was all peer pressure to hate vegetables. It was kind of a pain in the butt to have someone who won’t eat sandwiches if they aren’t on fresh ciabatta bread. He hated school lunch at every age, except pizza day. I pretty much made him a bento box of random stuff, hoping he would eat or trade to feed himself. Considering he wouldn’t eat much for breakfast ever, I worried about him getting enough to eat forever. But here he is, an adult.

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As the mother of two and now grandmother of a one year old, I think that a lot of kid’s attitude to food is about their experience of eating. It’s much easier to get a kid to eat or at least try something unfamiliar if ever is eating it. It’s easier to get a kid to sit at the table and eat something on their plate if others are sitting and eating the same things. It even makes kids happier to eat at the actual table as opposed to in a high chair with tray. The more they feel that meals are a family or group ( like daycare) experience the better they eat.

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We have 4-year-old and 9-month-old daughters, and while we're just now introducing the younger one to solid (mostly pureed) foods, her older sister is definitely in the nuggets and noodles phase. Luckily she loves broccoli (steamed and tossed with a tiny amount of butter and salt), raw baby carrots (sometimes with hummus), and most fruits, so she eats some combination of these every day. But otherwise we don't battle against her unwillingness to eat "grownup" food. My husband and I are both great cooks with widely varied palettes, and the 4-year-old is very aware of what we're eating-- sometimes even curious enough to ask questions about it, but then she physically shudders when I offer her a taste. I figure as long as she sees us eating interesting things, then she'll come around as she gets a little older. In the meantime, I try to buy brands with relatively wholesome ingredients (we love Dr. Praeger's little fishies and fish sticks, and Kid Fresh chicken nuggets and mac-and-cheese). I figure she's getting a pretty balanced meal and one that's not too hard for me to prep, so I don't get too sad about it. And who knows, maybe the baby will grow up without being so picky and will convince big sister to eat more variety. :)

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Starting with...I don’t have birth children....but I do have many, much loved, children in my life. Growing up (family with 5 kids) we ate whatever was prepared for us or we had to go make something for ourselves. Mostly there was no problem other than a particular food being prepared in a way that one sibling preferred over another. E.G. Potatoes in chunks, mashed or riced....we just ate what we got. Our pallets developed. We were allowed to not eat a few foods we hate. (Mine is green peppers.) When I cook for ‘my’ kids or take them to restaurants I encourage them to try everything. If they don’t like it I taught them to say, “Hmmmm. Interesting.” They don’t have to eat what they don’t like, but they do need to practice good manners and be polite.

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My six year old son is very picky. The advice I have always received was to make him a plate of what we were having and he needed to taste that before having something else, but we walked in the door starving from daycare at 6pm and my husband didn’t get home until 730 and it just was not ever feasible to not bend to his will when we were both exhausted and he was so hungry. I have always felt huge guilt that he just eats, basically, bread and cheese. I wonder if I caused it though all the years in day care and being too tired to try, or if he would be like this no matter what because he’s stubborn and sensitive. Who knows.

I want to give a shout out to Waffles and Mochi, though. He watched the whole series and has asked to try many foods because of it, including a pickle. There’s hope. All I can do is praise him when he tries things and cross my fingers some of them stick.

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My kids are teenagers now and unfortunatately when young, their dad's mom fed them hot dogs and american cheese sandwiches. Nothing I grew up with. Now they are so picky. How do I get them to try something new? I'd just like them to try an avacado or mushrooms (both I think are flavorless), but I can't force at this age.

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I have two neurotypical kids: an almost 10-year-old son and a 5-year-old daughter. We're a multiethnic family, with a Sicilian-American dad who worked in a Chinese restaurant and cooks dinner every night, and a Mexican- and Filipino-American mom who does "project" cooking for family parties, the holidays, weekends, etc. Our kids have really varied palates, though what they will and won't eat changes regularly. For instance, they love calamari and octopus, but won't eat ketchup with their fries or nuggets!

But, we've learned to cope in a number of ways, including:

- Getting them involved with cooking so they are more invested in the meal (I highly recommend Raddish Kids - we were gifted a 6-month subscription)

- Instituting a one-bite/three-bite rule for everything at dinner (One bite once they turn 4 - yes, 3 is more stubborn than 2! Three bites once they're around 8.)

- Trying foods that are like things they already like (they love refried beans, so we tried hummus, which they like now, too)

- Holistically looking at their diets so there's less stress on our part (what are they eating in one week vs. what they eat in a day)

- Reminding them that their taste buds change so they might like something today that they didn't like before

- Reminding ourselves that when they don't like something "it's just a phase" and it could change

- Telling us what they don't like about something so we can try a different cooking method or seasoning next time

- Telling them they have to eat a fruit or veggie before they can have a processed snack (we have a giant fruit bowl filled with their favorites, applesauce pouches, baby carrots, etc., on hand at all times)

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Apr 30, 2021Liked by Kerri Conan

I teach kids cooking classes in person and on Zoom during the past year. Our organization, Kids Cooking for Life, teaches Title 1 schools and other underserved children and we provide meal kits for the classes so that the kids make enough to feed four people, so the whole family gets a nutritious meal. They love to make just about anything and enthusiastically devour what they cook. We have a 90% thumbs up rating. We follow recipes but we also talk about what else we could do, what other ingredients might work and what condiments we might include. We’re playing with flavors and smells, textures and color and bonus, it’s all edible! They’re learning how to make sauces and salad dressing so they don’t have to buy them. We introduce ingredients that they might not be familiar with like asparagus or artichokes. We talk fresh, whole grain, lean protein and healthy choices vs processed, added sugar and packaged food. They know how to smash, peel and mince garlic with the side of a knife, julienne a pepper and dice a potato. And you can tell they're really proud of each dish. Last night I taught soba stir fry. It was a delicious rainbow in a bowl. My own kids starting helping me in the kitchen when they were old enough to hold a wooden spoon. All three (twin boys and little sister) would stand on a wooden bench shoved up against the kitchen island and we would chop, slop, blend, mix and invent meals together. We made personal soufflés in ramekins in the microwave. They learned knife skills with sharp knives. We made our own pasta. They showed me they were capable and we built on that foundation. Now in their mid 30’s, they each have unique personal style and culinary acumen. It’s the most pleasurable activity to cook with kids because the benefits last a lifetime.

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Bee Wilson writes about children's eating (and picky eaters) so so well in "First Bite"-- if you haven't read her writing on this, it's well worth looking into!

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I can't comment on what to feed kids because I don't have kids. However, I can comment on how I feel this should be handled from my experience as a kid.

I have very early memories as young as 2 yrs old on various matters. One of the things I can remember from a very early age (3? 4?) is sitting in my highchair eating a halved avocado straight from the shell with a spoon. Another memory is me in the same high chair eating a bowl of sauteed mushrooms a friend of my parents foraged. That probably wasn't a good idea to feed a child since their mushroom picking friends weren't experienced foragers. But! I lived. lol

Also a story my mom loves to retell (and one I do remember) is a babysitter giving all the kids a quarter and sent us off to the store a few doors down. I must have been around 2nd grade. The other kids all came back with candy. And me? A can of smoked oysters (or clams) that I handed to my babysitter to open for me as I couldn't. The babysitter was shocked at what I brought back. lol

Now for my grandparents... There were very few things I detested eating. Mayonnaise was one, I didn't care for cooked carrots (raw is fine!), nor did I like marshmallows. Go figure. Anyway, my grandmother would try to force me to eat things I didn't like. The 4th grade school cafeteria did the same. I remember being forced to put a big spoonful of potato salad (*gag*) into my mouth before I was allowed to go back outside. I did that but spit it out as soon as I got outside. Just yuck. My mother also insisted I eat her nasty potato salad. I'd sit there with potato salad in my mouth as instructed, mouth hanging open, bawling loudly. Not cool when I would have gladly eaten a tin of smoked oysters or a variety of other things. LOL

So, putting those 2 stories together... when you have a child that is very open to eating strange and varied foods, yet has a few items they don't like... don't force them to eat those things. It's not like I would ONLY eat was bologna sandwiches or Chef Boyardee spaghettios, period. I ate well and I ate a lot of different things. Allow a child to have their independent tastes and not eat what they don't like when they are getting enough nutrition from other food items. And I'm not saying to make me a different meal than what they were eating.. just don't make the child eat the item you're serving that they don't like.

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Apr 30, 2021Liked by Kerri Conan, Kate Bittman

I don't mind getting real here. My 7 year old son is on the autism spectrum, and food flexibility is a major challenge for us. Here is the complete list of what he will eat for lunch or dinner:

Costco pizza

McDonald's or Wendy's chicken nuggets and fries. No dipping sauce or ketchup. No other nuggets are acceptable, restaurant or store bought.

A cheddar cheese quesadilla on flour tortilla, melted in the microwave but not browned on the stove or under a broiler

Creamy jif peanut butter on wonderbread

Grocery store baguette, plain, with either sargento provolone or galbani string cheese (no other brands)

Boiled rotini or farfalle noodles, with a tablespoon of salted butter melted in at the end

He's an awesome kid and we love him to death. The struggle for me is that I so love food and cooking, and I struggle finding ways to connect and share that with him. Thankfully he likes most fruit and a handful of vegetables, so I don't worry terribly about his nutrition.

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