Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Chicken (Finger) Pandemic

Good read in the Times today by David Kamp on why kids' menus may not be a good thing.
For all the fretfulness I’m obligated to express over the health implications of this pandemic — chicken fingers are often fried, and are often accompanied by fries — I’m much more rankled by its palate-deadening potential. Far from being an advance, I’ve concluded, the standard children’s menu is regressive, encouraging children (and their misguided parents) to believe that there is a rigidly delineated “kids’ cuisine” that exists entirely apart from grown-up cuisine.
When I was pregnant, my mom tried to convince me that my cooking style would need to change. That kids' palates were blander and somehow required being served things like Mac and Cheese as a standard.

"Oh really?" I asked. "Then what do kids in India eat?"

As I watch my child powering down things like Asparagus Ham and Goat Cheese tart, Lemon Chive Pasta with Asparagus and Chard, Carrot Souffle, and Vegetable Parmigiano, I know I am doing the right thing for her nutrition and her palate.

Kid Cuisine is a myth created by marketers of food high in fat, salt and sugar. Food that is designed to appeal to the worst in child appetite preferences. These preferences are not set in stone, and can be expanded to include healthy options as noted in this post from my child nutrition series.


jasmine said...

I don't get it either but I don't have kids and have heard my sisters kids proclaim "I don't like ______" whether or not they have tried it. I was intreagued by carrot souffle but a google search shows it as a super kid friendly food (full of butter and sugar the things they crave) do you have a healthier version you make?

frugalmom said...

I think a lot of it is offering them better choices from the beginning. And sure, they will go thru stages where all they want to eat is carrots and applesauce or whatever...much better than chicken nuggets dipped in ketchup and french fries. So much better.

The Expatriate Chef said...

Jasmine, Cooking Light offers a lighter, healthier version of this classic. I will post my remake of that soon as well. For now, you can find the skinny version of this classic on their site.

EPM said...

I so heartily agree with you! I continued to eat a wide variety of foods while pregnant and introduced them all to our girls as they were able to eat. Their ages now are 8,5 and 18 months; they love sushi, indian food, ethiopian food, mexican food, olives, mushrooms, goat cheeses, sheep cheeses, and the list goes on and on - but not the traditional things their friends want to eat! We have always just fed them the way we were eating - I think it's the only way to go to have children that aren't picky, picky eaters!

Aspiring Locavore said...

There's a great article on this in the latest issue of Slow Food Journal. Basically the author advocates feeding children the same foods their adults eat. That's what we do in our family, and our kids (5 and 2) generally go along. Reading this makes me realize the exception is restaurants--where, of course, everyone orders a different dish, and, of course, there are options just for children (chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese win out in these instances).

I do have friends who make their children their own meals, even at home. This has never struck me as a sustainable plan.

The Expatriate Chef said...

It's hard enough to get one meal prepared on a weeknight! Teaching kids a love of good food is a genuine gift, the joy of sharing a meal, fresh food, the whole experience. I just can't imagine doing not sharing this with my child.

Every 7th Day said...

My son would eat absolutely ANYTHING, including things I don't eat. Until school. Now he's begun saying, "I hate..." I didn't expect him to eat sushi (the hard core stuff - not the rolls), brie, and tabbouleh forever, but still.
So the rule in our house is - eat it anyway. I do small portions and when they are out of the way he can have more of what he likes. In other words, I turned into my mother.
I'm also a cheat. We call polenta "yellow burgers."

Shaping Youth said...

Would love to interview you on this 'chicken fingers' topic for our blog at Shaping Youth...

I've been working on a piece counter-marketing the "chicken nugget" phenom, and bet you'd have a TON of insight on this! (also want to tackle the whole 'injected fluid bit' w/chicken per CSPI's issues) Ping me when you're avail...???

I'm also posting one in the next couple of days on getting kids to eat green using Shrek (part of our counter-marketing Shrek Drek session of processed crud)

Meanwhile...did you see the new KFF side by side comparison with FTC on kids food ads & TV? Interesting:

Amy Jussel
Shaping Youth