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Is There Really Any Need for “Kid Food”?

Is There Really Any Need for “Kid Food”?

Written by Katherine Martinko

Humans are the only animals who feed their kids something other than what they’re supposed to eat as adults. If you watch any nature show, you’ll see that there’s no such thing as “kid food” in the animal world. There’s just “infant food,” such as milk for baby mammals and partially digested, regurgitated food for baby birds. Those special, modified meals are temporary and, as soon as a baby is old enough to manage the real thing on their own, they’re expected to eat it in order to survive.

By contrast, we humans live in a world that has created an entire industry around the false idea that children “need” special food in order to:

A) Convince them that eating is cool
B) Sneak “nutrients” into their bodies 
(an illusion, of course)
C) Have a fulfilling, fun childhood (“How can childhood possibly be meaningful without Kool-Aid and goldfish crackers?”)

Imagine how absurd it would be for a mommy toucan to actually feed her baby Froot Loops? Not only does it make no sense, but it would also alarm most individuals as being incredibly unhealthy for that baby toucan. So why do many human parents give precisely those kinds of foods to their own offspring?

David Katz, who wrote The Case for Eradicating “Kid” Food, puts our strange human parental behaviour into a humorous perspective:

Imagine the alternative reality in which the wolf pack makes a kill, but the cubs don’t wait their turn to get at that meat. Imagine if, instead of learning to eat what their parents eat, “kid” wolves ate heart, moon, star and clover-shaped multicolored marshmallows (or perhaps, being wolves, their marshmallows would be shaped like hare, moose, stag and caribou; but it’s the same general concept).

A big part of the problem is that there’s too much money backing the kid food industry. Corporations are making a huge profit by feeding our kids inadequate, unhealthy food that is destroying their health in the long run. (Think heart disease, cancer, stroke, obesity and diabetes, all of which have diet as a root cause, according to this study.) As Katz points out, because we can’t justify profits that ultimately hurt our kids, we’ve created a false mythology that kid food is precisely what makes childhood special and fun, and that ingredients such as artificial food dyes and deep-fried batter are godsends for preventing child starvation in North America.

Katz calls for full legal eradication of kid food via government policy. While I support that in theory, it seems an impossibility to implement. A better and more realistic route is to prioritize the place of real food at home by simply choosing not to buy kid food. Of course children will be exposed to kid food when they go elsewhere, but a child who knows the all-round good feeling that comes from eating well will usually choose the good stuff over the bad.

You’ve probably seen how kids happily raid the fruit bowl or the veggie sticks with hummus. Hand out pieces of whole wheat bread with cream cheese instead of salty crackers and Cheez-Whiz. Toss those Goldfish and opt for a handful of raw almonds. Slice up fruit to dip in peanut butter in place of pre-packaged Bear Claws or sugar-laden granola bars. Drop the juice altogether and stick with water or milk. After all, researchers are saying that our children’s generation could be the first to die before their parents, due to higher-than-ever rates of preventable disease, many of which are related to poor diet. It’s time for parents to take a stand.

Kids are much more adaptable than we often give credit for. As one of my favourite quotes says, “Nothing cures picky eating quite like hunger and a good hike.” It might take a few days, weeks or even months, but weaning your kid off those battered fish sticks while teaching them to enjoy a nice poached filet with veggies could actually save their life some day.

This post was originally published in TreeHugger

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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103 comments

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8:50PM PST on Nov 30, 2013

great article! ty

11:44PM PST on Nov 13, 2013

"kids food"? Is that an oxymoron? How come we thrived on adult food, just in smaller amounts or cut up smaller? All the kids I know who's parents give them kids food, are incredibly fussy eaters who won't eat anything but junk food. They are pudgy and constipated. And the mothers who feed them this stuff claim it isn't any different than anything else and is just fine because it is quick and easy, and the kids will eat it without whining. Are the companies putting something addictive in this food? It doesn't even taste. Bland. Yuck!

4:39PM PST on Nov 13, 2013

meh

6:30PM PDT on Oct 15, 2013

I wasn't really aware anyone saw theses as dietary staples.

12:37PM PDT on Oct 13, 2013

My children grew up eating what mom and dad ate. Now some of my grandchildren are eating the so-called kids foods and won't eat anything else. They won't even try new things. How sad that food manufacturers started this ridiculous trend and so many parents have bought into it. My boys grew up healthy, didn't spend hours in front of the TV, or even in the house. They played outside and were healthy, strong bones and teeth, grew to over 6 ft. The grandchildren eating this crap are on the pudgy side because they sit at the TV, or the computer, and are always looking for snacks...tells you how filling and nutritious these meals are.

10:44AM PDT on Oct 9, 2013

No need and never needed. When my son was a baby I made food same as we all had and put it thru meat mill and so the baby got same healty homemade meal as others. I remember also when I had first time two kittens and people said give them baby food...and they cryed...I tasted it and for sure I had also cryed for such a food. These kittens were resque cats and I started to make them food and when they were old enough they started with gruell added whiskas junior.

3:00AM PDT on Oct 9, 2013

Commercial reasons of course.

5:21PM PDT on Oct 8, 2013

I don't have kids---but I really don't think so.

1:24PM PDT on Oct 8, 2013

Interesting! Thanks for raising an issue I've never really thought about.

11:24AM PDT on Oct 8, 2013

We never had kid foods, but I always got comments from people when they would see my kids eat vegetables and fruits and even like drinking water when their kids would not. When you teach them young that all foods are good for you, you don't need kid food.

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