Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Should we deceive children - Part Deux

This post is largely in response to a well-written comment posted for one of my earlier posts. It got me thinking. My post was about a recently hyped cookbook called 'Deceptively Delicious', in which parents are taught how to sneak in nutritious foods in various disguises into foods kids love.

The author raises an important point in his comment. The book's themes suggests that children avoiding healthy foods is inevitable, and if we can't beat them, join them. But who is in charge? Is parenting the issue here?

I used to teach in a large private school in Chicago last year, and nutrition was on the curriculum. Call me naive, and perhaps its because I am not a parent yet, but I was genuinely disturbed by how many students disclosed that having soda at breakfast was okay now and then, and that having McDonald's for dinner two or three times a week was no big deal. And I was not dealing with disadvantaged kids. Their parents were either professors or doctors. Overworked and ambitious individuals who simply could not, or did not want to make time for family meals. So, is parenting one of the main feeders to the problem of growing childhood obesity and health issues? What do you think?

Time pressures and the decline of family traditions such as a meal together may be contributing factors, and parents may well be to blame. But what about societal and media pressures? Perhaps it was easier when we were growing up or easier still when our parents were kids. We did not have television or the Internet constantly bombarding us with fast food commercials. Burgers at $.99. Buy one get one free soda. These messages are incessant and out there making a mark on young minds. The same medium is then telling them to eat their greens. If you were a 10 year old whose friends were all having pizza parties, which would you pick?

So assuming that we cannot change what media spouts out at us and cannot make time for family meals all the time, can we perhaps get more creative in how we do cook the nutritious fare, in terms of the spices we use and the dishes we cook? No, this is not the same as what the aforementioned book is selling. But maybe we can cook that broccoli a bit differently. It's still broccoli. But perhaps some ginger and salt could liven it up. Or we could roast those peppers with some garlic and serve with a salt-natural yogurt-parsley mix. And it needn't be time consuming. The kids could get involved in the preparation.

After all, given the day and age we live in where everyone has a chance to taste and savor global cuisines, it is probably unfair to expect a child to eat boiled sprouts in all its bare glory. Children's taste buds have never been so challenged before, and now is the time to be in charge, and train those taste buds for the better.

It is okay to go to IHOP or Pizza hut once in a while. But it's all about moderation. Fast food is evolving. Healthy food can evolve too. It is up to us make it interesting for the younger generations. As long as no pureed spinach in brownies is involved.

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