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. But those special 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 now 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” (an illusion) into their bodies
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 human parents do precisely that for their offspring?
David Katz, who wrote the original article that inspired this post, puts our strange human parental behaviour into 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. Huge corporations are making a 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 red dye No. 32 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 at any birthday party. Often those foods disappear much faster than the chips.
Katz is right that parents need to take a stand against kid food. 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. Kids are much more adaptable than we often give credit for. As one of my favourite quotes goes, “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.