Rise of the pint-size palate

To­day’s so­phis­ti­cated chil­dren rarely have time for the tra­di­tional kid­dies menu, writes Nathan Adams

Sunday Tribune - - DINING -

KIDS eat the odd­est things – food their par­ents would have never dreamed of eat­ing. From fast food to fine din­ing, many of the kid­dies meals (and even grown-up meals) were not around 30 or 40 years ago.

This means there is a good chance what your kids are eat­ing is some­thing you never ate when you were younger, ei­ther be­cause it wasn’t around or be­cause it was just un­heard of.

Modern Bri­tish chil­dren have eaten curry by the age of five and mus­sels by six and sushi is on the menu by the time they get to seven, a new poll sug­gests.

A re­cent UK sur­vey of par­ents in­di­cated a gen­er­a­tional shift in what chil­dren will eat, with the av­er­age young­ster try­ing things their par­ents didn’t eat un­til they were well into adult­hood – such as chill­ies.

Ac­cord­ing to the poll, one in 10 chil­dren un­der 10 have tried an oys­ter – and hum­mus, bao buns from China, Ja­panese katsu curry and Mex­i­can que­sadil­las among a list of world foods par­ents never tried as a young­ster, but which their chil­dren reg­u­larly en­joy.

This is a grow­ing trend for South African kids as well, who have a grow­ing ap­petite for eat­ing out and fine din­ing.

Jan­ice Jo­hannes from Cape Town, is a sin­gle mom of two boys who both en­joy the finer things in life. She said it hap­pened ac­ci­dently.

“Be­cause I love sushi I brought it home one day and I thought, ‘here is fi­nally some­thing I can eat on my own and they’re not go­ing to be in­ter­ested it.’”

But she was mis­taken and her then-6-year-old son Lu­cas and his brother Sasha, then four, tasted the sushi and loved it.

“It be­came a thing af­ter that. We would go out and they would or­der sushi and they would want their own plates, their own soy sauce and their own chop­sticks.

“I don’t even eat with the chop­sticks but they do, be­cause they ac­tu­ally fig­ured out how,” said Jo­hannes.

To con­trol her boys’ taste for ex­otic foods, Jo­hannes said she uses out­ings to fine din­ing restau­rants and sushi bars as treats to re­ward good be­hav­iour.

Masterchef fi­nal­ist and res­tau­rant con­sul­tant Sue-ann Allen agreed and said there was def­i­nitely an up­surge in kids get­ting what they want from the menu.

“If I look at the kids that I see who have come through the restau­rants where I’ve worked there is def­i­nitely a dif­fer­ence. Kids have a big­ger un­der­stand­ing and ex­po­sure to dif­fer­ent food types than kids used to have in the past.”

Allen sug­gested this food trend among younger eaters was part of a glob­al­i­sa­tion of what is avail­able to hun­gry kids.

“Now, be­ing in this whole food move­ment which is also world­wide, there are way more food mag­a­zines out there and chefs have be­come celebri­ties. Some of the most-watched shows on TV are food pro­grammes and kids are watch­ing,” said Allen.

Are there any hard and fast rules about what your kids should be eat­ing from for­eign shores?

This is de­bat­able, but phar­ma­cist and com­ple­men­tary medicines ex­pert Giulia Criscuolo says there are some guide­lines for par­ents.

“Jill Cas­tle, an Amer­i­can pae­di­atric nu­tri­tion­ist, says that a child’s im­mune sys­tem devel­op­ment is slow and steady dur­ing the first two to three years of life, and by ages four to six, adult lev­els of im­mu­nity are seen.

“Your child’s im­mune sys­tem con­tin­ues to de­velop through­out pu­berty. Given this in­for­ma­tion, wait­ing un­til 5 to 6 years of age to in­tro­duce raw fish and un­cooked sushi is the best way to en­sure your child is de­fended against po­ten­tially harm­ful sub­stances,” said Criscuolo.

In short she be­lieves par­ents should feed chil­dren real food pre­pared in a rep­utable res­tau­rant.

“Stay away from pre-pack­aged ex­otic food es­pe­cially if you can­not read or un­der­stand what the list of in­gre­di­ents are.

“Par­ents can make sure that chil­dren eat ex­otic and rich foods in mod­er­a­tion. Par­ents should en­sure that 80-90% of the food they con­sume con­sists of fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles, lean pro­tein and whole grain car­bo­hy­drates.”

Of the 1 500 par­ents who took part in the UK poll by Gi­raffe World Kitchen, a third said their chil­dren were very ad­ven­tur­ous when it came to their culi­nary tastes and half said “they will try most things”. This is an in­di­ca­tor that there it would be very hard to curb a child’s ap­petite for food that you might not have even dreamt about eat­ing dur­ing your own child­hood.

Par­ent­ing with a meal plan should be done with a lot of flex­i­bil­ity and an ul­ti­mate goal of get­ting your child to eat a nu­tri­tious bal­anced meal no mat­ter if it is a bit ex­otic.

Many chil­dren are eat­ing food like sushi, which their par­ents did not know ex­isted when they were young. Pic­tures: Pex­els

Chil­dren are be­com­ing more in­ter­ested in fine din­ing as a re­sult of ex­po­sure to the world of food through cook­ing shows on TV.

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