Rise of the pint-size palate
Today’s sophisticated children rarely have time for the traditional kiddies menu, writes Nathan Adams
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.