by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Kids’ diets

Oct 10 2014

At last! Amy Bentley’s “Inventing Baby Food”

Amy Bentley.  Inventing Baby Food: Taste, Health, and the Transformation of the American Diet.  University of California Press, 2014.

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My esteemed colleague Amy Bentley, who came to NYU to so competently kick-start our programs in Food Studies, has produced her long-awaited study of the baby food industry.

My blurb for it ended up as part of the cover design:

Amy Bentley’s engaging, brilliantly researched book is a revelation.  Who knew that all those little baby food jars could tell us so much about the commercial, cultural , and personal history of food in America..  Inventing Baby Food is an instant food studies classic.

This doesn’t quite do justice to this book.  It’s wonderfully written, terrifically illustrated, and thoughtfully historical in how it grounds infant feeding practices in their past and present social context.

Here’s Amy on what this book is about:

Not all mothers feel as I do about feeding their children, and there are innumerable ways to be a nurturing parent that do not involve food.  Still, providing food is so closely connected to nurturing that even mothers who feel secure in their status but aren’t able, or don’t like, to prepare food probably feel a twinge of guilt over it.  As the following chapters demonstrate, the practice and advice changes over the years; the science becomes more refined and findings shift; and corporate capitalism continually explores and shapes the material culture of infant feeding, uncovering and instilling in parents previously unknown desires and needs.  Yet the connection among feeding nurturing, and being a “good mother” remains constant.

Enjoy!  I did.

Oct 8 2014

Some thoughts on military might: obesity, candy, and the USDA’s arms race

Mission: Readiness versus obesity

As I noted in an earlier post, Mission: Readiness, an organization of former high-ranking military officials concerned about obesity and other health problems in military recruits and personnel, has issued a hard-hitting defense of USDA’s school nutrition standards.

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But the military loves giving candy to kids

Dr. Karen Sokal-Gutierrez, who is engaged in international programs to reduce sugar-induced tooth decay among children, sends the results of her Google search for “US Military give children candy.”

Halloween candy buy back: To prevent tooth decay in US children, this program is having us send our candy to servicemen. Do they eat it themselves, or do they give it to local children where they serve?

A historical perspective on generations of military candy practices

US troops endanger Afghan children by giving them with candy

Images for US soldiers giving children candy

Dr. Sokal-Gutierrez notes that it’s not just the military that give children in developing countries candy—it’s also tourists and aid workers in developing countries and refugee camps.

She understands why it feels good to do this, but points out that the children might not have toothbrushes or dental treatment.  Candy, she emphasizes, contributes to severe tooth decay, mouth pain, malnutrition, problems in school, etc.

Why is the USDA Buying Submachine Guns?

Another reader, Kris Gilbertson, asks this question based on an article in Modern Farmer.

According to a USDA press rep, the guns are necessary for self-protection.

“OIG [USDA’s Office of the Inspector General] Special Agents regularly conduct undercover operations and surveillance. The types of investigations conducted by OIG Special Agents include criminal activities such as fraud in farm programs; significant thefts of Government property or funds; bribery and extortion; smuggling; and assaults and threats of violence against USDA employees engaged in their official duties,” wrote a USDA spokesperson.

One can only resort to cliche: food for thought.

Sep 15 2014

Book alert: Getting to Yum

Karen Le Billon.  Getting to Yum: The 7 Secrets of Raising Eager Eaters.  HarperCollins, 2014

I’m a big fan of Le Billon’s work (see comments on her previous book) and also blurbed this one, as you can tell from the cover.  Here’s the whole blurb:

What I love best about Getting to Yum is how it celebrates the fun and joy of parenting—even of picky eaters.   Following Le Billon’s advice and playing the games described in this book should make it a pleasure to teach kids about delicious food, encourage healthier eating habits, and counter the relentless marketing of junk food, without ever turning the dinner table into a battlefield.  Any parent eager to get kids to eat vegetables must read this instant classic right now. 

Dec 9 2013

Book mini-review: It’s Not About the Broccoli

As we head into the holiday season, I’m going to catch up on books that might make welcome gifts for the people in your life who think that food is about more than just eating.  Here’s one for food-worried parents:

Dina Rose.  It’s Not About the Broccoli: Three Habits to Teach Your Kids for a Lifetime of Healthy Eating.  Perigree, 2014

I blurbed this one:

I am constantly hearing from parents that they have no idea what their kids are supposed to eat or whether their kids are eating ‘right.’ [It’s Not About the Broccoli] provides just what parents need to feed kids properly, stop worrying, and start enjoying mealtimes with kids. Dina Rose looks at feeding kids from a sociologist’s perspective. When the feeding behavior goes well, kids will get all the nutrients they need. This book ought to reassure parents that following a few simple principles will get their kids fed just fine.

Jul 15 2013

Food for kids: “The Best Lunch Box Ever”

Hot summer days are good times to try to get caught up with all the good books about food that are coming out.  Here’s one from someone I knew when she was a student in our department at NYU.

She was a great writer even then.  Now she has kids…

Katie Morford, The Best Lunchbox Ever: Ideas and Recipes for School Lunches Kids Will Love, Chronicle Books, 2013.

 

I did a blurb for it, of course:

The Best Lunchbox Ever is a terrific gift to anyone who has to pack a lunch for a kid, and wants that lunch to be healthy—and eaten.  Katie Morford has dozens of interesting and sometimes surprising suggestions for easy, delicious, and nutritious lunch items that kids will enjoy—if parents don’t get to them first.  I wish I’d had this book when my kids were in school.

Enjoy and use!

Apr 9 2012

Three terrific books about feeding kids

Karen Le Billon, French Kids Eat Everything: How our family moved to France, cured picky eating, banned snacking, and discovered 10 simple rules for raising happy, healthy eaters, HarperCollins, 2012.

I blurbed this one: It takes a brave couple to move two picky-eater kids to a small French town and convert them to foodie omnivores.  North Americans have much to learn from European food traditions, and the contrast between French and North American school lunches is a striking example.  A must-read for teachers as well as parents.

Jeannie Marshall, Outside the Box: Why Our Children Need Real Food, Not Food Products, Random House, 2012.

I blurbed this one too: Outside the box is about teaching kids how to appreciate real food but also about how globalization is changing the way the world eats.  In this beautifully writeen book about what needs to be done to preserve food culture in Italy and elsewhere, Marshall makes the political personal as she explains how she is teaching her son to enjoy the pleasures of eating food prepared, cooked, and lovingly shared by friends and family.

Bill and Claire Wurtzel, Funny Food: 365 Fun, Healthy, Silly, Creative Breakfasts, Welcome Books, 2012.

I wasn’t asked to blurb this one, but like it anyway:  Your kid doesn’t want to eat real food for breakfast?  No excuses.  This book illustrates 365 breakfasts made of eggs, toast, cereal, pancakes, fruit, cheese, yogurt, and other good things.  These are presented as faces, animals, and toys so easy to do that even a time-challenged parent can whip them up in a second.  I can’t imagine any kid resisting eating foods like these.    Silly, absolutely.  Worth it?  Give it a try.

 

Jan 13 2012

Another pet peeve: can’t kids just eat?

Yes, I know getting kids to eat their veggies can be challenging. 

Cornell researchers wondered this is because kids like different ways of presenting foods than adults.  They tested this idea in a study just published in Acta Pædiatrica.   

Contrary to the default assumption that parents and children share preferences for the ways in which food is presented on plates, we find that children have notably different preferences than adults. 

Most remarkably, we show that children tended to prefer seven different items and six different colours on their ideal plates, while adults tended to prefer three different colours and three different items….Given that adults often prepare plates of food for children to eat, these findings suggest new windows for encouraging diverse childhood nutrition.

I suppose this is the rationale behind the latest approach to getting kids to eat better diets: My Fruity Faces.  These are edible stickers that kids can stick on whatever fruits, vegetables and, presumably, any other food that happens to be handy.

 

The stickers are less interactive and creative than the old Mr. Potato Head toy, but kids can eat them.

And they ought to like eating them: Sugar is the first ingredient. 

Sugar is followed by Hydroxypropyl methylcellulose(Modified Cellulose), Water, Natural flavor, Modified corn starch, Glycerin, Polyglycerol esters of fatty acids, Citric acid, Red beet concentrate, Turmeric, Red cabbage extract, Caramel color, Sodium Bicarbonate.

Yum.

Will something like this reallyget kids to eat more fruits and vegetables?  Cornell researchers: get to work.

Feb 15 2011

Healthy kids’ meals: the default

Margo Wootan, the nutrition policy director at  Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), sent along CSPI’s new materials on its Default Project—making healthy kids’ meals the default.

This is a really good idea.  Plenty of evidence shows that customers typically take the default whenever it is offered.

The idea is that if parents order a “happy meal” for their kids, the meal is automatically a healthy one.  Parents can always order junk food for their kids if they want to, so the choice is theirs.

I’ve been telling restaurant chain owners to do this for years.  It’s great to have the rationale explained and substantiated.  Thanks Margo!

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