Weekly Meal Plan: Monday February 13th

by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD on February 13, 2012

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Hi everyone! I forgot that Tuesday is Valentine’s Day when I planned this week’s dinner items. It’s doesn’t really matter because we are going to eat at home and celebrate with the kids. We can always go out another non-holiday night (plus, how unromantic is a Tuesday?).

This week, the only new item on the menu is a homemade chicken nugget recipe from Estela at the Weekly Bite. I plan to try a couple new snacks that I hope to post. As always, head over to Org Junkie for more meal planning ideas!

Monday: Shrimp tacos and black with all the toppings

Tuesday: Pasta bar: Colored pasta (from TJs), chicken, veggies, bread and salad (like this but all separated out so kids can make their own)

Wednesday: Kids choice

Thursday: Homemade chicken nuggets with the best broccoli of your life and fruit

Friday: Tortilla pizza with almost green smoothies and salad

Do the French Really Feed Their Kids Better?
Last week I read multiple times about the French and feeding/parenting. The first article was about their superior parenting (based on the book Bringing up Bebe), another was about the French advantage for feeding babies and the author of the upcoming book, French Kids Eat Everything, left a comment on my last post. This sparked much thought on my part (and this post on Blogher simply made me laugh!).

I have to admit, these French superiority messages are initially off-putting (I almost didn’t read Why French Parents are Superior for that reason!). Don’t get me wrong, I think there is much to be learned from the French about food and feeding (and parenting). They clearly make food a priority and much of what they do I recommend: feeding regular meals, providing a variety of foods, not catering to children and avoiding over-snacking.

While the French feeding style may help set the stage for better eating, I highly doubt that picky-eating doesn’t exist there.

For example, kids around the world still go through certain developmental milestones that affect eating. Research shows the preference for sweet and energy-rich food in kids is universal (yes, even in other countries). Even in countries like France where families share traditional meals, kids’ favorite foods still include items like fried potatoes, chocolate cake and nut spread.

Yet despite kids’ tendencies, they learn to eat the food of their culture. Chinese kids eat Chinese food and obviously French kids eat French food. I make a lot of Mexican food and my kids are used to spices like cumin, garlic and chili powder. As kids age, their palate matures and by the time they are adults they can eat lots of stuff.

This Time article made an interesting point: Perhaps I’m just not a big fan of these types of parenting books. To me, they smack of absolutes — do this and don’t do that — and exaggerated comparisons.

And that’s how I feel. Anyone with more than one kid knows how differently they are, especially in terms of eating. I think making “eating well” only about variety is a mistake because some kids simply take longer to warm up to food than others. So parents of more cautious eaters may end up feeling like they did something wrong, when they didn’t.

What I really think is missing in today’s feeding landscape is the educational component. There’s so much information about feeding and parenting that it’s hard to know what to do and who to trust. This is one of the goals of Fearless Feeding, to provide research-based information so you (the parent) can make the best decisions for your family.

Enough ranting. These are random thoughts that went through my head during my Saturday run. What do you think?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen le Billon February 13, 2012 at 12:05 pm

I totally agree! Picky eating exists everywhere (as does ‘neophobia’ , the fear of new foods that children often display at around the age of 2 onwards). Scientific research does suggest that the preference for certain foods (e.g. sweet) is innate. Yet, as you say, kids still learn to like the preferred foods of their cultures, and learn to regulate their eating habits to correspond with cultural norms. This means that children’s eating habits can be (to some extent) trained, which I find very hopeful!

I also think the ‘best of both worlds’ approach is something we are fortunate enough to be able to do in North America. French parenting is definitely NOT generally superior, in my view. Married to a Frenchman, and having lived in France (surrounded by French relatives and a French mother-in-law) I’ve seen the good and the bad of the French approach. I’ve also taught in the French university system–and there too have seen the drawbacks and advantages of the French approach. I think American parents are, for example, better at fostering creativity, empathy, and initiative in their children.

But the French do have a good approach to kids food figured out. Why? Partly because it became a scientific concern in the late 19th century, when infant mortality rates in France were the highest in Europe. In response, the French developed the science of ‘puériculture’ (literally – the science of infant and child health and hygiene) starting after 1860; for example, they invented one of the first modern incubators. Today, French scientists continue to study children’s eating habits, and their research is fascinating–much of which I cite in the book.

That’s what is so interesting about France, when it comes to children’s food: they have a set of codified common sense rules and routines they follow, but these are based on over 150 years of scientific research–which governments then transmitted to French parents through extensive outreach (e.g. the first modern network of what would now be called ‘maternal and child health’ centres).

Finally – I agree that the educational component is key. There is a lot of conflicting information out there, from different sources. And even scientists take different approaches; sociologists and psychologists study children’s eating habits from a different perspective than medical researchers, for example. The key is to inform yourself about a variety of perspectives, and then to make an informed choice. The French approach amongst many–but it does have a long history of scientific research to back it up.

Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD February 13, 2012 at 12:25 pm

Karen — I think we probably agree mostly on kids and feeding — and I look forward to reading your book. I think for me it’s this overall message that is conveyed that may turn some parents off….so then they don’t get to learn the helpful information that is behind it. Like I said, once I read the article on Superior parenting I thought it was good but the title seems to polarize parents from the get-go. We all have our struggles and I’m very honest about mine here. I have one picky kid and one more adventurous one. But the picky kid doesn’t know she’s picky and we share meals and enjoy them very much. She’s a good eater because she likes to eat, regulates well and is developing a healthy relatinship with food. Thanks for stopping by!

Shannon February 14, 2012 at 5:58 am

Can you explain what you mean by “kids choice” in your weekly meal plan? Thanks!

Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD February 14, 2012 at 11:24 am

I give my kids a choice between a couple of items. It’s usually bean and cheese quesidillas, grilled cheese and avocado or breakfast for dinner. The key is they get to choose…I just need to make sure I have the ingredients on hand.

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