Food Diversity for Little Eaters

utensils DSL     What do children in other parts of the world eat?  Which cultures provide their children the healthiest diets?  How do parents from different cultures teach their children to eat and accept foods?

These are not easy questions to answer.  I think it is safe to say that parents across the globe are concerned with their children’s diets and how and what they eat.  Some cultures seem to instill healthy eating habits in their children better than others, but this is a difficult parameter to measure.  What do we look at? Children’s overall health?  Adult health?  Longevity? Childhood diseases?  Unfortunately, many of these measures for children are not documented on a world-wide basis, nor are the day-to-day diets of most children.

“Diverse Little Eater” is a blog set up to demonstrate the diversity of foods eaten by children around the world. This blog is a place where parents can learn about global eating habits and foods for children.  Future posts will provide meal and snack inspiration, and tricks on how to introduce new foods into your child’s repertoire.

This blog is the brainchild of Dr Shirlee Tan, a biologist and mother to a diverse little eater who has been exposed to foods from across the globe since he was in the womb.  In the womb, through breast milk, and once he started eating his first solid foods, he was presented with a diversity of food groups and flavors – food prepared by his Indian nanny, French food of our current residence, Asian, German, and New Mexican foods of our family’s roots, and foods we encountered among our many travels and eating adventures.  As a biologist and a mother, I became fascinated with the way children are taught to eat.  Children have a natural inclination for a surprising number of different foods.  Join the Diverse Little Eater to explore how kids from very different food cultures eat.  This blog and a book in progress are a collection of these findings and a compilation of recipes, science vignettes, and tricks picked up along the way.

Across the globe, children’s diets and food habits are vastly different.  Unfortunately globalization has decreased much of the variety that once existed.  To complicate matters, very little has been documented on what people actually eat (or ate) on a daily basis, especially children.  For parents who are trying to provide their children with healthy meals, there is much wisdom that can still be gained from other parents across the world.

Why is dietary diversity important? To keep it brief, I will just list a few of the most important reasons here:

  1. Nutrition.  A diet diverse in the types food items eaten (especially vegetables) can provide a wide array of nutrients.  For example, a rainbow of vegetables is often recommended to provide a variety of nutrients.
  2. Education and excitement.  A diet that varies in types of ethnic dishes can be stimulating to the palate, and can excite young eaters to learn about different foods and places.
  3. Well-tested methods and recipes.  Different cultures have developed methods and recipes for feeding children.  By borrowing these methods and recipes, parents can tap into health practices developed by different cultures throughout time.

 

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