How We Feed Your Children, Part I:
Why Good Eaters Prefer Bad Food
by Michael Kauper,
Probably the most unusual
thing about Turner
& Kauper Child Care
is how we feed the kids in our care. We
out in two ways: what we feed the kids, and how we get them
eat. In these two essays I will only explore what
we feed our day care children and why
people make certain food choices. If you want to read about how
we get children to eat highly nutritious food in a cheerful and
cooperative manner, you will need to buy my forthcoming book, or
interview with us for child care.
Although we feed the children
all sorts of
food, we generally follow mainstream dietary guidelines as exemplified
by the Medical
Medical School Department of Nutrition
may seem too complicated, with too many confusing changes in the
latest recommendations, all of us really are aware of the basics. We
know what the school nutritionist would say if we asked her "Is whole
wheat bread better than white bread?" or "Is apple juice or
the whole apple, with the skin, better for me?"
Here is a summary of the most common and basic mainstream recommendations:
Eat plenty of fruits and
mostly whole grains: whole wheat rather than white flour,
rice rather than white. Avoid massive quantities of saturated fat, as
found in animal products. A moderate salt diet is better than a high salt
sugar is empty calories, and leads to obesity and rotten
teeth. Eating pieces of fruit is better than drinking juice. Drink plenty of
Most of us have heard or read these simple steps to a better diet. These guidelines have formed
the stable core of mainstream nutrition advice for several decades.
Unfortunately, however, almost no
one in the United States actually follows this established advice.
Why not? Because the foods
which break these
rules are seductively attractive. For most Americans
food tastes better than good food. A lot better! Given a choice between
plain yogurt, perhaps with sliced fruit, or heavily sweetened
“fruit” yogurt (which is over 55% added
sugar), most people choose the sweetened stuff. Both kids and
adults prefer super
fatty, salty breaded chicken and chicken nuggets over plain roasted or baked chicken. Apple juice is way more
popular than sliced apples. White-flour macaroni topped with extra-salty cheese
is much more popular-- more "addictive" -- than whole wheat macaroni topped with low-salt
cheese and plain yogurt.
Kids and TV ads cooperate to pressure
parents to feed our children the mediocre, lower quality foods which they prefer. Unfortunately,
high pressure from the kids may not be necessary, as most adults also
prefer the less
healthy choices. Why, why, why?
Actually, we know a lot about
why people make
rather poor food choices. I will offer two simple reasons, which I see
as opposite sides of the same coin. First, high quality foods contain
stuff which has strong, bitter, or sour flavors. The hundreds of trace
nutrients, bioflavinoids, phytonutrients, and fiber which fight cancer,
heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, obesity, and so
forth do not taste good unless you are quite used to their
. Kids have a word: yucky!
We have learned to mask the harsh flavor of
adding salt, fat and sugar, which are our favorite flavors. Large
quantities of salt, sugar, and fat are added to nearly every food we
from peanut butter to pizza. We are unwilling, perhaps unable, to eat
most foods without the “disguise”.
Second, and even more
powerful, we get a
stronger and more addictive buzz from food where those favorite flavors
– fat, salt, and sugar – can hit us with as little
interference as possible
. Fresh, cloudy apple cider has a sharper, more
bitter flavor than filtered apple juice, which is little more than
sugar water. Giant ad campaigns tell us that real
men (and now also
women) do not allow
vegetables to interfere with the flavor of
meat and cheese in the lunch-burger. TV ads make fun of the wimpy,
sexually ambiguous men (and women) who allow lettuce, tomatoes, or
other vegetables into their sandwiches.
see burgers, subway sandwiches, or pizza
served with 100% whole wheat buns or 100% whole wheat
pizza crust. The many nutrients and the fiber in whole wheat
are banned because they interfere with the visceral satisfaction of the
saturated fat and high salt in meat, cheese, and "special sauce".
White bread buns and white pizza crust allow the fat - salt -
sugar buzz to get thru full force.
The good news is that children
start out able
to eat really well. Babies love plain, top quality food. In fact many
American moms are careful to feed babies the high-quality diet which
nutritionists wish all of us would accept. Only as the babies get older
and more assertive do moms "give-in". But if we raise all
accept high quality food every day, they are happy, satisfied,
about eating good stuff, with no need for excess fat, salt
or sugar to disguise the flavor.
Adult visitors to our child care home are often
amazed at the foods our children casually accept. The nutritionists
from the Child Care Food Program
tell us that our menus are excellent, maybe even the best they have
seen. As to how we get kids to eat well in our
child care home, that is a much longer story. I am writing a book...
1. After recent, much more careful reviews of hundreds of international studies and research
papers, The Medical
Institute and the AMA have sharply reduced the recommended daily allotment of salt, cutting the
suggested maximum to 2300mg for adults, 1500mg for kids and older
folks. These stronger recommendations come out of clinical studies showing that cutting salt
later in life offers little benefit, whereas consuming less salt from
an early age offers major health benefits throughout ones entire
How We Feed Your Children, Part II:
Better Quality Convenience Food
By Michael Kauper, © 2007
Last month I wrote that we all know what we
ought to eat, in a perfect world, and I offered an explanation as to why most
people don’t follow those rules. Briefly, the most nutritious
part of our food – the fiber and trace nutrients – are
rather intense or bitter, so we remove the healthiest part, as when we process whole wheat flour into white flour. Also, we
disguise the bitter flavors of healthful nutrients with loads of added salt, sugar, and
saturated fat, as in pizza, fast food burgers, breakfast cereal,
toppings, and sauces.
This month I will write about what
we feed to
your children here at day care, and how we try to get a bit closer to
the nutritionist's ideal. As you read these examples of good meals, think “lots of fruits and
vegetables”. That is our top goal.
Breakfast needs to be fast and convenient, and
still power the kids thru to lunch. I nearly always serve whole-grain
cold cereal, or warm bread with toppings. I try to include extra
protein and fat, to help the kids last all morning
without falling into cannibalism. Carbs (as in cereal and bread) are
burned first – quick energy
– followed by protein and then fat. Plant derived protein and fat
are preferred over animal sources, because of the lower levels of
fats and the extra fiber and diverse nutrients.
For cold cereal we usually choose whole grain
cereals that are fairly low in added sugar and salt. Shredded Wheat,
Heritage O’s, Oatios, Heritage Multigrain, and Kashi Go Lean (not
Go Lean Crunch). We occasionally buy Wheaties or Cheerios, on sale, but
they are too salty.
For added protein I put seeds or nuts on the
cereal: sometimes slivered almonds, but more often sunflower seeds
which, unlike nuts, are rarely implicated in allergies. Sunflower seeds
are nutritious and cheap, $1.30/lb. I add dried fruit for
the anti-oxidants, trace nutrients, and great flavor.
Our special oatmeal features old fashioned rolled oats (not quick oats) are
cooked in milk, with sunflower seeds, dried fruit, olive oil, and a
little sugar and honey. The children who are with us from infancy love
this oatmeal, the ones who started here as older children, not so much.
Whole wheat bread may be topped with margarine,
butter, peanut butter, sunbutter or tahini (no salt, no hydrogenated
fats), home-made pesto, or low-sugar preserves, and then toasted or
I always serve one or two separate fruits or
veggies with breakfast, usually bananas, baby carrots, grape tomatoes,
sliced oranges or apples, or canned fruit, such as apricots, peaches,
Lunch might be cooked by Erica, Marian, or me.
Rice is always whole-grain rice; bread is usually whole wheat. I favor
that have less sodium such as French Meadow. The best bread is
home-made but we do not always have the time. To make low-salt baked
beans, we either start from scratch, or we combine two cans of plain no
salt beans with one can of “standard” salty, sugary baked
beans, such as Westbrae Natural or Amy’s.
Enchiladas are made with whole wheat flour
tortillas or corn
tortillas, spread with no-salt refried beans, and then filled with
low-sodium baked beans, no-salt diced tomatoes, possibly avacadoes, and
ten topped with low-salt diced
tomatoes and shredded cheese. Sometimes a drop of salsa sneaks
past the censors to add a little spice and heat.
Pasta is usually whole wheat. Spaghetti sauce
may include meat (grass fed beef), or be vegetarian. Combine two cans
of no-salt diced tomatoes, one can tomatoes with salt, greens such as
collard or spinach, beans and refried beans (no salt), and maybe topped
with shredded cheese.
The cheese is high in salt and saturated fat, but
the rest of the dish is low in those ingredients, so the overall levels
of salt and fat are moderate.
Chicken, fish, and turkey are not breaded, and
usually served with no skin. Most of our pork is donated(!) by
Soren’s family, hand-raised by an uncle (Thank you!). Grass-fed
beef comes from Dancing Oak Farm, in western Wisconsin, owned by former
clients. We strongly support serving tuna, salmon, cod and other (low
mercury) fish to children.
We use either butter or margarine, especially on
rice or toast, often combined with olive oil. No hydrogenated fats!
Our best trick for making lunches which are both
fast and nutritious is to use canned, frozen and ready-made foods in
ways that keep
the added fat, salt and sugar to moderate levels.
Snack is our most varied meal. In addition to
all sorts of fresh fruit and veggies, we might serve white-flour animal
crackers, home-made whole wheat cookies, no-salt tortilla chips with salsa, or
pretzels. For birthdays we bake home-made pumpkin pies, rhubarb crunch, or
white-flour-based chocolate cake from a mix. With ice cream!
Pancakes often show up at snack time,
whole wheat of course, topped with fruit, plain yogurt, and sometimes
maple syrup. A stack of pancakes or a giant whole wheat cookie makes an
Finally, very importantly, we have the children
help cook, serve, and clean-up, including loading and unloading-loading the
If you have questions or suggestions, please
write: mandm "at" radiochildcare.org
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