In the Hmong Cookbook Cooking from the Heart authors Sami Scripter and Sheng Vang share that in Hmong culture parents mostly let children eat whatever they want assuming that when they get older their taste buds will expand. It worked that way for me, and my sister but I have also seen enough obese children to question this course. I am not sure our children can survive until their tastes change. For me it was around 12 for my sister closer for 20 and as I think about it the change came when we started cooking for ourselves.
Anyway I rotate what stores I grocery shop at. I have 4 that I shop at regularly, each have something special I need. This week it was a local Asian store, what the kids call the “Crab store” for the boxes of live crabs and other fish they enjoy looking for whenever they go. For me it is the wide selection of fresh veggies. I didn’t buy anything too unusual this trip except for pea tip for a hot pot dish later this weekend. I also bought collards and squash.
One evening this week I was at a loss what to do for dinner, then I saw the collards. So I steamed the collards in a little seasoned water, and baked the squash and warmed up some black beans. I was in heaven. Everything tasted so good and fresh. I thought back to my pregnancy days counting protein and “green leafy vegetables” and “orange” vegetables. Yes I think I am finally there, I could do this now.
But my children not so much. I guess the course of action I have taken is make good fresh food available to them at all times and hope they eat it. Another course that works sometimes is putting out the veggies first when they are really hungry then after they have eaten for awhile bring out the meat. Two is really adament about having meat at every meal it if is not there he asks for it, “where’s the meat?” Honestly from a former vegetarian it really bothers me, why can’t he ask “where’s the veggies.”
One thing to consider is that appetite while a gift is an important step in gaining self control. I am far from an aesthetic. But I know for myself self control makes parenting so much easier and so much more successful. I have to strive for it moment by moment. If I can teach it to my children when they are young they will be a step ahead. So in my opinion food is much more then simply feeding the body it is helping you grow as a person if done properly. My family still has a lot of growing to do but sometimes they surprise me like in their love for grapefruit (without sugar), brown bread and fried eggplant (the long skinny purple kind we grew last year and now buy at the Asian store). If I hadn’t had this food available for them I would have never known they like it.
As much as I bemoan the meat eating for Proeun it is important they know how to eat Cambodian food which often means meat, including chicken feet and pig’s ears. He for the most part is happy with their diet.
So I would say to get your kids to eat veggies (or whatever you want them to eat) really examine what your family’s food values are. I am pretty sure you have some whether you know this or not. Then make the food you want them to eat available to them and model eating it. Not everyone likes the same thing. For example Two likes black beans and Avril white beans (great northern), Mavis pretty much eats whatever I give her. But above all don’t stress. Just make sure you are modeling what you believe. The night after the collard greens and squash we ate Kung Fu noodles. We can’t be perfect all the time.