Tag Archives: picky eaters

Carbs: A Coda

And here’s a quick little coda to my last post on the comfort of carbohydrates. It’s International Week at my daughter’s preschool, which means they’ve been learning little bits about the cultures represented within the student body. And yesterday, we saw this in our daily classroom report (that’s Violet in the background; I’ve cropped her friend’s face to protect that family’s privacy):

Instead of presenting neophobic three-year-olds with lots of unfamiliar foods from different cuisines, these clever teachers used what may be our most universally beloved food to ease them and get them excited about trying new shapes, textures and even flavors in the form of tortillas, pita, naan, croissants, baguettes, bagels, etc. I also like that the lesson offered such a low pressure way to explore new foods, since the kids were empowered to choose for themselves and then talk freely about what they liked or disliked about each (fairly small) piece. Violet’s teacher reported that the bread shop was a smash hit; almost every kid tasted every type and many went back for seconds. And for those who might worry that this would only dig a kid in deeper on an all-carb kick, I was interested to note that at dinner last night, Violet went straight for her chicken and ignored our bread plate entirely. Self-regulation for the win!

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On Carbs, Comfort and Kids

This week, I’ve been interviewing parents of picky eaters, as well as a few adults who are themselves intensely picky. And there’s been an interesting moment in every conversation when I ask, “so, what do they eat?” Because almost every human, as it turns out, eats carbohydrates: Toast, pancakes, waffles, pasta, mac and cheese, bagels, pizza, some cereals, French fries, and maybe a heavily breaded chicken nugget. The most selective eaters may not be able to handle that whole list (one mother told me that the smell of pasta being dropped into a pot of boiling water can make her daughter gag). But they all eat at least a few foods on it, and often, very little else.

This makes a lot of sense. Every cell in our body requires glucose as its primary source of energy, and our brains, especially, depend upon it. (A child’s growing brain, even more.) Plus, carbohydrates, especially the processed kind, are predictable. “Bagels are always round, always the same color, and I know they’re filling,” one adult selective eater told me. “They feel very safe.” No other food group is as reassuringly uniform. The texture of a hamburger is entirely different from a steak or a chicken breast. Fruits and vegetables offer even more variety, as the flavor, color and smell of a single banana can transform completely from the day I bring it home, slightly green, from the store, to when I offer it for breakfast three days later, now covered in alarming black spots. Is it still the same food? Is it still safe to eat? My three-year-old doesn’t have the life experience to navigate these questions and she is understandably suspicious.

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