By Yvonne Quincey-de Guzman
At around 3:00 PM on Sundays, my dad would start putting away the tools and equipment remaining from the weekend’s chores and weekly DIY projects. I knew it was time for me to head home from Amy Johnson’s house, across the street, when this ritual began. Last call for any game we were playing would come in the form of smoke signals from our backyard BBQ. Wafting overhead, it beaconed my sister and me to hurry home.
Purified through sweaty kid-play and consecrated by the charred incense of Fr. Webber, we ran in the back door, we took our places on the epic green shag carpet, ready for the ceremony to begin. By this time, Pops would be enthroned in his giant, black, leather, Lazy Boy recliner. Sunday’s paper folded in half and partially tucked between the seat and chair arm, a cold brown bottle of brew in his left hand, TV clicker in his right, a small Pyrex plate of pickled herring balanced on his knee. We patiently waited and watched Patton, The Dirty Dozen or something starring John Wayne. Whimpering and begging like puppies, we jockeyed to be the first recipient of that fine deli fish, proffered to us as a reward for our very good movie-watching behaviour and to keep us quiet.
I do not recall rejecting any food as a child. If it was unusual and my father seemed to enjoy it, we wanted it too. I either blocked out the memories, or it was just another era when I was a youngster, but I do not remember disliking any food, except canned beets. When my daughter was born, I think she ate 4 things until she was about 4. We joke that we are shocked she is alive to tell the tale.
We certainly know much, much more about nutrition and what children require to grow up healthy and strong, then when I was a child or when I had my child in 1998. If kraut or anything fermented had been suggested to me when my child was a starting school, I would have smiled and secretly thought the suggestion was a bit nuts. If you had said the words “Paleo Kids” to me I would have thought we were talking about children who walked with the dinosaurs, and were perhaps recreated in wax and on display at a natural history museum somewhere. If you had said there was a kid’s Superkraut, I would have thought it was code for a really stinky nappy.
Today, our language and ideas surrounding food and nutrition have become more sophisticated than ever. The same idea conceptually applies to the nutritional lives of our little ones. We have found natural and scientific paths to wellness for ourselves and our children through using food as medicine. Our allopathic and complimentary natural health care practitioners all agree that the foundation for good health starts with a varied and balanced diet. And as we discover more about the nature of disease and gut health, no matter whether we are young, old or in between, we know that our ability to take in nutrients is based on the ability of our body to absorb it. Gut health is essential in this process of nutrient absorption. (1) The importance of child and toddler gut health is further explored in the Mindd Foundation article How Healthy Gut Flora Can Impact Children’s Behaviour. In this study, …” Scientists found that toddlers with the highest variety of gut bacteria were more likely to be happy, curious, sociable and impulsive (I imagine positively!). In boys, extroverted personality traits were associated with the abundance of specific microbes.” Dr. Leila Masson reports on this article on behalf of the Mindd Foundation (mindd.org) and suggests these simple things to improve gut flora for our small ones. “Eat fermented foods such as yogurt (can be non-dairy), kefir (I love coconut kefir), sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles daily.”
As we prepare to head back to school, what fermented, gut-healthy foods we can include in our kids’ lunch boxes? How do we encourage children to try krauts and other ferments, especially when it does not taste like chicken nuggets? How old should a child should be before trying fermented foods like krauts and pickles? What are some suggestions to introduce krauts into the daily family meal plan?
(1) GIVE THEM WHAT THEY ALREADY LOVE--Many kids love a good pickle. I especially liked them with pickled herring. Sometimes it can be as easy as including a whole pickle or sliced pickle (pickle chips) with other lunch fare. Spin off proven favourites. Make additions or slight variations to things they already adore. For example, my boy visitors over Christmas would eat carrots and broccoli, and they already liked pickles. I put out the Lewis & Son Rockin’ Out Broccoli Kraut with every meal (including breakfast) and pointed out that it had a combo of veggies that they already liked. After seeing it a few times and encouraging them that it was all stuff they already liked, they were willing to give it a go.
(2) CHECK YOURSELF--Little ones are supernatural in the way they can read our intentions and energy. In plain terms, they are fantastic BS detectors. If they think you are trying to sell them on something or coerce them, I guarantee they will resist you. Your attitude and energy is key to your little one keeping an open mind. Be calm, cool and collected! Create a culture, in all areas not just food, that trying new things is wonderful and helps us grow as people. It is the first step to figure out what we like and dislike. We never know until we try, sound familiar?
(3) OFFER NEW THINGS AS THE 1st OR 2nd BITE OF THE MEAL--Karen Le Billon, author of French Kids Eat Everything, suggests offering the new “thing” as the first or second bite of a meal, when kids are really hungry. In addition, she suggests that snacks are not given less than 2 hours before a meal. She believes that a hungry kid will be more willing to try something new. (2)
(4) MAKE TRYING NEW THINGS PART OF YOUR ROUTINE--One of the most important things that you can do to make your young child feel safe is to establish as much routine in his or her life as possible. Children (and adults) feel the most secure when their lives are predictable. When adults provide environments that feel safe, children learn that they can trust others to take care of them and meet their needs, so they become free to relax and explore their world. (3) If you have a special needs child or highly sensitive little person in your life, routine is particularly important. In Liz Campese’s Talkspace article from 24 July 2015, “Sticking to a routine or a detailed schedule is one of the ways highly sensitive people can feel like they have some control over the world around them. It provides them with a buffer between what they can and cannot regulate – which is soothing to their highly responsive nervous system. Because highly sensitive people have a rich inner world, they strive to protect it from outside world.” (4) Routine+safe environment=freedom to explore new things (ferments)
(5) TEACH THEM TO FISH—You know the saying. There are so many benefits to the inclusion of littlies when we prepare meals. Just the simple act of allowing a toddler to spoon out their own servings and pour their own water has many documented developmental benefits for motor skills, neural connectivity and cognitive processing, just ask Maria Montessori. The Montessori School in Rochester states in their website info about their practices with children serving themselves, http://www.themontessorischoolrochester.com/pouring-water-spooning-rice, “Yes, practical life teaches children the skills needed to function in everyday life. More, it is through the development of these skills, that they are also developing Order, Concentration, Coordination, and Independence (OCCI), skills that are essential so that the child can successfully attempt academic work.” In the 1 August 2016 Science Direct Article titled Involving Children in Cooking Activities, A Potential Strategy for Directing Food Choices Towards Novel Foods Containing Vegetables, a direct documented outcome was simply stated:
Even Prince Charles knows the importance of kids taking pride in the food they prepare for themselves and each other. http://www.abc.net.au/btn/story/s3630908.htm In short, small kids and big kids who engage in meal planning and preparation are not just willing to try new things, because they helped in the creation of said new thing, they emotionally, physically and developmentally benefit, they learn important life skills and they independently make healthier choices for snacks and meals. To learn more about getting children involved in the kitchen, please see the links at the end of this blog.
(6) NO SUBSTITUTIONS—What can I say. I knowingly sandwiched this one in the middle to diffuse the controversy which will ensue, I am sure. I know this can be scary, especially when you are outnumbered. There is no one way that works for all families, carers, parents and children. However, the following is natural law:
a. Children will engage in power struggles with their parents or any authority figure
b. Children have much less to lose and much more to gain by holding out longer than adults
c. Children have no incentive to try new things if they know there is negotiation or an order of back-up pasta available (if they can just hold out long enough)
*If you are not willing to see this part through, do not attempt this exercise, it will not work.
(7) BE A GOOD ROLE MODEL—Make a point of sharing new things you have tried with your kids. Being a working mother, I take photos of places I go and interesting food that I eat. I share it with my husband, daughter and now young nephews. #waysofstayingconnected #checkoutthisnewfood
(8) PLAY THE LONG GAME—Even though raw, naturally fermented products help well with gut health, sometimes the idea of “raw kraut” may not sit well with a small one. Buying into the idea that “I like kraut” or “I like pickles” is often the first step. A mother I know opened the mind of her 4-year-old to kraut by including it in his favourite soup. After he was used to eating a little bit in the soup, she offered it to him raw, stating “Remember how much you like it in your soup? Would you like to try a little bit before it goes in the soup?” Sometimes our babies need actual baby steps.
(9) FANCY FANCY! Who does not like a face paint, a special costume, beautiful princess dress or a special hair do? Celebrate the introduction of a new food item with pomp and circumstance. A special serving dish, candlelight (battery candles are awesome for kids), cloth napkins. Anything to celebrate the specialness of a new food. Celebration makes it more fun and engaging for the whole family. What if it backfires, and kiddo thinks it is ick? I think that disliking a new food is always a ripe opportunity to practice manners and positive communication.
(10) BE PATIENT—many sources document that it takes 5 to 15 times of trying a food for a child to develop a taste for it. And don’t miss the Flavor Window! In the Mon and Scientist Series, Quartz journalists report “Giving a child new foods repeatedly during the flavor window makes it more likely that they will like those foods… [and] more willing to try other new foods.” They go one to say that if the window at around 18 months closes, it can still be pried open through exposure and persistence.
If your babe is eating solids, you can start introducing bits of fermented foods into bub’s diet. Carley Mendes, Holistic Nutritionist from Oh Baby Nutrition, outlines benefits, suggested strategies and addresses specific questions about the introduction and consumption of fermented food and babies. Click on the link to see the whole article.
At Lewis & Son, our ferments are made from long-time family recipes. Our love of food and family drive us to produce food that we are proud to share with you. From Great grandmother to great grandchild, we strive to help you enjoy the tradition of fine local products with the science of wellness and gut-health. Our blogs serve as tools to support our customers in their journey to truly awesome lives!