When it comes to breakfast, Americans really lack imagination. The majority start their day with cereal and some cold milk, those with children buy the ones with lots of sugar! Around the world, children drink chocolate milk and eat cornflakes, but they also eat stuff that may strike the average American as strange or worse.
In many countries breakfast is fermented, savory and sometimes tepid as opposed to the sweet industrial food American children are used to. For a child in Japan, rice and a putrid soybean goop known as natto is a great breakfast, in NewZealand, toast and Vegemite makes up the usual breakfast spread. In Jamaica, plantains and peanut mush is what you can expect on your plate first thing in the morning, while in China, jook; a rice gruel with eggs or strings of dried meat is not uncommon. In Latin America and Brazil, coffee with milk in the mornings is believed to help kids concentrate while in India, children may start the day with a steamed cake made from lentils.
Children acquire the taste for fermented lentils and pickled eggs early- in the womb! Babies prefer food they were exposed to in-utero as the compounds from food travels to the amniotic fluid and to the baby. You should however realize that just because your child is primed to accept something, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be thrilled when they first taste it.
Kimchi; fermented cabbage leaves with garlic and pepper is considered breakfast for many Korean kids. The first taste of kimchi has been captured on thousands of YouTube videos and the chubby toddlers occasionally weeping and grabbing at their tongues will make you laugh to tears.
Children will reject new foods at first. It makes sense to be cautious about unfamiliar foods. If your child is used to cereal but you would like to be more adventurous with their meals, try it for yourself first. Repeated exposure and mimicry helps them adjust to new tastes. As the child grows, their palate learns to inculcate the food they are exposed to. This explains why a child in the Philippines will happily eat dry salted fish with garlic fried rice while American kids will balk if such a plate was set before them, as would their parents. Our children learn to be disgusted.
The exception to this caution about food is sugar. It has been noted that children in-utero gulp amniotic fluid faster when it contains sugar. So its not surprising that its easy to get your kids to eat those sugary cereals.
Have you tried to be adventurous with your children’s meals? How did it go? Tell us in the comment section.
First published by the New York Times