Roundup: Kids and Food

Welcome to the first Roundup post! These will be monthly and, after this one, limited to paid subscribers (see longer discussion of the paid subscription plan here). 

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What’s a Roundup? There are big parenting and pregnancy topics — things like diet in pregnancy or baby sleep — that I write about over and over. I also spend a lot of time reading about them in other sources. Reader questions come in all the time, and I find myself pointing people back to previous writing and wishing I had a way to pull it all together.

These posts do that! They’re a big-picture reference, with links, on a topic of interest. Today: kids and food. 

What are the big questions?

There are many questions on food, but I’d pull out three big ones.

Question 1: What is a healthy diet? This is obviously a much broader question than I can cover in my writing, but I think it’s often our starting point. For kids, yes, but also for adults. In the broadest terms, how should we be eating? 

The second two are more granular on kids’ eating.

Question 2: What’s the right way to introduce food, and are there any pitfalls to avoid or things I should definitely do?  

Question 3: I’ve got a toddler or older kid. How do I encourage them to, say, eat vegetables? Or more generally to adhere to a diet I have decided on?  

I haven’t fully answered all these questions (not close! no one has!), but I think they’re useful to write down to help organize all of our thinking. I’ve written some on each, and so have others. Check it out below.

Writing from me

On the overarching question of a healthy diet:

(The spoiler alert here is that our data on what constitutes a healthy diet is not very good, and we really do not know much. These posts are mostly about why food data is bad, not what makes you healthy.) 

On food introduction:

On picky kids:

  • Kids, Food, and Picky Eating. TL;DR: Do not feel bad about it, and here are some tips.

  • On the issue of older kids and vegetables, The Family Firm really dives into the literature suggesting that, basically, if you try giving them veggies with dip, it might improve their liking of them. No newsletter on this yet, but I’m sure it’s coming. 

Other writers and resources

A few other things you might like in this space:

  • Our family is obsessed with America’s Test Kitchen Kids, including this cookbook and this baking book.

  • Virginia Sole-Smith has a Substack (get it here) all about kids and food. I interviewed her here, and I love her perspective. 

  • On the general question of healthy diet and food, I am a fan of Aaron Carroll’s great book The Bad Food Bible.

  • Many people recommend — and I concur — Feeding Littles as a resource. Of note is its normalization of the fact that toddlers are less hungry and less adventurous about food than babies. 

I hope this is helpful! Send suggestions for future Roundup topics to osterparentdata@gmail.com.