If you want your kids to be stellar eaters, start thinking like a chef.

You don’t have to cook like a chef—although I’m sure it doesn’t hurt if you have the know-how—just think like one.

Bon Appetit recently asked a bunch of renowned chefs what they do to get their kids to eat right.  If, like me, you thought the chefs would talk, first and foremost, about the amazing creations they whip up to dazzle their little delights, you’d be wrong.

Instead, most of the chefs said they:

  • Don’t feed their children special “kid” food.
  • Expect their children to eat whatever is being served.
  • Routinely expose their children to a wide variety of tastes and textures.

They sound a little like the French! Read Early Vegetable Variety: The French Advantage.

The chefs also talked about shopping, gardening, cooking and dining with their children, but these strategies don’t constitute the core of anyone’s eating “curriculum.”

Read the article, Chefs: They’re Just Like Us, the Parental Edition.

In contrast…

The other day I was eating at Panera, and—sorry Moms for snooping— I noticed that all the mothers were eating some version of soup and salad.  All the kids were eating some version of bread and cheese.

  • A bagel with cream cheese
  • A grilled cheese sandwich
  • Macaroni and Cheese

I’m not saying that chefs don’t feed their children bread and cheese. I’m sure that they do. But the uniformity of the feeding choices across all the tables at Panera really struck me.  It made me wonder what we’re teaching our kids.

Child-friendly isn’t just a kind of food. It’s a mindset.

I’m not going to talk about the nutrition of bread and cheese.  Suffice it to say that bread and cheese isn’t really a bad meal. It isn’t really a nutritional winner either. Read What’s the Problem with Cheese? and La Crème de la Crème.

From a habits perspective, though, a steady diet of bread and cheese can be a disaster:

  1. When kids eat a steady stream of bread and cheese, they want to eat… more bread and cheese.
  2. When parents eat different foods than they feed their kids, children learn they should eat differently than their parents.

I know, you’re probably thinking you don’t feed your child bread and cheese that often. But what about bread and cheese look-alikes?

From what I see, most toddlers eat a steady stream of:

Toast, bagels with or without cream cheese, waffles, pancakes, muffins, cereal, grilled cheese, crackers with cheese, crackers without cheese, crackers that claim to have cheese, plain pasta, pasta with cheese, quesadillas, pizza, cheese sticks, string cheese…

Not exactly the chef’s special, and all versions of bread and cheese. Read Pizza. Pizza. Pizza. and The Variety Masquerade.

Chefs know that eating is a matter of math.

Chefs also know that when parents eat different foods than they feed their kids, children learn they should eat differently than their parents. Read Mind Over Matter

What your kids think they should eat is what they’ll want to eat.

Not should in the broccoli way—you should eat this—but should in the “child-friendly” way—you should want to eat this because this is what kids eat. You can change all that.

Chef Suzanne Goin caters to her kids’ taste buds and to their expectations to “sell” them new stuff.

[M]y kids LOVE Asian food so I use those flavors especially when serving something new or that I think they might not love (or that they think they don’t love.)

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~