In the U.S., there’s a belief that if your kids are going to eat anything, it has to consist of “kid-friendly” foods.

Foods like chicken fingers, pizza and macaroni and cheese.

Kids foods are heavily marketed to parents of picky eaters who are desperate to get their kids to eat dinner—at the tune of $1.79 billion a year, a 2012 report by the Federal Trade Commission found.

Brands use favorite cartoon characters, celebrities, toy giveaways, and make pouches, snack packs, cereal boxes, juice boxes and frozen meals that attract kids and make parents’ lives easier.

The truth is that kids can eat what the rest of the family does—they don’t need kid-friendly foods. Here are 5 reasons to consider.

 

1. Kid-Friendly Foods Promote Picky Eating

If your kid has only a small stable of foods that he eats over and over again, he won’t have the opportunity to eat real, healthy, nutritious food or form his own food preferences.

Maybe he actually likes cucumbers, but if you tell yourself the only thing he’ll eat is PB&J, you’ll never know—and nor will he.

When kids eat kid-friendly foods, it fosters a belief that there’s something special or unique about the way they eat. But picky eating isn’t Celiac disease or a nut allergy. For most kids, it’s a behavior and a choice.

If you continue to serve kid-friendly foods because you think that’s the only thing your kid will eat, that’s exactly what will happen.

2. Kid-Friendly Foods Lack Nutrition

You might think feeding kids food is the only way to ensure your kid will eat something, but what’s the point if what he’s eating is highly processed and lacks the nutrition he needs to grow, develop and reach his milestones?

Most kids’ foods lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber and are high in sugar, sodium and artificial ingredients and preservatives.

That organic macaroni and cheese says it’s “made with real cheese” but cheese in a powder form is anything but real.

3. You Shouldn’t Be a Short-Order Cook

According to a 2017 survey by Uber Eats, to appease their kids, 36 percent of parents order food delivery from multiple restaurants and 54 percent sometimes cook multiple meals.

With all that you have to do in a given day, it’s hard enough to get a healthy dinner on the table. So to expect yourself to make an entirely different meal for your picky eater is not only unrealistic and time consuming, but from a parenting perspective, it’s not a good habit to get into.

Don’t get me wrong: when my daughter was a baby, there were times when I gave her a different food if she snubbed what was on her plate. I knew however, that I had better get out of that habit or it would create a bigger problem as she got older.

Giving in teaches kids that you’ll bend when they don’t like what you made for dinner and that behavior breeds a brat.

4. Kid-Friendly Foods Create Anxiety

My husband and I never have to think twice about what our kids will eat when we’re at someone else’s house because our kids eat anything.

It’s a different story however, when we’re the ones who have family and friends over. My husband will always make a meal with several, healthy and delicious options, but he also buys a box of pasta in case the kids refuse to eat what’s being served.

If your kid only eats kid-friendly foods, then you have three choices:

1. Bring something for your child to eat (see #2)

2. Rely on the host to make something else (see #2)

3. Cross your fingers and hope your kid takes a bite of something

When you take kid-friendly foods off the menu and serve kids what you eat, it becomes a lot easier to feed them when you’re at someone else’s home.

5. Kids Miss Opportunities To Eat Real Food

When you frequently serve kid-friendly foods, it fosters a belief and a habit that food comes out of a box, a bag or a pouch. Kids miss out on opportunities to enjoy food in its’ whole form and experience all the different flavors and textures only real food provides.

If you want your kids to eat healthy, they need to learn how to cook and how a meal comes together.

Take them to the farmers’ market and the grocery store and let them pick out a new fruit or vegetable to try. Let them help you in the kitchen, which can encourage them to taste and try new foods.

Serving up real food will help you raise little foodies who know what a real meal should look—and taste—like.