Is there such a thing as “Kid Food?”

Other moms say, "drink your milk." I say, "drink your kale!"

Food marketers would like us to think that there is.   With all the kid frozen dinners, kid cereals, and kid snacks that are constantly being advertised, well-meaning parents might think that they need to make something special for their children to eat, apart from what the adults are eating.  But is there any need to do this?

In my opinion, the answer is one big, emphatic, no!  Kids will eat whatever they are familiar with.  If you want your kids to be familiar with healthy foods, you have to serve them on a regular basis!  Even if that means taking out the broccoli from the stir-fry for a baby who has just moved on to solid foods, that’s a start.  But for kids older than age 2, there’s absolutely no reason why they can’t be eating that stir-fry, curry, or casserole, just like the adults are eating (minus any choking hazards.)

my 2 year old, as a baby, chowing down on some broccoli.

It’s true that small children have more sensitive taste buds than adults, and may find some foods to be too strongly flavored for their liking.  But goodness, I feel that we as a society don’t give kids nearly enough credit!  We stack the odds against them – assuming that they won’t like what we are eating, and making them something “kid-friendly” instead.  And in doing so we only reinforce the idea that what we’re eating isn’t suitable for kids – not only in our minds, but in theirs.  Anytime we refuse to serve them a healthy dish that we are eating, we are depriving them of the opportunity to acquire a taste for that food.

I would love to get the term “kid food” out of our collective vocabulary!  There is nothing unique about a child’s makeup that requires them to have pizza, hot dogs, burgers, mac and cheese, and chicken nuggets for the majority of their meals.  (If only US school systems would catch on…)  Kids can even learn to like spicy foods!  My 2 year old can go to town on the chips and salsa at a Mexican restaurant — we’ve started letting him have his own little bowl of salsa because nobody wants to share his germs and he tries to double-dip his chips!

Just for fun, I thought I would list out some of the less “kid-friendly” foods that are favorites for my three kids.

8 year old son:

  • steel-cut oatmeal
  • lentil soup
  • beets
  • sunflower seeds
  • raisin bran
  • crunchy natural peanut butter
  • raw walnuts
  • hummus
  • green salad
  • mashed sweet potatoes
  • tofu
  • green smoothies

6 year old son

  • split pea soup
  • green smoothies
  • spoon-sized shredded wheat (plain, not frosted)
  • pistachios
  • celery
  • red and yellow bell peppers
  • tofu
  • kalamata olives

2 year old son:

  • sauteed mushrooms with garlic
  • sauteed leafy greens (kale, collards, spinach, etc)
  • hummus
  • guacamole
  • tofu
  • salsa
  • green smoothies

I didn’t list any fruit because I figure most kids love fruit.  What’s not to like about fruit?  My kids get excited about summertime farmer’s markets when they can enjoy a perfectly ripe donut peach, or some fresh raspberries.   Please, let’s not bombard our childrens’ palates with so many sugary sweets that they don’t enjoy the natural delightfulness of fresh fruit!

What do YOUR kids love that is not considered “kid food?”

12 comments Add yours
  1. So glad you wrote about this, Bekah! Everything you said makes perfect sense, and as an eye-witness, I can vouch for your kids’ eating habits. Thanks for a great post!

  2. Hi Rebekah! I recently took over as Editor of Chic Vegan ( and am interested in talking to you about writing a monthly column for our site. Please e-mail me gretchen (at) chicvegan (dot) com

  3. I agree with you so much – kids eat what tastes good and what’s around them the most. When I was 13 I would chow down on baked chili rellenos (seeds in) covered in a spicy spinach sauce. ^^ Most of my meals are “kid-centric” but they kind of intrigue everyone whose around.

    1. I definitely make my share of classic “kid-favorite” meals too, like my vegan mac and cheese – and the whole family enjoys it! Spicy spinach sauce sounds delicious!

  4. My 2 year old son loves veggie sushi – I think it’s the soy sauce, though 🙂 And he eats (at least tries) everything I make for dinners.
    My 5 year old daughter is loving toast with Earth Balance and sprinkled with Nutritional Yeast Flakes. Along the same lines: hot-air popped corn with the same above toppings.
    They both love curried lentil soup.
    Also: hummus, refried beans, PB&J’s…etc.
    As babies I always ground up my own oats to make their creamy oatmeal porridge and they were always served our meals, pureed.
    As a packaged product, they love Larabars.
    The only thing I like about certain kid products is the serving size. For example, I buy the Clif Z protein bars b/c they are small – I prefer them over the adult-versions.
    And they love just about all the items you listed above!

    1. Hooray for your healthy kiddos! Larabars are so great, they are one of my favorites. I totally forgot to mention hummus as one of my kids’ favorite foods, too. My 2 year old will eat it with a spoon! 🙂

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