No loving parent sets out to make a child unhealthy or fat. So why are some 18% of American children aged 6 to 11 now obese, with many more overweight? Why are pediatricians seeing rising numbers of children who eat no vegetables at all?
We often blame the food industry for the terrible diet that many kids eat—who could resist those high-sugar concoctions in cute packages? But there is no intrinsic reason for children to prefer junk food to home-cooked lunches. Any child can enjoy a balanced diet. Our basic mistake is treating meals as occasions for getting a child quickly fed, rather than opportunities for learning how to eat.
As omnivores, children aren’t born knowing what or how to eat. Each of us learns that for ourselves, and the science shows that children’s food preferences are surprisingly malleable. We start life drinking milk, but after that, it’s all up for grabs.