Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Care and Feeding of Children

A couple of throw away comments recently set me thinking about the way our children eat compared to the way Tevye and I ate as children back in the 1960s.

A typical day for our children ...

  • Breakfast - some days grab as you go. Typically cereal for Tevye and I, toast or a breakfast bar for Angel, a glass of milk or fruit for Star (who isn't big on eating first thing in the morning), and a banana or cereal for Cherub. A couple of days a week I cook pancakes or hash browns and eggs.
  • Lunch - usually sandwiches followed by fruit or yoghurt for Cherub and I; packed lunch - again usually sandwiches, though occasionally cold pizza or pasta - for the older girls. A couple of days a week Angel buys lunch at school. She mainly chooses pasta or  a filled baguette. 
  • Dinner - hot, home-cooked meal, followed by fruit or ice cream
  • Snacks - the older girls take a snack (biscuits, crisps, cake or fruit bar) for morning break, then graze on whatever they can find when they get home from school. A couple of nights a week Star goes straight from school to a dance class and usually buys a portion of chip (fries) on the way. Random snacks for the rest of us.
A typical day from my childhood ...
  • Breakfast - cooked breakfast with cereal to start and toast on the side
  • Morning snack - biscuits or bun or crisps
  • Lunch - two course cooked school lunch, including hot dessert (sponge pudding, rice pudding, that sort of thing). At home during the holidays lunch was our main meal, and "tea" a lighter meal - egg and beans on toast, that sort of thing - but still with a dessert of some kind.
  • Tea - bread and butter with jam or peanut butter. 
  • Dinner - another two course cooked meal. 
Tevye took sandwiches to school, whereas I had a cooked lunch, but remembers always having three courses for dinner, even if it was only half a grapefruit for a starter and tinned fruit for dessert.

I thought I did quite well in (pretty much always) cooking a reasonably substantial meal from scratch every evening, but in comparison to the meals we had as children, most of our children's meals are slim pickings. The meals I ate included a lot more "fat" food - jam roly poly and custard, bacon and eggs, that sort of thing - but grazing between meals wasn't an option. Snacks were limited and regular, though not particularly healthy. Our children eat more raw fruit and vegetables, but compensate for that with more sweet snacks and a lot more junk food.

Which diet is best? Almost certainly the 1960s version, where meals were more substantial and mostly cooked from scratch from real ingredients. The "fat" food was still real food; junk was very limited; and more filling meals meant less snacking and grazing. I'm thinking I should be spending more time in the kitchen.


Pamela said...

That was a thought-provoking post!

Sarah said...

We don't have a big breakfast usually we either have toast or cereal. At weekend we might have an English breakfast, pancakes or egg on toast - depends how lazy I'm feeling, sometimes the girls get up early at weekend and make themselves very messy peanut butter sandwiches.

The girls have a school dinner during the week, which is a cooked meal* followed by dessert with fruit juice. They also have fruit-time and milk-time at school. They aren't allowed snacks at school. For me, I have soup, sandwich or something on toast for lunch.

*'cooked meal' - involves some very bizarre combos - pizza with mash and gravy, ham sandwich with mash and gravy. Yesterday when I picked them up from school Chatterbox was eating what looked like spaghetti hoops, rice and some kind of mince dish. They hardly ever choose vegetables at school, which annoys me, at home I put veggies on their plate and they will eat them. But that's the drawback of school you can't make those sort of decisions for them! :)

When they get home from school we have fruit-time again, a glass of fruit juice and a portion of fruit. Then they can have a small bowl of sweets, a chocolate bar or crisps.

For tea (evening meal) we have a cooked meal followed by either cake, biscuits or yogurt.

Supper for the girls is milkshake, or milk, and biscuits. For me n' hubs we have some snacks for our supper (not very healthy either!).

During the holidays though they've probably eaten their body weight in chocolate as they each had 5 selection boxes and a box of chocolate reindeers each. But they're both healthy and skinny-whippets so I guess it's ok.

This is a very long comment! I could have done a post on it.

Elizabeth@Frabjous Days said...

Food for thought, boom boom.

My eating has followed a similar path, although there was never cooked breakfast on offer in my house as a child.

I don't think I'd agree that the earlier diet was necessarily healthier, though -- lots of stuff to 'stick to your ribs' but people consumed more calories in the days before 2nd cars, automatic doors, labour saving devices, etc!

margaret said...

Yes, I’d forgotten all the puddings in the 60s and into the 70s. I think we had custard about three times a week at school and mum, even though she worked, was always producing pies and crumbles at home. Odd thing is even with all the jam roly-polys and custard and chips (I was about 12 before I realised that a salad was not corned beef, lettuce, tomato and chips!) we didn’t have obese kids. It’s amazing really, when you consider the chips, custard, full-fat milk, sugary squash, etc, that we weren’t all spherical but I suppose the big difference is that we got thrown out into the street to play and enough football, skipping and cycling will burn off bread & butter pudding and sitting around wiggling with a Wii doesn’t.

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