In the childhood-nutrition world, tongues are wagging about a new survey showing that the West Virginia kids that celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is cooking for in his new show actually prefer their old standards rather than the healthy new fare he is offering. This result is bringing out all kinds of cynics and gloaters, with the main theme of comments being, “What do you expect, if you give kids a choice?”
That line of thinking seems like it’s a little unfair to kids, and we’ll use one of our much-maligned favorites – pizza – as an example. Will kids choose pizza instead of grilled salmon and wild rice served on a bed of spinach? Yes, of course. But will they choose the cafeteria’s piece of cardboard with some ketchup and white leather on top instead of the Jolly Tomato’s homemade whole-wheat pizza dough grilled with fresh peppers, onions, and olives? No. In fact, calling both of those items “pizza” is a slap in the face to our amazing grilled creation, which the junior Tomatoes will devour without hesitation. We’re proud of our pizza, and we hate to see it lumped into the category of junk food.
Still not convinced? How about this one: If given a choice, do you think kids would choose Oscar Mayer Lunchables Mini Tacos (which is on Time Magazine’s list of “Nine Kid Foods to Avoid“), or the make-your-own tacos from our kitchen with fresh cheese and lettuce and tomatoes that they can put on themselves?
Yes, it’s true that kids will gravitate toward the simple and familiar. But if you give them a version of something that’s better than what they expect, they’ll undoubtedly choose the superior version. We need to give them a little more credit for making good food choices. And we need to avoid labeling a food “bad” (pizza or tacos) when there are so many possible versions that are healthier and tastier than some of what’s offered in today’s cafeterias. There’s plenty of room for improvement in what we serve to kids, and kids will almost always make the right choice if it truly tastes good.