Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Nature Vs Nurture
A month or two ago I was thinking about Kid and Baby and the differences between their diets. They eat completely differently. Baby is a grazer who is interested in food 24 hours a day. Baby wanted solids at 4 months and ate her first Oreo off the floor at 6 months. She has a HUGE sweet tooth and one of her first words was "cookcook" (cookie).
In contrast Kid is a "Three Squares a Day" type eater. She hardly ever snacks and doesn't really even like snack food. She prefers savory to sweet and loves meat. I mean REALLY loves meat. She eats meat 3 x a day. It wasn't until the last two years that she started liking desserts at all... she'll eat them now... but she'll NEVER over eat them. She really will walk away from a half eaten piece of cake (she did not get that from Mr F or I!). To prove the point I just asked Kid "If you could have a giant piece of steak meat or a giant piece of cake which would you choose?" and she replied "steak meat".
So the first question is: Are these their natural food preferences or did I shape their taste preferences this way?
You see, like many of you out there, I've been a LOT more lax with Baby than I was with KId. Kid didn't have any sugar or desserts before she was three. That was a choice I made having read many times that what we are exposed to before age three does shape our lifelong tastes. I have to say that does seem to be true (so far). But it might also be true that Kid wasn't drawn to those tastes and so didn't ask for them. It's not like I set out to feed Baby Oreos before she had teeth... but she can't be denied... and I can't deny her. Is Baby a sweet tooth because I let her eat what she wants? Do I let her eat what she wants because she's the baby (YES)? Or is Baby hardwired to choose sweets over everything else?
Now let me say that my kids aren't small. They're not HUGE and I'm not worried about their weight. But they are not small kids who I ever had to worry about how much they are eating. They eat completely differently from each other and yet have pretty similar weights and heights for their ages. Kid was always big (she came out that way) and she has pretty much maintained those percentiles. Her BMI is at the high end of normal and her weight percentile is a little higher than her height. Baby is taller than she is heavy but not in a vastly different proportion. They eat well and gain well and always have. At one point Kid's Dr said Kid was in the "overweight" BMI and asked that we not go to McDonalds (yes same asshole Dr)... but at that time Kid was still breastfeeding and not eating anything but brown rice, broccoli, and chicken so it wasn't related to her food intake just where she was at in terms of growing and her body type.
But all this led me to think about my second question: How much are my kids eating?
I mean really. How many calories should kids of their age and size be eating from an overall metabolic standpoint and where do my kids fall in that range? I believe there are thin picky eaters out there who may very well eat more than Kid but just metabolize their food differently. I think there are thin picky eaters who eat less and require less. And while I believe there are some kids who are just not ever going to be thin...I also believe there are heavier kids who eat more than they need and are learning to fill up on food at an early age. What I think most of us don't know is how much they "should" be eating. Not that there is one exact answer. Not that I think we should limit what we give our kids based on an arbitrary number.... but I do think we should pay attention. I do think we should be informed and aware of what a healthy range is. Just as we should be aware of what healthy foods are.
So here is a link where you can find out what that range is.