Food Of The Growing Child
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
IT may be taken for granted that every mother intends conscientiously to give her children wholesome food, but unluckily, we are not all of us certain today just what wholesome food is. The discussions on food questions fill our daily papers, and books are written on vegetarianism, Fletcherism, and all the other "isms" till often we are bewildered. And yet there are some guides to help us. One of these is the certainty that plain food is decidedly more wholesome for children than that which is rich; another is that fruit, ripe, fresh or cooked, must also be good; and a third is that no one child needs exactly what every other child needs.
It is practically impossible that an entire family should have the same bill of fare, for what is wholesome for one adult may not be for another, and what an adult may eat with safety the stomach of a child cannot digest. This on the face of it complicates the housekeeping problem at once. But it pays to put one's best thought to the matter, and so plan out meals that the children shall have a generous, substantial diet which will not grow monotonous day after day, but will be always appetizing and nourishing.
Some things children are sure to thrive on: milk soups, boiled rice, soft-boiled eggs, whole-wheat bread, baked apples, custards, and stewed fruits; and these may serve as a sort of starting place. In addition to them there may be well-cooked cereals; some of them, oatmeal, particularly, strained of its tiny sharp points by passing it through a cheesecloth; others served as they are, but all cooked for a long time, never served after being simply warmed, or cooked only twenty minutes.
Breakfast Dishes for Children.-These, with cream or milk, make a good beginning for a breakfast. When they pall on the appetite, stewed figs or dates may be added for a change, or scraped maple sugar given for a treat, though sugar on cereals as a rule must be denied.
Eggs may follow the cereal, and a hot drink in winter, cocoa, or milk, or some simple cereal coffee, but never real coffee or tea till after the child has passed into adult life. Toast, or some-times corn-meal mush, lightly fried may also be given, but not griddle cakes or other hot bread, unless sparingly, once in a while. As to meat, broiled bacon is an excellent breakfast dish for children, but meat in general is better left off the bill of fare. With the cereal, eggs, and fresh cooked fruit, it will not be necessary.
Luncheon and Dinner.-For the noon meal, the old plan was always to give a hearty dinner. Nowadays it is considered doubtful whether this is the best plan. Where a child comes in from school and eats hurriedly, the meat and vegetables and pudding are tolerably sure to be swallowed too hastily for proper digestion. It is usually better to give something simple and very nourishing, and reserve the heavier things for another hour.
Strong meat soups with vegetables, split-pea puree, or corn soup made with rich milk, with baked potatoes, or rice, and perhaps a custard pudding, or fruit, will usually form a good luncheon for a child. Then, if he. can have a hot meal at night, a broiled chop, or a bit of steak, or roast, chewed slowly, with simple vegetables and a plain pudding or more fruit again, this will be better for him to sleep on than the old-fashioned supper of bread and milk, which for the growing boy or girl is not enough. Of course heavy puddings or pies must not be given at night, or large slices of roasts with gravy, and richly made dishes; but a plain hot meal is better than a cold one for any child, provided he is sturdy, and old enough to have such things properly.
The normal child will of course wish for sweets, and he must have them; if they are denied him at home the craving will induce his accepting them elsewhere, and probably in large quantities at times. He should have good, simple candy after a meal rather often; molasses bars, marshmallows, simple sweet chocolate and peanut brittle will not hurt him at the proper time and in a moderate quantity.
The School Luncheon.-It is a pity that children need ever take luncheon to school, for too often the sandwiches and cake and other things are not at all what they really need. When this cannot be avoided, the mother must make a study of possibilities, and try to give as nourishing food as possible. Whole wheat is better than white bread, but both may be used rather than one. Rich cake should be avoided, but ginger-snaps and sugar-cakes and little spice-cakes can take their place. Sometimes a bottle of milk will be accepted, or a bottle of cocoa may be put in to be heated at school. Fruit may always be added to the other things, and a delightful surprise in the shape of a half-dozen candies will help the rest of the food go down. There is nothing more wearisome than putting up school luncheons, unless it is eating them; but when the inevitable has to be met, it is wise to deal with it as intelligently as possible.
Adapting the Diet to the Child.-Special children need special food, and one of the things a mother has to study is just what each child ought to have in its dietary. One child may be anemic, and this one must have milk and beef juice and the vegetables containing iron; another may be nervous, and need food containing phosphates; a third may have a tendency to tuberculosis, and he needs fatty foods,-cream and butter and oil. One may have poor teeth, and he must have foods with lime in them, and one may have nervous dyspepsia, and he must have things very easily assimilated. Of course such trouble ought not to be; yet there they are at times, and the facts must be met and dealt with. The reward for the mother's care in this respect is sure to come in after years, for with watchful feeding she can and will give all her children good, sound stomachs, and properly nourished bodies.
A lack of variety in a child's diet is a fatal fault, for the best of foods becomes distasteful and fails to nourish if it appears too often on the table. A monotonous diet is really in the long run as bad as one that is unwholesome in itself. There must be constant change in the menus prepared for the family or else the hungry child will eat things between meals which are bad for him, or bolt the food on the table merely to get rid of it as quickly as possible.
Curiously enough, the stomach fails to increase in strength if it is given simple food alone, when it has grown beyond that. A growing boy, fed only soft cereals and boiled eggs and custards, will in time develop dyspepsia, because he needs something better suited to him. After five years at least, hearty food is demanded; meats, vegetables and plain desserts must be added to the simple things, and if all is masticated properly it will be digested. Naturally in any family there will often be food on the table which the growing child must not have. Sometimes the denial may be only in part, and the mother may say, " We will save you some for to-morrow"; but sometimes the "no" must be final, and then the child must learn to give up cheerfully, be-cause he believes that as he grows older, he, too, may have what the rest have.
Admonition as to Table Manners.-There should be just a word as to table manners. Rudeness even in a little child should never be countenanced, and though one may not be deft and tidy in early childhood, yet with care, even a small child may learn to be quiet and dainty at the table. Constant correction is decidedly unpleasant all around, but if one has to take a meal or two in the nursery because he has not behaved well at the general table for a day, an improvement will date from that moment. Certainly nothing can be more unpardonable than careless table manners as one grows out of childhood, and the conscientious mother must not fail to train her children, while they are still small enough to learn, that courtesy to others demands that they should observe the proprieties from the very first.