Feeding Your Toddler: Junk Food Woes

K. Emily Bond

bag of gusanitos
Photo by K. Emily Bond
It might have just been a case of "when in Spain" feed him what every other kid is eating, but when my 16-month-old son returned home clutching a bag Gusanitos, I nearly choked on my yerba mate.

Before I continue, I should mention that at the time I was in the middle of one of my cleanses (abstaining from coffee, sugar, salt ... basically everything on the menu) and feeling rather self-righteous about my dietary fortitude. Yerba mate, with its medicinal hit of mateine (not caffeine), was my one indulgence.

Anyway, back to the Gusanitos.

When my son toddled in victoriously chomping on a handful of salty, possibly fried, mysteriously buoyant corn puffs, I had to ask his babysitter, "¿Qué es eso?"

"No paso nada," she assured me, all the kids eat Gusanitos.

It's true. I've seen a lot of children here in Seville eating Gusanitos. And galletas, cookies. And torrijas, deep-fried bread coated in sugar. And sometimes even churros con chocolate, another fried bread variant that you can dip in chocolate, si te gusta.

Instead of launching into a tirade about juvenile type 2 diabetes and childhood obesity, I abstained (I'd had lots of practice after 10 days of no coffee). I swapped the bag of Gusanitos in my son's hand for a pear and now any time he ventures out into the calles with his babysitter, my husband and I are sure to load her up with strawberries, bananas, rice cakes, oatmeal, and organic goat's milk yogurt.

She thinks our taste in food is utterly foreign and weird -- my homemade spelt muffins, fruity crepes, five-grain rice balls. But I think it's utterly strange to feed children, especially toddlers, some of the stuff I see them eating.

Maybe I'm just being too precious, as Jennifer Garner put it when asked about her habit of making her own baby food from scratch, which (uh hum) I did as well. Or, so I briefly thought, it was a case of culture shock, recent transplants to Spain that we are. But this is, of course, a worldwide phenomenon.

I'm curious, in your corner of the globe, what kind of shocking foods do you see people feeding their toddlers? Juicer still, what's the most outrageous food someone else has offered to yours?

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