Here’s the thing. We love to find out about all things food. What people are eating, how are they eating it, what are they using to make it, how are they making it, who these people are making the great food, etc etc. You get the gist of it. We also like to find about the latest diet trends, celebrity food choices and so on.
Now there is a certain minority group who usually don’t easily get to decide what they eat. And that is kids! Most kids love food, and some of course can be notoriously picky eaters.
What kids eat, should eat, and don’t eat, might be one of the most chewed on topics of all time. Besides politics of course. Whole books have been written on the subject, research has been done, studies undertaken, and blogs published.
But, through all of this, what are kids actually eating all over the world?
With an ever growing variety available on food shelves, and a globalization of culture, what are parents feeding their children? Is it fast food, traditional foods, or the latest maca/seaweed/hemp powder in their smoothies?
We took a sampling of 20 countries and investigated what are some of the foods parents are feeding their kids. The results are pretty interesting. In some cases admirable, awe inspiring, or downright jealousy inducing (France!). In other cases unsurprising, and in some, hair raising!
Before we start, there is just one thing we want to clear up. If you are a parent, we get it. Feeding kids surrounded by good advice and fast food is tough. And we are not the judge and jury on what to feed kids. We like food, and kids, and want to know what are they chowing down on the regular, from Iceland to India, Egypt to Fiji.
20 South Africa
South Africa is a country of many cultures, nicknamed by the residents as the Rainbow Nation. Despite its diversity, there is one food which in particular is fed to kids. And that is pap. Pap is white maize meal porridge, and you pronounce the world the same way one says “pup”.
Pap is often given to kids as a breakfast porridge, or served as a starch with a tomato based stew, or along with boerewors, which roughly translates to ‘farmer’s sausage’. Boerewors is another favorite among kids in South Africa.
Kids in South Africa also eat a variety of other things, from cheese curls to chutney. Favorites include sago pudding, and deep fried dough twists.
Now kids from Iceland seem to have pretty developed palettes. They reportedly enjoy hardfiskur, which is, um, dried fish - basically, fish jerky. Then there is their other favorite, liver or blood sausage with oatmeal... for breakfast.
These kids also eat a lot of cooked fish. However this does not stop many of them from receiving a daily shot of cod liver oil to boost vitamin D levels.
Besides these decidedly ‘adult’ tastes, Icelandic kids also enjoy things like toast, rice puddings and pizza. Incidentally, pizza, or rather one’s choice of pizza toppings, is a hot topic up in Iceland. With the president declaring in 2017 that he wished he could pass a law to ban pineapple on pizza! Fortunately the constitution does not allow these types of laws to be passed, and in recent times he has taken a more moderate approach to the matter.
Japan has long been considered the country with the healthiest diet in town. But, according to new research, West African countries like Chad also have incredibly nutrient dense traditional diets. The traditional Chadian diet is high in lean meats, vegetables, legumes and staple starches, and children tend to eat what their parents eat. Chadians also consume a lot of millet, which has been trending in Western circles for some time thanks to its nutritional profile. Okra, cassava, leafy greens, tomatoes, fish and a variety of meats all feature heavily in Chadian family meals.
It has been said that only in Japan will you see young kids munching on eels and eating bitter greens and fish eyes with pleasure. Kids also eat a lot of rice, miso soup, natto (fermented soy beans), shredded raw fish, and of course sushi.
One gets the sneaky feeling that all of these eels, fermented beans and seaweed might have something to do with Japan ranking as the country with the healthiest kids in the world. Research says that kids in Japan can expect to live the longest, with minimal health issues.
Besides these incredibly healthy foods, kids in Japan also have their own range of Eastern packaged snacks. And we won’t lie, they look pretty tasty! Our favorite: teriyaki burger flavored sticks.
India is known for its incendiary foods. Curry capital of the world, most people in India can handle the heat, to levels unheard of in the rest of the world. Which begs the question, but what about babies? Do they also get fed eye-wateringly-hot food?
It turns out that the capacity to handle extremely spicy food, is not something one is born with. Not even if you are from India. Mothers typically start babies off on khichdi, which is a mushy rice-and-lentil-based dish (think a spicy, turmeric-yellow rice porridge), and the chili is sometimes left out initially and then slowly introduced by increments.
But at some point early on in childhood it would appear that most kids in India become as tolerant to curry and chili as their parents, partaking fully in family meals.
The Vegemite sandwich found world celebrity status ever since Men At Work released the song ‘Down Under’. And the Vegemite sandwich is still popular and eaten by Australian kids today. You could almost say that Australia is slightly obsessed with Vegemite. For the uninitiated, Vegemite is a yeast extract based bread spread, which is bitter, salty and black.
There is not that much info with regards to what kids in Australia eat, except some finger pointing stuff, such as research saying that only 5% eat their vegetables. But, we do know that they love meat pies. In fact, people of Australia love pies so much that they have a National Pie Day, which is basically a massive pie baking contest. Gotta hand it to them, a nation wide pie contest sounds pretty cool.
For decades, the stereotypical depiction of children from China joined them at the hip with a bowl of rice. While people in China do include rice in many meals, kids there eat a lot of other things too! Such as water spinach, bok choy, and lotus seed paste. They also happen to eat chicken feet on occasion, and jellyfish salad.
Children in China drink a lot of tea, perhaps more than kids anywhere else! They also enjoy a variety of fermented foods.
Breakfast often consists of rice porridge, topped with with pickled tofu, strings of dried meat or egg. Lunch may be noodles or rice with vegetables and some meat. Dinner is similar with a wider array of dishes.
In Greenland, the traditional diet for parents and children alike is comprised mainly out of game, birds, fish and marine mammals.
The national dish is called Greenland soup, and contains either seal, whale, reindeer, or seabird meat! Blubber is a much loved food among all, including the kids. Other hair raising delicacies that kids also partake in is fresh raw seal liver and stuffed intestines. Inuit people are also allowed to hunt and eat a certain amount of polar bear and the meat is much prized.
With changing times, while children do still eat these traditional foods, they also consume soda pop and processed foods, more so than the Greenland adults.
In contrast to Greenland, Egypt sits in the fertile Nile basin, and kids are fed a wide variety of foods.
For breakfast, children in Egypt may typically eat things like beans, bean cakes, eggs, pickles, cheese and jams. Lunch is the main meal in Egypt, and typically consists of meat, bread, vegetables and salads. Kids in Egypt also have access to a lot of fruit. Toasted nuts, dates and baklava are a favorite snack as well.
Some of Egypt's typical dishes are also surprisingly kid friendly. The national dish Koshari, is made of rice, macaroni noodles, and lentils all mixed together, topped with a tomato sauce. Another popular dish is macarona bel beshamel. This is a baked pasta and mince dish, topped with a sweetened bechamel sauce.
Breakfast foods for kids in Denmark are pretty standard, consisting of usually of cereals, porridge and/or bread. With one delicious exception. As in Croatia, kids in Denmark often eat chocolate in some form on their bread.
Rye bread and crackers are super popular in Denmark, and because of this many kids consume rye products. School lunches often consist of open faced rye bread or cracker sandwiches known as smørrebrød, topped with cold meat and other toppings.
The evening meal for kids in Denmark is often made up of dishes such as potatoes and gravy, meatballs, fish and meat roasts. Common vegetables in Denmark are beets, other root vegetables and cabbage. Some families also like to serve salad with the evening meal.
Armenia’s economic challenges means that not all children in Armenia are fed enough protein. This has led to widespread cases of anemia and malnutrition, with many children eating a diet consisting largely of potatoes, noodles and cabbage.
However, in households which can afford a variety of food, kids eat a range of things, such soups, lamb and mince dishes, rice, yogurt, kebabs and pastries. The people of Armenia have a mean arsenal of pastries, including favorites among kids such as gata and baklava.
The people of Armenia also have their own style of pizza, called "lahmajoun", which has mince meat spread over as a topping… and kids of course love it.
Croatia seems to be a land of breakfast extremes. On the one hand, a popular breakfast among kids is chocolate, in various forms, on toast. Or liver pate, on toast. Now that’s balance for you.
In regards to the other meals of the day, kids typically eat the same meals as their parents. People from Croatia enjoy a lot of classic dishes, usually involving meat, vegetables, and potatoes with soups and salads alongside. They also cook a lot of minestrone type stews. Croatia also makes a special vegetable pie called soparnik, which kids typically love. Dessert is usually cake, and a fried dough dessert called fritule is another popular sweet option.
Thanks to Brazil’s abundance of tropical/sub tropical produce, kids in Brazil enjoy quite a few super food type eats. One example is Brazil’s avocado based smoothie that kids enjoy, called vitamina de abacate. They also eat a lot of beans, either in stews or in the form of acaraje, a crunchy deep fried bean cake. Kids in Brazil also typically eat a variety of fruit and enjoy sugarcane juice.
To much controversy, parents in Brazil often give their kids coffee. On the sweets side, a favorite at birthday parties and kids events is the classic Brazilian desert, brigadeiro. Which are small balls of cocoa powder, butter and condensed milk covered in chocolate sprinkles.
There is another food kids from Brazil love, which kids around the world unanimously agree is awesome. Which is cheese bread. And we are not arguing with them.
Italy is famous for its food, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Italian kids are like little gourmets in the making.
To start off in life, babies are typically fed milled vegetables sprinkled with grated Parmesan. Now that is just classy. Breakfast time for older kids often consists of cookies and plain cake dunked in milk, as well as toast and cereal.
However where things really get gourmet is at lunch. Both private and public schools serve school lunches to kids, prepared from scratch, and in two courses. It typically consists of a pasta, soup or risotto starter, followed by a meat and salad or vegetable main, and fruit to finish things off.
However, kids from Italy also do not eat 100% healthfully. Thanks to a robust enjoyment of food, they also consume plenty of soft drinks and processed food.
Kids from Russia often start the day off with a porridge made from mixed grains called kasha, or bread with butter or ham, eggs, cottage cheese or cereal.
Lunch is taken pretty seriously by schools in Russia, with teachers checking that kids are displaying tiptop table manners while eating cooked meals made by the school.
Lunch and supper are similar to each other, both consisting of cooked foods. Meat, fish, potatoes, porridge, pasta, some vegetables, and soups and salads are common. Kids commonly eat the same things their parents eat and supper is a family affair.
Classics from Russia that kids eat include blinis, which are crepes topped with fish eggs, borscht, a beet soup, and pelmeni, which are dumplings filled with meat.
Food from Jamaica is typically spicy and not what the average kid might consider to be edible. Kids from there on the other hand often eat traditional dishes such hot and spicy goat curry. Another favorite is chicken foot soup, and a hugely popular dish is ackee (a local fruit) and salt fish.
Tamarind balls are another top favorite among kids, and they are made by combining the fruit of the tamarind tree with sugar. The result is a highly sweet and tart sticky ball, which kids go crazy for, despite the mouth puckering effect of the tamarind fruit!
Besides these more hardcore dishes, kids in Jamaica also eat things like sandwiches, pasta, and hot dogs.
There is a classic that most kids around the world would probably agree is delicious: that is Johnny cakes. These deep fried dough cakes, are a kids’ dream food, being plain flavored, chewy, and highly portable.
You may have heard the phrase “Kids from France eat everything”. Well, this is pretty much true. Born foodies, kids in France eat things even some adults may shy from, such as frog legs, blood sausages, steak tartare, snails and Roquefort cheese, often before they have even learned to read!
At the age of 3, children in France are due for kindergarten (so it's not like reading comes late in life to them!). Kindergartens and schools across the board serve a multi course meal for lunch to the children. By law, schools need to provide school children with a starter (vegetables, salad or soup) a main course, a side dish (vegetables or grains) a cheese course, raw or cooked fruit, a dessert and an afternoon snack.
Can I become a child and go to school in France please?
Thailand is another tropical country where food is often made to incredibly spicy standards. Thai food can be some of the hottest in the world, and it is hard to believe that kids can eat this stuff.
Thai parents take a similar approach to parents in India. Kids typically eat similar foods to adults, but in milder form. Over time this gets ramped up, until they join the ranks of the nation’s (green) chili heads.
Amidst all the curry, there are a couple mild, kid favorites foods, such as Khao Tom which is rice soup, and Joke, which is rice porridge. The Thais also make a lot of smoothies, another hit with kids. And mango sticky rice is a popular and kid approved Thai pudding.
Besides the traditional favorites, thanks to some government data, we also know that Thai kids enjoy their share of processed food and soft drinks as well.
Fiji sounds like a pretty decent place to live as a kid, especially when it comes to the food.
Breakfast often consists of bread, buns, or rotis spread with butter and jam. Mid morning and afternoon snacks are popular and usually take the form of custard or pineapple filled pies, or steamed puddings made from coconut cream and caramelized sugar.
For main meals the Fijians and their kids fill up on some very nutritious foods such as yams, cassava, dalo, stews, curries, and fish or chicken soups. They typically use lots of fresh vegetables, and consume a high amount of seafood in various forms.
Madagascar is melting pot of cuisines. Very many different cooking styles all come into play, and parents and kids eat tend to eat a wide variety of dishes. Popular foods include beef, turtle, pork, crab, shrimp, rice, sweet potato, and cassava and other fruits and vegetables.
At the same time, food shortages and malnutrition are rife in Madagascar. So while some children may eat varied foods, others don’t even meat their calorie needs.