Israel, Brazil, Turkey, Korea
Israeli toddlers are typically served one of three kinds of sandwiches for lunch: olive and butter (pitted olives between two slices of buttered bread), salted cottage cheese, and chocolate spread (a popular Israeli brand is Hashahar Ha'ole, "Rising Dawn," which looks and tastes like Nutella). The sandwiches (usually on white bread) are served with yogurt, a piece of fruit, and orange juice, apricot juice, or chocolate milk.
Other Favorites: Israeli salad made from diced cucumbers, carrots, celery, onion, peppers, olives, and parsley, tossed with olive oil and lemon juice. (No leafy greens found in this salad!)
Sweet Tooth Satisfiers: The ever popular ice cream, chocolates, and Bamba, a puffy peanut butter snack.
A tropical climate and an abundance of fresh fruit contribute to healthy meals for toddlers in Brazil, where "frying is a no-no," according to one parent. Instead, most dishes are stewed. A typical meal is rice and beans with some protein (ground beef, chicken, fish, or pork), and a vegetable (potato, broccoli, spinach, peas, or carrots).
Other Favorites: Beans (feij?o) of many types and colors (black, red, white), Coxinha (chicken croquette), p?o de queijo (cheese bread), pasta with tomato sauce, and cheese and crackers.
Sweet Tooth Satisfiers: Tropical fruits (papaya, mango, guava, kiwi, fig, passion fruit, and a half-dozen varieties of banana) and juices made from "real fruits, not bottles or concentrates," according to one Brazilian. Indeed, roadside juice bars are a common scene throughout the country. More traditional desserts include ice cream and gel?ia de mocot? (a calcium-rich pudding).
Turkish toddlers receive a tremendous amount of nutrients in a popular lunchtime dish called sebze yemeg (vegetable casserole) or t?rl? (translated: "a variety"). The vegetables are usually whatever is in season: Celery, peas, green beans, spinach, artichokes, and zucchini are popular options. Additions may include white or brown rice, bulgur (cracked wheat), red lentils, minced chicken, lamb, or beef. The lunch is rounded off with a salad (of tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers) and rice (if it's not already included in the stew). Yogurt accompanies most dishes.
Other Favorites: Bread (French or baguettes) with every meal, mini shish kebabs, grape leaves, kashar cheese (similar to sharp Cheddar), pureed spinach.
Sweet Tooth Satisfiers: Homemade cakes and puddings; Turkish Delight, a confection flavored with rosewater, similar in consistency to a gummy bear, covered with powdered sugar.
Fun Food Fact
In the C.S. Lewis novel The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Turkish Delight was the entrancing sweet that led Edmund to betray his siblings. He's not alone in his passion: Napoleon, Churchill, and Picasso also fancied the sugary confection.
Korean food, in general, is defined by bold and spicy flavors. One way toddlers learn to handle the heat, is by eating lots and lots of kimchi, a pickled vegetable dish containing generous amounts of chili powder. Chinese cabbage, radish, garlic, onions, and sometimes seafood are other popular ingredients in this quintessential Korean dish. Another staple, kim bab, consists of rice and small portions of vegetables wrapped in nori (seaweed sheets). It's similar to the Japanese maki roll, but with the exception of the distinct smell of sesame oil, and these popular fillers: spinach, eggs, cucumber, and kimchi.
Other Favorites: Bibimbab is white rice topped with beef, vegetables, and a fried egg -- and lots of chili pepper sauce. Nongshim is a brand of spicy Korean ramen noodles, usually cooked with eggs and onions.
Sweet Tooth Satisfiers: "There is more junk food in Korea than in America," laments one parent. Koreans eat a wide variety of candy and ice cream. Melon bars made from honeydew, and Popsicles are also popular.
Tanveer Badal is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, December 2005.
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