How many of you have kids that are ‘fussy eaters’. You spend hours every week lamenting the foods you’ve cooked that they just won’t try…….
I do! But if your house is like mine, most of the meals cooked are foods that WE (as the ever powerful parents) like. Not too many meals get served up in my house that require me to try a new food that I’m not comfortable with. And I certainly don’t ever serve myself a food that I ‘don’t like’ (although I have a lot shorter list of foods I don’t like than my kids do!).
But here’s what I’ve realised. I always ask my kids to retry foods that they previously haven’t liked in the hopes that their tastes will have developed since the last go, but how often do I do the same thing?
While we were on holidays we stopped in at the Big Banana, and as part of the plantation tour you are given a free banana to eat while you walk around. I don’t normally eat bananas (although I have always wanted to like them since they are so convenient!), but because I wanted my 14 year old to eat one, I told her that if she ate one I would also eat one (they were fairly small so I figured I could suffer through it!). But guess what…….. I actually didn’t mind it - so much so that I ate many more bananas on our travels.
I’ve had this kind of breakthrough with food before. Most notably in my mid 20′s with avocadoes, in my early 30′s with salmon and 2 years ago with prawns. Sure, there are some foods I’m just not prepared to give another chance to (yes yoghurt, I’m talking about you), but for other foods I’ve realised that just because I never used to like them doesn’t mean that will still be true.
Not convinced? Here’s some science to help my case.
Kids have more taste buds in their mouths than adults, meaning that their taste buds are much more sensitive, and foods that are quite mild in taste to an adult may be quite repugnant to a child. Taste buds decrease in quantity and density as we age which for many people means that foods that used to be offensive may now be enjoyable. It’s also believed that children have a natural dislike of bitter foods as it is nature’s way of ensuring they avoid ingesting potential toxins - which explains why so many kids hate many vegetables but grow to like them as they get older!
However the story doesn’t end with your taste buds. According to Marcia Pelchat (a sensory pshycologist from America) - “The big predictor of whether someone will like something like bitter melon isn’t their sensitivity to bitterness, it’s their exposure to it, their motivation, their interest". So repeatedly exposing kids (or adults!) to new foods is still a very important factor in helping to develop their food tastes.
Acquired aversions to food are also very common (like remember that time you had food poisoning after eating nachos and now you detest nachos?? That’s an acquired aversion!). It’s not actually that we find the food tastes bad, we’ve just learnt to associate it with an episode from our past that was traumatic. Acquired aversions can definitely be overcome!
So here’s the challenge. Pick a food that you never liked from your childhood (preferably one that you haven’t eaten in about 10 - 20 years), and give it another chance! OR try a food you’ve never tried at all!
I’d love to hear your success stories (but will also tolerate stories of failures!)
Naturopath and Nutritionist
The Natural Health and Wellness Clinic