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Kids Can't Like Food They Haven't Tasted

Kids can't like what they haven't tasted. And kids can't taste foods they haven't been offered.

Pretty obvious, right?

A new study, published in the journal Appetite, shows that parents don't expose their children to foods the parents themselves don't like.

This might not be a news flash to you, but it's an idea worth keeping in mind.

Personally, I had a hard time letting my husband give my daughter blue cheese. Yuk!

And a woman in one of my workshops once looked like she was going to be sick when I suggested that she use cottage cheese as a backup.  

(If you don't know about backups read How Cottage Cheese Changed My Life.) Never mind that this technique might have revolutionized her daugther's eating.

The authors of the study conclude that when mothers let the foods they like influence what they offer their children, these parents can make the problem of picky eating worse.

Limiting the number of foods you expose your kids to may reduce acceptance of those foods in the long-term. It affects what researchers call flavor learning.

"To promote variety in children's diets, parents should be encouraged to model healthy dietary behaviors by actively introducing new and previously disliked foods to their own and their child's diet, even if they themselves do not like these foods." (Emphasis is mine.)

Below I list the vegetables included in the study. 

  1. 60% of the kids hadn't tried Brussels Sprouts
  2. 47% of the kids hadn't tried Eggplant
  3. 32% of the kids hadn't tried Cabbage

How many of the following vegetables do you dislike? How many have you offered to your kids?

  • Green Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet Potato
  • Corn
  • Green Peas
  • Potato
  • Zucchini
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Lettuce (and other salad leaves)
  • Celery
  • Tomato
  • Cucumber
  • Avocado
  • Mushrooms
  • Capsicum
  • Egglplant

What kids eat is determined by what they like. What they like is determined by their early feeding experiences.

And successful early feeding experiences are shaped by variety in taste and texture. Read Early Vegetable Variety:The French Advantage.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Source: Howard, A. J., K. M. Mallan, R. Byrne, A. Magarey, and L. A. Daniels. 2012. “Toddlers' Food Preferences. The Impact of Novel Food Exposure, Maternal Preferences and Food Neophobia.” Appetite 59: 818-25. 

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Reader Comments (7)

Ha! I actually loved Brussels sprouts as a kid. My husband detests them. We got some in our CSA and I cooked them up. Not one of us enjoyed them, but we all had a taste, and then I told the kids we would wait awhile before attempting them again another way.

It reiterated the "try them each time" mentality and emphasized that even grown ups need to taste and be polite "because you CAN'T know if you don't like something until you try it" and every time is different.

We actually are now on an eggplant lasagna kick because my 4 year old boy thought that they were so beautiful at the market. I'm glad I tried a new recipe. He was a little annoyed the gorgeous skin came off, but eats it up, since he chose it.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

Oh yeah. One word: sardines. They kind of gross everyone else out, but she loves them, so they're on the menu here pretty often. (Introduced them when looking for a source of fish in the diet less mercury-laden than tuna. Sardines are perfect).I also revisited Brussels sprouts and beets for her sake. The sprouts were a winner (roast 'em, Nicole!)-- beets we both agree about. :P. Now if I can just persuade her grandpa to stop exclaiming, "broccoli, yuck!" in her presence....

November 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoanna W.

This is so true! I know there are a LOT of things I was never offered as a kid because my mom is picky. The other day, I was talking to my sister about an artichoke pasta dish and my mom said "Where did you two ever eat artichokes? Not at our house!" as though we wouldn't ever eat other things!

I had to stop myself from saying "yucky" to potato salad for my two year old at a Father's Day cookout this past summer.

November 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

Nicole: Every night when we eat salad my husband says, "You know, I never used to like salad." It makes my daughter crazy, but it also makes the point.

Joanna: I'm with you on the sardines. Try roasting the beets. They're delish.

Lauren: When I was a kid we lived in a house for a few years that had a mango tree in the front yard. It dropped hundreds of mangos on our driveway. My brothers and I never tasted them because my mother had told us they were gross. A few weeks before we moved I tasted one. (I don't know what prompted such rebellion!) It turns out I love mango. Still do.


November 12, 2012 | Registered CommenterDina Rose

In kindergarten we were exposed to a new food every week. I can clearly remember the sticker that I used to get if we tried the food. My closet was full of "I tried it and I liked it" stickers. I still love trying new foods to this date.
Thanks for the post

November 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterShane Kilburn

I have another experience with my daughter (granted, she's only 14 months so things may change): we've been buying vegetables that we didn't really use to eat often so we could vary what's on her plate, and in the same time I tried new recipes to see if i could change my opinion. I've never liked butternut squash, never would have bought it before (just eating it when at other people's house not to be rude), but found lovely ones lately so ended up cooking some roasted, in soup and in gratin. I still don't like it but she didn't seem to mind, so I wonder if i'll try the experience again. Brussels sprouts were one of my childhood nightmare, but i discovered that i actually quite like them now and will definitely buy some more often (although my partner hasn't dared to even try)

December 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterelaine


Good for you for trying new foods!! Modeling that you try foods you don't like is really important. And, don't be afraid to share that you don't like the food as much as you like other things. Modeling that you can't always eat your favorite foods is another important lesson kids need to learn.

Thanks for sharing your brave story!


December 7, 2012 | Registered CommenterDina Rose

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