It’s getting kids to eat what parents serve that causes so many problems.

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DINA ROSE, PhD is a sociologist, parent educator and feeding expert empowering parents to raise kids who eat right.

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Entries in Texture (10)


A Cool Way to Teach Toddlers to Taste New Foods

Have you ever done paired taste testings?

It's how the researchers who conducted the study that I discussed in my last post figured out that a preference for super-sweet and super-salty foods often go together. 

(If you missed that post read Are You Sweet, or Are You Salty?)

Give paired taste testings a try. Most kids will find it super cool.

Paired Taste Testings are Mini Contests

The "winner" of each round gets into the next round until there's only one food "standing." 

In the study:

  1. The kids were given two tastes of sugar water: one barely sweet, the other a little sweet.
  2. The preferred sample was put up against another sample of sugar water that was a little sweeter.
  3. The kids picked their preferred sample from this round. This "winner" was then put up against another, slightly sweeter, sample of sugar water.
  4. This went on until the child picked the same sample twice in a row.

Because the foods are presented with different concentrations of sweetness, the food that "wins" twice in a row is preferred over both a sweeter and a less sweet food.

The researchers also presented the foods on a second occasion in reverse order to make sure that the kids weren't always picking the first choice.

Make sense?

You can do something like this at home and it would be super cool. 

  1. Give your child two samples of the same kind of food: Let's use apples.
  2. Ask your child which apple she prefers.
  3. Put the favored apple up against a third kind of apple.
  4. Put the favored apple from the last "contest" up against another kind of apple.
  5. Keep going unti your child picks a favorite apple.

For more ideas on how to structure the tasting read: Unleash Your Toddler's Inner Food Critic

Remember, this is a TASTING exercise, not an EATING exercise.

Use very small tastes. Pea-sized. You do this kind of taste test with different kinds of pairs.

  • Carrots prepared in different ways.
  • Different textures (think mushy, crunchy, soupy)

You could even do completely different kinds of foods: crackers and mac 'n cheese, for instance.

Follow up the tasting with a conversation about what was tasted. But don't, I repeat DON'T, ask your kids if they want to eat whatever they've tasted.

For a list of questions you might ask your kids read Nix the Negativity.

Also read Two Hundred Tantalizing Terms to Move Beyond, "I Don't Like It!"

Don't take your child's taste preferences too seriously.

It will be tempting to find the food your child likes the most and then serve it over and over. That would be a mistake because it would constrict rather than expand your child's palate.

Also, children younger than 5 don't have stable taste preferences. So use this method as a way to increase your child's exposure to new foods and flavors rather than to discover what she tastes she prefers.

For more on this read Kid-Approved Meals.

I discuss all these ideas in It's Not About the Broccoli.


 ~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~


Tackling Tough Textures

The worst thing you can do if you have a texture-averse eater is avoid offensive textures. Instead, you need to teach your child to overcome her aversion.

It's counterintruitive, but avoidance locks in the problem. Exposure, on the other hand, helps eliminate it.

I'm not about to advocate that you plop a pile of texture on your child's plate and settle in for a control struggle. That would be crazy. And counterproductive.

However, rather than go out of your way to keep offending foods at bay...start teaching! Here's my five-point plan.

1) Talking is the first step in teaching.

Don't worry that acknowledging the problem will make it worse. It won't. Especially if you commiserate.  

2) State your goal clearly: I want to help you get used to eating foods with different textures.

Your child can't get onboard if he doesn't know where you're going. Being upfront with your feeding goals won't harden your child's resolve to resist you—and if it does, commiserate some more.

3) Teach about textures.

Talk about how different foods have different textures. And how foods change texture when you cook, soak, and chew them.

4) Start exploring different textures.

This is a sensory exercise so get all your child's senses involved. What do different textures look like? Smell like? Feel like, both to the touch and to the mouth?

Read Unleash Your Toddler's Inner Food Critic!

5) Introduce foods with small textural changes.

Take baby steps. And celebrate each small sucess.

I discuss all these ideas in It's Not About the Broccoli.

 ~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~


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.