Experts will tell you that if you want to raise a kid who eats just about everything, you should feed them what you eat — assuming you’re eating a varied, healthy diet. It’s what most cultures have done for most of human history.
But today’s culture sends parents a very different message. Kids menus full of so-called “kid foods” like chicken nuggets, pizza and french fries are everywhere. There’s good reason why salty, sweet and fatty foods appeal to kids: It’s basic biology.
“They’re born preferring salty and sweet, and if those tastes are in foods, most kids are going to be very attracted to them,” says Leann Birch, a research psychologist with the University of Georgia. Birch has spent more than four decades researching why kids eat what they eat. She says parents should expect their kids to reject new foods at first.
“That’s really just an inbuilt response to something that’s new,” Birch says. It’s called neophobia. But if you expose kids enough times to different flavors — including sour, bitter and even spicy ones, but don’t force it – “they typically will learn to eat a lot of new things.”
Some people recommend sprinkling a bit of sugar, salt or butter to help kids accept new foods. Birch says that works, but “it can come back to bite you” because, as her research has found, kids might end up only liking the food that way. Using dips can also encourage kids to explore vegetables, she says – “you know, nobody’s afraid of something with ranch dressing on it.”
This article has been written by Maria Godoy and first appeared in ‘npr’.
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