What do you think would happen if you offered your child a vegetable she disliked – let’s say red pepper — everyday for 14 days?
- Would she refuse to taste it?
- Would she end up hating it even more?
- Or do you think she would end up liking it?
That’s exactly what some scientists in England wanted to find out. They had a bunch of parents ask their 2-6 year-olds to taste a vegetable they disliked for 14 consecutive days.
Guess what? By the end of the time period, the kids showed a significant increase in
- how much they liked the vegetable.
- how they ranked the vegetable compared to other vegetables.
- how much of the vegetable they were willing to consume.
The parents reported even more good news:
- The experience of tasting, rating and ranking the vegetables had been fun for the kids (not torture, like you probably expected).
- The experiment had increased their children’s willingness to try other foods
Pretty amazing, right? I bet you want to know how they did it.
- The kids were asked to participate in a tasting game.
- The kids were asked to taste a vegetable they disliked, but which they didn’t hate.
- Parents were instructed to offer their child a very small taste. The children were not expected to consume a full portion.
- Parents were given pointers on how to encourage tastings. For instance,
- Parents were told to try the food themselves and then to say, “Now I’ve done it, can you do it too?”
- Parents were coached to say, “You don’t have to eat it, just taste it.”
- The children used small face stickers – signifying like, OK and dislike — to record their assessment of the vegetable after each tasting.
Unfortunately, the parents reported some bad news: many of them thought the exposure period was way too long – 29% of the parents dropped out before the end of the 14 days.
So there you have it. Changing your child’s taste buds is all about exposure. If you can stand to do it.
- Your children cannot eat what they are not exposed to (a truth that is easy to overlook).
- Many children won’t even try something until they have been exposed to it multiple times, maybe even as many as 10-15 times.
- Exposure can actually change what foods your kids like.
Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.
Source: Wardle, J., L. J. Cooke, E. L. Gibson, M. Sapochnik, A. Sheiham, and M. Lawson. 2003. “Increasing Children’s Acceptance of Vegetables; a Randomized Trial of Parent-Led Exposure.” Appetite 40: 155-62.