Kraft Macaroni ‘n Cheese.  Annie’s Bunnies.  Stonyfield Yogurt.  We love our brands.

Brands are a godsend.  They make shopping and cooking a snap, especially after you’ve found products your kids will happily eat.

But for parents trying to teach their kids about new foods, the miracle of manufacturing — that food producers always turn out the exact same product (same taste, same texture, same look, same smell) — is also a curse.   

When brand names become an eating habit, kids won’t accept even small variations in the foods they eat.

Giving kids who are reluctant to try new foods a Skippy Peanut Butter sandwich every day – because that’s the brand they demand — is akin to parental suicide; it’s like begging your kids never to try anything new again.

The more your children expect blueberry yogurt to taste exactly like – and only like – the way Stonyfield makes their blueberry yogurt, the less open they are to foods that are different.

Does it matter if that’s how your kids relate to yogurt?  Not so much (although it might if they’re starving some afternoon and you find the local grocer is out of that kind of yogurt). But if you have children who only eat Tyson chicken nuggets, Polly-O cheese, and Eggo waffles, then the pattern of sameness is working against you.

See The Variety Masquerade for more on this.

If you hope that someday your children will try asparagus, salmon, or even a new kind of juice, you have to start by breaking the bonds your kids have to their beloved brands.

Work on getting your kids to eat orange and yellow cheese, to move beyond Skippy to Jif, and to embrace Keebler in addition to Nabisco.

If your children are attached to one brand of yogurt…

  • Buy different flavors of the same brand.
  • Buy different brands but stick to the same flavor.
  • Transfer the yogurt to an unmarked container (tell your kids the container broke) and then gradually change the flavor over time by adding more and more of a different brand of yogurt.
  • Make your own flavored yogurt by adding jam to plain yogurt.

And if your children are attached to a particular chicken nugget…

  • Cut the nugget into different shapes so it starts to look different. (Let your children see you do this so they believe you that it’s the same kind of chicken.)
  • Buy different shapes of the same chicken nugget brand.
  • Mix-in pieces of a different brand of chicken nugget.

How readily your kids accept new foods is a reflection of the foods they’re exposed to on a regular and repeated basis – or their habits.  So mix it up for maximum success.

~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~