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.