The Look.  You know what I mean. Every parent has one.  And when used correctly it can stop a child dead in his tracks.

But we don’t just have one look, we have lots of them — some stop kids from doing stuff, others egg them on.

Expressions can be pretty powerful, especially when it comes to food and eating.  Parental emotions are one mechanism kids use to learn what foods to like or dislike, which ones to celebrate or disregard.

Ever wonder how things would change if parents reacted to green beans they way they react to chocolate cake? 

Imagine giving your kids the “chocolate cake look” (you know, the one where you become animated, your eyes light up and you show extreme pleasure) when you bring out the veggies!

Research shows that people decide what to eat based on how others react to those foods. 

  • Watching another person happily eat something will increase your desire to eat it too.
  • But if they eat something with displeasure, you won’t want to eat it either – even if you like it.

Your facial expressions don’t just tell your kids how the food will taste.  They shape their feelings too.

Researchers believe that people spontaneously mimic other people’s expressions and that this mimicry influences their emotions.  In other words, emotions are contagious.

But if you don’t LOVE something, you can’t fake it.

That’s why the simple statement, “Mmm, Mommy loves this salad,” doesn’t always work. Your kids respond to your emotions more than your words.

Kids don’t need the fanfare around dessert — they come hard-wired to enjoy it — and a little more celebration around veggies would help a lot.

Balance out your reactions to food and see that your kids do too.

Remember,  it’s not what you feed, but what you teach, that matters.

~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~


Sources: Rousset, S., P. Schlich, A. Chatonnier, L. Barthomeuf, and S. Droit-Volet. 2008. “Is the Desire to Eat Familiar and Unfamiliar Meat Products Influenced By the Emotions Expressed on Eaters’ Faces?” Appetite 50: 110-19; Barthomeuf, L., S. Rousset, and S. Droit-Volet. 2009. “Emotion and Food. Do the Emotions Expressed on Other People’s Faces Affect the Desire to Eat Liked an Disliked Food Products?” Appetite 52: 27-33