“My child would never eat plain yogurt!”

A lot of parents won’t give their children plain yogurt.  They think it won’t appeal to their kids’ taste buds.

If you had to guess, which taste bud – sweet, sour, bitter, salty or savory (umami) – would you say plays the most important role in determining whether or not your kids will eat plain yogurt?

You probably think sweet is the most important bud; it certainly gets the most use.  But the question is really a trick, because your children’s most important taste bud is the brain.

The brain controls the game. Try this exercise out.

1) Tell you child you’ve got a yummy new treat for her and plunk down a bowl of plain yogurt.

2) Give your child a bowl of plain yogurt and a bowl of brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup. Tell your kid to go wild.

Which strategy is most likely to succeed?

You don’t have to eat plain yogurt plain to reap the benefits.

Now you’re probably thinking that a kid will like anything she can cover in sugar.  But that’s the point.  You aren’t the only one who knows your child likes things coated with sugar.  Your child knows it too.

(The food manufacturers also know how much kids love sugar which is why they load their yogurts up with the stuff.  Read Yogurt vs. Coke.)

Your child knows she likes sugar.  She also knows she likes the idea of putting as much as she wants in her yogurt.  Put these two facts together and, presto, your kid will eat plain yogurt!

“But what about the sugar?” I hear you asking. “How can this concoction be a step above the sweet stuff they sell in the market?

Well, believe it or not, your child probably won’t put in as much sugar as you think.  But even if she does, there’s no need to panic: you can always reduce the sugar in time – after your child accepts the idea that she likes plain yogurt.

There are other advantages to doctoring up plain yogurt.

1) It teaches your child what yogurt really is.

2) It gives your child control (which is all she is probably after anyway).

3) Each time your child prepares her brew, it will be different (even if only slightly) and that provides variety. It is variety which opens the door to new foods. (Read How Brands Bite You in the Butt.)

4) Once your child will readily eat the yogurt – no matter the condition – you can start altering the add-ins and your child will still eat it because she knows she likes it.

Here’s how to move your child away from ultra sweet to more healthy:

  • Give your child a smaller spoon to shovel the sugar.
  • Put the sugar in a smaller bowl.  The psychology of portion size will kick in and your child will automatically spoon up a smaller scoop.
  • Give your child a few small bowls of add-ins. Put sugar in one of the bowls and other stuff like fruit, sprinkles, jelly in the others.
  • Put the yogurt on top of fruit instead of putting the fruit into the yogurt. This will make the yogurt flavor more dominant.

Read When the Less Nutritious Choice is Right.

Our kids’ brains set the stage for their taste experiences — that’s how they can declare they don’t like a dish before they’ve even sampled it.  Use this to your advantage.

By now you’ve probably figured out, this isn’t just about yogurt.

It applies to plain oatmeal (think of letting your kid adding brown sugar, cinnamon, raisins), broccoli (how about some parmesan cheese for sprinkling?) or any of the other real foods you’re sure your kids will reject.

Convince your kids’ brains that they’re going to like something, and chances are they will. 

~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~