Like beauty, taste can be in the eye of the beholder. What
tastes scrumptious to you may taste "yucky" to your child. Sadly,
if the food you serve does not taste good, your family may not eat
it, regardless of its nutritional content or how long you slaved in
"Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right" is this year's National
Nutrition Month theme. NNM is a nutrition education and information
campaign created every March by the Academy of Nutrition and
Dietetics, headquartered in downtown Chicago.
Consumer research confirms that taste tops nutrition as the main
reason why one food is purchased over another. While social,
emotional and health factors also play a role, the foods people
enjoy are likely the ones they eat most.
As parents around the world know, children love sweet-tasting
foods. Research conducted by the Monell Center indicates this
heightened likeness for sweetness has a biological basis and is
related to children's high growth rate. This preference declines as
kids' physical growth slows.
Other research findings indicate most kids are sensitive to
bitter flavors, such as those found in broccoli and other
vegetables. Yet it is possible to get kids to enjoy them.
"There is a lot of psychology involved with healthy eating and
there is a decent amount of evidence that tells us taste buds are
adaptable," says Angela Lemond, RDN, a board certified specialist
in pediatric nutrition and spokesperson for the Academy of
Nutrition and Dietetics. "A lot of parents are all-or-nothing about
healthy eating. Kids have high-energy needs, so it's OK to put a
little ranch dressing or cheese on top of vegetables or salad" to
improve their taste.
You've probably read this before, but it's worth repeating. The
process of a young child learning to enjoy a food can be long and
tedious, but it's worth the time and effort. Three- to 5-year-olds
need up to 15 exposures to accept a new food.
Lemond is a big fan of avoiding so-called kid food by serving
tots age-appropriate portions of regular grown-up food. If you just
make adult food "the norm," most children will accept it, she
Christine M. Palumbo, RD, is a nutritionist living in Naperville.
See more of Christine's stories here.
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