Many parents complain about picky children that refuse to eat the food they prepare. This is an age-old problem; everyone knows that kids prefer chicken nuggets and french fries over tofu and quinoa. Certainly, kids will be kids, and raising a child will never be an “easy” task, but according to health experts, the idea of introducing new foods is worth the fight. As for adults, tastes literally change over the course of one’s life, making it logical that most people can learn to love new foods that they previously hated.
According to registered dietitian, Marianne Schnieder, people can learn to love new foods by taking just a few simple steps:
*Eat because of hunger, instead of because it’s just time to eat.
*Try “new” foods at restaurants, that way they are likely to be prepared in a way that brings out their optimal taste.
*Prepare allegedly undesirable food in several different ways. It is likely that one recipe will make said food taste acceptable. There is a big difference between soggy defrosted broccoli from the freezer section, and deliciously seasoned broccoli florets, baked to perfection. Many people develop a dislike for a particular food because as a child they were fed that food out of a can. But this is 2014, and there are so many options for preparing vegetables.
For those who have diligently tried to fall in love with asparagus, and have failed, it may be due to science. Okay, it may be due to a closed mind, but there is at least a small chance that it has to do with science. According to Elizabeth Phillips, vice president of Arizona State University, and a professional taste researcher, many factors create a person’s food preferences. Generally, babies are predisposed to enjoy things that taste sweet and dislike things that taste bitter. However, though some innate preferences may be built into the matter, much of what children learn to eat and enjoy has to do with the foods they are fed, not only in childhood, but in the womb. While occasionally children are flexible about opening up their minds and seeing if their tastes have changed, it can be difficult to get them to learn to love new foods that do not line up with the preferences they have had since being before born. Both children and adults are literally creatures of habit.
Phillips says that people do not just eat foods because they like them, but rather they like foods because they eat them. In other words, part of what makes person dislike a type of food is that it has never been introduced to them. A baby does not make a list of food preferences, but more or less accepts any food it is given until age two. At that point, anything introduced falls into the category of a “new” food, and often has to be rejected many times before the baby finds it to be passable.
While it may be too late for adults to go back to being a baby and learn to incorporate Brussels sprouts and salmon into their list of passable foods, adults can remember the second part of the equation; repetition breeds familiarity. Sometimes it takes many attempts at trying a type of food for its taste to become desirable.
And for those that remain picky well into adulthood? There is still hope, because taste buds change and diminish in the 40s and 50s, making it possible and likely for older adults to learn to love new foods. Perhaps this is why grandparents are always trying to get their grandchildren to eat those leafy greens; because they simply do not remember what they used to taste like!
By Bonnie Sludikoff