WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Children who are repeatedly exposed to foods are more likely to enjoy those foods as adults, research shows. The implications of this finding can be beneficial for parents hoping to help their children establish life-long healthy eating habits.
WHAT THIS MEANS
Eating habits established in childhood help to set the stage for behavioral patterns later in life. Research shows that children who are forced to clean their plates and were either punished or rewarded with foods are more likely to be overweight.* On the flip side, healthy eating patterns can have lasting benefits and play an important role in maintaining an ideal weight.
Recently a group of college students were asked to recall childhood eating experiences. The students were asked how frequently they consumed certain foods as children. The researchers asked this question because they wanted to see if recalled frequency impacted how frequently the students consume these same foods. Would repeated exposure as children positively impact consumption as adults? Researchers also wanted to determine if positive memories of foods from childhood influenced how much the college students currently liked those foods. After all, parental encouragement significantly influences the development of children’s eating habits.
WHAT THE RESEARCH SHOWS
Students were given surveys and asked to indicate whether they ate certain foods by responding with, “I ate this frequently,” “I ate this rarely,” or “I never ate this.” The students were also asked questions about their parents’ attitudes and practices towards different foods. Response options included, “parents made me eat” (forced), “parents did not let me eat” (not allowed), “parents allowed me to eat in moderation” (moderation), and “parents didn’t care if I ate it (indifferent).
The study found that…
- All foods that were liked or eaten frequently in childhood were currently liked by the college students.
- Parental encouragement positively influenced current liking in college students, even if the food was disliked in childhood.
- Some foods were currently liked even if the college students never ate them as children (foods such as M&Ms, brownies, etc.) – but this was not true for vegetables.
- Frequency of consumption of a food as a child had a much greater impact on current liking than parental practices.
The results of this study are incredibly beneficial for parents who want to help their children establish healthy eating habits. Children who learn to enjoy fruits and vegetables eventually grow up to be adults who like the same fruits and vegetables. If you’re a parent who fears that your child won’t like a certain vegetable, the best thing you can do to increase liking is introduce the food multiple times while offering encouragement. On average, children learn to like a new food after they have tasted that food eight to ten times!* That being said, don’t be surprised or discouraged if your child repeatedly refuses to try a new food. Keep plugging away and be encouraged that your efforts are worth it!
5 Ways To Make Fruits & Veggies More Appealing To Your Children
- Play games on FoodChamps.org.
- Get dirty! How Kids Can Help in the Garden.
- Make food fun with these kid-friendly recipes.
- Involve your kids in meal preparation and shopping.
- Visit a farmers market for fresh summer produce! The vast array of shapes and colors can help make new foods appealing to little eyes.
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