Introducing Healthy Foods Early Helps Train Picky Palettes
Health and Nutrition Shaping healthy habits starts at a young age. It might feel like an uphill battle, but the long-term benefits can’t be underestimated.
Scientific evidence indicates that kids are biologically wired to prefer intense sweetness and saltiness. However, taste buds can adapt — and that’s why experts recommend exposing kids to new foods nearly a dozen times before they learn to eat it.
“When it comes to kid’s healthy eating habits, it’s all about getting in the game early,” contends Amaris Bradley, MPH, RD, senior manager of Partnerships at Partnership for a Healthier America. “Research shows that food preferences are formed early in life and can have a lasting effect on our food choices.”
Setting good examples is the best practice to get kids away from poor eating habits. There’s no need to oversell, either. Bradley advises: “Simply saying a food is tasty can be enough. We all know kids are often better observers than listeners.”
“Scientific evidence indicates that kids are biologically wired to prefer intense sweetness and saltiness. However, taste buds can adapt…”
Additionally, she recommends getting kids involved in food selection and meal preparation. Allow children to pick which vegetable that want with dinner, or let them mix blueberries into pancake batter. Similarly, let them help grow food, such as windowsill tomatoes they’ll eventually get to enjoy.
Handy health tips
Parents should also keep healthier snacks at kid’s eye level on counters and in the refrigerator, have ready-to-eat snacks, such as cut up fruit and popped popcorn, and avoid bringing unhealthy foods, snacks and beverages into the house to avoid temptation. As tough as it can be, shift from offering candy and other treats as rewards for good behavior to non-edible items like stickers and pencils.
“With nearly 30 million of our neighbors living in food deserts, we’re working diligently with partners across the country to combat some of these endemic food access issues,” Bradley explains. “As a starting place, we encourage parents to seek out local resources, including enrolling in SNAP, leveraging local farmer’s markets, or asking their local corner store or bodega owner to stock healthier options.”