And in the past 10 years, scientists have begun to venture into the ultimate picky-eating battleground yep, the home with a few large, well-structured experiments and promising, if occasionally contradictory, results.
In a 2003 study published in the journal Appetite, a team of British researchers divided 143 kids ages 2 to 6 into three groups. The parents in one group got nutritional information, the parents in the second (control) group didn't get any extra assistance, and the parents in the third group were asked to offer their kids a taste of a single moderately disliked vegetable every day for 14 days.
The kids in the 14 tastes group showed greater increases in consumption and liking of the despised vegetable than the other kids, and the tasting group was the only one to show significant increases across all three of the measures used (liking, consumption and ranking of the vegetable relative to other vegetables.)
Parents complained about the number of tastes required, but of the 10 parents in the 14 tastes group who did follow-up interviews, seven felt that the experiment had had a lasting effect on their child's opinion of the test vegetable. It is his favorite, and he would not touch it before, one parent was quoted as saying.
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Many of the parents in the study said their children had actually enjoyed the tastings. Afterwards, he kept asking to try other things, a parent was quoted as saying.
Cooke, a co-author of the study, says that it makes sense, when you think about it, that repeat tastings can affect a child's experience of a food. An adult who's learning to drink tea or coffee without sugar will often miss the sweetness at first.
Over time, over repeated exposures to a taste, we can become accustomed to it and like it more, she says.
That's not to say that every child will grow to like every vegetable because we all have our own idiosyncratic likes and dislikes, and we would never advocate pursuing this beyond the 14 tastes mark. If a child's not responsive, we suggest that a parent move on to something else. But we have had tremendous positive feedback from parents who have done this.
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REPEAT AFTER ME
Lucy Cooke, co-author of a large 2003 study that found repeated tastings increased a child's acceptance of a vegetable, says she can't guarantee that parents will get the same results she did, but the technique does look very promising.
Here's the basic procedure: Every day for 14 days, the parent would offer the child small pieces of a single moderately disliked target vegetable (either carrot, celery, tomato, red pepper, green pepper or cucumber, depending on the child's tastes). The vegetable was served raw and the kid could eat as much or as little as she liked. A parent might say, You don't have to eat it, just taste it or I've (tried) it, can you do it too?
At the end of the 14 days, the children were consuming more of their target vegetables, and reporting that they liked them more.
Not all kids are willing to even try a disliked vegetable, Cooke acknowledges, but she says a small nonfood incentive can tip the balance. In two subsequent studies that she co-authored, kids were offered stickers for tasting the target vegetable, with good results. All of the kids were willing to try the moderately disliked vegetable when the sticker incentive was added, she says.
Cooke doesn't advise continuing the daily tastings after 14 tries, and she says that, under some circumstances, 10 tries are probably enough.
The evidence is pretty good that 10 (tries) will do the trick 15 is optimal, but we do fully understand that it's just beyond the patience of many parents to persevere that long especially if the child doesn't appear to be responding, she says.
I think that I would feel that if a child doesn't respond at all by 10, I would give up (on that vegetable) and start with something else.
©2012 Chicago Tribune
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KeyWords:: BC-HEALTH-NTR-PICKY-EATER:TB BC HEALTH NTR PICKY EATER TB AMX-2012-07-27T08:01:00-04:00