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Training Taste Buds

Training Taste BudsThe right strategies, says a Tufts expert, can help parents train their kids' taste buds to enjoy healthy food.

Boston [08.21.01] While children may start life by putting everything in their mouths, it doesn't take long for them to acquire pickier tastes. And their struggle with parents over what they will -- and won't -- eat can be long and stressful. But a Tufts nutrition expert says parents can help broaden the foods their kids will eat -- by training their taste buds.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported: "Although you start with your basic biology, everyone grows up with food preferences that are largely programmed by the foods around them, says Tufts' Susan Roberts."

The professor and Chief of the Energy Metabolism Lab at Tufts said the process can actually begin during pregnancy.

"There was quite a good study published recently suggesting that if you drink carrot juice in pregnancy, you increase your child's acceptance of carrots when weaning comes along," Roberts told the newspaper.

Parents, she said, should carefully introduce healthy foods to their young children.

"If you like it and your child is more than one year old, let them share it, too," Roberts told the Post-Dispatch. "They need to see you enjoying these foods and setting a good example. They need food opportunities -- would you like some of this? -- rather than being forced into things."

They key, said the Tufts scientist, is to avoid conflict and pressure at the dinner table.

"The more parents pressure they kids to eat particular foods, the more they will refuse," Roberts said in an article in The Akron Ohio Beacon Journal. "That means you have to try not to worry too much about what he eats, and try to stay good natured," she said.

Of course, once kids are exposed to other children's eating habits, the process can get more complex.

"Roberts says peer pressure becomes a big issue from age three on, when children start moving into the outside world," reported the Post-Dispatch. "But don't give up the cause, she tells parents. She urges them to continue setting a good example for them and do damage control."

Heading to the grocery store without the kids can be an important strategy. That way, Roberts said, parents can choose food for its nutritional value, rather than convenience or packaging.

"It's hard," Roberts told the newspaper. "But if you keep at it, you can minimize the bad influences."

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