Parenting: Watch what your children eating!
What we are fed as children, it turns out, has a profound effect on how we eat as grownups - and that's a problem, according to British food writer and historian Bee Wilson.
By Psychology Today
Published: Thu 4 Feb 2016, 11:00 PM
Last updated: Fri 5 Feb 2016, 1:00 AM
A baby's first bites can have a profound effect on the food he or she enjoys eating as an adult, according to food writer Bee Wilson
Some babies whose systems cannot tolerate formula derived from cow's milk or soy are given a more digestible hydrolysate alternative, which happens to taste extraordinarily sour. Yet in a study involving two such formulas with slightly different tastes, babies had a pronounced preference for the one they'd been fed first and primarily.
And five years later, all the children had far more positive feelings about sour foods than other kids. What we are fed as children, it turns out, has a profound effect on how we eat as grownups - and that's a problem, according to British food writer and historian Bee Wilson. Her new book, First Bite, explores what our parents got wrong when they fed us, and why we can still turn around our eating habits, and influence those of our little ones.
If we knew more about our triggers (like the crunch of a potato chip), can we eat smarter? In some ways people are almost over informed about nutrition in some parts of the world. Food is an obsessional part of the national conversation. There's a famous study by psychologist Paul Rozin that looks at how when you say "chocolate cake" to French people they associate it with pleasure, but when you say it to Americans, they associate it with guilt. But we are undereducated in the sensory aspect.
If you could eat a chip more slowly and thoughtfully, thinking, "I know this is giving me a payoff because I'm crunching," you might be able to make a powerful change. But someone just giving you the information will not make you change. It is possible for us to eat in a better way, and yet one of the things I found out is that advice, even rational advice, doesn't have any effect. As parents, many of us fail to model healthy eating. Should we just hope our kids find friends who eat better and follow their lead? The biggest window of opportunity to learn about healthy eating is during the first years of life. But as we get older, we're much more open to the possibility of change than we give ourselves credit for.
If your kids aren't eating well, maybe they'll fall in love with someone who has great eating habits. Maybe they'll travel. Or maybe they'll just decide of their own accord that they want to change. None of this is natural; it's all learned through influence and exposure. But we make it a lot harder if we, as parents, don't put in the work in those early years. Small children should eat anything parents feed them with care.
So why can't we train kids to love fruits and vegetables? We assume, because of our own baggage, that our kids just couldn't like spinach, because we think it's such an unlikely thing for a child to like. We love our children, and we're desperate to see that happy face. But if we stopped worrying so much about their initial response to foods, we'd be much better off. If you persevere, it's going to taste good to them, especially if it is fed to them and you're smiling and offering it with warmth. So is this the mistake that parents are most often making? I'm not judgmental. I've made mistakes, worst of all having briefly force-fed my youngest child. I regret that so much. And I had so much more information than the average person: I was a food writer, I was educated, I knew it was wrong, and yet you get so caught up in the moment of meal time. I think the single biggest thing that any of us could do to change the way we feed our kids would be - and it's way easier said than done - to think more long-term rather than obsessing about getting this particular meal into their mouths.