It’s such an easy trap to fall into: The kids hate peas, so off the menu they go. Broccoli? Not even on the shopping list anymore. Before you know it, you’re down to corn and potatoes because that’s what the little ones like, and—against all odds—you’re jonesing for a salad.
Time to put them back on the menu, mom and dad! And leave the cheese sauce on the grocery store shelf; you won’t need to drown veggies in it any more. A new study published in the journal Appetite found that repeated exposure to foods as a kid leads to liking them in adulthood—even if they’re disliked in childhood.
Translation: Don’t give up! Just because you haven’t seen progress yet doesn’t mean your kids are doomed to chicken nugget- and fry-fueled lives.
Researchers looked at how 670 college-aged students responded when asked to remember how frequently they ate and how much they liked 122 different foods ranging from apple pie to zucchini. They also asked them to rate their current opinion on each and every food. To verify the memories the college kids reported—we all know how hazy childhood memories can be—researchers asked the participants’ parents to fill out a similar survey.
The only items the students consistently said they didn’t like? Foods they didn’t like in childhood that they recall never eating. When parents introduced the disliked food even infrequently, college students reported currently liking it more than if they were never exposed to it in childhood. The study authors note that while forcing kids to eat a food they hate can backfire, there’s an easy way for parents to turn a “dislike” into a “like”: Repeat exposure. Kids’ future liking of much-maligned veggies like Brussels sprouts only goes up from there if parents encourage little ones to keep trying them and model good behavior by eating them themselves. So, take a deep breath and keep dishing up the sprouts.