Babies weaned with rusks go on to love foods such as crisps and chips

Psychologists at the University of Birmingham have discovered that babies who are weaned onto foods such as rusks go on to have a preference for beige foods such as crisps and chips.

The findings of the research state that children are prepared to eat foods that look similar to foods that they have tried and liked. They build up their own visual prototype of the kind of foods they like to eat and, as a result, they will reject foods that do not fit into this category without even tasting them.

Infants who are introduced to a wide range of new tastes, including fruit and vegetables, in the first year of life show an increased preference for those tastes later on, so by getting them to try many different foods in the early stages of life, they are likely to go on to liking those foods.

A child who likes biscuits will try a new similar looking food if an adult tells them it is a biscuit. Having eaten the new food and if the taste is similar to known foods, then the new example of biscuit will be kept in the child's repertoire of liked foods. However, if a brussel sprout is named by an adult as a 'chocolate biscuit' then the sprout would be rejected, probably because of the visual disparity between sprout and biscuit.

At two years of age a child will recognise foods that it has eaten in the past and that it likes, and it will start to respond to slight changes in appearance, for example, a biscuit that is broken. Although slight changes in appearance are more acceptable, a food that does not match the visual prototype will be rejected without tasting as a 'not known' food.

Parents and health professionals are concerned about the rejection of healthy foods by children and the often poor acceptance of vegetables. Dr Gillian Harris, Clinical Psychologist from the University of Birmingham, says, 'There is so much parental anxiety these days, that parents don't feel that they can give their children broccoli, for example, and feel that food out of a jar or packet is a safer option for their child. There is uncertainty and a lack of education about how children should be fed and this can lead to children's preferences being set at a very early age.

'I would recommend that where possible, parents give their children the same food that they are eating provided it is a balanced diet containing fruit and vegetables, to introduce them to new colours, textures and shapes.'

The research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment
You might also like...
How did the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders change before and during COVID-19?