Winning the Food Fight: How to Introduce Variety into Your Child's Diet

Overview

A child psychologist explains how to teach children to find pleasure in eating not only the foods they like, but also those that are good for them

• Explains the negative attitudes children develop toward food and how to overcome these dietary aversions

• Shows how a child’s natural instinct to experiment can provide the inspiration needed to broaden his or her food tastes

• Translates the latest research in this field into practical suggestions for parents

One of the most ...

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Overview

A child psychologist explains how to teach children to find pleasure in eating not only the foods they like, but also those that are good for them

• Explains the negative attitudes children develop toward food and how to overcome these dietary aversions

• Shows how a child’s natural instinct to experiment can provide the inspiration needed to broaden his or her food tastes

• Translates the latest research in this field into practical suggestions for parents

One of the most common problems faced by parents is how to inspire their children to taste a new food--to try just one bite! Natalie Rigal, a child psychologist who has extensively researched questions of taste, explains the often complex attitudes children bring with them to the dinner table and offers parents creative ways to get children to approach eating with the same curiosity and enthusiasm they display toward other activities. Using her own experiences as well as the latest research in the field, she shows that children’s tastes, which often manifest at a very young age, are connected to an intricate combination of family habits and social influences. She reveals why most children prefer sweet foods to salty ones, familiar foods to new ones, and why children often prefer the meals they share with their grandparents and friends over those with their parents and siblings--and what parents can do about this.

Rigal explains that the aversion children express to most foods can be overcome by learning how to speak with them about what they are going to be eating--not just its flavor, but its consistency, appearance, and the sound it makes when eaten. She shows that encouraging a child’s natural instinct to experiment can provide the inspiration needed to try even those vegetables that are most universally loathed by children such as lima beans, broccoli, and brussels sprouts. Finding pleasure in eating has been shown to be the secret to “why French women don’t get fat.” It is also the secret gateway to getting your children to eat the nutritious foods they need.

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Editorial Reviews

Marc David
“Well researched and thoughtfully presented, Natalie Rigal has given us wonderful ideas for the all-important task of nourishing our children. She shows us how to naturally and gracefully work with young ones so eating becomes both an exploration and a pleasure. Bravo!”
Thom Hartmann
“Food is not just our fuel, it’s also the raw material of our bodies and our brains—and particularly that of our children. Natalie Rigal’s book provides a great insight into how to help children discover and learn to love foods that are actually good for them!”
Dhara Lemos
"By using the techniques shown in Natalie Rigal's book, you can tap into your child's natural instinct to experiment."
From the Publisher
"By using the techniques shown in Natalie Rigal's book, you can tap into your child's natural instinct to experiment."

“Food is not just our fuel, it’s also the raw material of our bodies and our brains—and particularly that of our children. Natalie Rigal’s book provides a great insight into how to help children discover and learn to love foods that are actually good for them!”

“Well researched and thoughtfully presented, Natalie Rigal has given us wonderful ideas for the all-important task of nourishing our children. She shows us how to naturally and gracefully work with young ones so eating becomes both an exploration and a pleasure. Bravo!”

author of The Slow Down Diet Marc David
“Well researched and thoughtfully presented, Natalie Rigal has given us wonderful ideas for the all-important task of nourishing our children. She shows us how to naturally and gracefully work with young ones so eating becomes both an exploration and a pleasure. Bravo!”
author of The Edison Gene and Attention Deficit Di Thom Hartmann
“Food is not just our fuel, it’s also the raw material of our bodies and our brains—and particularly that of our children. Natalie Rigal’s book provides a great insight into how to help children discover and learn to love foods that are actually good for them!”
author of The Edison Gene and Attention Deficit Di Thom Hartmann
“Food is not just our fuel, it’s also the raw material of our bodies and our brains--and particularly that of our children. Natalie Rigal’s book provides a great insight into how to help children discover and learn to love foods that are actually good for them!”
From the Publisher

"By using the techniques shown in Natalie Rigal's book, you can tap into your child's natural instinct to experiment."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594770975
  • Publisher: Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
  • Publication date: 11/15/2006
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Natalie Rigal is senior lecturer at the University of Paris at Nanterre, where she teaches developmental child psychology. She lives in Paris.
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Read an Excerpt

From Chapter Five

Sitting Down to Eat

Hands in the Dough and Words in the Mouth

Of course soup tastes better with a little cream, but enriching the taste of a food is not always enough to make it acceptable. For children, “good” means what is prepared well, but also what is already familiar to them. Here are two ways of teaching our children to become familiar with what they eat: putting hands in the dough and words in the mouth.

Hands in the Dough
One of the most pleasant, and certainly most effective ways of making food familiar is having children participate in the preparation of meals. Through this contact prior to ingestion, children awaken their senses. They touch and taste in an unconstrained, even playful, context. This is the beginning of appropriation, gaining knowledge that allows neophobic fear to diminish with regard to what may still be an unknown food. It is also a pleasure to do together, to do with and for one another; it is a gift, a kind of miniature “Babette’s Feast.”

All child professionals know that helping children connect with the products that are used in a dish encourages eating and subsequent pleasure. A study conducted on elementary school children in outdoor recreation centers found that the children left less food behind on their plates when they had participated in making the meals than when the meals were presented to them all prepared in advance.*

In 1989, Rozin did a study in which he asked seventy-six couples to cite the methods they used to encourage their children to eat vegetables and which they considered to be the most effective. The method most often cited was involving them in the preparation of meals. But for being so readily accepted, this idea is rarely put into practice, especially in the present food consumption environment in which a large share of products are manufactured prepared in advance.

That is regrettable. It certainly seems that prepared dishes, like frozen foods, may offer complete nutrition and positive sensory experiences, but they do not spark children’s curiosity about cooking as patiently following a long recipe would. If children help their parents to cook creamed spinach, there is a better chance they will eat it than if they simply watch their parents stick a container in the microwave. On another level, for example with very young children, rather than suggesting they go choose a fruit-flavored yoghurt from the refrigerator, we can spark their curiosity by giving them plain yoghurt and asking them to add their choice of available ingredients: jam, chestnut cream, cereal, pieces of fresh fruit . . .

This is, of course, a case against overrelying on ready-to-eat foods. Despite their practical aspects, we must know how to resist the regular use of prepared products that strike children, who lack any other information or experience, as objects coming from nowhere, void of all significance. To put children’s hands in the dough is to make their mouths water.

Words in the Mouth
The idea behind sensory education is to find ways to go beyond the initial hedonic response of all individuals in relation to food, that poor dichotomy of “this is good” or “this is not good.” This response is spontaneously expressed in the first place because it has a biological value for the individual to the extent that it directs behavior: if I like it, I will eat it; if not, I will leave it on my plate.

To apply words to our foods, to the sensations they produce, can help children get beyond this simplistic hedonic response. Words are learned within a cultural system in situations involving social interaction and thus serve as a springboard to the world of the known, the reassuring. Constructing a verbal image of the food is a way of transferring it from the Unidentified Edible Object stage to the Identified Edible Object stage. Children who know what they are going to eat are thus prepared for the sensory experience that they are going to have and so adopt a less neophobic, more nuanced attitude.

So we must begin at the beginning: to name for children the dishes being offered to them. And why not announce it dramatically, like the waiter at a fine restaurant? Here is our “mashed potatoes and roast pork!” Why not mention the secret recipe, the appearance, color, form, the memories the dish conjures? Then we need to embark upon a more analytical campaign, working from sense to sense. First we can focus on the texture to the touch and the scent to the nose, preparing the child for the sensations to be discovered by tasting the product. Once introduced to the mouth, we can evoke its flavor, especially its olfactory and gustatory qualities.

Sensory education requires a certain availability on the part of adults and children, and in this regard cannot necessarily be practiced every day. However, this learning can be presented as a playful way to make them taste foods. Children are great experimenters and will eagerly agree to participate in the game of sensory discovery. The rules for it are easy. Very young children should be addressed in simple language: “Here is the food. Do you think it is going to be crunchy? Will it make noise when you chew it? Can you tell me what it reminds you of when you taste it? What it is like in your mouth?” Then you name and describe the food with the child. As Jacques Puisais put it so well, we must let the foods tell their story, and we must teach children to play the whole sensory field. By developing their senses, we can wager on seeing them gradually refine their judgments and one day pass from the stage of gourmand to gourmet.

* Unfortunately, for practical reasons, schools and day cares tend to have children help make cake and other pastries. When will they learn to prepare ham with endive in these centers?

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Table of Contents

Introduction

1 Taste in All the Senses
Look, Touch, Listen
Smelling the Odors
Tasting the Flavors
A Sixth Sense
Between Appearance and Taste

2 Taste and the Genes
Genes and the Omnivore
Genes and the Individual

3 The Taste Preferences of Children
Children and Their Food Choices
Different Kinds of Distaste
Do Girls and Boys, Big and Little, Have Similar Taste Preferences?
Is Taste Here the Same As Elsewhere?

4 The Phenomenon of Food Neophobia
The Sociological Approach
The Developmental Approach
Is Neophobia a Personality Trait?
How to Get beyond Neophobia

5 Sitting Down to Eat
What's For Dinner Tonight?
Hands in the Dough and Words in the Mouth
Don’t Finish What’s on Your Plate
Let’s Eat, Everyone!

Conclusion

Bibliography

Index

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