Taste Development: Slimy, Gritty, and Gross

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grossThere have been many books, articles, and trends about how to introduce solids to your babies, but hardly anything on how older kids tastes change and develop. There is a pervasive assumption in our culture that once your babies are eating solid foods regularly, their transition is complete. But that is far from the truth.

For the first couple of years, babies have an enormous amount of taste buds, not only on the tongue, but all throughout the mouth, so the biggest impact on whether they like a food is all about the flavor. However, as they grow, and those taste buds start to thin out, new awareness and opinions about the other qualities of food makes an appearance.

This means that while they might have loved avocado as a baby, around the ages 4-8 they might very well reject it, saying that it’s too “slimy”. This sudden rejection of previously loved nutritious foods can be extremely aggravating for us as parents, because it suddenly seems like our kids will stop eating healthy foods all together!

Of course this isn’t going to be the case. Even if it does get pretty hard to feed them the things we would like them to eat over these 3-4 years, if we are aware that the biggest factor for these sudden rejections is texture, we have the ability to find new and creative ways to keep the nutrition flowing.

For example, while many kids will find that sliced avocado does have that slimy texture, once it is mashed and added to a sandwich as a spread, the texture is masked, and unobtrusive. Kale can be baked into chips, Asparagus can be chopped into bits and sprinkled over an egg salad sandwich, or stirred into a plate of couscous. Tomatoes can be stewed, and blended and added to sauces, or even fruit smoothies.

There are many ways to dodge around the texture issue, but hopefully you can dodge the texture issues before your kids decide that they just flat out hate one kind of vegetable or another. It’s not easy to convince a child that has decided they hate a veggie to give it another chance.

On the plus side, many of the foods that your baby might have rejected early on because they found the flavors too intense, will be open for reintroduction during this phase. As the number of taste buds recedes, you might find that rather than becoming infuriatingly picky eaters, your children might actually open up to trying things that you thought they would never like. Just remember to be aware of the textures that your kids have said they hate, and try to prepare the foods they need in the way that they can enjoy them.

If you have found tips or tricks for presenting nutritious foods that kids might dislike for their texture, please share them with us! You can comment on this blog post with your idea, and we may use it(I’ll credit you of course) in one of the upcoming blog posts for YummyShapes!

-Naomi Tripi

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