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Why So Many Rich Kids Come to Enjoy the Taste of Healthier Foods

Stashed in: Awesome, Poverty, Nutrition!, Parents, Vegetables!, Economics, Poverty, Rich people get richer.

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I'm all about eating a lot of different kinds of foods, especially vegetables -- Korean food is pretty much based on that philosophy -- but it turns out that food waste is a pretty big reason why poor kids live on crappy food. Their parents just can't afford to tolerate the estimated 12 times it takes for a food to be rejected before their children will accept it. Plus, you know... vegetables are expensive compared to the bland starches kids prefer!

I wonder why the human palate takes a while to develop the taste for vegetables. 

I would have thought nutrition would be something a body craves, rather than have to eventually learn to like. 

So the best strategy is to keep insisting children eat their vegetables?

When taken together, Daniel’s research and Smed and Hansen’s research suggests that any sound model of healthy eating should account for the strong possibility that the tastes children acquire in early childhood go on to shape their shopping habits later in life—and that acquiring those tastes in the first place can be more costly than it seems.

Public-health messaging often emphasizes the health benefits of eating certain foods. But if eating well is a matter of taste (and, of course, access), then those billboards and commercials may be missing the point.

It’s not clear exactly how public policy could change to accommodate all this, but Daniel has some ideas. She heard from some of her interviewees that when children were given fruits they’d never heard of at school, such as pomegranates and Asian pears, the parents started buying them at home. Perhaps schools could absorb the upfront losses that low-income parents worry about when feeding their children novel, but healthy, foods. (Smed and Hansen also mention this possibility in their paper.) And if policy solutions don’t materialize, Daniel notes that buying frozen produce can reduce waste, since it can be stored for long periods of time and doled out in small servings.

In the end, though, it seems like the most important thing a parent can do is to keep repeating a timeless three-word phrase, even after a string of rejections: “Eat your vegetables.” Research, and thousands of years of human experience, suggests that eventually, they will.

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