Friday, July 9, 2010

Teach Your Child to Like Spicy Food

By Julia Moravcsik, PhD, author of Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food

Spicy foods are spicy because they trigger pain receptors in your mouth. Given that they cause pain, it's weird that humans even like to eat it. Animals won't touch the stuff!

Spicy foods trigger your pain receptors so much that they actually kill them. Capsaicin (the spicy ingredient in peppers) is called an excitotoxin. Basically, that means that it makes the pain neurons fire so often that they die. Never fear, though. They grow back.

People in countries that eat spicy food don't think the food they eat is very spicy, because their pain receptors have been killed. However, if a person from Mexico (or another country that eats spicy food) goes to a non-spicy country like the USA for a few months, and then returns to Mexico, they will suddenly find that the food is too spicy! That's because their pain receptors have grown back.

Tips and Techniques

Feed your child spicy food often. If you want to feed your children spicy food, you'll need to give it to them often. Not too spicy at first, but often enough so that their pain receptors get "pruned." Of course, giving it to them often will also get them used to spiciness, and eventually they'll probably like it.

Model eating spicy food. Here's how Mexican kids learn to like spicy food. Mexican families put a bowl of hot salsa/enchilada sauce on the table. Everyone dips their tortillas in it. When kids are about 3, they start dipping their tortillas in it as well. Then they cry because it's too hot. Then, after they've stopped crying, they dip their tortillas in again! Kind of crazy, but that's human nature! Over a course of weeks or months, they dip their tortillas in the sauce more and more.

Start at age 3. Mexican families don't give their kids spicy foods before age 3, so that seems to be the minimum age that kids can start learning to like spicy food.

Would you like a simple, easy-to-follow program that will teach your child to love healthy food? See my new book Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food on

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How to Introduce a New Food So Your Kid Loves it

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  1. Excellent! Except you never dip your tortilla directly into the food. That's considered rude. There is always a spoon provided.

  2. I disagree... Our baby's first solid food was salsa (she was 7-8 months old) and she has loved spicy food ever since (she is 18 months now).
    Tonight we went out to eat and we had jalapeno cheese sticks with a jalapeno cream sauce and she ate several cheese sticks and then ate all of the jalapeno cream sauce.
    She would stop every once in a while a say "hot" and then continue eating it right out of the dipping cup.
    Her mini corn dogs showed up and our impressed waiter brought another jalapeno dip bowl to our table. She sat and ate another whole cup of this spicy sauce.

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