Friday, November 18, 2011

Use Tasty or Yucky Facial Expressions to Get Your Child to Like Healthy Foods

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

Children learn which kinds of food to eat by observing their parents.  This is an ancient instinct.  In prehistoric times, there were many wild plants that were poisonous. If a child simply ate whatever he found growing on the ground, he would die of poisoning.  Children look to adults to find out if a food is edible and tasty or yucky and poisonous.

You may have discovered this already.  If Uncle Jim comes to dinner and refuses to eat his asparagus, this attitude can spread like a cold virus throughout your family.  Soon all your children are leaving piles of uneaten asparagus on their plates. 

Children Look at Yucky and Yummy Facial Expressions

One way children tell whether an adult likes a food or not is to look at his facial expression.  If the adult is relishing his food with a blissful expression, it is probably tasty.  If the adult has his upper lip and nose curled up in an expression of disgust, it is probably repulsive.

A recent study found that young children liked a food better if it was being eaten by someone who had an "mmm...good" smile, and disliked a food if it was being eaten by someone who had a "yucky" disgusted expression. 

A Trick to Getting Your Child to Like Healthy Foods

When your child is eating a healthy food, eat the same food yourself and make a "yummy" expression.  Children can see through fake expressions, so really try to enjoy the food yourself and let a natural "yum" expression come to your face.  You can say something like "Mmm...this asparagus is really good." to emphasize it and to get your child to look at your face.

Remember, if your child catches on, this technique will backfire.  If he thinks he's being manipulated into eating a healthy food, he will think that it's not tasty enough to eat for its own merits.  So use this technique sparingly, and try to be genuine in your own appreciation.

A Trick to Getting Your Child NOT to Like Unhealthy Foods

If your child is eating a food that isn't healthy, you can express your opinion by putting on a yucky expression while he's eating it.

Try to be genuine here as well.  It may not be difficult, given the disgusting junk that food manufacturers make for children!  When my son poured his Halloween candy out on the counter, there were chewy eyeballs and "fruit" flavored chalky candies that made me cringe with disgust just looking at them!  I made a few comments about how disgusting they were and he never ate them.

Of course you'll want to respect your child while you're doing this.  Sitting in front of a poor kid who's eating an ice cream cone and flashing disgusted faces isn't polite or kind!  But occasionally, if there is an unhealthy food that really is pretty disgusting, feel free to let your opinion express itself on your face!

Be Careful of Picky Eater Friends

Children are very influenced by their friends. If your child eats lunch with a friend who hates vegetables, he may start hating them too.

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 amazon.com.

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