Why children like candies and tend to reject broccoli?

Photo CC: Joe Urrutia/Nofima

There is clear evidence that most children prefer chocolate bar and candies rather than a handful of grapes or an apple for their mealtime snacks. In addition, they also strongly reject the bitter taste from vegetables. This attitude towards food preference creates a huge challenge for parents and caregivers to provide healthy foods for their children. My name is Ervina, an early stage researcher with an interest in investigating the role of basic taste sensitivity to food preferences in preadolescent children. 

Research conducted by Ganchrouw and colleagues almost four decades ago concluded that humans naturally prefer sweet to bitter tastes. Sweet taste represents carbohydrates as a source of energy which is generally needed by human beings while bitter tastes are often associated with poison and therefore leads to rejection. However, there are many factors that influence taste preferences in children such as food exposure and taste sensitivity. 

In this post, I will focus on food exposure. Children that are regularly exposed to sweet and fatty foods tend to have a greater preference for these tastes in their meals. A study by Nicklaus reported that repeated food exposure in children will increase their acceptance of new food significantly. This means that children will gradually accept and like the foods if they have been exposed and become familiar with the taste of those foods. Therefore food familiarity also plays an important role in food preferences.  

Why we choose preadolescent children? Preadolescent children are in the transition period from childhood to teenager. During this period children gain more freedom to request and choose the food that they will and like to eat. Eating behaviors is also reported to be shaped at this stage and will remarkably remain until adulthood, meaning it is important to understand their food preferences and provide a structured framework to encourage healthy eating habits for this age group. 


References of the Articles: 

Ganchrow, J.R., Steiner, J.E., and Daher, M. (1983). Neonatal facial expressions in response to different qualities and intensities of gustatory stimuli. Infant Behav. Dev (6): 473–484. 

Nicklaus, S. (2016). The role of food experiences during early childhood in food pleasure learning. Appetite. 104: 3-9 


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