Here are a few of my favorite studies. I have included citations, links, and italics are excerpts from my book Love Me, Feed Me, ‘cus I’m lazy (busy), and heck, it’s already edited and proofed What are your favorite studies? Do these make you think at all differently?
1) Pass the Ketchup Please
“Condiments can be your friend. Parents often express a reluctance to serve sauces and dips, worrying the child won’t learn to eat foods plain. Think of ketchup and dips like “training wheels.” You probably won’t have a teenager pouring ketchup on rice or corn on the cob— that is, unless you are fostering or adopting a teenager who comes to you doing that. The bottom line is that condiments help children learn to like new foods.”
take home message: Don’t be afraid of condiments. They help rather than hinder the process of learning to like new foods.
2) Green Bean Study
“Even defining food “rejection” is problematic. Most parents give up on offering a food after only a handful of tries, and studies show that parents aren’t always able to distinguish the process of learning to like new foods from rejection. In one study introducing green beans, babies squinted and frowned with the new food, but with repeated no-pressure exposures, most were eating the green beans after about a week. Interestingly, though the infants were eating the beans, the authors wrote, “Mothers were apparently unaware of these changes in acceptance.” Clearly, quantifying rejection is tricky, and the quality of the feeding relation-ship plays a role in the apparent traits of the child.”
take home message: Parents aren’t very good at being able to tell if an infant “likes” a new food. Keep offering the foods you want them to learn to like to eat—over and over.
3) Mind over Milkshakes
“Consider a 2011 study called “Mind Over Milkshakes.” Study participants were given the same shake and told on the first occasion that it was “sensible” and “no-fat,” and on another occasion they were told that it was rich, creamy, fatty, and “indulgent.” Guess which one they thought tasted better? (It’s the same shake.) Answer: the “indulgent” one. No surprises there, but the new finding was that despite identical calories, fat, and nutrients, what the study participants thought about the shake affected the body’s measured hormone response.
Thinking “indulgence” meant lower hunger-hormone (ghrelin) levels, and presumably, less hunger. “Sensible” (a.k.a., deprivation), meant that the “hungry-hormone” level did not fall as much. In spite of the same intake, these “sensible” shake drinkers had higher hormone levels associated with more hunger.
When we feel “sensible,” or that we have to use “willpower” to get through the day, many of us feel deprived. In the magic that is our mind-body connection, the feeling of deprivation may result in higher hunger-hormone levels. A “sensible” mindset equates to hormone levels associated with hunger. How we think about food affects how much we enjoy it and how our bodies respond. The authors concluded, “Mindset meaningfully affects physiological responses to food.”
take home message: How we feel about food effects how our body uses food and drives our hunger. Eat food that tastes good. Think of all tasty foods as indulgent and creamy. Don’t eat a food just because you think you “should.”
4) No such thing as too sweet for kids…
Coldwell SE, Oswald TK, Reed DR. Biological Drive For Sugar as Marker of Growth Differs Between Adolescents with High Versus Low Sugar Preference. Clinical Nutrition. 2010;29:288–303. (not original citation, but related link)
“One of my favorite studies looks at children’s versus adult’s preference for sweet taste, and when the shift to adult tastes happens. Through various ages, study participants were asked to add sugar to a drink until it got too sweet.
For children, there was pretty much no such thing as “too sweet.” They continued adding sugar until it wouldn’t dissolve any more. Adults stopped at about the sweetness of soda, finding anything sweeter to be “too sweet.” Interestingly, the point the shift occurred was not by age or from something the children learned in school. The shift to adult taste for sweet tended to happen just after the growth plates in the long bones fused, meaning the children had reached close to adult height, or stopped growing. What that suggests is that there is a biological drive behind that preference for sweet taste. Children are growing, and it makes sense biologically that they would be attracted to sweeter, and therefore higher energy, foods to fuel growth.
Think back to your own childhood. I loved sugar-sweetened cereals at hotels or sleepovers, but I was not allowed them at home, and tended to enjoy large amounts when I had access. However, now as an adult, the thought of that pink, oversweet milk, “marshmallows,” and cereal is off-putting. Children’s tastes mature, and they will do so more readily if we don’t interfere.”
take away message: Children will outgrow their super-sweet tooth. They will do so more readily if we don’t mess with that natural process.