Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What's on Your Child's Lunch Plate: Supertasters Addition

I have a toddler. He is extremely picky. I also have a baby. So between the two our lunches have to be 1) somewhat nutritious 2) something the toddler will eat and 3) something that I can fix in about 15 minutes. It's a tall order. So far our lunches have been boring. I'm getting tired of the frozen food and sandwiches. Maybe you are also facing this problem. Maybe you've got a few tricks up your sleeve. Maybe we can help each other. I figure on every Tuesday I will feature what he ate. Maybe it will be whole bunch of pictures. Maybe it will be only one. And then I'll tell you (or if it's not too disgusting show you) what and how much of it he ate. I need your help. Please comment or upload something. I'm desperate. 

Today's Lunch: grapes, Strawberries, Vanilla Yogurt and a PB and J sandwhich

I asked HB what he wanted for lunch giving him two sandwich options and this is what he picked.   He played with the grapes, bit a couple of strawberries, nibbled his sandwich, and promptly ignored his yogurt.  I think I should have skipped letting him have a tiny bit of frosting from the egg beaters.  Oh, well.

Supertasters:   Is your child one?

Supertasters are people with a heightened sense of taste.   Linda Bartoshuk coined the term while doing research on the sense of taste.  Most supertasters are female and usually of Asian, African, or South American descent.  Basically anyone who is not white or European or Native American.  Supertasters also run in families.

Let me give you an example of who is and who is not a supertaster in my family.  My mother, for example, can ask for Dr. Pepper in a restaurant and immediately send back the drink because it's some off brand like Mr. Pibb or Dr. Thunder.  She can tell the difference.  Hubby, on the other hand, did one of those taste tests during the cola wars between Pepsi and Coke.  For years he drank one particular brand, he thought he picked his cola only to discover he had picked the other one.  Hubby is not a supertaster.  My mother is.

Does this mean that your child is a supertaster?  No.  Supertasters tend to run in families.  If things like cantaloupe taste horribly bitter to you like they do to me, then most likely your child will also be a supertaster. But again this is not always the case.  It's just something to keep in mind.  So if Aunt Gertie is a definate supertaster (about 25 percent of Americans are estimated to be), then your child may also be.

Does this mean supertasters are picky eaters?  Some supertasters are naturally picky eaters especially during childhood where our sense of taste is most distinct.  They've done several studies on this especially with broccoli.  Some children simply can't stand the taste (and me neither).  But this isn't true of all supertasters.  Some do like bitter tasting things.  It's a matter of preference.

So does that mean all picky eaters are supertasters?  No.  In fact besides taste there are million reasons why some children don't like eating certain foods.  I, for example, love the flavor of coconut, but don't you dare put that junk on my birthday cake.  The texture gives me the heebee jebees.  And some children don't like to branch out.  If your child is very regimented, then he/she will also be apprehensive of trying new foods.  Children also tend to go in phases where they may prefer to eat food of say all the same color and then later refuse to eat meat.  It's perfectly normal.

Supertasters don't really outgrow their habits.  There is no way in Helsinki that anyone in their right mind is going to get me to eat cantaloupe.  Nope; not gonna happen.  If you do hide the broccoli in some saucy/cheese dish, then yes, I'll eat, but on it's own I'd rather starve.  And it's like that with cooked carrots.  Too pungent for me.  It's not that I'm picky (okay maybe it is), it's that the flavors are just too much for me compared to other people.  And there's nothing wrong with that.

In fact some researchers believe that supertasters were very important in hunter/gatherer societies because we kept our clans/tribes alive.  Some odd looking berry?  Have Cousin UhOh try it.  Cousin UhOh would chew it up and then spit it out declaring the thing to be deadly.  Whereas before half the tribe/clan would die after eating something harmful.  So in evolutionary terms, we survived and kept our families alive with our magically strong taste buds. 

So the next time you go into battle over veggies, keep in mind that your child may be a supertaster and it's against their natural inclinations to eat that particular food. 

Topic for next week:  Grocery Wars: Put a Baby on it and Jack up the Price

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