It Doesn't Matter if She Likes Broccoli, As Long As She Eats It. Or Does It?

Dec 6, 2008 by

YOU CAN MAKE A KID ingest, but you cannot make him digest. - photo by Anna Migeon

How much good we get out of our food depends a lot on how much we enjoy it, one study suggests.

When researchers fed a spicy Thai dish to a group of Swedish women and to a group of Thai women, the Thai women liked the dish more and absorbed more iron from it than did the Swedes.  Then when both groups were fed a Swedish dish, the Swedish women liked the dish more and also absorbed more iron from their meal than the Thai women, recounts Barry Glassner in his 2007 book The Gospel of Food: Why We Should Stop Worrying and Enjoy What We Eat.

Even more interestingly, both groups were then fed a very good-for-you but sticky and unsavory paste, and none of the women were able to get much iron out of it.

So, it seems, it’s only good for you if you like it.

So what does that say about the lengths to which desperate parents will go to get their kids to eat things they don’t want to eat? Human children are created to enjoy and crave the food that their bodies need.  The body’s goal is to grow, so it naturally desires what it needs to thrive. That drive for necessary food is what has kept the human race alive this long.  A baby is equipped with an appetite so that he will eat, grow and survive.

Kids were born with an appetite, so what happens to it?

The facts suggest that maybe parents should back off on the pressure to get kids to ingest healthy foods, and take steps to helping kids develop tastes for those foods. Kids may have trouble ever developing an appetite for things that are forced upon them, as the natural response to a push is resistance. Foods presented as something they “should” eat also lose some allure. You can manipulate a kid to eat, but you can’t make him enjoy it. You can force them to ingest but you can’t make them digest.  The best and only reason to like food is the food itself.

Get a kid good and hungry, and put a nicely prepared, attractive meal of delicious real food down in front of her, and just see what happens.

© Sacred Appetite / Anna Migeon November 29, 2008 / All Rights Reserved


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