It Doesn’t Matter if She Likes Brocoli, As Long As She Eats It. Or Does It?

Mar 12, 2013 by

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 did, recounts Barry Glassner in his 2007 book The Gospel of Food: Why We Should Stop Worrying and Enjoy What We Eat.

Perhaps even more interestingly, when a meal was blended up into an unappealing mush, even the  women who had enjoyed the original meal got less out of it. And when both groups were then fed a very good-for-you but sticky and unsavory paste, 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.

What does this study tell us 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? Some children have undiagnosed medical issues, allergies, or oral motor or sensory processing issues that make it impossible for them to eat normally without therapy or treatment.

Whether the child has issues or not, the facts suggest that maybe parents should back off on the pressure to get kids to ingest healthy foods, and put their efforts into 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. They know rewards are for doing what you don’t want, so rewards don’t increase desire to actually eat. 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 eat 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, in a pleasant , no-pressure atmosphere, and just see what happens.


Related Post: The Lessons of Seduction: How to Win Your Child Over by Putting your Best Food Forward

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


  1. […] we don’t enjoy it, it isn’t good for us, at least one study shows. Without interest or curiosity, how much genuine learning really goes […]