New research shows that if you feed your children a lot of junk food at home, they will acquire a taste for it that could lead to unhealthy habits. The study links taste preference with emerging brand awareness for common junk foods.
A HealthDay news article mentioned that once children develop a taste for unhealthy food containing high volumes of fat, salt or sugar, they begin to match certain product names and restaurants with these preferences.
Study on Unhealthy Food for Kids
The study was two-fold.
First Experiment – Mothers List Unhealthy Preferences
Researchers first asked mothers of 67 children ages 3-5 to list the food preferences of their children. They tested these lists against what the children indicated themselves, and most of the results focused on food containing high amounts of sugar, salt and fat.
Second Experiment – Taste vs. Fast-Food Brands and Products
The second experiment focused on brand recognition. This time, 108 preschoolers were shown an assortment of cards and were asked to match products with the associated brand names. Every child was able to match at least a few products with the correct brand, indicating that they at least have some level of brand recognition. Several of these were from common fast-food restaurants and popular cola companies, indicating that the children had increased exposure to those particular types of food or drink.
Junk Food Preference Is All About Taste
Taste preference is clearly a large contributor to America’s obesity problem. Let’s face it – most kids prefer the taste of a doughnut over the taste of a broccoli floret, no matter how delicately laced with your famous gourmet butter-garlic sauce. This study indicates that monitoring what your children eat at home from an early age may help curb the problem of altered taste preferences.
Does this not seem kind of obvious to everyone already? Maybe I missed something in the study, but if you feed your toddler candy and chips all the time, of course they’re going to grow up loving all those unhealthy foods. Conversely, if you feed your child plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, they’ll grow up enjoying a variety of healthy foods rather than relying solely on junk food for enjoyment.
Sugary Treats and Dental Health
Food with lots of sugar doesn’t just wreak havoc on a child’s weight and energy level. It can also destroy the teeth, especially if the child doesn’t have frequent, thorough brushing/flossing habits. Some foods promote healthy teeth. However, if children develop a habit of consuming large amounts of sweets, it may also trigger a lifelong struggle with cavities – and teeth only last so long.
This isn’t to say that you should only let your kids eat raw vegetables and wheat kernels. However, this study shows that it is important to make sure your children get a balanced diet to develop good habits for the future.
What do you think about feeding junk food to young children?
Read more: 5 Foods to Strengthen Your Teeth Naturally