Putting liked and disliked food on same plate could see both rejected

Putting a favourite food on the same plate as a disliked food could lead to your child refusing to eat both, say researchers

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Like most parents, you’ve probably tried cajoling your child to eat brussel sprouts or another unpopular food alongside his favourite food. Well, it may not be such a great idea…

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Encouraging your child to eat foods he doesn’t like by presenting them next to foods he does enjoy could backfire – and lead to him screwing his nose up at both, say researchers after conducting a very small study.

Psychologist Steve Brown from the University of Derby studied 18 toddlers aged 18-26 months to see how the avoidance of new food in children (food neophobia) develops.

“We found a significant number of the children rejected the food they usually liked when it was touching a food they didn’t like,” said Steve.

“Many of these children continued to refuse the ‘contaminated’ liked food until it had been exchanged for a new piece,” Steve added.

Researchers said the results support the idea that toddlers as young as 18 months have a strong contamination response, which may reflect feelings of disgust. This was not previously thought to influence food rejection until around 7 years of age.

“This could be one of the bases of this reduction in the variety of foods a child will eat,” Steve explained.

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