Changing the Food Culture: Retraining Our Children’s Taste Buds

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Changing The Food Culture : Re-Training Your Children's Taste Buds :: Vintage Kids | Modern World


Dinner tonight was a little less than stellar.  It was a long weekend, the house was still a disaster, and as dinner time approached, everything in me envied the house next door that just had pizza delivered to their doorstep.

Thankfully, I scrounged up some egg-fried rice with veggies and we took everything outside and ate at our picnic table…and the kids couldn’t have been happier!  They didn’t notice that I was completely out of culinary inspiration…they enjoyed the garden veggies and fresh eggs, eaten picnic style.

It’s amazing to see how such simple ingredients – fresh peas, broccoli, onions, mushrooms and bell peppers can transform ordinary rice into a meal.  Sometimes I find myself afraid of the simple flavors, many right from our garden, and I feel the need to produce something kid-friendly that won’t elicit complaints or a dinner-time battle of the wills.

Amazingly, our current culture has trained children to prefer non-food over real food! Take a peak into any public school cafeteria and you’ll see lunches of jello, cheese puffs, a candy bar and a soda (and then we wonder why our son has problems sitting still in class!).  We’ve conditioned our children to prefer sugar and unidentifiable puffy neon-orange balls (loosely labeled as “cheese”) to vine-ripened tomatoes, and crisp cucumbers.

As parents, it’s not because we don’t care about the health and nutrition of our children, it’s simply due to:

And here unfortunately, is our impasse.  See, we can educate ourselves on the need for a real-foods based diet, and there are most definitely real foods that can be made ahead, thus making them more convenient.  However, when Junior doesn’t want to eat his peas and we’re afraid that he’ll wake up hungry later or be annoyed that we actually made him eat his peas, we give him something else (usually something sweet, so that he won’t complain) and send him on his merry way, not realizing that we’ve just taught Junior that:

  1. You don’t have to obey me when I tell you to do something. (ie: “eat your peas”)
  2. Your desire to be happy is more important to me than your nutrition.
  3. You’re in charge.


Moms, let me be the first to encourage you…eating vegetables is not a form of abuse.    It’s ok…no, it’s important, that Junior learns to appreciate the simple flavors.  Don’t be afraid of serving meals that aren’t necessarily “exciting” that are made from simple ingredients without complex flavors and oodles of sugar, spices, preservatives or condiments.

Your job is not to impress your children and become a short-order cook, pleasing everyone’s immediate food-demands.  Your job is to nourish and care for their bodies and health.

Will Junior suddenly have an epiphany one day that these humble vegetable are what he should be craving and he’ll ravenously devour the bowl of peas in front of him? Um, no – not if he’s been conditioned to whine for an easy substitute.

Will you be tempted to give him something else just to fill him up?  Yes, but don’t do it.

Whether Junior is 3 or 13, it’s our jobs as parents to retrain their taste buds and to guide them in making healthy choices.

It’s just like a child who is used to playing video games or watching television for 5 or 6 hours each day.  They are so conditioned to over-stimulation that their minds and nervous systems can’t handle the silence and they go through something akin to withdraw symptoms when technology is taken away from them.

It’s the same with food; if our children are used to consuming processed foods, void of nutrition and laden with sugar, then of course they aren’t going to want vegetables – and we act shocked when they complain about them!! Their bodies and palettes have to be retrained.

And parents, that’s our job…

What are some of your favorite “simple” meals??


Above photo amended by me and courtesy of this photographer 

originally posted 10/12


Linked to Natural Family Friday, Fat Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, Welcome Home Wednesday, Homemaking Link-Up, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Healing with Food Friday, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways, Simple Lives Thursday, Unprocessed Fridays, Thank Goodness it’s Monday, Simple Meals Friday, Titus 2 Tuesday, Homestead Barn Hop, Natural Living Monday, Fight Back Friday, Unprocessed Fridays

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31 Responses to “Changing the Food Culture: Retraining Our Children’s Taste Buds”
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  1. You bet taste buds can be retrained!

    In the past year we have ordered take-out pizza three times, and three times in a row the boys have refused to eat it. When on an 1800-mile road trip this summer, we stopped for fast food twice and they just picked at it. The only restaurants they like are the local Chinese and Mexican restaurants that cook from scratch.

    Homemade pizza is our “sure-deal” for eating veggies. I blend extras into the sauce- sometimes mushrooms, green peppers, and greens. Our four-year-old will ask for Monster Pizza, where I cook up and blend in a block of frozen spinach. Yuck? Yep, but tastes really good.

    I like your picnic idea. Everything tastes better with sunshine!

  2. This is terrific advice, and yes, tastebuds can be retrained to really enjoy real food as opposed to junk.

    I used to be in a carpool when my oldest was in kindergarten. I would arrive to pick up a little boy who lived in a rather chaotic household. His mother would feed him cake and other sweets-as much as he wanted-for breakfast, because “it was all he would eat.” And he had issues at school sitting still and paying attention. . .

  3. Gilmore Amy

    Thanks Kelsi, I needed that!

  4. homesteadingcottage

    Amen, Amen, Amen! My brother’s family is still on the “traditional” path even though we grew up otherwise. It’s so funny when the kids come over to our house because we eat things like spaghetti squash instead of pasta, raw granola bars instead of the processed kind and fruit is considered dessert. They baulked at first, but once they realized eating processed stuff was out of the question, now they LOVE it and enjoy getting into the groove of making healthy goodies with us. Even the very young ones talk about feeling better after a meal when they visit.

  5. This was great, Kelsi. Did you hear me shouting “Amen!”?
    I have been on a soapbox about this same issue. You can’t turn on the news without hearing a story about how overweight our children are, and yet who’s putting them there? The adults! Whether it’s the person in the school responsible for ordering the lunches, or filling the vending machines, or the parents buying processed stuff at the stores, it’s always the adults feeding these things to our kids and then we sit back and scratch our heads and wonder what happened. The kids aren’t doing the grocery shopping! Anyway, great post. I’m Anne from Life ont he Funny Farm (, here from the barn hop. Have a great day!

  6. Renata

    I love to read your comments, blog
    But i dont come on facebook much
    I am afraid I am missing great info
    How else Can i check?
    Hey thank you forn writing about These things
    You are doing a great ministry

  7. Hey Renata!!! You can subscribe to our blog so that it comes in your email if you’d like! There is a place in the sidebar on the left that says “Get Cheeky Bums in your inbox”. Just enter in your info there and when we publish an article it will come to your email. Hope you guys are doing well! We miss you!! – kelsi

  8. I know all about this! For a long time we were a Tball and stop at McDonalds family and when that ended it was a struggle at first for my kids but they love home cooked meals and they are now used to packed sandwiches.

  9. WooHooo! Can I double and triple like this post?! I do enjoy having fun with my children and doing nice things for them that make them happy, but I’m very clear that when it comes to food my job is not to entertain them but to nourish their growing bodies and to help them to develop good habits.

  10. Hi! Found this on The Parenthood link up!

    We started out this way with our daughters and they have no problem with real food; for us the challenge has been retraining ourselves as parents. We both grew up on junk food and spent our young adulthood in the drive through lane. I am jut now learning to appreciate whole foods and the rich flavors they provide over boxed Mac n Cheese!

  11. So glad you linked up with the ‘Hood this week! And if you would please, quit writing such convicting stuff. 😉 Right now I’m playing the “we are trying to keep the kitchen tidy since the house is on the market card” and giving myself grace but we are gonna have to tighten up this gravy wagon soon and make it healthier for sure. Great post!

  12. LOL! 🙂 I can’t imagine trying to keep the house clean enough for a showing! You my friend, will have a very large jewel in your crown in heaven, dedicated to this season of your life! 🙂 may you be blessed with a long nap and a venti latte! – kelsi

  13. Loved this! I wont feel nearly as guilty tonight when i hold dessert hostage until every last piece of brocolli is eaten! Thanks! I found you on the hood and i am your newest follower!

  14. Rebecca

    Thank you for this article. I was raised on hot dogs, potato chips, and Hostess pies. I’ve spent the last 40 years trying to retrain my taste buds and get off my sugar and fat addiction. Mom’s aren’t doing their kids any favors by letting the kids be in charge at meal time.

  15. Kelsi, what an adorable and helpful blog! Love this article. Adults need to retrain their palates too! 🙂 Kids model what they see much more than what they hear. Bypassing fast food and processed foods isn’t hard when you have some healthy go-tos in the freezer. I like to pre-make chicken nuggets and burger patties and freeze for when we want some “fast” real food. And I’m always trying to find ways to add veggies – sometimes stealth tactics are used, I have to admit! 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by my blog to leave a note so I could check out your site as well. Blessings, Kelly

  16. Cheeky Bums

    Kelly – thanks for stopping by – so glad to have you 🙂 I’m with you – “stealth feeding” is a little-known mommy-power! I have good eaters – they don’t even mind their veggies, but if I didn’t watch out, they’d live on a steady diet of cheese and pasta! It’s all about strategy and sneakiness…! All the best! – kelsi

  17. I love this. I refuse to let my kids eat food at meals that is not on the menu. Because of this, they eat a much wider variety of foods than most other kids their age. My favorite food to get some veggies into the kids is tomato juice or V8—they just suck it down! I guess I’m lucky that they love it so much. Also simple puréed veggie soups often go over well, such as tomato-red pepper, or cauliflower.

  18. Cheeky Bums

    I’m with you! I don’t have the energy or patience to be a short-order cook! Plus, I’m on of those mean moms that cuts out snakcs if they don’t finish their meals! gasp! 🙂 thanks for stopping by!!! – kelsi

  19. It is so important to teach them to eat healthy food! Food that is REAL! Thank you for sharing these great points! We’re neighbors today at Raising Homemakers! Blessings!

  20. Cheeky Bums

    Hey Misty – thanks for stopping by! -Kelsi

  21. So much work still to do with mine, but your words inspire me to not give up! Mine is 13 and has food sensitivities with autism. I let that be an excuse to give him ‘what he would eat’ for many years. Now I need to really work at getting his nutrition in better balance.

  22. Spot on. Since our oldest child was diagnosed with food allergies at a young age, we have been forced to forsake most processed or fast food, in exchange for simple, from scratch food. Our family of six is healthier for it. But I really struggle with the sugar issue. I was raised on a lot of it, and find it hard to resist mixing up cookies or cake way too often. I don’t want my kids to have the same struggle with sugar that I have!

  23. Monica

    Thank you for this great post! I have a 22 month old daughter and a baby on the way. We eat real food as much as possible. My struggle the last few months is her always wanting to snack. And sometimes she isn’t impressed with our meals and won’t eat much, which means she’ll be begging for food later. We try our best to balance things and she eats well often. It’s hard because she’s not old enough to understand why she doesn’t need a snack or can’t have other food to eat when she doesn’t like what I made. And she can’t explain to me if she’s actually hungry or just bored. Or or or! Sometimes I just don’t know what to do!

  24. Kelsi

    Monica, I totally understand, and that age when when they aren’t totally verbal – but they’re very opinionated – is SO hard! We have always made fresh veggies available to our kids at any time. If they are really *truly* hungry, then they’ll snack on baby carrots or cucumber slices. That way, if they’re just wanting to munch, they aren’t doing so because it’s a sweet treat that will spoil their dinner. Hope that helps some!!! thanks for stopping in! – kelsi

  25. Kelsi

    Heather, oh, I’m with you!! We recently switched to only using coconut sugar (or honey or maple syrup, though I tend to use the coconut sugar for cooking/baking most often), and I’ve been making knock-off larabars, granola bars, and other munchies that are just slightly sweet and that has really helped us phase out having desserts around all of the time. But oh my, with 6 little ones, those treats surely don’t last long around the house!!

  26. jenni mckay

    hi I jus love your ideas enthusiasm and motivation, keep going its a blessing.xxxx

  27. Kelsi

    thanks Jenni and a big hello to you from across the Pond!

  28. I absolutely love this!! I have been retraining all the mouths at my house. I love it so much that I preach it ti my friends too. 🙂 Oh we could be great homeschool healthy mom friends! I’m excited I’ve found your blog!!

  29. Kelsi

    awesome Lindy! thanks for popping in! and if you ever find yourself in northern Indiana, we should grab coffee! I love chatting with other “counter cultural” mommas! 🙂

  30. What an encouraging read! We raise our own chickens and beef, and get eggs and milk from our animals as well. When we are traveling and stuck with fast food, the kids sure can taste the difference.

    There’s just nothing like real food. And watching their little bodies grow properly when given the nutrient dense foods.

    I’m contemplating getting a garden going this year, just so we have the same benefit with our veggies as we do with the other products. I know the fresh ones taste way better.

  31. Kelsi

    glad you enjoyed it Lisa! I’m so jealous that you have your own meat, eggs and milk! How awesome and what a blessing for your kids!! *someday* when we’re not in the middle of the city, I’m hoping to find myself with some chickens and a cow or two 😉