Flavor Pairings

The Lempert Report
March 10, 2014

For parents trying to coax their kids into eating vegetables, a new study suggests that adding flavors helps.

For example, preschoolers introduced to Brussels sprouts were given cream cheese to spread on the vegetable, most said they liked the sprouts and ate more of them, even when later served plain.

The authors of the study suggest that the strategy of pairing something new with a flavor somebody already likes is known as "associative conditioning" and could be helpful in encouraging kids - and adults - to eat more fruits and vegetables.

The research conducted at Arizona State University and published in Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, had the parents of 29 children between the ages of three and five years old fill out a survey about the kids' views of 11 vegetables, including whether they liked or disliked the vegetable, or had never tried it.  Cauliflower and brussel sprouts were selected for use in the study because they were among the vegetables most children had not tried.

Results? Less than one in five kids given plain sprouts said they liked the vegetable, but about two-thirds of kids who got sprouts with cream cheese said they liked the vegetables.

Kids liked milder, non-bitter cauliflower more, and about equally whether or not it was served with cream cheese.

After the conditioning period, when children were given the plain vegetables, those who had previously said they "liked" Brussels sprouts ate more of them than kids who had expressed dislike.

The Lempert Report feels that supermarkets serving prepared foods can use this trick. Supermarkets should be a center for community health, a place where consumers can be guided and assisted when it comes to their families nutrition. What better way to encourage families to eat well than by offering flavor pairings such as those described in the study?  Help parents and help kids by using this kind of data to shape prepared foods. Package vegetables with low fat flavors, dips and cream cheese, celery and peanut butter or fruits with low fat cheese. Think outside the box, pair flavors and encourage your consumers to make healthy choices.