Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Author Karen le Billon Gets Children from Yuck to Yum by Taste Training

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Author Karen le Billon Gets Children from Yuck to Yum by Taste Training

Article excerpt

Taste training child can curb picky eating


TORONTO - Karen Le Billon has had her share of trials and tribulations with two young daughters who were picky eaters. The university professor, who documented her experiences of reinventing her family's eating habits in "French Kids Eat Everything," has followed up with a book of tips and tricks to coach parents on how to cure the yuck factor when it comes to food.

In "Getting to Yum: The 7 Secrets of Raising Eager Eaters" (HarperCollins Canada), Le Billon provides strategies, games and recipes for making "taste training" fun.

"For parents with young kids it's preventing picky eating and for older kids it's curing it. I call it food rehab," she said during a visit to Toronto to promote the book. "You get them snacking less, you wean them off kids' food, you get them taste training, you get them participating in the kitchen learning how to cook and it works."

Her research ranged from neurobiology, nutrition, dietetics and medicine all the way through to social psychology, comparative anthropologies and sociology, but the book is anything but dry.

She worked with about two dozen families testing her methods, games and recipes and they had some "pretty amazing breakthroughs."

"I wrote the book as the book I wish I had had as a new mom because all the recipes are fast. They're easy. Except for the spices the ingredients are widely available. I'm not talking about high-grade first-pressed olive oil. It's like a carrot and an onion. The recipes are all designed to be really delicious for parents as well as babies, toddlers, preschoolers, teens. One family, one meal.

"In theory it should save you time because you're only making one dish for everybody because the classic thing is short-order cooking -- 'OK, she doesn't like fish so I have to make something for her.' I don't have time for that. I'm busy, I work full time, I don't have help at home. It's like, 'I'm making this, we're eating it, thank you.'"

When North American parents stopped offering flavourful food to babies a culture of picky eaters evolved, said the University of British Columbia professor, who maintains that kids can eat anything.

"If you go to Bangladesh they're starting to eat mild curry spice before they're a year old and they're basically eating the same dishes as their parents by the time they're two or three. Hot sauce in Mexico, the same. Japan, it's fish.

"In Italy it's brodo, the first broth they make for babies. They put in zucchini, potato and a little garlic, they strain it and that's what they mix with rice cereal with a little drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of Parmesan. In France the first foods that they recommend are things like white leek soup and zucchini, so it's no wonder that 90 per cent of French eight-year-olds report loving lettuce. …

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