An Oxford University professor claims that children can be ‘tricked’ into enjoying fruits and vegetables through ‘sonic seasoning.’
Charles Spence, who holds the position of experimental psychology at the iconic institution, helped Heston Blumenthal in his efforts to create multi-sensory food experiences. Professor Spence has discovered that playing high-pitched musical notes, such as wind chimes, while children eat will sweeten the flavour of the vegetables and make them more enjoyable.
He also believes that children should be allowed to play with their food, in order to minimise the risk of them developing an aversion to it.
A survey, conducted on 2,000 adults, found that the most commonly disliked foods were sprouts, peas, cabbage and broccoli.
“The idea with chirpy music like wind chimes is that it contains the high pitched musical notes that have been shown to bring out the sweetness in a food that contains a sweet note,” said Prof Spence.
“The idea is that by accentuating sweetness, that will reduce the perceived bitterness of vegetables. And since bitterness is mostly what kids are averse to in eg Brussels Sprouts then it should help make eg cruciferous vegetables just that little bit sweeter.
He added: “Parents should let their children just play with the food and let them grow to like it.
“Research suggests that exposing kids to fruit and veg – simply touching, smelling, looking at the disliked food, without actually having to eat them can, will lead to an increased chance of liking it. In fact, kids should be encouraged to play with their food even if they don’t eat it.”
The way that the brain works means that it may be possible to alter the taste of foods using the other senses. This is because more than over half of the cerebral cortex is used to process what is seen, while only one per cent is used to process taste.
Helen Whitby, nutritionist at Innocent, who commissioned the research, said: “There are lots of ways to get children and adults to eat more fruit and vegetables; disguising them in other foods like grating carrot into sauces, or making smoothies, are just two examples.
One of the most important things to remember is that repetition and familiarity play a really big role in getting kids to eat more fruit and veg. It often takes about 10 – 15 times for a child to try a food before they totally accept it, so be patient and don’t give up.”