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I Do Not Like Them, Sam I Am

April 24, 2012 by Joanna Drake, Registered Dietitian

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Earlier this week, I made muffins for my family. I found a recipe for cheese muffins online that seemed tasty and simple. The recipe called for onion and green onion. Yum! But I wondered what the kids would think.

My son, who is 3, devoured the first one. I was thrilled. To date he has rejected anything green (except grapes) and can somehow find the tiniest piece of onion – even if it’s already in his mouth – and remove it from what he’s eating. So, you can imagine my surprise when he was eating both!

Without hesitation I gave him a second muffin when he asked. He took one mouthful, spit it out and told me: “This muffin is DISGUSTING!” “It’s exactly like the last muffin you just ate,” I replied. “It was disgusting too,” he said.

My Grandma used to recount a similar story about my uncle and zucchini bread. It was only after my uncle’s fourth consecutive slice that he asked what was in it; when he found out it was zucchini, he wouldn’t eat another bite and he was an adult!

How is it that we can love a food until we find out what’s in it and then reject it because it doesn’t match what we think we like? It’s called cognitive dissonance and the principle applies to many areas of our lives. Humans find it so uncomfortable to have one belief, attitude or behavior that simultaneously contradicts another that we often change one to match the other.

What’s interesting to me is that both my son and my uncle changed their opinion of the food they were currently eating, rather than their opinion of the ingredient itself. My son could have decided that he liked onion and my uncle could have decided that he liked zucchini. But, neither did. Not wanting cognitive dissonance to play a prominent role in my son’s eating, I haven’t given up hope that he will eventually eat onions and things that are green. He is still learning how to expand his list of foods that he likes. The fact that he didn’t like the muffin is irrelevant; the fact that he tried it is encouraging because maybe the next time he’ll feel differently. Until then, all I can do is keep trying.

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