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The Kiddie Foodie Movement

The Kiddie Foodie Movement

Italian truffles, both white and black.

Jodi Mailander Farrell | The Miami Herald

Before she was a year old, Zoe LoSasso was introduced to the sharp, earthy taste of white truffle puree. Now 10, she doesn’t remember that, but it hardly seems an accident that she loves yuca-crusted snapper with kimchee aioli, roasted broccoli with garlic and pizza topped with crushed red pepper. Like a growing number of American kids, the fifth grader is being raised as an adventuresome eater.

“It’s a fatal mistake to assume kids like bland food,” says Zoe’s father, Dewey LoSasso, chef-owner of the North Miami restaurant North One 10. “Just the other day, I ordered steamed clams for my kids at a little place on the Hollywood Broadwalk and the waiter acted like I was a crazy. He was expecting me to order mozzarella sticks.”

Judging from a wave of new books and an increasing number of restaurants with creative children’s menus, a junior foodie movement is coming into its own. It’s all about thinking outside the Happy Meal box.

For many parents, exposing children to an eclectic range of dishes is a way of sharing a personal passion, but research suggests it’s a way of developing healthful eating habits, too. There’s evidence that food preferences are formed at an early age and that kids can be taught to favor the flavors of vegetables and other good-for-you foods.

“When you look at long-term studies, one of the predictors of whether children are eating fruits and vegetables when they’re 8 and 9 is what they ate at age 2,” says Julie Mennella, a biopsychologist at Monell Chemical Senses Center, a nonprofit research institute in Philadelphia.

“What types of food we like begins early,” Mennella says. “That kind of learning goes through life.”

Humans are born with a preference for sweet, high-energy food, such as mother’s milk and fruit, the researcher says. A taste for salt develops at about 4 months of age, but acquiring a taste for bitter foods, such as spinach and broccoli, requires repeated exposure.