I remember watching Dr. Oz on Oprah a while ago talking about acquiring tastes for healthy food. He said that for children, it generally takes tasting something 10 times before they acquire taste buds for that type of food. I have 4 children and it seems that they all have different tastes. To make mealtimes a little more enjoyable for all of us, we used to have a "3 FOODS" rule. We let each child pick 3 foods that they didn't need to eat. So for example, if I were serving broccoli and was about to put it on my oldest's plate, he would remind me, "That's one of my 3 foods". Immediate veto for him! Well NO more! I quickly realized that if they are never eating certain foods, they will never acquire a taste for it.
Now the kids know that they have to at least try EVERYTHING. Anytime they complain about a food (usually a specific vegetable) I tell them that they have to have one bite so they learn to like it. A few months ago, one of my daughters needed to eata red pepper (which she detests) in her salad. As she took a bite, she got a surprised look on her face and exclaimed, "Mom, Mom, it's my tenth time". Confused, I asked her what she meant. She said, "It must be my tenth time eating red peppers, because I love this." Sure enough, she has not complained once about red peppers since then.
Last week my youngest groaned as he sat down to the dinner table and saw that we were having zucchini (again). Tears welled up is his eyes and he said, "I HATE zucchini." We went through the same ritual that he needed to eat it but he could plus his nose if it helped. He ate everything else on his plate, and painfully left the zucchini for last. With a little persuasion he finally took a bite. As he did, his eyes popped, and he almost shouted, "My taste buds just hatched!" His sisters knew exactly what he was talking about (I think they introduced him to the terminology) and cheered. Hooray! He now likes zucchini!
So if you have some picky eaters at home, don't give up. The time to introduce food is while they are young and quite literally developing taste buds. As an adult it is trickier to acquire new tastes (I still hate celery). Continue to give them the foods that will fuel their bodies properly and try to cut out the junk. Studies have shown that highly processed foods actually change the way other food tastes to us. The more junk you eat the less satisfying the healthy stuff will be! So clean out all the boxed snack foods in the pantry and send your kids to the refrigerator instead! Who knows, maybe you'll be there the next time their taste buds "hatch!"