If you've ever tried to cajole, coerce or wrestle a youngster into eating good-for-you foods, you probably know the wondrous advantages of that child-friendly sauce, ketchup. More than mustard and better than mayo, ketchup is the colorful condiment that has made tolerable many a child's plate of greens.
A Child's Taste Buds
Children taste food differently from adults, and some children even have a genetic predisposition to be more sensitive to the bitter flavors in the foods they eat. This can complicate things when it comes to mealtime. The way a child's developing sense of taste is wired, genetically speaking, can have a big impact on his relationship with food now and in the future. It's hard to analyze how a child's sense of taste changes during different developmental stages, but sensitivity to bitter flavors and strong tastes may account for the passionate preference many children exhibit for sweet flavorings like ketchup during their formative years.
For most children, the acrid taste of some foods, like Brussels sprouts and broccoli spears, fades over time. It's probably reassuring to realize that your child is likely to become more receptive to a wider range of foods as he or she matures, but it can be hard to know what to do in the meantime [source: Medical News Today].
Exploring the Unknown
Children are constantly being exposed to new foods and new combinations of ingredients. For some, it's an adventure, but for others, it's a scary and threatening proposition. Taking a reliable friend along, just in case, is a reassuring way to take some of the uncertainty out of mealtime. Ketchup is sweet insurance for kids. Relying on a dab of the red stuff as an accompaniment to liver, okra or anything new or questionable is the best way to avoid a mouthful of yucky. For some enterprising kids, adding ketchup to everything is an inspired solution. The sweet taste helps to manage any lurking bitter flavors, and the thick texture insures that there'll be at least a little in every bite.
If you think your child uses too much ketchup, you can probably sympathize with parents who have to discourage their kids from dipping their cookies and fruit in ketchup, too. More than half the ketchup sold in the United States is consumed by children, so you're not alone if you've contemplated buying the stuff wholesale or finding other options [source: PrNewsWire].
If you feel the need to cut back on sugar or sodium, there are low-sugar and low-sodium ketchup varieties that will fit the bill, and you can always make your own. Making your own ketchup can be pretty easy if you're into canning, and it's an ingenious way to control the ingredients and make a product with fewer additives.
Once your child hits his or her teen years, he or she may embrace a more diverse diet, restoring your faith by ordering a wilted spinach salad sans ketchup every once in a while or tolerating a little green bean casserole on his or her plate around the holidays. Until then, though, old red will probably be the condiment of choice at your house.