If you have been following Veggies & Virtue for any amount of time, you have likely heard me use the term "Love it, Like it, Learning it." In fact, my Instagram followers were privy to seeing these lunchboxes as my earliest social shares. Some of my only blog posts in the beginning told of the lessons I learned using Love it, Like it, Learning it with my oldest daughter. This past year, I shared a bit more of the inside scoop of what she loved versus is still learning with these before and after lunches.
So in attempts to further help you understand this concept in a way you can apply with your own kids, here is a run down to:
The Beginner's Guide to Love it, Like it, Learning it
What is “Love it, Like it, Learning it?”
“Love It, Like It, Learning It” is a feeding approach that fosters exposure to a variety of foods. This approach minimizes age-appropriate pickiness while creating a well-rounded food environment, even for the most apprehensive (i.e. pickiest) of eaters. With a foundation in the Division of Responsibility in Feeding, “Love It, Like It, Learning It” can help kids develop a taste for healthier food without a fight. Through the simple saying and straight-forward strategies, parents can quickly begin to build better meal plans, offer more variety, and lead their families to eating more real food on a regular basis.
What are “Love it,” “Like it,” and “Learning it” foods?
Love It Foods: Foods your child consistently likes and preferentially favors compared to all others. These are foods your child eats most of the time.
Like It Foods: Foods your child usually likes but may eat less (or none) of when offered alongside “love it” foods. These are foods your child eats some of the time they are offered.
Learning It Foods: Foods your child rarely (if ever) likes and may or may not have ever been exposed to before. These are foods your child eats almost none of the time they are offered.
Why use a “Love it, Like it, Learning it” approach?
The first several years of a child’s life are crucial for developing healthy eating behaviors. Setting the foundation for future eating habits and taste preferences to develop, these early years are when children begin to be exposed to a wide variety of real foods. Many children however, especially those between the ages of 2-5 years, face food neophobia, or the fear of new foods.
Parents often misunderstand this age-appropriate behavior as rebellion, stubbornness, or defiance when in reality picky eating is a normal part of childhood. Instead of handling it as an expected part of raising a healthy eater, parents often resort to bribery, coercion, and food wars in attempts to force their child to eat the foods being offered. Just as bad, some parents may become short-order cooks and only offer LOVE IT or LIKE It FoodS to accommodate their child’s picky eating. None of these approaches work, however.
Alternatively, research shows that kids need to be exposed to LEARNING It Foods upwards of 12-20 times. Many parents either prematurely burn out on offering these foods this many times, or they become discouraged when their child seems to repeatedly refuse them. This leads parents to assume their child “doesn’t like it” too early, rather than viewing it as their child “still learning” a new, unfamiliar food.
How does a “Love it, Like it, Learning it” approach work?
Much like learning to swim or ride a bike, learning something new is often a little uncomfortable for kids at first. It takes a lot of repeated exposure partnered with the time, effort, and patience of both the parent and child. However, when children are allowed the freedom to learn in a conducive, non-coercive environment, the new skill slowly but surely begins to properly develop.
Much is the same with raising a child who becomes what pediatric feeding expert Ellyn Satter calls a “competent eater.”
For kids, pairing LOVE IT or LIKE IT foods with LEARNING IT foods makes new foods appear less threatening. Research shows that when familiar and unfamiliar foods are offered together, it may make children more likely to try the unfamiliar, LEARNING IT food (especially for the neophobic child).
Over time, offering meals in this way also helps to reshape how your child expects foods to be offered. Rather than expecting every meal to be made up of only their favorites, they understand that family meals include a variety of foods that each member of the family enjoys. Children become calm and confident around new foods, rather than anxious and irritated. This also helps children to understand that there will always be foods they are “still learning” while adapting and/or accepting them at their own pace.
For parents, pairing LOVE IT or LIKE It foods with LEARNING IT foods offers peace of mind that there is always something being offered that their kid should/could/usually would eat. This lessens the meal time stress of “what to make” for a picky eater. It eliminates the tendency to offer back-ups when the initial meal is turned down. It re-establishes a Division of Responsibility in feeding for your family that restores enjoyment for family meals. It also draws the line that if a child chooses not to eat the LOVE IT or LIKE IT foods being offered, that’s on them. More commonly what parents see is that when offered in a non-threatening manner, kids begin to learn how to expand their diets over time to accept more real foods.
Where should I go to get help with implementing “Love it, Like it, Learning it” in my own home?
I am glad you asked! You have a few options, depending on how invested you are in quick, effective implementation.
- Follow Veggies & Virtue on Instagram and Facebook
- Search #loveitlikeitlearningit on Instagram to find new ideas from me and to see how others are using it in their homes
- Subscribe to my weekly newsletter so you see it shown on every meal plan I send out.
- Check out “Love It, Like It, Learning It” lunches from the pilot school year
- See “Love It, Like It, Learning It” before & after images from last year
- Use the below worksheet download to begin offering love it, like it, and learning it foods to your littles. With it, you are given suggestions for 150 kid-friendly foods and a Love it, Like it, Learning it template to fill in using the foods that are unique to your child's food preferences. This is the most actionable place to start if you ready to expand your child's diet.
Now it's time to act.
If you are wanting to help equip your child to be a "competent eater" (as Ellyn Satter so well defines it), now is your time to take action. Start using this approach in your home, while too getting the help you need to help your family succeed. I can't wait to hear of your success once you get started!