These days, it seems like everyone is on a diet. But no matter how many calories you're trying to cut back today, it doesn't seem as if the U.S. will be shaking any of its dessert habits anytime soon. Take ice cream for example. Across the nation, 90% of households indulge in the frozen dessert treat on a regular basis. And statistically speaking, each individual American consumes ice cream an average of 28.5 times per year.
So why is it so hard to say no to an ice cream cup (not like we'd ever want to!)? Well, according to new research, the answers could trace all the way back to your childhood.
In a new study published in the journal Appetite, researchers looked at how media influences and attitudes towards different kinds of foods influenced children between the ages of two and four. They surveyed 100 children's fiction and non-fiction books in order to see how often food was depicted. Overall, 69 of the books had images of food and among these, 57% showed fruit, 35% mentioned veggies, and 26% depicted sweets such as cake, ice cream, and cookies.
As you may already know, children are extremely impressionable. And unsurprisingly, the things that children read about food will translate into eating habits that they will carry throughout adulthood.
"Kids will basically eat anything unless we allow them to be picky," Dr. Tricia Gold of Tribeca Pediatrics tells New York magazine, "Shortly after introducing solid foods at around six months, children's palates are in the exploration mode and behavior is not generally tied to their food yet."
Namely, toddlers form their opinions about food when the media tells them what they like and dislike.
And during the study, researchers found that children's books with ice cream often stood out because it was typically "offered as a treat to celebrate an occasion, make someone feel better, and/or to indicate a happy ending. No other food enjoyed such a specific status with such a privileged connotation."
With this in mind, it's no wonder we so often associate ice cream cups brimming with delicious cold ice cream as the ultimate reward and celebration. And with 1.5 billion gallons of ice cream being produced in the United States each year, this mindset likely isn't going anywhere anytime soon.