By Mike Pomranz
Updated May 22, 2015
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The most popular baby names of 2015 were Liam and Emma. Presumably last on that list? Quinoa. But as a promotional campaign for their new quinoa bowls, BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse offered up $10,000 in free food at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse to any parent willing to name their newborn after the ancient grain. Who collected on the 10 grand in wings and burgers? We don’t know. BJ’s said the winners are only available if you send them a “self-addressed stamped envelope” requesting the information. At the time of writing ours has not been returned. Maybe we should have tried mailing a potato instead. They seem to arrive promptly.
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It’s the oldest trick in the childhood book: spreading your peas around the plate to make it look like you’ve eaten more, hiding them under the mashed potatoes and—when you’re really feeling feisty—seeing if you can toss them across the table into your sibling’s water glass. Meanwhile, your parents lament, “Why won’t you eat your veggies?” Well, a new study suggests that letting kids play with their food may make them less picky. Toss those peas where you like!

Researchers at De Montfort University in Leicester in the United Kingdom asked a group of 70 children ages 2 to 5 to search for a buried toy soldier in mashed potatoes and jelly while their parents and the research team scored how happy the kids were to get down and dirty with their food. The results: Kids who liked playing with their food were less likely to have neophobia, a condition more commonly known as picky eating.

“Although this is just an association, the implication is that getting children to play with messy substances may help their food acceptance,” lead study author Helen Coulthard told Reuters. Like any study that establishes correlation over causation, the results might just simply mean that kids who are adventurous enough to play with mashed potatoes are simply more adventurous in general, but Coulthard points out that teaching kids to enjoy playing with food might be easier than getting them to actually eat new things. She says making food art could be a good place to start.