I don’t buy sugary yogurt.

I don’t buy flavored yogurt.

I don’t really “do” yogurt cups.

All of these statements were pretty much true until VERY recently….and here’s why.

The backstory is this: While I definitely grew up on — and spent much of my fledgling adulthood eating — sugar-added, flavored yogurts of various colors and varieties, by the time I had my first child 11 (gulp) years ago, I had started to learn more about good nutrition. And while we allowed some Stonyfield YoBaby in the first years, once P. came along 8 years ago, we’d pretty much moved firmly to the plain yogurt camp. He’s grown up knowing almost exclusively plain yogurt, mixed with berries/honey/preserves/maple syrup/apple butter for sweetening, and we’ve felt good about both the better nutritional quality involved in sweetening things ourselves, and the budgetary savings that tend to follow when you stick with the big 32 oz. tubs of plain rather than a billion single-serve cups in various flavors.

But all this time, L. has been a staunch yogurt refuser. I’ve traced his violent dislike of yogurt to two key things: 1) His sensory processing challenges, which have made acceptance of some foods extra difficult; and 2) His episode of carsickness around age 2 immediately after downing a rather large quantity of blueberry yogurt. From that day, he couldn’t even stand to be in the same room with someone eating yogurt — the mere smell would make him gag — and despite our best efforts to help him overcome his dislike, nothing worked.

Over the years I worked slowly on him, slipping a little yogurt into his occasional smoothies, mixing his tuna and chicken salad with plain yogurt rather than mayo, and so forth. As he came to not just tolerate but eagerly eat those items, I became more and more convinced that the yogurt aversion was more mental than anything else. And since yogurt has probiotics, can be a good source of vitamin D and calcium, and is a relatively common food item that could be a real pain to avoid lifelong, I felt pretty strongly that getting him over the aversion if it was possible to do so gently and respectfully would be a wise course of action.

The question was, of course, HOW to do it. To paraphrase the Wicked Witch of the West: These things must be done DELICATELY.

Surprisingly, right around the time of his 11th birthday this summer, L. himself said simply and quite out of the blue, “I think I’d be willing to eat yogurt if it were vanilla flavored.”

(That sound you just heard was my brain coming to a screeching halt as I tried to process what my child had just said.)

The first thing he willingly tried in the yogurt world was a Siggi’s drinkable Swedish-style yogurt, a concoction J., P. and I find utterly delicious, but which — like all Siggi’s products — is definitely more tart than the yogurts many Americans are used to. It was, as requested, vanilla flavored, and quickly rejected. “I think I was picturing something more…vanilla-y….and not so….sour,” he said, trying to straighten out his face.

I considered this. Was I really willing to go further down the road of sugar-added yogurts? How much was I willing to compromise? And then I realized that a mental block can’t simply be moved. It needs to be pushed out of the way by new experiences that directly contradict the negative thought — or in this case, new yogurts that were pleasant enough to eat that they could permanently alter L.’s idea that all yogurt is pure evil.

He needed sweet yogurt if we were ever going to teach his brain (and taste buds) to like the less-sweet stuff.

So we set some parameters. Gogurts and highly sweetened, artificially colored yogurt-like substances masquerading as the good stuff would not happen. He could, however, choose his own flavors from a range of brands that we approved of. He didn’t have to eat a whole yogurt, but three bites was a reasonable compromise to help him get over any initial reflexive “I hate its” and form a more fair opinion.

A few weeks, three brands and several flavors later, my child just asked me: “Mom, can I have a yogurt for my snack on the first day of school?”

He’s chosen Brown Cow Cream Top Coffee Flavor. And I’m all too happy to oblige. It might not be my ideal choice, but when it comes to helping a pre-teen broaden his food horizons and learn to make his own smart choices, I’m not going to make the Perfect the enemy of the Good. We have lots of time left to help him learn to enjoy more tart varieties, but in the meantime, he’s got a new snack option that makes us both happy — and I’ve got something to add to my shopping list.