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Kids Won't Try New Foods? It May Be In Their Genes


Updated February 02, 2014

picky eaters -- may be genetic

Are they picky because they're parents were picky eaters?

Smith Collection/Getty Images Dad and daughter cooking in the kitchen.

Getting your kids involved in cooking might help them feel better about trying new foods.

Hero Images/Getty Images Mom and daughter -- both picky eaters.

Kids get cues from adults -- if you won't eat something new, why should they?

Hepp/Getty Images

If you were a picky eater, you may see the same thing in your kids now. 

According to a study published in 2007 in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by Dr. Lucy J. Cooke of University College London, fear of new foods might be genetic.

In the paper, Cooke wrote that food neophobia, which is a the fear of trying new foods, might be genetic.  Unfortunately, many young food neophobics avoid foods they're afraid they won't like -- such as vegetables -- preferring the safety of familiar sweet and fatty foods.

Cook also said that environmental factors might be important as well.

Another study published in 2005 by researchers at Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia suggested that kids may be picky eaters if they have a specific -- and common -- gene for disliking bitter flavors.

Maybe being a picky eater is genetic, or maybe parents and other family members inadvertently cause your kids to believe avoiding icky foods is the right thing to do.

Does this mean you might as well give up your dreams of parenting a child who loves sushi and salads instead of burgers and fries? No. Not at all. But you may need to change your attitude and the atmosphere around the dinner table. Kids will try new foods when they feel comfortable with them, but they may need to be exposed to a new food several times before they even take one little nibble.

Helping Your Picky Eaters

The first step -- and maybe the most difficult -- is to be patient. Offer the new foods along with foods your children already like. Then do it again. And again. Maybe ten times or more. Don't scream if your kids don't eat them. Just let your kids get used to them being on the plate.

In time, your children will learn that vegetables really aren't that scary. They'll even eat them. Maybe they won't love every new food they try, but they'll start to like some of them.

You might also get your kids interested in trying new foods by bringing them to the grocery store or have them help you in the kitchen. When kids feel like they're involved in the process of choosing and creating dinner, they're more likely to try foods that are new to them.

Just remember, picky eating is a stage that probably will pass as your kids grow up. If you're worried your children aren't getting enough nutrients, then speak to your pediatrician about giving them dietary supplements until they establish healthier eating patterns.


Cooke LJ, Haworth CM, Wardle J. "Genetic and environmental influences on children's food neophobia." Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Aug;86(2):428-33.

Mennella JA, Pepino MY, Reed DR. "Genetic and environmental determinants of bitter perception and sweet preferences." Pediatrics. 2005 Feb;115(2):e216-22.

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