According to a study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Dr. Lucy J. Cooke of University College London may just have the answer to that question. The doctor and her researchers suggest that almost 80 percent of kids inherit a fear of trying new food from their parents. This fear of eating unknown food is called "food neophobia." Unfortunately many young food neophobics avoid nutritious foods like vegetables, preferring the safety of less-healthy but more familiar sweet and fatty foods. Kids may also be picky eaters because they dislike bitter flavors.
If you were a picky eater, you may see the same thing in your kids now. Maybe it's genetic, or maybe you inadvertently give cues to your kids so they think avoiding icky foods is the right thing to do. Who knows? Anyway, 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. They may need to be exposed to a new food several times before they even take one little nibble.
Dealing With a Picky EaterThe first step (and maybe the most difficult) is to be patient. Offer the new foods along side other foods your child already likes. Then do it again. And again. Maybe several times. Don't scream if your kid doesn't eat them. Just let your son or daughter get used to them being on the plate. In time, your child will learn that vegetables really aren't that scary. They'll even eat them. Maybe they won't love every new food, but they'll start to like some of them. You might also get your kids interested in trying new foods by bringing them into your kitchen. Try these healthy recipes for kids - and have your kids help.
More Help for Picky Eatersdietary supplement until you can establish healthier eating patterns.
More About Kids and Nutrition
- The foods your kid eats can help improve cognitive function: Kids' Diets and Learning.
- I've got some ideas for packing a healthy lunch: Healthy Sack Lunch Tips
- Here's a story about a school in Wisconsin that improved school nutrition: Roadmap to Healthy Foods in Schools
- Kids don't always need dietary supplements, but here's what to know if you want to use them: Dietary Supplements for Children.
- Teens may be hungry they come home from school, and if you're at work, they're choosing snacks without your guidance: Healthy After-School Snacks for Teens.
- Wondering what to do with all the Halloween candy? I've got tips for that too: Halloween Candy Tips.
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.