Food-fearing kids

By • Published: January 24th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

A white food on the same plate as a brown food? Eww.

Pizza with cheese on it? Gross.

Square-shaped chicken nuggets? Double yuck. Round foods only, please.

Crafting a dinner menu to meet a finicky child’s tastes can be an exercise in futility for many parents, especially when the kids aren’t just picky but are also afraid to sample anything new.

The problem is called food neophobia, and it’s enough to make any parent feel like a culinary catastrophe. And chances are, no matter how creative you were with the broccoli, the reaction from the peanut butter-and-jelly gallery will likely be the same: Eww. Gross. Double yuck! But according to a new study, the news isn’t all bad for families with finicky eaters.

University College London researchers say a child’s gastronomic likes and dislikes are mostly inherited. The researchers studied more than five-thousand twins between the ages of eight and eleven and discovered that seventy-eight percent of food aversions stem from genes, while about twenty-two percent can be attributed to some sort of environmental factor.

The better news for parents worried about their new-food-fearing children’s nutrition? Some of these inborn responses to food can be changed through repeated exposure. Generally, as a food becomes more familiar to a child, they’ll often learn to like it. Although it may take time.

Also, experts say most children generally overcome picky eating as they age. So fear not, parents. The days of no green foods and cheeseless macaroni won’t last forever.