Parenting

New Study Finds Picky Eating Caused by Genetics

A new study released in England reveals that picky eaters may just be taking after mom or dad:

Picky eating in children is characterized by an unwillingness to try new foods (food neophobia) and strong food preferences and selectivity, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).

To conduct the study, researchers analyzed data from the Gemini study, the largest twin cohort in the world. They looked specifically at the feeding habits of 1,921 mothers and their 16-month-old twins.

Researchers studied the mothers’ self-reported uses of ‘pressure to eat,’ ‘restriction’ and ‘instrumental feeding,’ as well as their children’s food fussiness.

They found that home environment and parenting style influenced the toddlers’ food fussiness more than it influenced the toddlers’ neophobia, but both traits were influenced less by environmental factors than genetic ones.

In short, if you were a picky eater, plan on dealing with one of your own. It’s a frustration for sure, but mainly because no one likes devoting hours (or even minutes) to preparing food that gets pushed aside or tossed on the floor. On the list of inadvertent insults thrown your way by your sweet little cherub, picky eating ranks among the highest: “Yeah, sure you worked hard to prepare this lovely meal for me. Too bad it STINKS!” But, as Julie Gunlock points out, picky eating isn’t as terrible for your child’s health as certain marketers would like you to think:

In Western culture, it’s actually quite difficult for kids to miss out on vital nutrients. Today, food sold in the grocery store is packed with vitamins and nutrients. Common foods that even picky eaters enjoy—like orange juice, milk, cereals, breads, certain snacks, and other beverages—are often fortified with certain essential micronutrients in order to improve the nutritional quality of the final product.

What’s more, you as the parent have the ability to mitigate precisely what your child eats, whether you classify it as poor or not. My son has become an incredibly picky eater since all of his teeth decided to break back-to-back. Most friends and even our doctor assumed that, when I said he wasn’t eating much, his diet consisted of the typical toddler fare of pancakes and Cheerios. While Cheerios are on the menu, my husband and I long ago decided pancakes would not be. Just like us, our son will have those kinds of foods when he’s out of the house as a treat. As a result he’s addicted to, of all things, kale and spinach smoothies.

Unless they have an underlying condition that requires medical attention, even the pickiest of eaters will eat when they are hungry. While you cannot control their diet as much as you would like, you can contain their menu to preferable options from which to choose. If you really don’t want your child to eat pancakes, simply don’t let him know pancakes exist. Conversely, if you and your husband happen to have a bagel on Saturday morning, count on your kid protesting cereal so he can get in on mommy and daddy’s treat.