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Picky Eaters

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
I ran across this article in the NY Times a few days ago about kids who are picky eaters:

I have a bit of a hard time believing some of this stuff, to tell the truth. First, kids won't starve if given the choice of being hungry or eating what is served to them. I started both my kids with pureed vegetables when they were babes, and always cooked a variety of healthy meals. If they didn't want to try something, I responed "This is what's for dinner. I may work in a restaurant, but I don't run one at home. Give it a try and if you truly don't like it, you don't have to eat it, but I'm not making anything else. Have another glass of milk if you're still hungry." No picky eating tendencies lasted for very long.

I believe that just as you have to teach kids to read, write, do math and survive in this world, part of that is to teach them how and what to eat and how to prepare it.

Second, I don't really understand how you can tease out and true control group in any study of this phenomenon. The writer admits that the parents of these children were, and are picky themselves, but doesn't eloborate on how it is genetic instead of repitition of observed behavior.

Lastly, the writer gives a description of the fact that 2-4s loose their sense of taste as a protective adaptation because stone-age children might run out of the cave an eat something poisonous. Kids up to 5 or 6 put all kinds of stuff in their mouths as a way of exploring their world and learning about it, so why wouldn't the exploration of different foods be any different.

I don't know, I'm no expert in child development or anthropology, but this article has lead to some lively discussions around here, and I though maybe some of you might like to chew it over too. :lips:


Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!


Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

post #2 of 15
Sorry, this is going to turn into a very long rant!

I read the beginning of the article and it made me so mad i almost hit the computer. This bull about genetics has gone way too far. The fact is that people - parents - do not at any cost want to take any responsibility for the emotional wellbeing of their children. They leave them hours alone in the house, with a tv and video games for babysitters, they give their work priority over anything else, they are selfish and narcissistic and when their kids act up they cry that their kids don;t love them, and they push their kids to be successes and the top and the best and all that just so they can bask in their reflected light, not allowing them just to BE.
They abandon them in countless ways, and then can;t understand why they are angry.

You can do all kinds of studies and you can find anything you want if that's what you want to find. Of course identical twins have the same problems - duh - they live in the same family.

Now some kids might be more tendentially prone to suspicion about food, and others may have extremely sensitive sense of smell, and these MAY be genetically based but these simple variations can be adapted to by a family, but the fact is that nothing develops without a context. The only genetic factor i can think of that is not subject to environmental influence is eye color.
Even height, yeah, it's sort of genetic, you have genes that sort of determine your height, but you can have all genes that point to being 6 foot 5 but if you are malnourished or have some other problems in childhood you may not even hit 5 foot 5. I live in italy - on the bus, the old people (who lived through two wars and famine) can't even reach the overhead bars while the generation of their grandchildren is hitting their heads on them. Yet this is the same genetic pool.

One thing that will give a kid an eating problem is forcing them to eat something they don;t like or more than they need. That will make them nauseous, and one of the most easily learned reflexes we have is disgust for food, because, as you say, early humans had to know not to eat what made them sick before. Roots and berries carry risks of being poisonous - we have a very long term memory for taste and nausea association.

the other thign to give an eating problem is to make a big deal about it. Either extreme is bad - whether the one that goes overboard to try to compensate lack of love for the kid with cooking a different dish every time the kid doesn;t like something, to the otehr extreme of forcing kids to clean their plate no matter what is on it, are going to give an eating problem.

The key is understanding and empathy - we all have tastes, and preferences and i don;t eat anything i hate, why should they. And to remember that i have the advantage because I'm the one who makes the menus, so of COURSE i eat it all, i make what i like.
As you say, you can say "this is what i made, if you don;t like it, there's plenty of bread and milk, you wonl;t starve, and if you have no appetite, that's fine, we don;t always feel like eating".
Or you can adapt and make soemthing different, if you have the time and inclination because you know your kids don;t like the same things you like.

But both are based on understanding the kid's tastes, and accepting that they have the right to develop their own taste on their own.

I always made things my kids liked for the most part, and would make some variations for them if they particularly hated something i liked and wanted to eat. But i enjoyed doing it. Your way is ok too.

What is not ok is forcing kids to eat or cajoling them (if you eat this you can have that - that's how i got fat as a child, and how i have no sense of when i've eaten enough because i lost my perception of "fullness"!) Or cajoling them into loving you just because you cater to their food fetishes, which developed because they mistook food for love precisely because you offered food instead of love.
It's like the kids who get toys instead of love, and then get extremely greedy for things - they keep thinking this should make them feel loved but it doesn't. But it originates in the parents tryign to buy off the kids, not in the kids.

Let's remember we have a very difficult and essential job raising kids, and all this crap about genetics is a way to assuage consciences.
if you think "Hey, but they had scientific proof" just write me a personal message, i can give you plenty of indications of exactly the opposite research!
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
post #3 of 15

I don't know if I agree with everything you've said, but Icertainly do in principle. I'll share one little anecdote that touches upon the subject as you've described it: for years my sister hated broccolli (SP?) until, about a dozen or so years back she realized that she never tried it - she was past 40yo at the time. It turns out that, for whatever reason, my mom believed my sister disn't like the vegetable, and convinced my sister of that. Where my mom got the idea is beyond me - I think she didn't like it. I don't recall ever having the vegetable served to us.

As it is now, not only does sis like the veggie, she taught me new ways to enjoy it.

post #4 of 15
The genetic bit is ridiculous. I have one grandson who was taught food prejudice by his mother (who, oddly enough, is a good cook.) To eighty percent of the food presented or suggested to him, he instantly responds "I don't like that"- whether he's heard of it or seen it or not. (Let alone ever tasted it!)

The other four grandchildren - same genes, pretty much - will eat, or at least taste - anything that can't run faster than they can. One granddaughter, asked to pick her fourth-birthday celebratory dinner, demanded they go to her favorite Korean restaurant for bo bim bap.:D All four are garlic-heads, too. The ten-year old is very fond of spicy food; the seven-year-old loves Asian food.

I don't see any evidence of genetics in this somewhat limited sample. ;)

travelling gourmand
travelling gourmand
post #5 of 15
Instead of your child's first piece of bread being white, make in whole grain or wheat. Don't buy the uncrustables (This concept drives me NUTS!!!) and crazy colored yogurts. It all starts with the parents. They are kids! If you give them good food from the beginning, they won't beg for the kraft mac n cheese for every meal.

Whatever. This pisses me off!

Why? PB&J is what you make when you feel lazy. Now, you can feel lazier! I know many adults who buy this for themselves and I think that's funny and dumb.
Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. - GM
Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. - GM
post #6 of 15
I don't get it. What could be easier than PB&J. So how does this thing work - is it frozen, do you microwave it? Is it "fresh" and do you just pop it out of the box. It's probaly loaded with chemicals in any case. I gotta look this sh!t up on the web and see for myself what's in it. Gawd!

OK, I checked: look at the crapola ingredients: Uncrustables Shame on you, Smuckers.

I'm really getting sick of the stuff shmuck parents feed their kids, as well as the lazy-a$$ed parents themselves. There's no excuse for this dreck.

post #7 of 15
I have a huge diverse palet!!.. I love to try new foods, love to prepare new foods..
as did my father.........I have one child (adult) of three who really has a picky palet, and he suffers because of it, his diet is so limited, so unless the attitude the indifference to food , the fussy nature of the child is considered genetics , than I do not agree with this article at all...

If I could back in time, I would have worked with the attitude better, teach him to respect food just as a parent teaches respect of other things...

On another note, I was made to eat what was cooked for me.. no questions asked, no choices of do i want carotts instead of Broccoli... who knows maybe this has helped me today become a better cook , maybe that is why I am fortunate enough to have such a large palet , and I can enjoy all kinds of different cultural food dishes
post #8 of 15
I've found that my nephew will eat things when he stays with us that he won't eat at home. He's 11, so I'm sure there's some rebellion against parents going on there, but his mother grew up in a home where food choices were extremely controlled due to serious food allergies in one family member. So Mom doesn't push too much.

I have my nephew cook a little for every meal he eats when he's with us (which isn't nearly often enough for our liking :)). He eats a broader variety of veggies and will at least taste things before saying "no" because I gently insist on it. When he was little (age 5, say) I would feed him "kid stuff" (chicken strips, etc.) but I haven't for some years now. He eats what I serve.

I was fortunate to have a mom who was an adventurous cook, so we ate quite eclectically for the '50s and '60s in the U.S., sampling many cultures' foods and enjoying a lot of spices and herbs at a time when it wasn't common.
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post #9 of 15
at my house the rule for my nephews and niece is that you must try one bite of something that they think they don't like - due to never having tried it before. it's amazing how many things they all of a sudden enjoy.
this was the same for my boys also, i do have one picky eater, but that seems to stem from his other anxieties, and one that will eat almost anything you put in front of him(except for tripe:lol:)
even though i have many food allergies i still prepare a wide variety of foods that i can't eat. except for the gluten - my celiac disease is so severe that i very rarely have anything in the house. but there are many alternatives in the gluten free world and everyone seems to be healthier without it.
like mezz, i have also found that having the kids help prepare the food has the benefit of them wanting to try it, too.
post #10 of 15
Part of the "picky problem" (woo alliteration) is this notion that some foods are "kid foods" and some are "adult foods." Go to any American restaurant and look at the menu; adults get a wide variety of dishes, while kids get hot dogs, fries, and grilled cheese.

I really like the "take one bite" idea, and once I have kids I'll be sure to have that policy in my house. As it is, I'm hoping if there is anything to this genetics theory that the kids inherit my tendency to eat anything not looking back at me!
post #11 of 15
I have two kids. My oldest is almost 14 and will try anything you put in front of her. She tried mussels a few weeks ago at a Chinese buffet we visited and enjoyed them. I am also very adventurous when it comes to trying new things. Les isn't nearly as adventurous and is very set in his likes and dislikes. Along comes Zach, the 8 year old, and he is a lot like Les, his father. I do require him to try new foods. At around age 3, he would beg for spinach in the grocery store, much to the amazement of everyone around us. After he heard about all the recalls at school, he now refuses to eat spinach. Once upon a time, he'd eat broccoli and cauliflower, now, he refuses to touch them. We went through a phase where he suddenly stopped eating onions.....cooked or raw. That went on for a couple of years. Rather than eat anything with the possibility of onions, he'd go hungry. Then this year, he helped plant onions in the gardena and viola! He wants them at every meal...cooked or raw! The same goes for peppers. I do think that environment affects how children eat more than genetics. As time goes on, I do think my son will start eating more of the things he claims to despise now. Friends, his dad, and others have influenced him and I think with maturity, he'll learn that eating different foods is not a popularity contest. lol
post #12 of 15
Personally, I'm getting pretty tired of the "nature or nuture" argument. The fact is, it is not an either/or situation. It's both. Always. Our basic proclivities may be genetically programmed, but they are modified by environment.

One of the major differences between humans and other animals is that our instincts are open-ended. We are not chained to them.

Now then, as to the specifics of picky eating, I can't relate to it. My kids were both very picky: if there was food in front of them they picked it up and ate it.

Do they have food biases? Absolutely. Just like the rest of us. But they were developed by discovering things they didn't like, not by predeciding. In fact, my kids eat things that I don't, because they were allowed to develop their own palettes.

There is also the question of tastes changing over time. When I was a kid you couldn't give me an olive. Or a mushroom for that matter. Or a beet. Later on I developed a taste for them, as my palette matured and my food orientation became more sophisticated. This, I believe, happens to everybody.

But there will always be foods you cannot abide. I'm always trying Brussels sprouts, for instance, because it's one of those foods I think I should like. And I'm always being disappointed. I don't know what the Mother's purpose was with Brussels Sprouts, but it surely wasn't to be food.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #13 of 15
Seriously? I refused to try brussels sprouts because they were the stereotypical awful food that nobody liked, and only finally ate 'em last winter when a friend who loved them was in town. Have you tried sauteeing halved sprouts with soy sauce and sugar? Sounds weird, but it totally worked for me.
post #14 of 15
Smylietron, I could fill up an entire screen with the ways I've tried Brussels sprouts; including with soy sauce and sugar. Well, soy sauce and honey, at any rate, which is the next best thing.

The funny thing is that Friend Wife and I eat virtually any other form of cabbage you can name, with gusto. Neither of us can abide Brussels sprouts, however.

Seems to me nobody is indifferent to them. You either love 'em or you loathe 'em. And we fit in the second category.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #15 of 15
The article is complete BS.

parents enable their kids to be picky.

My wife hated broccoli until we moved in together and I started cooking.

A friend from my wife's office is extremely picky and ate everything I offered her in a 7 course christmas dinner. She even told me she cannot stand the sight of asparagus but ate the ones I offered her as an appetizer and actually liked them (cold asparagus with a lemon/dijon/white wine vinegar vinaigrette)
I am the designated cook when we go camping (3 families). The kids in the other families eat and enjoy everything I cook them but eat only chicken nuggets and hot dogs from the kids menu in a restaurant. Their parents keep telling me they are difficult. I actually worry they won't eat what I serve. I've made stir fry, Texmex Pork chops, steak, tortellini rosé, Tandoori chicken with handmade naan (never burgers and hot dogs). Sometimes I didn't make enough!
When my kids go on school trips for a couple of days, they are always happy to come back for my cooking and complain they don't get any veggies with their meals on trips.
My son is predisposed to love junk food making him a little picky but I hear him complain less and less as the years go by.

I would like the researchers to find picky kids in impoverished countries where they eat maybe 20 different foods or less in a year. (bad situation to be picky).

Kids become picky because their different taste buds do not develop all at once so a food can taste awful at one time because they taste only the bitter parts then it's ok a year later for example. The best example to give is babies rarely react if you give them a drop of beer because they cannot taste bitter and the beer will actually taste only sweet. A couple of years down the road it's a different story.

Genetics makes you predisposed to conditions and diseases. Nurturing can overcome lots. In the case of picky kids it's probably the genes of the parents that make them lazy to cook and/or engage their family in appreciating a variety of healthy foods.

**** I read the article to the end and the conclusion is still pickiness can be overcome (Alas some hope that we may be all right afterall!).

Luc H.
I eat science everyday, do you?
I eat science everyday, do you?
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