Picky Eaters: Born or Made?WORTHINGTON — I called my mom recently and told her about the Brussels sprouts and parsnips I was making at work. I even told her my new favorite food was butternut squash. She responded with, “You have got to be kidding me. You are the kid that refused to even eat spaghetti!” It is true- I was deemed the pickiest of all picky eaters.
By: Greta Farley, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — I called my mom recently and told her about the Brussels sprouts and parsnips I was making at work. I even told her my new favorite food was butternut squash. She responded with, “You have got to be kidding me. You are the kid that refused to even eat spaghetti!” It is true- I was deemed the pickiest of all picky eaters. When the family made homemade pizzas I would only put cheese on my crust. No sauce, no meat, no vegetables. For lunch my favorite thing was rolls with butter and a pudding cup. Nutritionally complete? Hardly. Since I had trouble gaining weight as a child, I could basically eat what I wanted as long as it would put some weight on me. Consequentially, as I grew up I scarcely tried new foods. It was not until college when I started taking food science and cooking classes that I began to develop my palate.
There will always be the argument of whether or not picky eaters are born or made. In my opinion, it is a combination of both. About 25 percent of the population are considered “super tasters”, meaning they were born with more taste buds than the average person. This makes them more sensitive to certain tastes, such as the astringency of broccoli. A “super taster” might not like the taste of steamed broccoli, but could prefer roasted broccoli, where the taste of the natural sugars in the vegetable becomes more prevalent.
Picky eaters can also be made if children are not encouraged to try new foods. One must take into consideration that on average it could take 5-10 tastings to accept a food that a person is not familiar with. Children naturally prefer sweet tastes over the bitter and astringent taste of vegetables. What does this mean? Most children will initially refuse to eat their broccoli and zucchini.
What can parents do to discourage picky eaters and encourage healthy ones?
Create more choices. This will increase the chances that your child will make a healthy food choice. For example, have “build your own taco” or create a colorful salad platter and allow your kids to put together their own salad.
Make meal time a family activity. If your children help prepare the meal and feel like they are contributing to the final product, they are more likely to try it and accept it.
Ditch the Clean Plate Club. Force feeding your child can decrease a child’s ability to decipher non-hunger and hunger cues.
Limit the amount of “junk food” in the house to decrease temptation, but do not ban it. Remember that balance is the key.
Be patient. Good eating habits build over time. Take it one day at a time!
Readers keep in mind that this applies to spouses as well (not just the kids!) It is never too late to expand your food preferences or learn new ways to prepare and cook food.
Greta Farley, RD, LD
Worthington Hy-Vee Dietitian