Why Are Some Children Picky Eaters?

Like all of us, children want to feel that they have some control and power over their lives. Often they do the opposite of what is asked of them just to exercise power. One way that a child exerts their power and control is through food. Forcing a child to eat creates a negative environment surrounding food and it puts you — the parent or caregiver in a poor example of a positive leader. We all know children who refuse to eat their vegetables, or whatever it is they claim to dislike. They’re willing to sit at the table for half an hour or more while the parent waits for them to eat. Realistically, it has more to do with power and control than being a picky eater.

boy cryingPre-peer pressure is a typical example. Children will follow the patterns of their peers. Assuming that you have more than one child at the table, I have strategies for that scenario also.Our sense of taste tells our brains which of the four basic tastes we are experiencing– sweet, salty, sour or bitter. If a child develops a preference to those flavors from an early age, odds are they will like them as they continue to grow up. People have a genetic preference for sweet and salty and a genetic dislike for bitter and sour. Children usually list sweet foods like- ice cream as one of their favorites –and as you could probably guess, bitter foods, including Brussel sprouts and spinach, at the bottom of the list. Some psychologists agree that a dislike of bitter foods may be a survival measure. Most naturally occurring poisons taste bitter and initiate a gag reflex. Therefore, the child is not really to blame. Overtime, food banishments usually disappear — if the parent remembers to utilize a few proven techniques and flavor enhancers.Many times, we confuse taste for smell! Very little of what we taste is actually experienced on our taste buds. It’s actually smell, sight, touch and texture. Keep in mind, all those senses contribute to children accepting food.

Flavor is a combination of smell and taste, with smell often being the most important factor. Most kids like spaghetti because it has both salty and sweet components, garnished with an intoxicating odor. And let’s face it, spaghetti is fun to eat! The salty and sweet combination is something the food world calls the fifth sense of taste on our tongues: the “Umami” sense ({uuml}’mä-me) As a parent of a picky eater, it might be your best defense. Keep in mind, fatty foods, such as ice cream, have a smooth texture that children like because it feels good on their tongues. Parents should also consider that for kids. Many food rejections don’t have anything to do with food-unless your child has a food intolerance. Instead, it’s a sign of exerting independence and imposing control. Most food fights come from oppositional behavior, similar to potty training and bedtime troubles.



Published by Chef Gigi Gaggero, Host of Silicon Valley's LIVE Food Talk Radio on KSCU 103.3 FM

Professional Chef, Two Time Award-Winning Book Author, Former Academic Director from Le Cordon Bleu, and Host of Silicon Valley's LIVE Food Talk Radio on KSCU 103.3 FM

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