Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Picky, Picky

According to a New York Times article, being a picky eater may have a genetic link. It's an interesting read, but ultimately the advice is the same: persistence, patience and practicing good eating habits yourself.

“We have to understand that biology is not destiny,” said Patricia Pliner, a social psychology professor at the University of Toronto. “This doesn’t necessarily mean there is nothing we can do about the environment.”

I researched this issue while writing the childhood nutrition series. The thousands of pages of research done suggest that these inherited traits are the weakest in determining what children eat and can be overcome with environmental influences. That doesn't mean it is easy. It is frustrating to prepare a nice meal, offer it up, and have it rejected. Very. Cooking is the only housework I qualify as a labor of love. Rejection is heart-breaking. But, where picky eaters are concerned, a bit of tough love is in order.

The "15" rule still applies despite this new genetic link. This means that most kids need to be exposed to a new food fifteen times before they get used to it. Exposed does not necessarily mean forced to eat the food. "No dessert" approaches only bring on a battle of wills which makes for a lousy family dinner dynamic.

Sometimes "exposed" just means it's on the place alongside some favorites, and that you eat and enjoy the food as your child watches. One thing I have tried seems to work. When my child asks for more of a desirable food like yogurt or fruit, I say, "Sure, I will get it. Can you eat a bit of your (whatever) while I do that?" Everybody wins and sometimes the other item on the plate gets finished, too.

Being persistent also means that you need to stay firm about fixing the same meal for everyone. Sneaking vegetables into foods in the form of purees or hidden ingredients doesn't help kids embrace a new food or learn about it, even if it gets the item eaten. It's not an easy thing, this healthy eating. But, neither is parenting. A related article offers up some tips to help you stay sane while staying the course.

1 comment:

Her Grace said...

I'm going on two years trying to get my older to eat broccoli. Last week, she dipped it in ranch and said, "Not bad." Persistence really is key.