I’m sure we have all known, or had, children who have been – at one stage or another – picky eaters. Last week on Radio 4’s Women’s Hour the subject of children’s ‘Fussy eating’ was highlighted and discussed by Ciara Atwell, mum and blogger of ‘My Fussy Eater’ and Jackie Blisset of Coventry University. So what is the cause of fussy eating in children? Jackie explained research has shown that it’s down to ‘Gene Environment Interaction’ meaning that:
- Some children are genetically disposed to be possible fussy eaters
- Environmental issues can play a huge factor too. What you’re exposed to from very early in your eating experiences can shape eating habits, so what you see your parents eating or what you see others eating around you can be a big influence.
I can really relate to this – working at a busy day care centre I lost count of the many parents who would look at the weekly menu and would comment – in front of their child “He won’t eat that, we don’t have it at home.” Or, in surprise, when given a hand-over summary of their child’s day, would exclaim “He ate THAT – he NEVER eats that when I give it to him!” We would, of course, have a couple of children who would refuse many foods put in front of them. But the majority of children, even if they refused some food the first few times, would soon be eating most things put in front of them – because they were sitting with their peers, in a group – and everyone else was eating too. Two prime examples of environment = good eating habits.
Living where we do, in a 1st world country, it is easy to think that we are all exposed to the food and tastes of the world – through restaurants, fast food outlets, food takeaway services, TV cookery programmes, recipes in magazines/newspapers/the internet…. Many of us subscribe to food blogs, and I count myself as one of the many (my children say ‘sad’) people who takes photo’s of their plate of food if it looks pretty or just plain delicious – usually to share (a little bit smugly?!) on social media.
However, there are many, many adults out there who could be labelled as ‘fussy eaters’ People who eat the same diet week in and week out, people who have a problem with different food textures/smells/intensity or unfamiliarity of flavour. People who don’t eat out, because they’re worried they may not like what’s on the menu or what’s being served at someone else’s house. People who limit their travel or holiday experiences so that they can carry on eating their familiar food, without worry. We are all aware of the growing obesity crisis for both adults and children because of poor diet. Fussy eating is a 1st world problem – elsewhere in the world people are dying of starvation, here people won’t eat a certain food if they don’t like the look of it!
Most children go through certain stages where they are picky eaters – my children did for a while, and my 20 month old granddaughter has just come out of a stage of not wanting vegetables in any shape or form. It is not abnormal and not something to worry about too much. There are things we can do. We can’t do anything about the genetic factor, but we can do something about our children’s ‘food environment’ – and it starts with us!
Here are my 5 top tips