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Parents of picky eaters, take heart. Stephanie Lucianovic, author of the new book "Suffering Succotash: A Picky Eater's Quest to Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate" has gone on record saying it's not our fault our kids are picky.
For me, as a mother of two, this is both great news and something I already suspected. My daughter seemed to be born a picky eater. When she was a baby and I, assiduously following the advice of parenting books, started introducing carefully homemade, organic vegetable purees, her very first response when the first spoonful passed her lips was a comedic shudder and a terrible face. We all laughed and kept trying but to no avail. She shuddered for sweet potatoes, she scowled at squash, she spat out pureed peas. Even the mildest, prettiest, blushiest-pink home-made puree of pears got a big yuck. If it was green or brown, not only would she not eat it and not even try it, she wouldn't deign to see it.
When, a few years later, we stuck the first spoon into my son's mouth, he smacked his little baby lips and smiled.
That's my anecdotal evidence that picky eaters are born, not made, and Lucianovic's research bears it out. "There's no real answer to why kids or adults are picky," she told Yahoo! Shine. "It's biology, genetics and your 'learning history'-which means that at some time in your childhood, babyhood or infancy you tried a food you didn't like, it made you gag, and your neurology wired you to think that that food, and maybe everything that looks like it, is bad."
Lucianovic found that there's some science to support the old wives tales that children will be less picky if they're breast-fed (they're exposed, to a small extent, to the flavors of what the mother eats) or if the mother eats a varied diet (same thing, through the amniotic fluid). But the influences of environmental factors, as far as we understand them to date, are small.
Her advice to parents is to relax. As long as your pediatrician is ok with your child's weight and nutrition, a picky eater is not the end of the world. Don't let the child take control of the household by yourself becoming a short-order cook to their whims. Keep serving up plates with new foods on them in addition to foods you know the child will eat, and, eventually, she says, they'll try it. (Anecdotal evidence has borne this out in my household as well). And don't turn mealtimes into stressful battles of will. "Kids pick up on stress very easily and they start to associate mealtimes with pressure and bad things," Lucianovic says. "And physiologically, stress really affects your digestion."
The following, gleaned from Suffering Succotash, are the top 10 myths about picky eaters:
1. Picky eaters are picky in order to be annoying or high maintenance.
Nope, they're born that way.
2. Picky eaters choose to be picky.
No one, Lucianovic says, would choose to be picky--it's a hassle!
3. Picky eaters hate Brussels Sprouts.
Some do, some don't. Other popular foods to hate, Lucianovic found, were tomatoes, bananas and raisins.
4. The parent should just force the child to eat.
Read the chapter in Suffering Succotash on the "feeding clinic" to see what you conclude about this one.
5. When you're young, you have more taste buds so foods taste stronger.
Not true. Foods do taste stronger to toddlers, but mainly, Lucianovic says, because the experience is brand new.
6. Picky eaters taste more than other people--i.e., they're "supertasters".
"Supertasters" do perceive certain flavors more strongly, but that doesn't mean they'll dislike them. They might be equally likely to love their amped-up eating experiences.
7. No, picky eaters taste less than other people.
Ditto. Some "undertasters" take their blunted palates as an invitation to eat everything in sight, others become just not that into food. It depends on the individual.
8. It's the taste of certain foods that picky eaters object to.
Actually, there are only six basic tastes, and people are unlikely to hate them categorically. Much more often it's texture, flavor and even temperature that grosses your child out.
9. They'll grow out of it.
Many picky kids do grow out of it. After a childhood of hiding bites in her napkin, Lucianovic became a food blogger. However, adult picky eaters abound.
10. It's a sign that there's something wrong with the child.
"Picky eating is on the autism spectrum because it might be Sensory Processing Disorder," Lucianovic says. "But if people are worried about this they should see their pediatrician. Doctors are much better at diagnosing than the Internet is."