My kid is a picky eater!
Eating may be necessary to satisfy hunger and maintain our body, but it is also a social experience. New research shows that children as young as a one year-old are influenced by the food preferences of others.(1) Children are looking to cues of what is safe and tasty to eat. Your facial expressions and words provide those cues. Even more interesting, these very young children pay the closest attention to what you DO NOT like, including disagreement between family members.
This means everyone’s habits matter. If mom eats salads but dad says no thank you, a child is less likely to eat salads because the dislikes have the most influence. Older brothers and sisters are role models too. If an older sister does not like fish, the younger child may not like it either.
Childhood dietary habits become adult habits.(2-3) In addition, childhood nutrition impacts adult health even if kids seem okay now.(4) In fact, many kids consume too much fat, cholesterol, added sugar, and salt. (5-7) We need to eat better, for our kid’s sake.
What food preferences are your family members modeling? Let’s all (yes-moms, dads, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles...) add a few more veggies to our diet, choose 1% milk, and cut back on sugary beverages. For the health of our children, a united and healthy front is best.
See these blogs for more healthy living tips:
- Liberman, Z., Woodward, A. L., Sullivan, K. R., and Kinzler, K. D. (2016). Early emerging system for reasoning about the social nature of food. PNAS, 113(34), 9480-9485.
- Klesges, R.C., Stein, R.J., Eck, L.H., Isbell, T.R. and Klesges, L.M. (1991) Parental influences on food selection in young children and its relationships to childhood obesity. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 53, 859–864.
- Steiger, H., Stotland, S., Ghadirian, A.M. and Whitehead, V. (1994) Controlled study of eating concerns and psychopathological traits in relative of eating disorders probands: do familial traits exist? International Journal of Eating Disorders, 18, 107–118.
- Berenson, G.S., Srinivasan, S.R., Bao, W., Newman, W.P., III, Tracy, R.E. and Wattigney, W.A. (1998) Association between multiple cardiovascular risk factors and atherosclerosis in children and young adults. New England Journal of Medicine, 338, 1650–1656.
- Nicklas, T.A. (1995) Dietary studies of children and young adults (1973–1988): the Bogalusa heart study. American Journal of Medical Science, 310(Suppl. 1), S101–S108.
- Lava, S. A. G., Bianchetti, M. G., & Simonetti, G. D. (2015). Salt intake in children and its consequences on blood pressure. Pediatric Nephrology, 30(9), 1389-1396.
- Sodium and sugar in complementary infant and toddler foods sold in the United States. Pediatrics, 135(3), 416-423.