Yesterday, Her Bad Mother wrote a wonderful post about her daughter Emilia whom she calls “the world’s pickiest eater.”
Rather than stress about Emilia’s limited diet, the blogger opts to emphasize the foods her daughter does like. Like Her Bad Mother, I don’t want meal times to be a battle with my older daughter, Jesse, who favors mac and cheese and chicken nuggets over pretty much anything else.
Still, I can’t stand listening to other parents boast about how their kids will eat anything, suggesting that if only I had exposed Jesse to a variety of foods when she was younger she’d be omnivorous.
Then there are restaurateurs like Nicola Marzovilla, owner of I Trulli, who told The New York Times this week that he believes children’s menus are the death of civilization.
Um, yeah. I’m pretty sure that even if children’s menus didn’t exist, Jesse still wouldn’t want to try calamari. And civilization has a lot bigger problems than children’s menus. If only it were that simple!
Jesse wasn’t always so picky. Believe it or not, at age 2, she devoured spicy Kung Pao Chicken, eel rolls, and sesame noodles (see — we did expose her to a wide variety of foods!). But, as she grew, she lost her sense of adventure at meal times.
As my younger daughter Ruby (who eats almost anything) says, “we all have different taste busters.” And taste buds change. I should know. If there was an award for pickiest eater, I would have won it. As a kid, I refused to eat anything that was green and pretty much left every restaurant in tears because I couldn’t find anything on the menu that I liked (in hindsight, I’m not sure why my parents continued to bring me to restaurants since I was so bratty about it).
I didn’t grow out of my “picky phase” until my mid-20s and even now, I’m still learning to like new foods. I never thought I’d be able to honestly say that I love Brussels Sprouts and asparagus, but I do!
I was relieved to read a couple of years back that picky eating is a highly hereditary trait. After examining the eating habits of 5,390 pairs of twin between 8 and 11 years old, researchers concluded that children’s aversions to trying new foods are mostly inherited. Apparently, 78 percent of food aversion is genetic and the other 22 percent environmental. Take that, smug foodie parents!
The other thing is that being a picky eater is all relative. Jesse eats better than a lot of the kids I know. She’ll chow down on edamame (see picture above) and brown rice, devour a bowl of oatmeal, and she can’t get enough fresh berries to satisfy her. I continue to present her with new options, but I don’t force her to try them. And her pediatrician says she’s growing just fine.
Besides, being a picky eater is not so unusual. About a quarter of all families report having at least one picky eater and most children aged 2-10 are considered to be picky eaters.
The good news is that by age seven, most kids are willing to start trying new foods. Unfortunately, my daughter, who turned 8 in February, isn’t one of them.
Photo: Paula Bernstein