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Focus on the Finicky

Faigy Schonfeld

No more food fights! Tips, tricks, and insider secrets on how to feed your picky eater without feuds

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

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DINNERTIME Zahavah Greenberg puts it this way: Parents decide what and when (dinner is right now and yes, it’s meatballs and spaghetti); kids decide if and how much (I don’t want any!). “It can get frustrating at times, but remember that it doesn’t pay to ruin your kid’s attitude toward food,” Zahavah says

I s mealtime in your home a recipe for frustration? A guide for understanding your picky eaters — and getting ’em fed!

Why So Fussy?

Eating habits are generally shaped by a mixture of environment and experience. But sometimes, physical, neurological, and psychological factors play a role as well.

Give Cravings the Cold Shoulder

If you’re an expectant or nursing mom, you’ve probably heard about the importance of healthy food choices and the impact on your baby. But here’s another reason to ditch the chocolate: A fetus tastes the flavors of its mother’s food via amniotic fluid and newborns through their mother’s milk. This experience, says research, may very well affect their future food choices. Repeated exposure to specific flavors may influence their eventual food preferences, making familiar tastes more palatable. So bring on the broccoli!

Bitter Blues

With their smaller physical size, children have a naturally lower tolerance for bitter or sour tastes. Kids who are sensitive to these flavors usually display a greater penchant for sugary foods and drinks (though adults who won’t touch a grapefruit don’t typically have the same sweet tooth). If that sounds like your kid, take heart: experiments show that bitter or sour flavors may grow on them when combined with sweet foods.
Note: Kids with bitter-sour intolerance were rated “more emotional” by their moms, only when the mother displayed bitter-insensitive tendencies. Hmmm....

Caution: Genes at Play

If your son is roundly rejecting dish one, two, and three, try to remember that he’s probably not trying to be difficult. In most cases of picky eaters, the “blame” actually goes to the parents, with studies showing that genes are a significant influence in kids’ eating tendencies. When the specific genes governing taste are extra-sensitive, taste buds are in a perpetual state of high alert and report strong signals to the brain, transforming what you would consider simply a disliked food into a horrific experience for a taste-sensitive kid. When it comes to sweet-tooth cravings, it’s the same genes at work, too.

You Never Know

Could you be a supertaster? The term was coined for people whose tongues possess an extraordinarily high number of taste buds, resulting in the brain receiving powerful taste signals.

Study your child’s eating habits; you may discover an underlying preference for certain foods

Supertasters often avoid strong, flavorful food and drinks such as heavy steaks, rich desserts, or even coffee, because they find them overwhelming. Fats, sugars, and certain vegetables such as turnips and broccoli (which contain bitter molecules) are usually off the menu too. Possibly one in four people may have these genes, which may not be all that bad actually, considering supertasters tend to be thinner and have better cholesterol profiles.

What’s a Mom to Do?

We all know that kids — and adults — require a combination of the different food groups, including carbs, proteins, and fats, to maintain a well-balanced diet. But fruit and vegetables are still rated as most essential, says Dr. Robert Adler of Segulah Pediatrics in Brooklyn, New York. “The micronutrients they contain are known to prevent chronic health conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.” To get kids excited about produce, let them pick out their own fruit at the grocery or try threading cut-up fruits onto skewers in fun patterns. “Remember, even if they just take a bite or two, it’s okay,” Dr. Adler says. “It takes time for tastes to develop. Repeated exposure to fruits and veggies — even if miniscule — will nudge their taste buds in the right direction.”

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