How many times have you offered a new food to your child only to hear them say “I don’t like it” even when they have never tried it. Food “neophobia” or fear of new food is a very common development in kids about two years of age. They begin to realize they have control, and that means over food as well. Dr. Lucy Cooke, who published a study on food neophobia in the August 2008 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, believes that being apprehensive about a new food is an evolutionary, protective mechanism. If a child were not cautious about what went into their mouth, all sorts of dangerous plants would have been consumed by little cave-toddlers.
But don’t blame your child when they won’t even allow summer’s first ear of corn on their plate let alone near their lips. Researchers at the University College, London, tell us that 78% of food neophobia is genetic! If your child is selective (nice word for picky), chances are you were too.
Luckily, food neophobia and selectivity tend to be time limited if addressed appropriately. Forcing, begging, rewarding or punishing seems to make matters worse. Patience, food play and maybe a sense of humor seem to have a more positive lasting effect.
So relax, make another PB &J, pretzel and carrot stick lunch. One day your child will come home from a play date and ask why you don’t make squid ink pasta with sun dried tomato like Will’s mom and you will just smile and say “I don’t know!”