That’s according to new research from the University of Bristol’s Children of the 90s study. Researchers have struggled to agree on an exact definition of picky eating, or identify who picky eaters are – which makes it difficult to compare different studies and draw overall conclusions.
However, as a general rule, picky eaters have strong preferences for particular foods and are reluctant to try unfamiliar foods. Sometimes these children insist on having their food presented in a particular way and can be very slow about eating it.
How picky eating develops
Picky eating is a source of anxiety and stress for many parents. The constant battles at mealtimes, combined with worry about whether the child is getting the right nutrients to grow and develop normally, can be exhausting and disruptive to family life and relationships.
It’s a common behaviour in preschool children, but children tend to grow out of it in the early school years, perhaps as they mix with their peers and develop greater autonomy. Some people think it’s an evolutionary hangover that once helped infants to avoid bitter-tasting foods that might have been poisonous. A fear of new foods could also be partly inherited through our genes and perhaps related to genetic variation in how sensitive people are to bitter tastes. For many children it’s a normal stage of development that most will leave behind eventually.
The Children of the 90s study has followed the development of children who were born in the Bristol area in the early 1990s, providing data about their health and well-being as they grew up. In our study we identified children as picky eaters at three years…
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