My Child Has Neophobia?!

No, they don’t need a special shot. Food neophobia is another title for a picky eater. That includes a significant portion of the population under 18 years of age.
New studies have shown that a child’s genetic makeup may be linked to this behavior. A study done at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill examined the eating habits of 66 sets of twins between the ages of four and seven. Scientists found a connection with neophobia that explained 72% of the subjects’ resistance to trying new foods had a genetic basis. The remaining percentage was explained by environmental reasons. These findings were reinforced by earlier studies that examined older children and adults, and came up with strikingly similar results.

Even with this scientific-based explanation, the study’s lead researcher, Myles Faith, PhD, doesn’t look at these results as an opportunity to permanently acquiesce to your neophobe only eating hot dogs and Mac ‘n’ cheese. Faith believes that over time, with consistent reintroduction of foods outside of their comfort zone, neophobes can learn to try them.

Some experts recommend hiding non-preferred vegetables within other dishes. Cookbooks line the shelves showing you how to add shredded zucchini to baked goods or other vegetables to pasta sauce. This option may work for you and your family.

I get my children involved in the process. I show them Infographics on the health benefits of a wide range of seasonal foods being included in their diet. I encourage them to help in the preparation process and learn how to cook under the guise that they should learn how to feed themselves. That’s partially true but it’s all also designed to give them ownership in their own health. Explaining the connection between energy level on the sports field and what they eat is critical in educating them to make healthy food choices. They also see me modeling healthy choices (which include treats now and then). My job as educator doesn’t remain in any one aspect of their lives. It includes cooking, shopping, and designing healthy snacks and meals.

If your child resists even with a diligent effort on your part, don’t give up; tomorrow’s another day.

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