Is Picky Eating Hereditary?

No matter how many times I write about it, I always find myself coming back to the subject of my kids and their pickiness when it comes to food.  I guess it’s not such a shocker that the topic is always on my mind; I do have to feed them every single day, and coming up with ideas for what to make never gets any easier.  


In case you’re not familiar with the eating habits of my children, their meals more or less consist of bread, cheese and pasta.  The type of bread varies - tortilla, naan, panini, challah - but the filling is always the same.  Cheese, cheese and cheese.  Sometimes they’ll tolerate a little turkey thrown in there, or chicken if it’s shredded to the point of near non-existence, but the cheese is a constant.  Cheese tortellini, cheese ravioli, mac and cheese, cheese lasagna, string cheese and crackers - seriously, it’s a miracle that my kids don’t moo.


I’ve made a little progress over the years.  The repertoire now also includes raw carrots (never cooked), sautéed broccoli (but only the flowery part), baked yams, roasted cauliflower, and raw sugar snap peas (but only the peas, not the pods).  My daughter eats steak if it’s drenched in either soy sauce or butter, while my son will eat plain grilled chicken, but only if it’s drowning in ketchup.  My daughter eats scrambled eggs and bacon.  My son hates eggs and won’t eat pork, but he loves oatmeal, which she can’t stand.  There’s no duck, no lamb, no ribs, no spinach, no green beans and no mushrooms.  Fish is verboten.


A long time ago, I complained about all of this to my pediatrician, hoping to get some advice.  His advice was to put food in front of them and make them eat it or let them be hungry.  That was when I decided that I should start looking for a new pediatrician.  But of course, it wasn’t the first time I’d been given such advice.  Well-meaning parents whose kids came out of the womb eating Chinese chicken salad and spicy Indian food would suggest that I make them try at least one bite of everything on the table.  Others would raise their eyebrows and make passive-aggressive comments about how they’d never allow their children to dictate what was for dinner.  And some would go hard core, insisting that if my kids don’t eat their dinner, I should heat it up for them again for breakfast.


To all of them, I say: uh, no.  You see, I too, am a picky eater.  I don’t eat red meat, or veal, or duck, or pork.  Not because I have some moral objection, but because I just think they’re gross.  I eat chicken, but not dark meat.  I don’t do onions. I hate garlic.  Mayonnaise repulses me.  Just thinking about sashimi makes me want to gag.  I only started eating fish at all about five years ago, and there are only three kinds that I like.



Neither my husband, my son, or myself are picky eaters -- we're "foodies," but my sister is and my daughter mysteriously picked up ALL her picky habits! The only way I have been able to justify this is that it IS genetic. The rest of us love all food groups, experiment with exotic and spicy food and have always offered it to my daughter, with polite refusals. The passive aggressive folks who suggested that we make her go hungry if she didn't eat weren't there to see her throw up at the table if the flavors and textures didn't agree with her. My sister eventually grew out of it (in college), and I'm sure my daughter will too. For now, she'll eat raw nuts, raw carrots/snap peas (no pods), broccoli (but only the florets), tiny shreds of chicken, Nutella (but not peanut butter), no dairy (except Ovaltine milk), no red meats/fish/eggs, no sauces (except butter), but any bread/pasta/rice available is approved. I can't see how we "made" this and agree that it's genetic.


My mother was not a picky eater. And neither am I. But, low and behold, my son is!! And his diet consists of everything that your kids eat!! I encourage my son to try anything that I put in front of him. I make a large variety of food, but he just isn't into much of anything. He has been experimenting with more foods lately, but he just doesn't like a whole lot of things. He loves spicy foods. I think that picky eaters are absolutely born. They know what tastes good to them. My pediatrician said to just keep encouraging him and he may grow to like more things. Let me know if you find a secret. lol


You are not alone!! I was a picky eater as a child and my kids are picky eaters. However, I found out that there was some justification for least in terms of myself and my oldest son. We both have the "bitter tasting gene". This means that bitter things taste really to us. Thus a dislike of many veggies. Here is a link explaining. This has been of great help to me in terms of responding to those who look down their noses at you when your child refuses turnips. A simple " hey did you know that too many turnips could result in the retardation of sexual maturity?" usually shuts them right up ;)


No picky eaters are not born, they are made. If you are a picky or finicky eater, you will be teaching your child by your response to food. My children were told they were to taste everything. They did not have to eat it, but they did have to try it, twice...after a time. So, my two year old middle son loved miso soup and thought that the tofu was cheese. My daughter at three or four was downing raw oysters with her dad. The argument that picky eaters are born is as valid as overweight kids are born. They are shown a relationship to food. Please check out my website: Transforming Lives. Included is a page on parenting. Thanks.