Picky eaters: universal or created by civilization?

Do most children have sensitivities to strong flavors and unfamiliar textures? My daughter ate a varied diet until about a year ago. I gave her whatever we were eating, but didn’t make a big deal about whether she ate it or not. Now things that I cook taste “too spicy”. She used to eat salad, broccoli, and a lot of other vegetables and won’t anymore.

I remember when I was her age, I hated steak, oyster stew, mushrooms, fish, sauerkraut, spinach, etc. I ate meat very carefully in case it had gristle or fat in it. Eventually I grew out of it. I just wonder how one would deal with it from an indigineous perspective. How can children get enough vitamins if they don’t eat vegetables?

Yeah that is a really common thing. I think in the past there just wasn’t the choice offered to kids. There was a simple meal, one item, like soup, instead of three different things. There wasn’t other options available if that wasn’t what they wanted.

My daughter decided that she was not going to deprive her kids of lots of choices like we did to her. Her kids picked at their food for a while, mushed it all up together, then said they don’t like it or their full. Five minutes later they said their hungry and she made them something new. She threw away a lot of food. She has changed that way of doing things now but it took a long time to de-program. Her youngest is just starting on solid food and I don’t think he will be given those options.

My youngest was not a picky eater at all except for one thing, onions. She would eat a plate of spaghetti or a bowl of soup and when she was done there would be a little pile of all the onion on the side of her plate. No matter how small I chopped them up. She rarely complained about it she just sorted them all out and didn’t eat them.

Our ten year old niece came to live with us from a foster home with 8 other foster kids. She is not a picky eater. In fact we have been working on getting her to chew her food more. She tends to wolf everything down because in that home, if she didn’t eat fast, the others would eat it all.

Hmm… so you think if I offer only one type of food at each meal, she’s more likely to eat it (even if it’s “yucky”)?

Worth a try… or you could try cooking things in a different way. When I was a kid I hated raw broccoli but loved it when it was cooked with a little butter on top.

“…so you think if I offer only one type of food at each meal, she’s more likely to eat it (even if it’s “yucky”)?”

Don’t know. I wouldn’t guess it would work right away. It would probably take a while to make a change in habits.

I do think that being overly picky like I have seen my Grandkids be is a result of being catered to and offered a virtual buffet at each meal.
Maybe I’m just a grumpy old fart too.

Thanks for the suggestion, Blue Heron :).

I don’t think I cater to the kids. The rule in our house is that you don’t have to eat anything you don’t want to, but you can’t have anything else unless you eat what is on your plate. If I serve something I know she doesn’t like, I only put one or two bites on her plate. I have a bit of a complex about wasting food, although we still end up throwing some away if I misjudge how much the kids will eat.

Often we get into an argument because she will pick at the food on her plate, say that she’s not hungry, and leave the table. Then five minutes later she asks for dessert or some other food. I tell her to finish the food on her plate and if she’s still hungry after that she can have something else. She starts to cry and says she doesn’t like it. She ends up going to bed without eating anything and complaining that she’s hungry. I’ve read that kids will not starve themselves and if food is available they will eat what they need. I just worry about nutrient deficiencies and I also don’t want to turn food into a huge issue.

Sounds like you are handling the situation in a good way to me. I’d encourage you not to cave in and stay firm about needing to finish the meal before having dessert or some other kind of snack.

funny enough, i was checking out the new wilderness way magazine today and tamarack wrote about how children are genetically disposed to fearing new foods. it goes back to h/g ancestors and the one’s who survived were cautious of strange plants, berries, etc. so children not liking some foods is natural.

also, in jessice prentice’s full moon feast she quotes a doctor who describes the actual physical changes a kid goes through were their body won’t like certain vegetables until certain ages, so therefore don’t force it. i’ll try to type it up later…

once upon a time… my daughter would eat damn near anything. (heh, i remember once we had some corn chips w/ a bowl of salsa, and we offered her a chip w/ a some salsa on it, you know, and she really seemed to like it. then i went upstairs for something or other, and when i come back down, she’s like two-fisting the salsa bowl, no chips, just handfuls of salsa… ah, but i digress…)

well, she’s picky as all hell these days ( i blame extended family who introduced her to a lot of crap food ). her dislike of most dark green veggies doesn’t bother me too much (although she will eat a small salad, and since i generally put a lot of “extras” like lamb’s quarters in our salads, she still gets some, even if she doesn’t realize it), but her wierd views on fruit amaze me. she’ll generally eat any fruit that comes out of a can, but if it’s fresh, it’s pretty much just yellow apples, bananas, berries. the other thing that i worry about is meat, she’s pretty picky about her meat. like, roasts, for example. what the hell is wrong with a nice roast? or bbq chicken? or …? seems like if it ain’t ground up or deep fried she’s “not in the mood for it”. grrr…

anyway, the rule we have (which is the rule i grew up with) is that you have to try a couple bites of everything before you give up. if you dislike everything, then you can opt for an alternative like pb&j, fresh fruit & cottage cheese or something roughly similar.

so, i don’t know. we get pretty frustrated with her pickiness, but there are some foods that she eats happily that few other kids would be interested in (like the aforementioned salad), so… we try really hard to not get too frustrated and try to play up the healthy things she likes as much as we can.

my mom recently moved in with us, and maybe it’s my imagination, but i think that just maybe, we haven’t had quite as many dinnertime outbursts lately…

alright, so Neophobia is the “cautious-eating trait” discussed in the article…

I can understand fearing new foods. I’ve tried to give the kids a varied diet from the start so that we wouldn’t have a problem with healthy foods being “new”. We’ve all heard the horror stories about the kids who eat nothing but hot dogs and mac & cheese :o ;).

I just don’t understand why she would eat certain foods before and now won’t. My method (introduce healthy foods early, show a good example by eating healthy food, but don’t turn mealtime into a power struggle) seemed to work at first. She didn’t love green vegetables, but she ate them at least some of the time. When she was a baby I would give her the raw onions from my salads and she loved them. Now she doesn’t like anything unless it tastes sweet or salty.

And some people don’t grow out of being picky. A friend of mine in her forties still doesn’t like vegetables. She wants to like vegetables, but every time she tries them she still doesn’t like them. My worries increased when I watched one of those ER reality shows in which a little boy got scurvy because he wouldn’t eat anything but oatmeal. How can kids get the nutrients they need to grow without vegetables? Organ meats have lots of vitamins, but then you run into the texture issue again.

The more I think about it, the more I think Heyvictor has a point when he says that kids have too many choices. My daughter only has a few things on her plate at mealtime, but she knows that we have frozen pizza, cookies, and cereal in the house (my husband is another one who never grew out of the picky eater stage).

“We’ve all heard the horror stories about the kids who eat nothing but hot dogs and mac & cheese”

yeah, my nephew was on the strict “mac & cheese & hot dog” diet and had a brain tumor by the time he was seven…

i’d also agree that kids have too many choices these days. seeing footage of band societies eating, they pretty much have a communal pot or fire that the kids can wander up to and eat out of. there’s no other option or choice. if you’re hungry this is it.

we try to emphasize stews in our home, cause you can throw in all the tubers, roots, herbs, veggies, organs, and meat you want.

my advice would be to toss out the frozen pizza, cookies, and cereal. then there won’t be that option in the back of her mind. and for fuck’s sake tell your husband to grow up and think of his daughter’s health. there’s nothing more important in the world.

I wonder how mealtime and kids’ eating habits might be different if food was available to “graze on” whenever the child felt hungry and ready to eat (like the communal cooking pot), instead of the “breakfast, lunch, dinner” sit-at-the-table paradigm?

I know that is a tall order in today’s world because life is so scheduled. We usually have to plan when we’ll eat so that it fits around our other commitments, instead of waiting to feel hungry.

[quote=“BlueHeron, post:13, topic:1031”]I wonder how mealtime and kids’ eating habits might be different if food was available to “graze on” whenever the child felt hungry and ready to eat (like the communal cooking pot), instead of the “breakfast, lunch, dinner” sit-at-the-table paradigm?

I know that is a tall order in today’s world because life is so scheduled. We usually have to plan when we’ll eat so that it fits around our other commitments, instead of waiting to feel hungry.[/quote]

Well, theres always going outside and foraging…
Aive read that some hunter-gatherers would eat two prepared meals aday (one at sunup, one at sundown) and forage-eat as much raw food as they wanted in between.

Good topic. I agree that we have too much variety of food, and too much of it isn’t healthy besides. Living with the Hithera Dibber Bedouin we ate bread or bread and dates about half the days I stayed with them in the desert, other times we ate the traditional “feta”: unleavened bread baked on coals mixed together with fresh goat’s yogurt and olive oil in a bowl. It had the consistency of a sort of porridge and then everyone ate it together in a circle with their right hand scooping up the mixture.

At first I didn’t like it but it grew on me and is actually quite filling and something to look forward to on a diet of bread and dates. This was the most common hot meal with the Dibber other than fresh unleavened bread baked on the fire and the occasional feast of mensaf (a whole goat boiled with rice and butter served on a big communal platter with the goat’s skull in the middle). I don’t recall ever eating a fresh fruit with the Dibber other than plenty of fresh dates which they bring in from Medina al-Mudawarra. I remember I used to leave a jerry can full of water and several kilos of dates in a big sack in their camp whenever I left them for a few days to camp on my own or visit another camp and I would always return to find they hadn’t touched my stuff at all.

For what it’s worth, you’re not alone. When my daughter was 2, 3 & 4 she ate a lot of things that she won’t now that she’s 8.

Hunger is the best spice.

When I was a little kid, there was what my mom made. I either ate it, or didn’t. While I never had any issues with it (I’ll eat just about anythign that’s edible). When friends or relatives would stay with us for an extended period the first few meals would be protested. Then they would get hungry and eat. Usually enjoying it (Hunger is the best spice).

There were always fresh fruits and vegetables available between meals.

I am ever-greatful to my mother for encouraging healthy eating habits. I have friends who struggle eating anythign that isn’t processed, and am glad that I don’t have to “try” to eat healthy.