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Have you ever experienced a picky eater? A child who consumes an inadequate variety of foods through a rejection of a notable amount of foods that are unfamiliar. Picky eaters often only consume foods that feel comfortable to them. In some cases this may be only a few foods – most commonly foods that are void in adequate nutrition and full of empty calories.
Current research suggests that a multitude of factors can lead to picky eaters, but can a simple smile of others while eating increase food acceptance in a picky eater? This question was posed in a recent study published in the British Journal of Development Psychology. The researchers presented children aged 5 to 8 years old and adults with food alone, food accompanied with a pleasant face, and food accompanied by a disgusted face. Results indicated that foods presented with a pleasant face (in comparison to foods presented alone) provoked a greater desire to eat foods in the younger children. Along the same lines, the food presented with a disgusted face the decreased the acceptance of the presented food in all participants.
The recent study on picky eaters was not the first of its kind. Two similar studies were presented in the Appetite journal. The only difference in the previous studies were that the studied populations only included young and older adults. Picky eating habits are not exclusive to children – in some occasions children who are unable to overcome their picky eating habits continue into their adulthood with the same habits.
As a former picky eater I support the idea that the facial expressions of others could influence the desire to eat disliked foods. However picky eating habits are due to a multivariate of causes and these findings are only a small piece to the puzzle. What else do you think can influence a child to develop picky eating habits? In upcoming posts we will discuss more attributes and remedies of picky eaters…..
Bottom line: To increase acceptance of foods at meal time make an effort to be excited about all the nutrient dense foods (ie. fruits, veggies, etc) you consume.