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.

But the thing is, I’m fine with it.  I eat the same thing for breakfast every day.  I eat the same thing for lunch four or five days a week.  When I go to a restaurant, I usually order the same dish every time.  Some of you who are like me will understand this.  Those of you who are food people will think that I’m insane and that I’m missing out on one of the best parts of life.  I hear you.  I do.  But really, I don’t want to try a bite of your paté, no matter how delicious you swear that it is.  If I were dying and I had to choose my last meal, it would be egg noodles with butter and salt.  No joke.

And of course, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, so it’s not surprising that my kids eat, well, they eat like I do.  Yes, it’s frustrating to me because I want them to be healthy, and also because they don’t like the same things, which makes it hard to cook dinner.  But they’re healthy enough, and I’m just not going to force them to eat foods they don’t like. 

If someone told me that I had to eat oysters for dinner and that if I didn’t eat them I’d get them again for breakfast, I’d be furious.  I’d feel powerless and angry and resentful, and I’d totally go on a hunger strike.  Because really, I’d rather die than swallow a slimy, salty sea creature that I have to pry out of a shell. 

Am I indulging my children by allowing this to go on?  Probably.  But my parents indulged me, too, and I’m fine.  I’m not an adventurous eater, but I began to eat healthier as I got older, and I’ve gradually started trying new things, like fish.  My kids will get there, too, I’m sure of it.  And if they don’t, I’ll always be happy to make them a grilled cheese.



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