Is your child a fussy eater? Genetics could be the reason why

Is your child a fussy eater? Genetics could be the reason why

According to a study, your child's fussy eating habits could be innate, not learned

If your toddler is a fussy eater, you might have heard that your parenting style could be making them picky. While that does play a part in your child’s relationship with food, a new study by researchers from the University College London has revealed that genetics are partially to blame for your child’s fussy eating habits.

Published in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, the study observed the eating habits of more than 1,900 pairs of 16-month-old twins. The researchers examined both monosygotic or identical twins (who share 100% of their genes) and duozygotic fraternal twins (who share only 50% of their segregating genes) to see how genetics play a part in their eating habits.

The researchers were observing two things:

  • food fussiness: the tendency to be very selective about food
  • food neophobia: the tendency to refuse to try new and unfamiliar foods

fussy eater

The researchers found that genetics played a significant part on both food fussiness and food neophobia. To be exact, genetics can be blamed for 46% of food fussiness, and 58% of food neophobia.

In other words, there’s a significant chance that your child’s fussiness wasn’t learned, but is, in fact, innate.

“That these traits were so significantly influenced by genes so early on really indicates how innate the tendency is, and that it is not because of the parents that are kind of molding [children] into fussy eaters—it is already there when they are 16 months old,”  co-lead author Andrea Smith told The Guardian.

Though genes might be the cause behind your child’s fussiness, that doesn’t mean that how you feed your child doesn’t play a part. 

What now?

fussy eater

fussy eater

“Keeping meal times as positive as possible is the way forward,” Andrea Smith told CNN.

Your child’s fussy eating habits don’t have to stay that way. As Smith pointed out to The Guardian, “[our] genes are not our destiny. Parents can positively influence their child’s eating behaviors.”

Instead of forcing your child to eat a certain kind of food, keep offering it to your child and praise them every time they show interest.

“Keeping meal times as positive as possible is the way forward”

fussy eater

fussy eater

“When mealtimes tend to be negative it makes the child tense and those fussy tendencies become stronger,” said Smith. “Coercing them into eating also exacerbates these tendencies.”

Pediatric specialist Dr. Alastair Sutcliffe told CNN that the foods you use to wean your child could also play a role in their fussiness. Parents, for example, can feed their baby too much sweet foods while weaning, making them partial to sweet foods and less willing to try other foods.

Dr. Sutcliffe recommended that parents should give their babies a varied diet with a wide range of tastes, while making sure that they get enough nutrition.