American kids can eat almost anything; that’s what I’ve noticed over my past two weeks of travel. If you live in California, your children may be accustomed to eating Mexican meals, snacks from Trader Joes, and occasionally visiting the Donut House for some yummy in the tummy fried dough. If you’re a Colorado native, your kids may enjoy a juicy bison burger, trail mix concoctions and hot cocoa on particularly cool nights. And if you’re from the East Coast, like my family, your tots may be exposed to pizza for easy dinners, organic applesauce for snacks and ice cream on summer nights.
But if you think that a child’s ultimate “food personality”—aka whether they’re a picky or an easy eater—is fully based on the neighborhood they grew up in, the foods their parents purchased or their underdeveloped palates, then think again. Children’s preferences are not black and white, and just as some may be strong-willed, athletic, outgoing or shy, they have equally unique food personalities too.
During my family’s vacation, we spent time on a dude ranch in Colorado, where I observed the same kitchen quandaries I write about here on Mom Dishes It Out all the time. I observed a mom bribing her daughter (the youngest of three) to eat her carrots in order to get her ice cream. I heard another parent tell his sons, “Enjoy your last big breakfast of bacon and eggs.” Personally I just gave up and let my boys eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and ice cream twice a day, as they refused all other foods anyway.
At the ranch, I spoke to one guest, an ER doctor, who told me his daughter is a great eater but his oldest son is finicky. When his son went off to college, he lost weight due to his selective intake, and since then has become more open to trying new foods.
Another guest, a nurse practitioner, told me how three of her four children ate well-balanced meals, while one son’s eating patterns were the complete opposite. Interestingly enough, her son with the picky palate is a twin, and exhibited totally different food preferences when compared to his fraternal sibling. (This story reminded me a lot of my own childhood, and how my sister and I had very different eating habits growing up despite our similarities.)
What’s the point of all this? It’s simple. Though rules and exposure in the kitchen may play a significant role in the development of our eating habits, they are not the only factors that will determine a child’s unique food personality. All you can do is sit back, enjoy the ride, and do the best you can as a parent to support them along the way.
- How would you describe your child’s food personality?
- What do you think are the greatest influences on your child’s food personality?