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Special report: What makes a picky eater?


You probably know a picky eater, or maybe you are one yourself, and in this special report, we are wondering: What makes a picky eater?

Typically, dinnertime is the centerpiece of most families’ days.

“We’re going to have burgers with Tater Tots and broccoli, anything else you want?” D’Anza Freeland, mother of two, asks her daughters.

We were in the Freelands’ family kitchen as they prepared dinner one night for their two daughters, one of whom is a picky eater.

“What do you want on your burger?” Freeland asks her daughter Illiana, the picky eater.

“Nothing,” Illiana says.

The issue of picky eating is very common among families, especially with young children.

“Our oldest, if she could choose one thing to eat, it would be candy. She also likes pizza, macaroni and cheese –, she really loves mustard sandwiches,” Freeland says.

A registered dietitian nutritionist, Lori Brizee, digests the semi-hidden camera footage for us and suggests “offering a variety of foods that are nutritious, and somewhat fun.”

At one point, Mark Freeland offers 7-year-old Illiana a pickle. She tries it but decides she doesn’t like it, so spits it out in the napkin.

Brizee says, “You just put it in your napkin and don’t make a big deal about it.”

“Thanks for trying it though,” Illiana’s dad says.

The video continues and Brizee makes a few tasting notes, “I’m willing to bet a couple things about the older child here. One is that she has sensitivity to taste or textures. The other would be that she’s just not interested in eating, period.”

She compares Illiana to her 6-year-old sister, Annalee. The eldest’s pickiness comes as a surprise.

“Hopefully, she’s a good role model for her, too,” Freeland says.

Sometimes, that’s just not the case.

Doug Elliot, a biomedical science teacher, says, “Often times, picky eaters are not just being wimpy about, ‘I don’t like vegetables,’ The veggies actually taste more bitter to them they do other people.”

There is actual science to prove it, and the test can be done easily.

It’s a strip of paper that contains a chemical compound mimicking the bitterness found in certain vegetables. A small piece of paper providing some big answers.

“When folks try that, some students will run out of the room. I always tell them, ‘If you need water, just go!'” Miller says.

If bitterness is not the issue, here are some tips from Brizee:

–Make sure the child comes to meals hungry, leaving a minimum of two hours between snacks and meals.

–Offer half a teaspoon amount of new foods — setting the child up for success.

“College kids don’t just love beer. They learn to love it,” Brizee said.

But acquiring taste is a life-long journey.

“As a mom,” Freeland said, “it’s important to me that the girls get the right nutrients, but at the same time, I’m trying to let them be kids.”.

Most kids will grow to love the things they are now refusing.

As they grow, here are a few resources to help you with your picky eater:

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