The Real Reason Kids Are Such Picky Eaters

It seems like every child goes through a phase where plain noodles or mashed potatoes are the only things they'll eat. With enough exposure to new foods, kids will usually grow out of this and enjoy a variety of foods as they become adults. But why are young people such picky eaters? It turns out there is some science behind their eating habits.

Children can become picky eaters for a variety of reasons. It's common for little ones to be overly sensitive to strong smells, flavors, and textures (via Parents). Experts say this is an evolutionary advantage because our ancestors' children wouldn't fare well if they enjoyed eating every leaf or bug they came across on their own. They're also less tolerant of bitter and sour flavors than adults, which makes their aversion to vegetables more understandable.

Other kids develop pickiness from their parents, but not in the way you might think. Parents who strictly regulate their child's eating habits — what they eat and how much they consume — can cause their child to develop an unhealthy relationship with food (via Harvard Health Publishing). Forcing children to eat certain foods can actually make them develop lifelong aversions to those foods.

Patience and variety are key to moving past picky eating

It can be frustrating for parents to deal with picky eaters, but it's important to be patient with children as they figure out what they do and don't like to eat. "Parental anxiety won't help," Lee Gibson, PhD, a reader in biopsychology and director of the Clinical and Health Psychology Research Centre at the University of Roehampton in London, told NBC News. "It's better to learn by example, always be positive when offering food and show children how much you like a food when you're asking them to eat it."

Many parents feel like they need to pull a power move when trying to get their child to eat a wider variety of foods. Experts say this doesn't help anything and can just add to the problem. It's important to have realistic expectations about how many foods your child will enjoy as a toddler. If you put too much pressure on them to like everything they try right away, both of you will end up frustrated. Incorporate a variety of foods into your child's diet and rotate through different options regularly. If your child really doesn't like something, try it again every few weeks or months until you can determine how they feel about it.