Many children are fussy eaters. Did you know that a reluctance to eat new food is known as food neophobia?
Food neophobia is something that everyone has to some extent but it is generally strongest between the ages of 2 and 6 years. It is thought to arise from an infant never learning to eat a range of foods or becoming afraid of trying new foods.
Neophobia is actually a protective mechanism. It’s there to prevent children from consuming toxic or unsafe foods. Neophobia peaks at an age when they are most likely to put non-food items in their mouth.
A study at Flinders University highlighted that children were less afraid to try new foods when they ate a variety of fruits and vegetables. Ms Chelsea Mauch, a Flinders Research Associate, suggested that variety is just as important as quantity because it opens your palette to different flavours and textures.
‘Parents should be encouraged to introduce their children to colours of the rainbow foods.’
Neophobia can be modified through repeat exposure to new and novel foods. Current research shows however that it may take up to 15 exposures to a food to convince a toddler to like it.
Don’t give up on those fussy eaters because parents offering a variety of foods over and over again will eventually reduce their child’s fear of new foods.
For further reading head to the Flinders University blog.