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Well, Spinach Is Just Gross

Picky eating in toddlers may be in part influenced by their genetic makeup, a study appearing in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry reports.

Researchers from University College London examined food fussiness and food neophobia — not want to eat unfamiliar foods — in 16-month-old twins, both monozygotic and dizygotic twins, from 1,921 families. The toddlers' parents completed the Child Eating Behavior Questionnaire, which includes questions about food fussiness and neophobia.

In their analyses, the researchers found that food fussiness and neophobia were related, and that food fussiness could be explained about equally by genetics and by environment.

UCL's Andrea Smith tells the Guardian that many genes are likely to influence picky eating. "There will never been one gene which is the food fussiness genes — they are a lot of different ones," Smith, the first author on the paper, adds. "These genetic effects might be working through slight differences in personality in eating behaviors, in how sensitive individuals are to texture and flavors, to how extroverted and how open they are to new situations."

She says that as environment also has a role to play, that parents can adopt strategies, such as repeatedly offering a food, to influence their kids' behavior.

"In all of our studies, we've shown if your child is fussy, the most effective way of getting them to try something new is if you're eating the same thing and modeling it enthusiastically," adds the University of Birmingham's Jacqueline Blissett, who was not involved in the study, at HuffPost UK. "If you're expecting them to eat broccoli but you're not eating it, it will be a lot harder to follow through."

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