Children who are hesitant to try new food even during their adolescence may have a poor diet and also suffer from low self-esteem and anxiety problems, suggests new research.
However, forcing them to try these food at the dining table against their will may also backfire, the researchers warned.
To avoid this problem it is important that there exists a strong parental bond with the child, said researcher Edurne Maiz from University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) in Spain.
She also recommended “having a relaxed, pleasant atmosphere at meal times, that the children should participate in preparing the food and doing the shopping, using positive reinforcements and, finally, being a good model”.
The behaviour involving rejection of new foodstuffs is a typical phase in infant development, above all in two- to tree-year-olds and which subsides around the age of five.
Maiz conducted the study on 831 school children between the ages of eight and 16.
In the study, she used questionnaires on infant neophobia — in which the participants were asked about whether they were prepared to eat new foodstuffs.
The neophobic participants displayed a lower quality index in terms of the Mediterranean diet, and this is mainly due to the reduced consumption of fruit and vegetables and an increase in foods regarded as being for occasional consumption.
Both in childhood and adolescence, the neophobes were more anxious than their peers.
Likewise, with respect to self-esteem, neophobes scored in childhood less than those who like to try new food in the five dimensions – family, social, physical, emotional and academic — studied within self-concept. In adolescence, too, their scores in family and physical self-concept were lower.
The study was published in the journal Revista Espanola de Nutricion Comunitaria.
The findings appeared in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin.