Curbing picky eating behavior

Alan Greene, MD, shares advice for parents on the best solutions for stopping your child from being a picky eater and teaching them to love new foods
Solutions for Picky Eater Children
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Curbing picky eating behavior

So I want to tell you about a study that profoundly affected me. And this was a study about a really picky eater, super finicky eaters, that would only eat one thing again and again and again and wouldn't even try other things. But this was a cat. Cats are classic carnivores. They don't eat any plants. They don't like fruits in particular. And among the fruits they don't like, cats' least favorite fruit in experimental models is the banana. So in this particular thing they chose bananas and cats. I know, just parenthetically, dogs are not picky eaters. They'll dive into anything. But cats will pick it up. They'll look at it. They'll decide if this is something they want to eat. They'll set it back down and walk away. So they picked bananas and cats. And what they did is they used electrodes in the brain - and I'm not saying I approve of the study; I'm just saying it changed me - and they used these electrodes, little tiny shocks, to teach the cats to like bananas. And what they did, is at least they were shocks of pleasure. So every time they got close to a banana, they would have this wave of pleasure like we get when we get food imprinting. And they taught the cats to like bananas. Now, I'm not suggesting that you put electrodes in your babies and teach them to like foods. But the really part of this study that was profound was these cats were mother cats. And then they introduced the babies to come in. And they didn't see the bananas, they didn't get shocked, but they tasted the bananas in mom's milk, they saw moms eating the bananas, and when all the different foods were out there - the cat foods, and the dish, and the milk and the things that cats would normally eat - they walked past all those things, and the kittens all ate bananas. They were influenced by their moms that ate bananas. And then when mom was out of the picture, they kept eating bananas. They were banana-eating cats. So can our kids be trained to like something that wouldn't even be good for our species? Yeah. You look around the United States. That's what's happened. They are eating things that aren't good for our species. So of course we can train them to like foods that are great for them and to really fall in love with those foods. Studies have been shown with imprinting, and again I don't like this, but you can teach them to like fish eggs, and teach them to like grasshoppers, you can teach them to like dishwashing liquid. You can teach them to like all kinds of things. Yes, you can teach them to really love vegetables and fruits and whole grains and nuts.

Alan Greene, MD, shares advice for parents on the best solutions for stopping your child from being a picky eater and teaching them to love new foods


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Alan Greene, MD


Dr. Alan Greene founded his website,, in 1995, cited by the AMA as "the pioneer physician web site." In 2010 he founded the WhiteOut Now movement to change how babies are fed from their very first bite of solid food, and in 2012 he founded TICC TOCC – Transitioning Immediate Cord Clamping To Optimal Cord Clamping. He is an author of several books including Feeding Baby Green and appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, TODAY Show, Good Morning America, the Dr. Oz Show, and is a regular columnist for Parenting magazine. He is a practicing pediatrician and the father of four.

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