DennisBeaverDecember 15, 2017 • By Dennis Beaver   

Why are some kids – and even adults — picky eaters while others will eat anything? Often, there is an actual, physical explanation for it that most of us have never heard of. In a moment, we’ll tell you what it is, but first, you’ve probably heard this saying, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”

Indeed, well-intentioned actions can lead to unexpected, truly awful outcomes, and that was where Ethan and his wife, Helen were headed, as we learned in a phone call from them just days before Thanksgiving.

For families, this should be a happy time of year, but two controlling, nosy grandparents were about to slam shut a door on their daughter and grandchildren.

“We are both retired elementary school teachers concerned about the eating habits of Michael, our 3-year-old grandson. He is a horribly picky eater, just like Sue, his mother was at that age. She hated vegetables and Michael’s face turns bright red if he is presented almost any kind,” Helen stated.

“With Sue, I told her that unless she ate some vegetables, she would go to bed hungry. I was rough on our kids when it came to healthy eating, and, in time, forcing them to eat healthy worked.”

Wants a lawyer to send a letter to the parents

“We want a lawyer to send a letter to Sue and her husband advising their refusal to feed Michael proper food is harmful to his health and they must obtain advice from a nutritional counselor to solve the problem. We called several lawyers but all refused. Mr. Beaver, we have read your column for years and will follow your advice. What is your opinion?”

We spoke with Hanford family law attorney Jeff Levinson, asking if he felt it appropriate for a lawyer to send such a letter.

Mind your own business

“Despite their best intentions, grandma and grandpa need to mind their own business,” Levinson replied.

“I cannot fathom how they could think that a lawyer would actually write a letter to their daughter, instructing her in how she should feed her children. I am puzzled why they would even think that would be appropriate.

“This seems so absurd. As they were both teachers and obviously intelligent, the whole concept of mother and father interfering with their daughter’s raising of a child this way is something that I cannot understand. How they can barge into their daughter’s world this way is just beyond my understanding.”

We agree with Levinson and told our readers to forget this very bad idea.

But we didn’t just splash cold water on their faces, as we gave them something that explains picky eating that we had just learned from the author of an interesting new book about food, “How We Eat with our Eyes and Think with our Senses,” by psychologist Diana Von Kopp, published by The Experiment.

Both daughter and grandson are likely genetic “supertasters”

The book’s subtitle is: “The hidden influences that shape your eating habits,” and as their daughter was also a picky eater at that age, “There is almost certainly a genetic explanation,” Von Kopp observes, adding, “They are most likely supertasters.”

And, just what is a supertaster? Von Kopp explains, “We are born with a certain number of taste buds, but the number and size differ. People with a large number of small taste buds experience taste with an extreme intensity and we call them supertasters.

“While children are very sensitive in general, one out of four is a supertaster and is highly sensitive to new taste experiences. They have just too many sensors on their tongue, especially for bitter taste. Although bitter is generally healthy, to them it is as if they are being poisoned!

“Typically supertaster children avoid vegetables,” she points out.

So, if you’ve got kids who refuse to eat their veggies or other foods, what should parents do?

“First of all, consider that you might have supertaster kids. Don’t blame yourself or let anyone blame you. Knowing that it isn’t your fault removes a lot of pressure. Don’t force them to eat, instead, give them vegetables, in small amounts, prepared in different ways and do this often. Frequent exposure to tastes—even those we might not like—reduces our sensitivity.

“Over time, your children should accept these new tastes, and peace will be restored at home,” Von Kopp concluded.

“How we Eat with our Eyes and Think with our Stomach” is an entertaining, practical, fun, money-saving, easy read. Every page will keep your attention, revealing the games played by restaurants and supermarkets. We enjoyed our interview with Diana Von Kopp and hope that she writes a sequel.

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.