This is a really interesting question and one that I get asked all the time. Many people of *cough* my generation claim that there really weren’t any when we grew up as it was "eat or starve".
I know for a fact that isn’t true. I speak to many parents who tell me that they were incredibly fussy as a child, or had a sibling that was. There are a host of stories of Vegemite sandwiches for dinner or a diet of cornflakes and milk.
I also follow an adult picky eaters FB page and there are 1,000’s of members. It’s unusual for people to become picky as adults so we have to presume that the majority of these did struggle as children and many are middle-age.
Are there more picky eaters now than previously though? I’d say yes. There are a host of possible reasons, listed below in no particular order. The cause is probably a combination of these factors:
1. “Kid’s food” didn’t really exist until fairly recently. As a child I remember having fish fingers but most of our other foods were not aimed specifically at an age group.
2. Prepacked food was not as prevalent. I remember Angel Delight coming onto the market and it being a total revelation. A packet pudding that you mixed with milk to make a sort of mousse. It sticks in my memory as beyond chippies, biscuits and crackers there was nowhere near the alternatives we have today.
3. No alternatives. Following on from point 2, there was just no choice. Dinner was mash, stew and carrots. If that wasn’t appealing the other alternatives were cereal or sandwiches. There were few plan B's.
4. Modern parenting assigns a lot more autonomy, independence and decision making to children. My parents assumed total control as they were the adults. It is not the way that most parents view their role nowadays.
5. Access to other foods was not as easy as it is now. Often shops were further away, open far shorter hours and we did not have the same culture of whizzing into the supermarket a few times a week. If the shopping was done locally then families would visit the butcher or the bakery but buy specific things for specific meals. Now I am totally guilty of wandering around a store and throwing random things into the trolley!
6. Marketing/advertising. We are all bombarded with messages about what we should or shouldn’t buy/eat/feed our children. Aspirational foods are marketed directly to our children from all quarters. Even if we’re consciously trying not to be influenced, it’s challenging not to be!
7. Peer pressure. Sure, there have always been friends leading us astray! But with easy access to foods and a huge variation on what is provided in lunchboxes it has become far more difficult to navigate what we feel is appropriate v what our children want to do (see point 4)
8. The rise in allergies and intolerances. There is a definite correlation between children who have issues with food making them uncomfortable and challenges around eating. Who would have thought? :)
9. I was thinking on this lots yesterday. I feel that we probably aren’t as determined as previous generations were when it comes to food. It’s not because we’re lazy or don’t care but more situational.
i) There are more likely to be both parents working so we don’t have the luxury of time
ii) There are choices so we can quickly cook an alternative. It means we don’t necessarily persevere as much or for as long
iii) Our child knows that stew, mash and carrots is not the only option!!
iv) Culturally it’s not seen as an issue
Just some thoughts. What do you think?