How Do Innate Survival Tactics Influence Eating Behaviour In Young Children?
Most children seem to have a preference for sweet tastes. Why? Well science suggests that the preference for sweet rather than bitter tastes and the suspicious or fear of trying new foods or new tastes is based in the basic survival techniques of our prehistoric ancestors as a protective mechanism from eating things that may be poisonous and an attraction to sweet foods such as fruits which are safe, energy and nutrient rich.
In so many ways we are all still ‘wired’ like our prehistoric ancestors. A dislike of bitter foods can be seen as a protective mechanism from eating things that may be poisonous. A toddler in prehistoric times for instance, when exploring their world, would be less likely to ingest a poisonous food due to its bitter taste. Children are naturally attracted to sweet foods such as fruits which are safe, energy and nutrient rich. Mother’s milk which is also ‘safe’ is relatively sweet.
This suspicion or dislike of new foods is technically known as “food neophobia”, or fear of eating new things. It is usually about the age of 2 years that most traditional societies cease breastfeeding and the child is less dependent on their mother for food. Avoiding unfamiliar foods is an innate way of keeping safe as a young child, when left to their own devices, having no real way of knowing what is or is not safe to eat.