Alton Brown, the Food Network's chief food grump and chef extraordinaire, says the reason kids don't eat their peas — or other vegetables — is because parents cook them into "gray, lifeless orbs."
That seems unfair to the millions of good home cooks who know how to steam, season, and sneak well-prepared veggies onto their child's dinner plate.
Nonetheless, millions of times a day somewhere in the U.S., a kid refuses to eat the vegetables that parents dish up.
But according to a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, it isn't the cooking — or the kid — that's to blame. Sometimes it's the particular makeup of the microbiome in a child's mouth that makes Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage so repugnant.
When enzymes from these vegetables and certain bacteria in saliva get together, they can produce unpleasant, sulfurous odors. Some families carry those oral bacteria, and others don't.
Most often, however, picky eating has to do with how parents react to the pickiness, say Australian researchers. Looking at 80 studies, they concluded that it's best overcome in kids ages 10 and younger by a relaxed parenting style, eating together as a family, and involving kids in food shopping and cooking.
The least effective ways to get kids to eat their veggies: pressuring a child to eat, offering rewards for eating, eating in front of the TV, and very strict parenting.