Adults Babies Healthy News Kids Seniors Teens — 13 November 2012

By: Jodie Shield, RD

For generations, kids have tried to convince their parents that vegetables taste bad. According to a new study, they just might be right. Researchers have discovered that there really is a “picky-eater” gene. A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that 70 percent of the preschool-age kids tested were bitter-sensitive.  In other words, bitter foods such as broccoli and cucumber, have a very unpleasant taste to them. But hold your fork! The study offers hope for picky eaters. When bitter-sensitive kids were offered broccoli with either a low-fat or original ranch dip or ranch sauce, they ate 80 percent more then when they were given plain broccoli. And as a Registered Dietitian (RD), I was thrilled to see that the findings held true regardless of the fat content of the dip. Kids consumed just as many vegetables with low-fat ranch dressing as they did with a full fat version – good news for parents concerned about offering kids too much fat.

So how do you know if your child -or you – has the bitter-sensitive gene? You can purchase P.T.C Paper strips. They’re inexpensive and you only have to conduct the test once. Here’s how it works. Simply lay a small,rectangular strip across the center of the tongue.  If the paper is tasteless, you are bitter-insensitive; if it tastes bitter, you’re bitter-sensitive.  However, I must warn you.  Make sure you have a glass of water handy. When I conducted the test on my son, Michael (age 18), he was so bitter-sensitive he started to gag!  Nothing dangerous, he said it just tasted nasty!

What I found interesting about Mike being bitter-sensitive is that he eats plenty of vegetables and loves broccoli. That’s because, bitter-sensitivity reaches its peak around age six.  As we get older, we learn to enjoy vegetables.  How does this happen? It’s called repeated exposure. Studies have found that parents have to offer (not force or bribe) vegetables to kids several times – at least 13 to 20.  But the key to out-growing bitter-sensitivity is that kids actually have to taste the vegetable. So as a rule of thumb, I recommend that you encourage your kids to taste the vegetable, and if they really don’t like it, let them politely remove it from their mouth with a napkin and throw it away. For more tips about getting kids to try vegetables check out some of my other blogs such as How To Raise a Vegetable Lover.

As a matter of full disclosure, I have partnered with Hidden Valley Ranch on the Love Your Veggies campaign for several years.  I was thrilled when I read this study because it validated something that I had been recommending for years with actual scientific proof. Plus, It’s helpful – and a relief – for parents to know that there is a reason why their kids might not eat broccoli and other bitter foods.  With a little time, patience and ranch dip, you can help your kids get the nutrients they need to grow and develop into veggie lovers. So is your child bitter-sensitive?





Related Articles


About Author


Jodie Shield, M.Ed., R.D., L.D.N. Jodie Shield has been a consultant and spokesperson in the field of nutrition for over two decades. A former national media spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association (1989-1995), she has worked extensively with the Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center and taught nutrition and medical dietetics at the University of Illinois. Currently she is a complemental faculty member of the College of Health Sciences in the Department of Clinical Nutrition at Rush University in Chicago.

(6) Readers Comments

  1. Hi, Jodie. This is great information. I’ll be sharing this article on my blog tomorrow. Thank you!!

  2. Pingback: Understanding Picky Eaters | myplate2yours

  3. Very interesting article! If there really is a “picky gene” then I definitely had it growing up. I have learned to love not only vegetables as I got older, but also all sorts of food that I would of never tried when I was a young kid.

  4. I’ll be purchasing P.T.C. paper strips today and I can’t wait to find out how bitter sensitive my daughter, 5, is. The good news is she’ll peak at six, so bring on the veggies!

  5. We stumbled over here different web address and thought I should
    check things out. I like what I see so i am just following you.
    Look forward to looking into your web page yet again.

  6. Pingback: Tips for Taming a Sweet Tooth! – Smart Eating for Kids – Staging

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *