Eat your greens: do parents influence children’s taste in food? Quiz

A boy sitting at a table with a plate full of vegetables frowning at a piece of broccoli on a fork

Is it true that our taste in food is shaped early by our parents? Or are there other influences at play?

On a scale of 1 (can’t stand it) to 5 (love it), how much do you like each of the following food types:

(a) Vegetables (b) Fruit (c) Meat or fish; (d) Dairy (e) Snacks (f) Starchy foods (eg, potatoes)?

Now, on a scale of 1 (never in the house) to 5 (never off the table) how much did your parents encourage you to eat each of these food types. Do you see any link between the two sets of scores?

Perhaps not. A new study conducted by Andrea Smith and Clare Llewellyn at University College London analysed data from the Twins Early Development Study, and drew a surprising conclusion.

Young children’s food preferences are indeed heavily shaped by their parents. But when Smith and Llewellyn looked at 18- to 19-year-olds, they found no evidence of any influence of the home environment. Instead, differences between these teens with regard to their food preferences were explained by genetic factors (around 40%) and the outside environment, such as friends (around 60%).

So, if you want your kids to grow up eating their greens, nagging them is likely to be less effective than encouraging them to hang out with vegans.

Order Are You Smarter Than a Chimpanzee? by Ben Ambridge (Profile Books, £12.99) for £11.04 at bookshop.theguardian.com

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