Understanding Food Fussiness and Its Implications for Food Choice, Health, Weight and Interventions in Young Children: The Impact of Professor Jane Wardle


Purpose of Review

This review examines the concepts of fussy eating and food neophobia in the context of key determinants of the development of children’s food preferences. We discuss the evidence for genetic versus parental and other environmental influences on the ontogeny of these behavioural traits and the implications of current knowledge for interventions that attempt to lessen the impact of these traits on children’s diets. Finally, we consider whether these traits increase the risk of a child becoming obese, or alternatively, underweight and malnourished.

Recent Findings

Fussy eating and neophobia are related concepts with both genetic and environmental aetiologies. Parent-child correlations and heritability estimates are moderate to high for both traits, but aspects of the family environment remain influential in young children, although no longer in young adults. Parental strategies based around repeat tasting opportunities can improve acceptance of disliked foods in even the fussiest children. Fussy eating and neophobia are not risk factors for obesity but could limit growth in severe cases.


Fussy eating and food neophobia are common concerns for parents, though health risks are low. Dissemination of evidence-based strategies to parents that can encourage a more varied diet in young children would be helpful.

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Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance; •• Of major importance

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Correspondence to E. Leigh Gibson.

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Gibson, E.L., Cooke, L. Understanding Food Fussiness and Its Implications for Food Choice, Health, Weight and Interventions in Young Children: The Impact of Professor Jane Wardle. Curr Obes Rep 6, 46–56 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13679-017-0248-9

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  • Children
  • Picky/fussy eating
  • Food neophobia
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Body weight