Getting a kid to eat vegetables may not just feel like a life-or-death battle; it may once have been one, say psychologists Lucy Cooke and Leigh Gibson of Cancer Research UK and University College London. The duo polled 564 mothers of 2- to 6-year-olds and found that the fussier the kid, the less meat, fruit, and vegetables he or she ate, even though there was no difference in the consumption of other foods such as bread, potatoes, and cereal.
Gibson sees a pattern: “We think it’s an evolved response left over from times when toxins from eating the wrong plant or contaminated meat posed a very real threat.” So are vegetable-shy kids more evolved than their salad-loving peers? “Unfortunately, in today’s processed-food environment, it’s a maladaptive behavior that puts kids at risk of malnutrition,” Gibson says. “But I think we’d have to wait an awfully long time to see the results of evolution swing the other way.”