When Picky Eating Becomes a Bigger Problem

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Growing up, I remember my mom had a friend who would not eat anything green. She had tried, but it was almost like she couldn't force herself to take a bite of something if it was green. When we talk about picky eaters, the first thought that usually comes to mind is a child who won't try anything new. But many adults who have been labeled as "picky" aren't being particular by choice; some have diets that are so limited it interferes with relationships and has a significant impact on their lives.

Up to this point, doctors have been unsure how to classify picky eaters because they don't fit the traditional definition of an eating disorder. Most of these people don't limit their diets because they are trying to lose weight, but their behaviors are still considered a type of disorder. Researchers from Duke University and the University of Pittsburgh recently launched the first national public registry of healthy eating. According to the researchers, "It will allow people to log in and report on their unusual eating preferences and habits. Doctors hope the effort will spur the development of improved treatment techniques for adult picky eaters."

For these folks, picky eating doesn't just mean they don't eat green foods or won't eat any seafood (like me.) Many of them only have a small handful of foods they eat regularly, which can lead to serious nutritional deficiencies and health problems. Since their food choices aren't motivated by weight loss, what causes some people to be so selective with their food choices? Doctors theorize that many picky eaters are more sensitive to texture and smell than the average person.

"A taskforce studying how to categorize eating disorders for the new version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, due out in 2013, is considering recognizing for the first time a disorder to be called "selective eating" that could apply to adults as well as children."

Although most of us would not fall into a category of picky eating that is this severe, a lot of people have strong preferences about foods that can make it difficult to make dietary changes. If you're someone who has never liked fruits and vegetables, for example, learning to incorporate these foods into your daily diet can be a challenge. It can also be a challenge for your family and friends. I have some relatives who are very picky and cooking for them or choosing a restaurant that all of us can enjoy is a huge headache.

Are you a picky eater? Is it something you're trying to change, or have you just learned to adapt? Does it affect your family or friends?

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For me it is mostly textures. I will not eat sushi, mayo, most canned veggies, beans and rice, green bell peppers, and pretty much anything that is white. I also will not handle raw meat and I don't want any of my food touching. This has been for the last 10 years or so. Report
My pickiness is textures & smells Its hard to explain what I don't like & what I do like not so much the appearance of an item Going to eat with friends and family can is very hard since I don't like so many things but part of it comes from teh fact my parents did not make us eat alot of things it was teh same stuff all the time as a child I did not like my foods touching each other had to have plates with seperate sections :( But I am more willing to try new things now Ya! Report
Yes, I'm a picky eater. Some things I'll eat raw, but not cooked. Others it's definitely texture and others it's smell. And, for a lot they simply taste bad to me. So, there are a lot of vegetables I don't eat. I'm probably okay with more fruits, but there are some that texture is a problem and some it's taste.

As I've gotten older, I'll keep trying things. I've discovered many I simply don't like, some I can tolerate occasionally (broccoli for one). Spinach I love raw, but any type of green stinks to high heaven in my opinion and looks like cooked grass. I don't ever see me eating cooked spinach as a side dish, but I don't mind it in something.

It's just they way I am. My mom made no special concession for me other than not cooking a meal that would be comprised totally of items I wouldn't eat. I think I "outgrew" some of it, but not others. I have never and would never consider it a mental disorder though. Report
I guess I'm mostly picky about texture. My mom over cooked most vegetables and only used salt for seasoning when I was a kid. So I'm learning how to use herbs and I prefer most vegetables raw or crispy like stir fry. I dislike tomatoes unless they are cooked or in a sauce.

One of the fun parts of being single is I can still play with my food like a kid if I want to. ;-) Report
Ive always been a picky eater but since founding I have Celiac Disease I have gotten better. CD is an autoimmune disease that makes me very sick if I ingest wheat(flour), barley(malt) or rye. I always loved my pasta, and still do just not made of wheat. Some things are just plain weird - I always hated pickles, last summer I started craving them and no I wasn't pregnant. Turned out it was my body telling me I was massively low in magnesium, now I like sweet pickles, still don't like other kinds.
Texture is a factor to me - I like chocolate, caramel and peanuts by themselves but put together in a Snickers and I'll puke. But I don't have a problem with pesto that has ground up pine nuts. Tomatoes are fine in any state but raw, onions have to be cooked.
I was forced to drink a sour milk in grade school - haven't drunk it since.
I can't do any fish or seafood except shrimp, I used to eat tuna but found a bone in a can and haven't been able to since.
Then I pick up things from other people. At one point someone said the little brown point in the bottom of a banana was a monkey's tail I haven't eaten the last bite since. There are a few other odd things like that but can't think of them right now.
Looking at others and had to laugh at not being able to eat mushy cereals - I'm the opposite. I love to pour a big bowl of cereal and let it sit for 10 min or so to get all mushy.
Sometimes cooking can be a challenge because I don't like the raw state but know it'll be OK once it's all prepared but have to get over the raw state. Or even with like "Hand trimmed chicken" I still find things on them, so I save some money and get regular chicken and trim myself but only buy boneless skinless breasts, I don't like dark meat and waste too much meat along the bone to get boned.
I could go on but this is enough.

Oh, and for those with texture especially meats have your adenoids checked. I had a friend who's kid wouldn't eat meat he said it was the texture and gagged him. Turned out he needed his adenoids removed, once gone he ate everything Report
I've always considered myself a picky eater. As a kid I was always described as a picky eater- me and my sibling couldn't stand anything with onions! That was one of the biggest things. No onions ever.
I can do onions if they are cooked now, and overall eat very differently than when I was a kid. I don't eat foods I ate then and eat foods I wouldn't have then. I think I mostly describe myself and am described by others as a picky eater because what I will and won't eat does not fit into easy categories. I will eat this food from this place but not this same food from this other place or homemade, this other thing I will eat homemade but not from a restaurant, et cetera. I also am weird about needing to know what I'm eating before I try something new. Or at least most people seem to see that as weird. Report
I could not eat onions, celery, bell peppers or anything crunchy like that even though I loved the smell and I loved having the flavor in foods. I would use all the seasonings to enhance my food. Then I tried chopping everything into a mush and now I can enjoy the wonderful flavors... which are so much more enhanced than any powder could provide. However, if it can't be blended into the recipe I still can't eat it. Report
I used to be a picky eater but I decided that I needed to try different things and lo and behold, I found all kinds of things that I like to eat that I turned my nose up at before! I discovered that I LOVE brussel sprouts and beets! All those years wasted not eating them! Report
If only I were picky,I love food and food loves me I guess, because it sticks around,like almost 100 pounds all over my body.Although I will not eat liver of any kind or any organ meat as a matter of fact.And belive it or not I dont like chips.People think that one is strange but I just dont care for them. Report
I don't eat seafood. I have tried many times but can't stand the tate or smell. I can eat fried fillet with lots of tartar sauce, bet that kind of defeats the purpose. I don't drink milk. I was allergic to it as an infant and have never bee able to develop a taste for it. Report
I have issues with fruit not all fruit but most fruit. I have tried to put a strawberry in my mouth and I just can't. I Know fruit is important in a healthy diet so I force myself to eat apples and banans I am also thinking about buying drinks that have fruit in them to get my daily servings. Report
I have issues with texture, specifically anything slimy. I typically will not eat tomatoes unless cooked into paste or sauce form (I've had a few moments of bravery or the dish is just cooked well enough). In the last year or so I've found that I can tolerate some sundried tomatoes, and even then I'm still picky. I also will not eat okra even if it would save my life. Moussaka is pretty much the only thing that will get me to eat eggplant. Sunny side up eggs will have me running for a bathroom. Unagi (eel) is on my hate list as my ex-husband forced me to eat a piece of unagi sushi when I was pregnant, and I had a serious aversion to seafood the whole pregnancy (funny, because my daughter now loves salmon, tuna, and sushi).

My dad also ruined zucchini for our whole family for about 2 decades after a McDougall Diet binge (hello slimy zucchini, I don't miss you). The only way we would eat it was in my grandma's zucchini bread. That dislike has passed and I now eat it like any other squash.

Aside from that I'm mostly open to foods that are not "strange". ;)

ETA: I don't do bananas most of the time. I always gag on the strings. Not a huge fan of the taste either. That and I had to eat them when I was pregnant for potassium (with the same child as the unagi incident, and yes, she loves bananas too). I can be caught on a very rare occasion enjoying a peanut butter, honey and banana sandwich. Report
Here's a fun food to try: Mermaid Fruit! It is also called Romanesco broccoli. Lightly steam the whole thing & serve it with a little spray butter. Kids love it. You can look up Romanesco broccoli on Wiki. It is a marvel!!!! Report
i was, but i stopped smoking at age 35 and discovered how good food tasted. I became oveweight for the 1st time in my life! Report
I am a picky eater. Had nothing to do with my mother (I'm referring to someone else's comment here). I ate what was served when I was a kid, but the day I turned 18 I stopped drinking milk and eating fish. If served it at someone's house, I wll taste it and that's it. My mom also was a picky eater, hating fish, but we were poor and lived by the ocean so that was supper.
And it does affect the family but it's all ok. They all understand as they each have a food that they won't eat. I'm the worst of the lot, I have a long list!
There are very few foods I won't eat... Papaya, because my first one (and last) was rotten...who knew? The other food I won't eat is Cole Slaw... now I know there a marvelous recipes out there...I like cabbage salads, but, I think due in part to a child hood food trauma involving Cole Slaw, I get a gag reflex when I smell it... Report
I eat most everything--- come from a big family tho and yu had to eat what was on our plate--not really the best idea I know now! Report
Lindaloo80, you have described my daughter to a T. I agree, I believe some people are just selective by nature, not because their parent was lazy or indulgent! I have three kids, two boys that will eat anything and a daughter who will not. All three were treated exactly the same when they were younger, and all were expected to at least try what was on their plate. She has always been perfectly average on all the growth charts, and her pediatrician was not at all concerned about her relatively limited diet. She's now a senior in high school and is still selective about what she eats, but who knows what will happen when she gets off to college and out on her own. Report
Picky eater: please consider delayed food allergies and an elimination diet (there are food opioids which can alter your neurotransmitters). You can grow out of pickiness. I've done pretty well: from not liking canned peas (blech) to eating sardines; something I'd never have done when I was younger. It would have been nice to have a positive atmosphere around the dinner table despite my picky eating. Anger - what a drag. :P Food can be a fun adventure. Report
When I first read this article, I thought you somehow knew who I was and wrote it about it. I don't eat green things (for the most part) and have a hard time eating new things. I've been this way my entire life. I realize that I may not always get all the nutrients I need, so I take vitamins and drink Ensure to help with that. Thanks for the info in the article. :) Report
I'm the opposite of a picky eater. I wish there was some food, other than raw sushi or horseradish, that I didn't like. Like the old joke, I'm a on a "seefood" diet...I eat everything I see! (groan).

Seriously though, I've got a grandson who I'm a bit concerned about. As a tyke, he ate all kinds of foods and variety. Now around 10, he has developed extremely narrow food choices. E.g. he won't eat anything with cheese (except pizza!). He is very clear about this whenver we eat together. His life has had lots of disruptions and uncertainties. His older brother doesn't eat like this, but had had some spells of being overweight. I mentioned it to my therapist once, and she was concerned it was a "control" issue, like many eating disorders. Life feels out of control, so the person focuses on controlling the thing that they can, which is the food they will or won't eat. It scares me because my daughter as teen had a serious true eating disorder that continues to plague her today. Sigh, I wish we could sort out the "silly" picky eating issues from the truly problem ones and figure a way to treat them! Report
I wasn't going to comment since there are already 98 comments, but I have to take issue with a statement made by Jibbie49 (I am not doing this to make you mad, please!).

Nothing is farther from the truth than spoiling mothers made picky eaters.You simply aren't a picky eater and your mother got lucky with you. I have a picky eater who as an adult at 25 will now eat foods she'd have died before she eat them as a child. As a baby she ate everything I put in her mouth. At age 3 she suddenly turned her nose up at almost every thing. I didn't spoil her at all. There were many meals that she chose to eat just mashed potatoes and bread and butter because she refused to eat what I cooked. She learned early to make her own foods, such as plain spaghetti, eggs, hot dogs and instant mashed potatoes (she didn't like the real ones). We would go to some event like a wedding that had a wonderful spread and she'd eat potatoes, a roll and cake.

This went on for years. I did absolutely nothing special for her cooking wise. Ever. Now she has learned that certain foods are good and she eats more variety but she is still picky. I'm picky and her dad is picky, but in different ways. I grew up in a farm family and ate what I took so I'd better like it! But you still can't make me eat hamburger gravy. YUCK! Report
I am not too picky but I hate legumes (except peanuts) which really is a hassle when trying to add fiber to my diet.

I laugh though, my mom made homemade cookies and lemon meringue pie for my nephews and they turned their noses up. They prefer cookies from a mix and didn't trust the meringue. (A visiting friend ate theirs). ;-)

When my kids got picky I told them eat it or wait until tomorrow. I do give in sometimes. Report
My future daughter in laws son is a seriously picky eater, he will be the challenge of the century if I don't miss my guess. Report
Nice to meet another person who don't eat seafood. I've added flaxmeal to get my Omega 3's. Report
So there are too many pickey eaters.I had a sister inlaw who only would eat some meats,corn and some beans,and their 2 kids ended up as her ,only one grew out of it.And my girl friends boy,would not eat vegetables,with remark the cow ate his greens,so he didnt need to eat them.All use to really tee me off in restaurants for they would order good meal and most got throwed out.For they would mess up their plates so it wasnt worth a dogybag It got too me ,cause raised on farm was told you take it you eat it,but learned not to waste food,and learned to enjoy vegetables and still do.When one hears how kids and grown ups need food and even die from it,just burns me how some people waste food as they do.But such is life ,thou sure not a better one in this so called modern world,even when it is right here in USA.And people still waste food plus other things. Report
I found out what a pain in the butt some picky eaters can be when I dated a seriously picky guy. I offered to make dinner for our second date but that never happenend because when I tried to put a menu together I found he wouldn't eat the following: pasta or any sauce dish, chicken, seafood, salad, most vegetables, fruits, and every food I could think of. All he would eat was steak and potatoes, the way his mother made it! I knew there would be no second date after I also found out that at 30 years old his mommy still made him dinner, packed his lunches, made his bed, did his laundry, cleaned his room (still lived at home), etc... Report
I was a picky eater as a child, but weren't all children ? LOL !!! These days, I'll give just about anything a try, especially if it's a veggie. I'm always on the hunt for new veggies to try. There are foods that I just don't like. I've tried beets. tried them cooked. tried them raw. tried them in salads... do not like beets. Don't like lima beans either, but I do love beans.

Now, if a friend of mine were to cook a meal that included beets, I would eat the beets even though I don't like them. They took the time to prepare a meal for me, so why not give it a try ?

However, I don't eat beets at home or lima beans... ditto liver. Report
I have always hated fish I do try it and itcould start out good but the fishinness ALWAYS comes through a d I can't finish. I haves had friends say oh this one won't taste fishy try it. even with chewable omega 3 I taste the fish. Report
My best friends husband, Picky Dicky, will not eat red or green. He only eats bacon, hamburger and chicken breasts. The only vegetable is canned corn. He will eat the corn but prefers the creamed corn. Maybe a lettuce salad, but plain, no other veggies.

He is also a person of extreme views, and we have always laughed and assumed that is ti caused by no nutrients. Growing up his mother said what was served was it, no extra meals. But he has a sister who is just as extreme an eater too. Report
This describes my younger son to a T. I didn't know there were others like him! Thanks Report
I've always been a very picky eater. When I was about 6 years old, my dad tried to force me to eat creamed corn. I gagged until I threw up on the dinner table. That happened again with squash a few weeks later. After that, they never forced me to eat anything I didn't want.

Texture is a HUGE issue for me. I can't stand mushrooms, yogurt, or other slimy, squeaky foods. I also don't like mushy foods, like any canned veggies, raw tomatoes, oranges, avacado, etc. There are very few fresh veggies I will eat, either.

I WANT to be able to eat these things, but I literally gag until I vomit. It makes eating healthy near impossible. Report
Picky Eaters are made as kids by a mother who spoils them. So, no, I'm not a Picky-eater, since at my house I'd have gone hungry if I hadn't eaten what my mother put on the table. SHE didn't believe in dealing with Picky Eaters. Report
I was a picky eater as a child. I hated cooked vegetables especially broccoli and onions, the dark meat of chicken and turkey, all organ meats, and extremely sweet things like sweet pickles and syrup. As a young adult, I was diagnosed with several food sensitivities. I went on a very restricted diet eliminating everything acidic, fermented, or aged. Later I discovered that I was also sensitive to whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. I can, however, have any spices or herbs I desire. I gradually learned how much and in what combination I could tolerate those sensitive foods. I have not eaten tomatoes in over twenty years and miss them terribly, especially during the summer when you can eat the cherry and pear tomatoes straight off the vine. I avoid oranges as well. I have learned to eat goat and sheep cheeses due to a growing intolerance of cow's milk products. I only use butter in baking. I've always preferred applesauce on my pancakes. I hated yogurt as a child but now incorporate it into my almost daily smoothies with no trouble. I still avoid green peppers but love red, orange, and yellow ones. When I eat with friends and family, the only thing I refuse to eat is tomatoes. (Tomatoes will put me in the hospital.) Everyone has adapted to my preference rather well, I think, because I don't force my entire list of restrictions on them. I enjoy trying foods from various cultures and finding new ways to use the foods I can eat. As a result, I'm learning how to cook this summer to bring more variety into my diet. Report
I consider myself a picky eater. There are a lot of foods that i won't eat. Some make me gag and others i just don't like. I use to like very few vegetables but i have since learned that i will eat most fresh veggies i just don't like canned veggies, or veggies that are over cooked. I still won't eat meals that have cheese in it and i don't drink milk or eat yogurt I do like some frozen yogurt. The list of what i don't eat is long lol, but i do try to eat healthy. I eat lots of fish, fresh fruits and veggies. Report
I love food! I don't really have a problem with it other than losing weight! LOL! But due to hubby being very strict with his diet for the past few years when his trigs were outta sight, just set me on a course of eating much healthier which is helping with weight control and loss. However, I choose to be picky when I decide what it is that I want to eat in order to be healthy and lose weight. So I will eat fruits over candy; whole grains over white food stuffs, whole foods over processed, fresh & steam over fried, juices as opposed to gravies & sauces, and water as opposed to sodas or even diet sodas. And I especially stay away from ALL artifical sweetners. Splenda almost killed me, not kidding! So in that sense, yes, I am very picky when it comes to my food. Report
Not a picky eater. No disorders in my food bank. I don't eat much shell fish because I am allergic; however, I will try anything a few times. I didn't care for onions when young, then I discovered white onions, which I eat raw. Love them. yellow and red, yuck. Color doesn't matter, texture doesn't matter. It's all about what I expect a food to taste like. If it taste like I think it should, it becomes acceptable food. If it does not, It may take several attempts before my mind is convinced the unexpected taste does not mean it's gone bad. Report
I'm not really picky. There are just a few foods I don't like. I don't like the texture of banannas. Occasionally, if all other fruit is gone I will eat one in my cereal b/c the cereal masks the texture! My best friend is very picky and won't eat hardly any veggies and hates berries! My uncle is also annoyingly picky. We were trying to decide on a nice place to eat for my mom's birthday and had to consider him before we could choose! One thing I have found is freeze dried fruit! The kind with no sugar or other additives! The texture is crunchy and I like the bananna flavor without the texture that makes me a bit icky feeling! Just Tomatoes and Simply Fruits are both good brands. Report
i grew up with a mother who was a picky eater...i considered myself much more adventurous...and just this week, TWICE, i went from an absolute i-will-never-eat-fish person to eating scallops, striped bass, clam chowder, cod, & tuna sashimi! HOLY WHOAH! who knew it would only take 31 to get it to happen?! i think over time you have to ask yourself "what am i missing out on?" so i bit the bullett, or scallop - and i actually LIKED it! yay for me! Report
I'm one of these extreme cases of being a picky eater. I've been this way since I was a kid. And yes, I've tried to get over it and I've tried to force myself to eat things. I actually WANT to eat a salad. I feel like such a child because I don't eat vegetables. I just can't stomach them. I like most fruits, though, so there's no problem there. And I guess I'm very sensitive to the taste of especially leafy greens because I can taste if lettuce has even touched my food, like on a hamburger or something.

I'm not really sure how to train my mind or my body to think or be differently. Report
My husband is one of these extreme picky eaters. He will only eat plain, unseasoned meats, plain bread, select raw vegetables occasionally, pizza, and chicken fingers. Oh, and every processed junk food on the market. We have been together for 7 years and I have learned to make separate versions of whatever I am eating. But it is difficult and a serious strain, because every meal either requires extra effort from me or some type of compromise. I look forward to the day the medical community finds a way to help people deal with this issue. We are hoping to start a family soon and my biggest fear is that his eating habits will be passed onto our children. Report
I was a picky eater as a child, but only that my food couldnít ďtouch.Ē Ha! It used to drive my much older brother nuts.

Now Iím just a very careful eater. Making sure I choose restaurants and items in the store which fit into my view of health, and then once Iím at the restaurant choosing the menu item which does the same. I am a selective eater, but I think itís the best kind. Report
I agree it is about textures and tastes for the most part. I can't do strong fish tastes, therefore don't eat much fish at all, yogurt is slimey to me, but I do like most veggies and am not big on sweets, so am very selective on fruits.
Selective eating - good term! Report
I love food all types I did not get in the shape I'm in by being picky Report
yes, I have always been a picky eater. Like some others I also cannot eat things with a mushy texture-oatmeal, any hot cereal, cottage cheese etc. I also do not like milk or most milk products-according to my mother I did not even like milk as a baby.
I do not like most vegetables though I like most fruits. my mother is also a picky eater so at least she did not force me to eat things that I didn't like because she doesn't like a lot of foods either although she did force me to drink milk until I was grown. Report
I have to be a picky eater because I have developed a lot of food "sensitivities". It does affect my family because I often times have to make 2 meals so that my family can eat what they like and not be restricted. It also affects them because when we go out to eat, we have to go to a restaurant where I know the food won't bother me (which might be a good thing). Some restaurants are very handed with spices, etc., and there are some I can't tolerate.

For those of you who wish you were a picky eater, it's not all it's cracked up to be. I often say to my husband..."Remember back when I could eat? That was great!" Report
Boy do I wish I was a picky eater. The only things I won't eat are: liver, brussel sprouts and green peppers, oh anything that is hot and spicy, that's it! Report
I didn't think I was a picky eater until I read some of these posts! I won't (or can't) eat red meat, raw bell peppers, or mayo on sandwiches. Not too picky I guess!

Now my brother was a very picky eater growing up. He swore that spaghetti tasted different than say elbow mac! With my mom's home made sauce on it, who could really tell? He ate everything plain, no vegetables or fruit. He even put butter on his chicken, saying it was too dry. Now, he cooks better than most people I know and will try just about anything! Report
I was a picky eater as a kid. Once I hit my teenage years that all changed. Report
My husband is, and it's very difficult to shake up our menu. I can honestly count on both hands the food's he WILL eat. Myself, I'll eat anything, and will try anything, but not him. Report
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