Food Neophobia Scale and Category

We have an appointment with the hospital’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Unit next week.  Of all the appointments we’ve been to, this is the one I am looking forward to the most.  Rather than determining what we are not dealing with, we finally have a chance to address the anxiety and the phobia that surrounds what TJ considers safe to eat and his aversion to unfamiliar food.

I have heard others mention the Food Neophobia Scale, a short questionnaire that determines one’s degree of fear toward food.  I had some difficulty finding it. I finally located it, buried among other references, in the appendix of a study that was investigating a like-mother-like-daughter food neophobia connection.

I thought maybe it might be more useful here.

Food Neophobia Scale (FNS)

Credit for the FNS scale to Pilner, P. (1994) Development of Food Neophobia in Children, Appetite, 23 (2), 147-163.

Select the response that best describes how much you agree or disagree with the statement for each question.  Add the corresponding numbers for each response and record your total at the end of the quiz.

1. I am / My child is constantly sampling new and different foods.

  1. Agree extremely
  2. Agree moderately
  3. Agree slightly
  4. Neither agree or disagree
  5. Disagree slightly
  6. Disagree moderately
  7. Disagree extremely

2. I don’t / My child doesn’t trust new foods.

  1. Disagree extremely
  2. Disagree moderately
  3. Disagree slightly
  4. Neither agree or disagree
  5. Agree slightly
  6. Agree moderately
  7. Agree extremely

3. If I don’t / If my child doesn’t know what is in a food, I / (s)he won’t try it.

  1. Disagree extremely
  2. Disagree moderately
  3. Disagree slightly
  4. Neither agree or disagree
  5. Agree slightly
  6. Agree moderately
  7. Agree extremely

4. I like / My child likes foods from different countries.

  1. Agree extremely
  2. Agree moderately
  3. Agree slightly
  4. Neither agree or disagree
  5. Disagree slightly
  6. Disagree moderately
  7. Disagree extremely

5. I find / My child finds ethnic food too weird to eat.

  1. Disagree extremely
  2. Disagree moderately
  3. Disagree slightly
  4. Neither agree or disagree
  5. Agree slightly
  6. Agree moderately
  7. Agree extremely

6. At dinner parties, I / my child will try a new food.

  1. Agree extremely
  2. Agree moderately
  3. Agree slightly
  4. Neither agree or disagree
  5. Disagree slightly
  6. Disagree moderately
  7. Disagree extremely

7. I am / My child is afraid to eat things I / (s)he has never had before.

  1. Disagree extremely
  2. Disagree moderately
  3. Disagree slightly
  4. Neither agree or disagree
  5. Agree slightly
  6. Agree moderately
  7. Agree extremely

8. I am / My child is very particular about the foods I / (s)he will eat.

  1. Disagree extremely
  2. Disagree moderately
  3. Disagree slightly
  4. Neither agree or disagree
  5. Agree slightly
  6. Agree moderately
  7. Agree extremely

9. I / My child will eat almost anything.

  1. Agree extremely
  2. Agree moderately
  3. Agree slightly
  4. Neither agree or disagree
  5. Disagree slightly
  6. Disagree moderately
  7. Disagree extremely

10. I like / My child likes to try new ethnic restaurants.

  1. Agree extremely
  2. Agree moderately
  3. Agree slightly
  4. Neither agree or disagree
  5. Disagree slightly
  6. Disagree moderately
  7. Disagree extremely

Score: ________

A score of 35 is considered high.

Along with this score, it is also important to consider the factors that contribute an individual’s level of food neophobia.

Physical

Does the subject have environmental or food allergies? Does the subject have an acute sense of smell or taste?

Environmental allergies have a huge impact on how food tastes.  Without a functioning sense of smell, it is very difficult, if not impossible to experience the flavour of food.  An allergy to gluten or dairy can put extreme limits on what is comfortable or even safe to eat.

A supertaster is someone with an extremely sensitive sense of taste and smell.  They are able to detect minute amounts of spices and flavours that others can barely detect.  What seems subtle to the average person is overwhelmingly pungent, and often offensive to a supertaster.  More than half of those with Selective Eating Disorder (SED) are thought to be supertasters.

Sensory (Neurological)

Does the subject chew exclusively with only front teeth?  Does the subject consistently object to and/or gag or vomit on food with certain textures?

Children with Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism also commonly have feeding challenges. With occupational therapy, these children are taught how to use their mouth, teeth and tongue to properly chew and manipulate food.  This type of therapy is often successful, albeit a very slow process in helping children expand their dietary repertoire.

Among those with SED, however, less than 10% have been diagnosed with SPD or are on the autism spectrum.  Many are super sensitive to texture.  For example, when I described the creamy milkshake texture of a strawberry smoothie to one person, she described the same drink as a mouthful of sand.  She is overwhelmed by the sensation of tiny strawberry seeds, something I had to really concentrate on to detect.  What, to the average person, are minuscule details are immensely repulsive to someone with texture sensitivity.  For this reason, food considered safe is often brand specific.

Psychological

Is there food related trauma in the subject’s history? Episodes of choking, reflux, and digestive disorders may contribute to the anxiety and food neophobia that excludes entire food groups.  It’s human nature to avoid activities that may be life-threatening or cause pain.

A common component of the more well known eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia) is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.  Approximately 25% of those with Selective Eating Disorder also have OCD.  The main difference between anorexia / bulimia and SED is the reason for not eating.  Anorexia and bulimia are eating disorders motivated by weight loss and a desire to be unrealistically thin.  SED is has nothing to do with weight loss, rather it is an inability to tolerate the taste, smell and texture of food.

It would be quite tidy and lovely if SED fell neatly into one or another specific category of physical, neurological or psychological, however more often than not, the categories overlap.  Not only does this make SED tricky to develop a generalized treatment for, it also makes it extremely difficult to explain to friends and family.  The majority of adults with SED are accustomed to making plausible excuses to avoid situations that involve social eating.  More anxiety about food is really not what those with SED need.

Next time your cousin or co-worker shows up to a get together around food claiming she already ate, don’t judge.  Show her where the rolls are and don’t question what she eats.

What is your FNS score?

Advertisements

60 responses to “Food Neophobia Scale and Category

  1. I am 54 years old, and scored a 63. I had my first hamburger when I was 46. It tasted great. I still prefer hot dogs. I just found out today that there is a name for my being a “fussy” eater. I look forward to the day that I can try a banana as i am told they are good for me. it has been a struggle all my life and i still have to go for the rolls and butter at some functions. I would love to be able to try some type of Mexican or Chinese food in the future. Thanks for sharing and it feels better knowing I’m not alone.

  2. I have a 3.5 year old daughter who is exactly as described here – had lots of reflux as a baby, gagged a lot when weaning and now only eats cereal, bread, crackers, breadsticks, crisps, chocolate, plain cakes, water and yogurt. She has no milk, no veg, no fruit (except baby pureed fruit pouches), no meat, no pasta/rice/potatoes, no cooked/main courses. Other than bread rolls she doesn’t eat anything in restaurants and doesn’t eat anything at birthday parties unless there are crisps. If I ask her why she says ‘I am scared’. We keep meal times relaxed and let her eat what she wants whenever she wants however in the past year and a half she hasn’t added any new foods to the repertoire, only dropped foods she used to eat. Does anyone have any suggestions for me? We are in the UK. Thanks

    • Hi, I’m 15 and I’ve had food neophobia since I was 2 years old. I think it was triggered by my reflux and to this day I still have a small stomach and struggle to eat quickly/swallow large bites. I have however improved MASSIVELY, I used to only eat toast (I got fussy and refused to eat it if there were any “brown bits” on it 😂), bananas, chocolate, biscuits, plain rice and plain pasta cooked really soft. Over 13 years though I’ve now added lots more, mashed potato, carrots, brocilli, papadoms and other small foods that I can associate with foods I already eat for example if you gave me some party rings I’d try them because I know they will taste like rich tea biscuits. In the last year I’ve really improved the most though, because I realised how to tackle my disorder. First off don’t try and feed her meals or even a bowl of rice, take it step by step and start with something like an apple. If she really doesn’t want to then give her some apple juice first so she can recognise the taste. Never pressure her into trying the apple – tell her that it won’t hurt and the worst that can happen is she spits it out and make sure theres water next to her so she can wash her mouth out if needed. It sounds like a lot but it makes all the difference at such a young age – I’m at a stage where I could just bite the apple in a matter of seconds but a few years ago I wouldn’t even dream of doing that! After she feels more confident with foods move onto plain meals – by plain I mean literally a bowl of plain pasta cooked in water – no oil and no butter because she will be able to taste that. Keep adding more plain foods to her palette and make them larger each time so shes getting the energy she needs. Theres certain foods that she will be more attracted to for example if you gave her a salad and a carvery she might want to try the carvery but not the salad and thats fine. If you’re out at dinner somewhere and she reaches over to your plate to try something – let her! Thats HUGE progress! Just don’t make a big deal out of it. Always keep everything relaxed, calm and clean at meal time. I wouldn’t suggest getting psychological help unless its coming from someone who had/has the same disorder because its extremely hard to relate to and its an extremely sensitive thing to overcome. I really hope this helped and she gets better!

  3. My son is 4 years old and we currently have him on a waiting list for treatment at Duke Center for Eating Disorders. He is number 121 and it could be years. He scored a 70 on this test. We are fearful that if we let this continue it will have terrible long-term effects. We tried food therapy and he became so anxious about it that he would cry in the mornings and at preschool on therapy days. The thought of touching and smelling the pasta was too much. We decided that he either was not ready or that therapy was not the answer. We have known there was a problem since he was less than 18 months old, but were told numerous times that he would grow out of it…. As I read these testimonies, I realize that this is most likely not the case. Any advice would be appreciated!

    • Hi Jessica,

      There are two avenues of food therapy; one that supports the development of eating skill and the other has a goal to build dietary variety. A child who doesn’t have the oral motor skills to manage food needs to develop these skills before they can be expected to manage a range of different textures. In these cases, feeding therapy is a fantastic asset. A child who is anxious around food needs a supportive eating environment, and feeding therapy may not be the right approach for some kids.

      If there are no concerns about your son’s eating ability, there are ways to support your son around food while you wait for your turn to be seen at Duke. You can get in touch with me for a more private conversation through the Contact page.

  4. I am 17 years old about to go into college and I scored a 70. I’ve always known I’ve had this my whole life, but I’ve had great parents that always got me the foods I like. Nice to know there are others out there.

  5. I’m 20, can’t help but recognize quite a bit of this. I got a 53, and that was when rounding down if unsure and I have gotten way better lately (rounding up=60). 10-15 years ago I’d probably have been 65-70.
    Until I was approx. 2 years old I ate anything. Except for American baby food apparently (Thank god I’m Swedish) and baby formula, but after that I’ve been a very picky eater. As in weighing ~30 kg at 1,40 m. My parents had to filter the orange juice because I couldn’t stand the pulp and the juice had to be with extra added calcium because I still don’t drink milk and hardly eat any diary products like cheese and yoghurt and so on. After that specific juice stopped being manufactured ten or so years ago I’ve been eating calcium pills instead (ok, I’m better at hiding the pills in random places than actually eating them. I could hardly eat the old ones because they were fairly big and really dry so they had to be split in four first or they were impossible to swallow). I still do the thing when I tell people I’ve already eaten and some days the only thing I eat is a sandwich or two (always white bread). Any hunger feelings are generally ignored.
    From what I know I am a ‘super taster’ and I don’t like changes in for example cooking oil, even when the rest of the family can’t even taste the difference.
    More or less since I learnt to talk I have been complaining about stomach aces and I’ve seen the doctor about it numerous times, one of the earliest I know of was when I was 4, without any results. It would sometimes wake me up a few times in a month and I missed school a fair few times. I also had permission to stay on the couch in the nurse’s office during lunch break if I wanted to and there has been quite a few tests for allergies with negative results. When I was somewhere around 10-11 I think we figured it was most likely because I ate too little so I got a doctor’s recommendation to eat different food from the rest of the kids in school on days when I didn’t like the food which lasted almost a year before the parents of some of the other kids thought it unfair, nevermind the fact that I got meatballs when everyone else ate pancakes or whatever. They chose to focus instead on me getting meatballs when everyone else got soup that no one really liked. So yeah, it’s extremely unfair I suppose when the little girl who is almost half the weight of your kid and pretty much eats fish, chicken or meatballs in school gets something she can actually eat when your own kid has to eat the awful soup twice a month, fish once a week and food he liked the rest of the time.
    Sorry for the rant… Ten years later and I’m still annoyed…
    But yeah, I’ve always known I’m a picky eater and more likely than not have some kind of eating disorder, but I’ve never been anorectic or something weight focused. I didn’t know about SED until now, but almost everything fits a little too well.
    Like I said I’m better now, but I still don’t eat/drink diary products unless it’s in cooking, I avoid cooked colourful food (heated vegetables, blegh…), I’m not very fond of sauces, I absolutely hate carbonated drinks, or anything that isn’t water or orange flavoured (Fanta is acceptable if left standing for a while to get rid of most of the bubbles), I hardly eat any candy (until I was around nine the only candy I ate was polkagris candy, then started eating a little bit of chocolate. Milk chocolate of a specific brand and a specific size because the bars that are smaller than 200g taste differently… Super taster it is… Somewhere around that time I got the idea that the polkagris candy was what caused the stomach aces so I stopped eating them completely and have hardly eaten a single one since), I am and have always been more likely to eat most food raw than cooked (at the moment the only way I eat meatballs is when they are frozen, if they are heated it feels like I’m going to throw up), I basically don’t eat fast food apart from sometimes French fries if I’m with someone but I don’t make that much food myself, so the result is that I’m a lot more likely to skip food entirely than not.
    I’d say I’m sensory, physical and probably psychological as well by now, but I haven’t got an idea of how to actually ‘fix’ it. Old habits die hard:-/

  6. I posted on hear about 2 years ago, my habit’s haven’t gotten any better. still rocking a strong 70 on the scale my mom has only gotten more restrictive about the stuff shes willing to let me eat hoping that I will get bored of my current diet choices and try something else, but the way I see it, I’m not going anywhere, I have confirmed I’m a super taster, I refuse to eat any sort of… anything outside 7 items I’m willing to eat, which is only french fries, potato chips, PB&J’s (but can’t have just bread), crackers, peanuts, yogurt, and most candy’s, I have made a discovery about something, and if there is a variation of one of the items listed above, I’m fairly willing to try it, I won’t hesitate to try a new type of french fries, unless it’s crinkle fries or steak fries, I like almost every type of chocolate bar, and I have more then enough courage to try a new flavor of yogurt as long as it’s by the company “Trix”, My mom says my eating choices need to be more healthy, but so far I’m 3 months from 16 and I’m only one hundred sixty pounds, I think I’m at a relatively healthy weight and size, and question if she knows how bad some people can actually get with this phobia, the few times shes forced me to try something, I’ve instantly thrown up about 4 seconds after it was put in my mouth,
    She claims she will take away my computer (Which is my ONLY social outlet since I stay home 100% of the time except to go to the store) if I don’t try whatever she randomly throws at me, and so far, I’ve managed to force myself to cram whatever it is in my mouth, only to throw it up a second later in order to keep my social outlet (I fear I would insane without my laptop since my mom won’t let me walk across the street without a reason, so my laptop is my only really way to talk to people), I don’t know what to do anymore other then hopefully survive the next two years until I move out and don’t have to have that stress she holds over me about my habits anymore, and also, my mom claims food neophobia is just some convenient excuse for me

  7. My tween son scores a strong 70.
    As a baby:
    He weaned himself a little under a year, but continued on formula until he was four years old. He ate puréed baby food only until he was around four years old.
    He gagged / spit up at any textured foods.
    Plenty of “battles” and attempts at all the various suggestions offered over the years.
    Lots of tears on both sides of the table.

    Now as a tween:
    He will without much fuss, eat lettuce (as long as it isn’t wet) and most veggies
    RAW ONLY..
    He will eat bread like items, chips, breakfast cereals, rolls, popcorn, etc. mostly plain/no milk in cereal.
    He will eat a meat hamburger patty (no bun typically, no sauces, just the meat patty) bacon (crispy) and pizza. (Pizza is his only cooked meal typically and only cheese or pepperoni) grilled cheese sandwich if the cheese is a specific brand of cheddar.
    He will eat candy, but not chocolate.
    He will literally throw up at the sight of any meal type food one prepares with a sauce or liquid juice. Casserole type dish will leave him vomititng until the next day.
    Mixed foods is horrid scary. Even gravy on mashed potatoes is scary to him.
    He will gag at the thought of a fruit smoothie, yogurt, or creamy textured food items.
    Once he begged me to take away his video games for a month to avoid drinking a 3 ounce berry smoothie sample.
    He does not like most fruits.
    He will reluctantly eat berries and apples.
    He will reluctantly eat scrambled eggs, egg whites or hard boiled eggs, no yoke
    Everything is raw (minus meat) there are no sauces, nothing touching, as plain as possible.
    He doesn’t eat “meals” he eats “food items”
    I do feel blessed that he does eat raw veggies and a few balanced choices, but it’s very hard to have a normal meal anywhere, even hard to have a normal meal at home. It’s almost easier to have him eat in front of the tv over the family table because he doesn’t have to think as much about the food. Still so hard for him.
    I’ve worked really hard to get these foods into him and because of it, I have a food reputation with my family as uber strict on food. I hate that title. My husband is just as bad as my son. However, he has been advised strongly the importance to role model and get a grip on his verbal and non verbal complaining about food! 😉
    I hate making food for my family!
    I hate having to monitor whether or not he’s had too many chips and bread and nothing else for the day.
    I hate monitoring if all he’s had for the day are chips or popcorn.
    I hate having to sit down at every meal and discuss what items on the plate are mandatory and which ones are in his control to choose.
    I hate having to discuss the eating bargains, if I eat five berries, can I skip the eggs?
    I hate having to discuss whether a food trade with his sibling is ok, can I switch my apple for her green beans?
    I just want to have that happy meal time…make a meal, place it on the table and have a family eat without discussing the food at all. I don’t want false compliments. I don’t want forced eating. I would like to take the food discussions out of our meal times entirely!
    Meal time here stinks, no matter what we try.
    Help!

  8. I am 16 years old and still rate a strong 70 probably higher if possible, i dont know what to do anymore. please help!

  9. For me, it’s 67. I don’t have a child; I just have me. I answered 6 to 3, 4, and 5 but honestly I still have days when those are a 7, too. A lot depends on where my stress levels are in regard to other things.

    Like your friend, I suspect I have extreme texture sensitivity: I once complained to a friend of mine about a smoothie that I was otherwise enjoying because of the strawberry seeds. And oh, the line about certain foods being brand-specific! I thought it was me.

  10. Hey, if you feel like reading, please do.

    I can relate to every person who comments.

    Parents: I am 15 years old. I score a 70. If your kid likes certain things, exercise with them and eat the healthiest to their abilities. NEVER STARVE THEM. I went 4 days to prove a point. Trust me: Starving isn’t an issue. Make sure they eat small amounts, and can burn that off with exercise. The kids don’t want you to be hassled. They want it to go away.

    11 years of food neophobia has been pure agony. Socially, personally, economically, physically, emotionally, mentally.

    I was told by doctors I have Food Neophobia, and Social Anxiety and Severe Depression that was onset by the Neophobia. Its pure hell. Don’t make your kids life shitty. Exercise, right portions, never force them to try something. Please, on behalf of kids everywhere with food neophobia, sympathize.

  11. i always knew about my issues with food- they go as far back as I can remember and have actually gotten worse over the years until they levelled off (sometime in my 20’s I think) to the current short list of what can be eaten. I earned a perfect score of 70 on the test…I’ll be 40yrs old this year…. with no end in sight to this food drama. I really thought something was going to change (albeit a small change) with a temporary move overseas to work as I would be immersed in a very different ‘food culture’. Boy was I ever wrong! It wasn’t until I started working overseas that I stumbled upon SED and finally can put a label to my ‘food issues’. These issues although strong, could not compete with my career aspirations. I just spent a lot of time planning how I would survive eating overseas. Having now temporarily moved-to the spice capital of the world, in the first 4-6 weeks I lost 20lbs. I was already borderline underweight and now officially I am definitely underweight. My weight loss has levelled off 6 months later and I’m still probably 20lbs lighter, but not without many moments of anxiety over how weak my body felt at times, I am much more conscious of my energy levels and am surviving- albeit on a much more restrictive diet than back home (i now eat chicken, rice, Quaker brand quick oats, anjou pears, granny smith or royal gala apples, the odd orange, green or red grapes, bananas, french fries, perfectly steamed broccoli, bread, eggs, I finally found medium cheddar cheese I can eat, potatoes and ham). I eat any combination of the above every day. That’s it, besides the odd cookie, chocolate, soda and chips 🙂 What has changed for me dramatically is my desire to eat. There have been many more days since I’ve been abroad where I just don’t want to eat… and I have to force myself to eat something as I cannot allow myself to waste away in a foreign land. Food is just energy for the body…and I need energy to work. That’s my motivation…my job. It’s not that I want to starve myself- that’s not it at all, the desire to eat wanes at times. I can definitely say I am not interested in food- shopping for food, cooking food and eating food. This is nothing new for me, it’s just my distaste has significantly increased since being abroad. I am very conscious of this shift which is what concerns me the most. When I first arrived I packed more food than clothes as my issues just aren’t sensory, but they are also brand specific too. I went back home a couple of weeks ago and came back with more of my ‘familiar’ brands and favourite foods. Socially I am much more isolated being abroad- which I can’t complain about as I am very much overstimulated when in groups and social situations anyhow. Especially when the situation is new. Food is always a social experience so venturing out and being social is something I have embraced or will embrace here-except by force (e.g. company socials that can’t be avoided). It’s the same back home, it’s just harder to explain now.

    I am at a crossroad in my career where food may be the deciding factor of whether or not I accept the next job offer… that’s what I have been slowly realizing over the last few months. I made it to this job on the other side of the world, but I don’t know if I can work abroad and make a foreign country with foreign food my home…permanently! This is my dilemma!

    My career in international work is taking off and I fear my food issues will get the better of me and “ground” me back to my country of origin once my current international consulting job is done in a few months. This is what is slowly motivating me to do some research on what can be done. If I have to turn down a permanent job abroad because of my food issues…I will be devastated!

    • MaryJane:
      Having little interest in eating is the 2nd most common presentation of SED (now ARFID). It’s very different than a desire to avoid eating; usually it stems from avoiding the unpleasant monotony of not finding food and eating to be an enjoyable or rewarding experience.

      Congratulations for having the courage to challenge yourself in a foreign food culture! Now what? A change of scenery didn’t flip the switch to … what shall we say… “Normal eating?” It may be more useful to revise your eating goals.

      You have succeeded already – I hope you can see that. You did find food to eat abroad. You did not allow your eating to limit your career opportunities. That alone is huge progress. Maybe you can go a little further? Instead of “forcing” yourself to eat something, turn eating into a priority. Schedule meals and snacks into your day, and worry not about what you’re eating. Eat until you have had your fill and then forget about food and eating until it’s time to eat again. A reasonable goal is to get to a point where eating is a matter-of-fact activity in your day.
      You’ve really come a great distance with eating already. You are so much stronger than your issues with food.

  12. Both of my children score a 70 – where can I find help for them in Arizona? We have tried counseling and to no avail. :(!

  13. I developed food neophobia when I was 3 years old after watching the movie, Gordy. Long story short, I ate like a toddler until I was 16 years old. I’m decided to share this because there is hope for overcoming this disorder. When I was 16, I decided that I didn’t want to live like that anymore and wrote up a contract with my father. I promised that I would have at least 3 bits of the main dish and have a few baby carrots. The progress at first was very slow and exhausting at times, but 4 years later, you wouldn’t even know that I suffered from it. I still struggle with vegetables and other more exciting foods, but I can slide by. With practice and patience, you can start to enjoy the foods that you used to have strong aversions to. I hope that you all can have hope to overcome this disorder.

  14. Thank you so much for this web-site. I’m a preschool teacher who has a student in class right now that has special food issues. I’ve been looking for information to educate myself and for information to pass on to the family. I’ve had a very hard time finding support groups where families can go in our city. This site is wonderful because my student is only three years old and I really wanted to know if his food behaviors continue what may it “look like” as he gets older. Reading everyone’s posts has given me a much better understanding of what my student and his family are going through!

    • Thanks for dropping by Jennifer! 🙂 if you would like more information, please get in touch through the Contact page.
      And thanks for going that extra distance to be an extraordinary teacher.

  15. I live with my sister and my 8 year old niece. After reading this article and doing a lot of research on neophobia I firmly believe my niece suffers from this disorder. My niece just has a melt-down if the subject of trying something new is brought up. If we are away on vacation or dining at friends I will bring and cook the limited menu items that she eats. She has a problem even eating the same thing she eats at home if it is cooked somewhere else. She does not eat ANY veggies except for cucumbers without the skin, not a lot of nutritional value happening there. My real problem is that my sister does not believe in mental illness or disorders, (I suffer from bi-polar disorder) and is not willing to accept that this issue is psychological in nature and not just my niece being difficult and stubborn. Can anyone offer any advice on how I can help my niece without getting professional advice? My sister thinks psychologists and psychiatrists are all quacks. This eating issue is constantly causing problems within our entire family. Our step-mother was raised in a strict Lithuanian family. If we dine at their house she will make my niece sit at the table because she won’t finish the meal since it was not cooked at home. Which then causes one of us to make a stand on my niece’s behalf. Causing strife among my entire family. So if anyone has any advice on how I can get my niece to work around this issue and possibly try some basic new foods. I am not looking for miracles but finding a way to get some type of natural nutrition into my niece would be amazing. My niece literally only eats white bread, skinless apples, skinless pears, skinless cucumbers, waffles, pancakes, ramen, plain white flour pasta, organic white meat chicken nuggets and French fries. She will eat “junk” snacks (goldfish, chips, etc.) & candy with no problem though.

    Any help or referral to more online research would be greatly appreciated!

    • From what you describe, your niece is responding to pressure to eat. Your niece is not being any more difficult than your sister or you would be if she was told to drink poison. The issue is not a matter of being stubborn. Where the food is cooked, who prepares it, how it’s served – this is all about trust.

      I’m glad to hear that both you and your sister will defend your niece at your stepmom’s. Her house is not within your sphere of influence to do much more than you already do. Your own table is where change is within your control.

      If there is any dairy in your niece’s diet, she’s covering all the food groups, and the fruit she does eat is enough to cover the vegetables she doesn’t. What matters is that she can find enough to eat and fill up on at each meal. Where you want to focus is structure – predictable meals and snacks with no grazing other than water in between. And to create a mealtime environment,free of pressure, where your young niece can be successful with eating.

      On the web, the best feeding resources are at http://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/htf/howtofeed.php. The Division of Responsibility is the gold standard for feeding a selective eater.

      This book: Love Me Feed Me is the best information available for feeding a child who anxious around food – http://astore.amazon.ca/mealthosta-20/detail/0615691315

      If you are on Facebook, please join the parent to parent support group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/MealtimeHostage – almost 1,000 parents strong, and every single one knows exactly what you go through at every meal.

  16. Hi! I just wanted to ask you if this scale is the same as in the article : Pilner, P. (1994) Development of Food Neophobia in Children, Appetite, 23 (2), 147-163or is it a modification? I want to use this scale in my master’s thesis but I don’t have acces to this particular article. Do you know where I can find it? 🙂

  17. Hi. I have Neophobia and I’m 43 years old. I’ve had to deal with this since I was 2 years old. I’d really like to know how I can get over this phobia. I live in Canada, Winnipeg, Mb. Is there anyone that can help me?

    • Hi Wendy,

      I know you’re not alone in Winnipeg, but I don’t have a contact to recommend in your local area. Could you please contact me privately via the Contact page? There are likely other other options for you.

  18. Hey there, I have spent countless hours researching a problem i have. Im an extremely picky eater and have been since i was a kid. Im Currently 20 years old and still eat like im 6. I have a certain list of foods i eat and thats it. I only eat under 10 items, and i refuse to eat anything else. I believe i had SED and Food Neophobia but its clearly more then that. The past few years it has gotten to me, But more in a mental state. I suffer several symptons and have devolped an entire different daily routine. I dont sleep right , ive developed migraines not even headaches. My stress load has increased dramatically and i never feel right. I wasnt the average kid when i was younger. I never ” Fit In” if you want to say. I got bullied and teased due to my eating. Even to this day i cant enjoy a nice lunch or dinner with friends or family without having to order off the kids menu. I dont eat any meat, I dont eat any veggies, the only fruit i do eat is bananas. Im Not a vegetarian, im nothing like that. Its not so much im afraid to try new things its more of my body wants the food but my mind will avoid and reject it. Taste and Textures are probably the two biggest things. If i dont like the texture i will mediately gag and vomit. Its out of my control and when that happens that food is put on the ” I Dont Like`list. I feel very childish and immature because your suppose to grow out of this phase. But Clearly i havnt and i have brought this disorder in my adulthood years. Im currently seeking help through Psychologists and Dieticians. I feel that my problem is more mentally affecting then physical. I can sit here all day and list my symptons and feelings but believe me. Youll be reading a novel by the time im done. Ive been searching for a blog of some sort to help me out. I feel like my left out and i feel like im the only one with such a serve disorder. I know there are other picky eaters out there, But i feel im the only one with such a high Food Neophobia. I dont like to compare children to my self due to my age hence why i feel like im the only one. Your Child may be picky but probably no where close to me, Anyways Hopefully someone has perhaps came close to this so feel free to voice your opinions. Im still young im still learning and Im missing out on alot of healthy, nutritious , and very tasty meals. But mentally im held back from experiencing this feeling. Thanks for taking the time to read this. enjoy the rest of your day thanks.

  19. My daughter will be seven this december. I think that she has SED. She is very sensitive to brand, and does not like her food touching. One day she will eat chicken and the next day she wont. She only really eats about ten things, including peanut butter, hot dogs, spaghetti in a can (with meatballs only), refried beans (usually only from Taco Bell, some times I can get her to eat them at home out of a can but they can not be a generic brand. I can get her to eat some fruit but not much. She also will eat broccoli and corn. Other then that all she wants is Top-ramon, frozen waffles, and most candy. We have went many rounds at the dinned table. Every night she will ask whats for dinner and she will say I dont like that. Reguardless what it is. Reguardless whether she has had it before or not. I have had many tears and gagging sections at dinner. We try hard to get her to try new things. It shocks me when she tries it, but she never likes it. She passed out at school one day, I think from low blood sugar and/or protein. I have started giving her muscle milk as part of breakfast, so she has the nutrition she needs to learn. It seems to have helped her. she weights only 42 lbs and all of her clothes are 5s. I worry about her. People dont understand when I tell them. most say she just picky, she will grow out of it. I say you feed her then!!! LOL. Any advise would be greatly appriceated.

  20. I am 14 years old and I think I have this. I scored a 70 and I hate trying food. I don’t know why. It is embarrissing. Last year for Spanish we took a field trip to a Spanish tavern for lunch and all I ate was the bread with butter. I didn’t try anything. Yesterday my parents made kidney beans for dinner and when I put 2 in my mouth I had a panic attack and couldn’t breathe. I feel so embarrassed of my eating habits… Sometimes I wish I was normal but I wouldn’t want to eat the ‘normal’ food

    • i know eacatly how you feel nicole, i’m 14 to, and i started to try to do reaserch on my eating, my mom claims i’m ”just to picky about eating name brand foods” and such, i’ve probobly survived the last 8 years of my life eating french fries, crackers, and pb&j’s, i’m almost cerian i’m a super taster, because i can pick up the slightest hint of salt, to the slightest lacking of cheese on a dorito

  21. Hello, My son has this and we’ve had good and bad experiences since figuring it it was neophobia. Can you tell me where you got the test. I would like to use it in a research paper that I’m doing on this subject.

    • I found it in the appendix of a research paper. It was developed by P. Pilner, and credit appears at the beginning of the questionnaire. The research paper was free access, otherwise it’s pay for access.

  22. I scored 45 – I must say I’ve improved since I travelled, but I still have a very long way to gol

    • I have no food allergies that I know of (though I did have a slither of lychee after being mocked at work to try it and I started getting a rash on my neck and throat started to close up so I avoid them!) – I’ve introduced some new foods since I’ve been overseas (like root vegetables) but usually when I am finally brave try something new my gag reflex normally kicks in and I can’t swallow it – I usually stick to what I know because I’m terrified of reacting like that in public at restaurants and at friends. I’m still using the ‘I’ve already eaten’ excuse if I’m at meals with my friends where I don’t have a familiar option. I want to be able to eat salads and roasts like everyone else – I’m approaching 30 and just want to be normal.

    • Not as far as you might think. 35 is a “normal” score. The irony here is that most normal eaters don’t eat normally -(dieting, restricting, binge or emotional eating).

      Consider that if you eat what you enjoy and push yourself along to try new foods when the mood strikes you, you will probably do fairly well nutritionally on your journey to competent eating. And if others would stop teasing and cajoling you to eat things you don’t like, you would likely do that much better. 🙂

  23. I got a 61. I know it was worse when I was younger (I’m 22 now). I just don’t like new things whatsoever. I also find certain foods to taste weird and sort of lump all foods like a food I may not like together. If I haven’t tried a food, I’ll say I don’t like it. The taste of a lot of foods are off putting to me. I don’t know what the cause of my “picky eating” is. I have no food allergies and don’t have sensory issues (that I know of). I don’t know if it’s psychological. I do have an eating disorder but that developed almost two years ago and I’ve been a “picky eater” most of my life. I think it is due to my fear of the unknown, as I don’t like not knowing what will happen next, so I fear new things happening, thus I fear new tastes in food. I’m not sure though.

    • Nadia, thanks for your comment.

      That’s just it, isn’t it – “fear of the unknown.” Hence “neophobia” – fear of new experiences. As I look more toward the psychology behind eating for answers and direction, I’m learning that food is more than just calories and nutrition for the body.

      Rather than trying to force yourself to adapt to the mainstream’s disordered style of eating, start with learning to enjoy what you can eat. There will always be someone preaching about what we should all be eating, and someone who can’t resist the temptation to feed their own ego by pouncing on what they see as a weakness in others. You get to choose who and what you listen to. Keep the inner chatter positive.

      I hope you have recovered from your ED and can start over to build a better relationship with food.

  24. Hi, My son scored a full 70, we have a referral pending to Camhs, just waiting on an appointment, has taken 5 years to get there after many different professionals advise from doctors to health visitors and dieticians, none of which has helped, lets hope camhs can help, my son hasnt eaten a cooked evening meal in 5 years, the fear and anxiety he shows when i suggest eating anything besides his usual sandwich, yogurt or breakfast is quite heartbreaking to watch.

  25. My hubbie scored a 70. He is seeking help, at my insistence. I have been making special food, meals, etc. for 17 years. I won’t do it anymore. He eats no fruits or vegetables. With the exception of mashed, baked or French fried potatoes. No cheese either, except mozzarella on plain cheese pizza. It has cost him his ideal weight, he is considered obese on the bmi scale and now has diabetes type 2. We are hoping the help he is seeking will work and turn things around. Thanks for listening.

    • I do appreciate your frustration and your concern for your husband’s health and weight. I hope that you can understand that he would change what he eats if he could. I speak with far too many adults who want to eat better, and make healthier choices, because of their weight and the health issues that consequently develop. Despite the determination and a willingness to improve their health, adding new foods is an incredibly difficult struggle.

      I would like to suggest some reading for both you and your husband. Please bring it to the attention of the help you are seeking for your husband’s eating. I wish you both much success and support.

      http://www.ellynsatter.com/resources/Foodneeds.pdf

      http://www.ellynsatter.com/adults-eating-and-weight-i-57.html

  26. I scored a 61. I was worse as a kid (when I was 2 I stopped eating food by color, and starved myself for 2 days until my parents caved, and would rearrange the table so I could not see anyone else’s plate because I would gag watching them eat, at friends houses I was “never hungry”, or had a pretend upset tummy), I have managed to make small improvements, when I was a kid I would have scored a full 70 as I only ate dry, white, salty foods. I think I am a combination of physical and neurological. It is weird because I have sudden moments of clarity where I am sure I could bite into a carrot, but of course those never happen when there is a carrot in sight lol. I am lucky in the sense that I have only excluded fruits, veggies and sauces from my diet now, and have made a lot of progress with the other food groups since childhood, and am even starting to like a few sauces (when I was pregnant I craved barbecue sauce, and now I like it haha, and I can manage some cheese sauces, but tomato sauces are still a struggle for me. I even tried a modified form of curry a few months back! I was proud even though I didn’t like it, although I did find a maple curry sauce that I do like now. To people without this problem that probably seems like an odd thing to be proud of haha). I stumbled across the term SED not to long ago, and suddenly my eating habits made a whole lot more sense. People always assume you are just being snobby when you say you are picky, but when I explained SED they seemed to understand a lot more. I am still sensitive to colour, smell, sight, texture and taste of foods, and if I suspect that there is something I don’t like in a food, I will actually start to taste it regardless if it is in the food or not, and get panicky. But that I am able to eat orange cheese and barbecue sauce and many dry seasonings now and don’t gag at the sight of other people eating is a huge improvement over my childhood eating habits. I think I am making more progress on the foods I did not like because they were sticky and messy or a particular colour than ones that have strong textures overall or a taste or smell that bothers me.

    • Also I can now deal with food touching other food on my plate. Hopefully this is encouraging that while your son may never be a “normal” eater hopefully you will see some improvement over time!

    • Over the holidays, I have been watching the “normal” eaters in my family. My husband has horrible reflux, so he has had to remove things from his diet because eating these things hurt. I learned recently that my sister doesn’t like meat with bones. Everybody has their own issues with food, maybe not to this extreme, but nobody eats everything. So what is normal anyway?

      Lately, my son has been willing to try some different things (mostly breads). I’m very proud of him for making these bold and courageous leaps into the unknown, whether he likes what he tries or not. 🙂

    • I’m 14 years old and I scored a 48. It scares me to think that I might never get out of this habit. My parents just don’t understand that I mentally can’t touch the foods they want me to try.

    • My mom said I did the same thing when I was really little. I only ate brown foods and even that was limited to chicken nuggets refried beans chocolate and a few other things. Now I eat other color foods but I’m still a super picky eater. This article was really helpful. I scored a 63 and it scares me. I have been worried lately cause my eating habits have been catching up to me. The problem is what I eat and I need to try new foods. I’m 15 and I don’t want this to ruin my life.

    • It’s unlikely what you eat will ruin your life. To date, no one has blamed their downfall on either carrots or cookies. Frankly, if you want to try new foods, try them – instead of wanting to try them, or thinking you should want to try them.

      When you do, expect to find the first experience unpleasant- because it’s new. New isn’t bad, just different. Keep trying and try different temperatures, textures and condiments to make different more palatable for you.

      More concerning is the value you seem to give food to control your health. Food is fuel, not medicine, and there is no way to predict the outcome of your health solely by what you eat. Get in touch through the contact page if you need more support.

    • That’s where TJ scored too. I was pretty certain his SED was exclusively psychological, but now that he’s able and willing to explain what he doesn’t like about food, I see we fit into all 3 categories.

    • I feel my son falls under all 3 of these categories! He scored a strong 70, what do i do? He has already tried food therapy through easter seals when he was 2 but i feel like it was just made it worse and more stressfull for him. He is currently not eating any solid food and is surviving on 6 pedia sure a day! I need help asap and I feel so lost and like no one but his father and I know just how serious this is! Please help! Im so happy I found this site!!!

    • Welcome Nichole,
      My first thought would be to evaluate his physical ability to eat – an SLP (Speech Language Pathologist) can assess oral motor, tongue movement, swallowing, and other physical skills related to eating. I hope this was a part of the Easter Seals program.
      If nothing is out of order as far as chewing, moving food around the mouth, bolus formation and swallowing, then it’s likely you have an anxious eater. The key is to expose him to developmentally appropriate food in a no pressure feeding environment while ensuring he is getting enough to eat.

      I posted this as part of a response earlier in the comments. In case you can’t access the thread, I have cut and pasted the reply here:

      On the web, the best feeding resources are at http://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/htf/howtofeed.php. The Division of Responsibility is the gold standard for feeding a selective eater.

      This book: Love Me Feed Me (K. Rowell) is the best information available for feeding a child who anxious around food – http://astore.amazon.ca/mealthosta-20/detail/0615691315

      If you are on Facebook, please join the parent to parent support group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/MealtimeHostage – almost 1,000 parents strong, and every single one knows exactly what you go through at every meal.

    • Dear Nichole
      I know exactly what you and your husband are going through. My son is 2 and refuses to eat ANYTHING! He used to eat only 2 minute noodles and toasted cheese sandwiches but has stopped eating completely. He only drinks formula.
      I have been to so many doctors and even tried a paediatric dietician but still no luck. I am at my wits end and feel so helpless.

      How are things going with you son, any luck yet?

Comments are closed.