Beyond childhood: Picky eating in college students

Self-identified picky eaters ate significantly less fiber and vegetables than non-picky eaters, according to a new study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior


Philadelphia, October 7, 2021

Looking beyond the picky eating of childhood, researchers looked at this behavior in college students. Self-identified picky eaters ate significantly less fiber and vegetables and reported greater levels of social phobia than non-picky eaters, according to a new study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, published by Elsevier. Social phobia is the fear of being evaluated during everyday activities by others.

“Picky eating is typically defined as the rejection of both familiar and new foods. It is a common occurrence during childhood; however, there are cases in which picky eating can persist into adolescence and adulthood. The primary aim of this study was to examine relationships between picky eating behaviors and dietary consumption as well as some of the psychosocial outcomes that might be associated with this, like social phobia, quality of life and picky eating distress. We were also interested in examining picky eating as an eating identity,” said Lauren Dial, PhD, Department of Psychology, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH, USA.

Of the 488 Midwestern undergraduate students, 190 identified as a picky eater (almost 40%). Most picky eaters (65%) reported consuming a diet of fewer than 10 foods. In addition to social phobia, picky eating was associated with overall and situational distress and lower quality of life. The challenges of picky eaters included finding acceptable food, not eating, other people they were eating with, and excessive meal planning.

Interestingly, some benefits of picky eating reported by participants resembled versions of reported challenges. For example, difficulty finding acceptable foods is opposite to enjoying simplicity in selecting foods or restaurants. However, participants from the same sample viewed eating in restaurants as a challenge and a benefit. These qualitative results suggest that picky eating in adulthood is a multifaceted, complex phenomenon in which the variability in reported challenges and benefits may depend on variables like age, gender and social support.


Looking beyond the picky eating of childhood, researchers looked at this behavior in college students. Self-identified picky eaters ate significantly less fiber and vegetables and reported greater levels of social phobia than non-picky eaters, according to a new study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (Credit: iStock.com/KatarzynaBialasiewicz).

“Overall, this study sheds some more light on the consequences of picky eating in young adults and might help future research identify how picky eating is related to other eating behaviors,” Dial said.

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Notes for editors
The article is “Consequences of Picky Eating in College Students,” by Lauren A. Dial, PhD; Amy Jordan, MS; Elizabeth Emley, MA; Harrison D. Angoff, BA; Aniko Viktoria Varga, MA; and Dara R. Musher-Eizenman, PhD (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2021.07.006). It appears in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, volume 53, issue 10 (October 2021), published by Elsevier.

The article is openly available at https://www.jneb.org/article/S1499-4046(21)00725-9/fulltext.

Full text of the article is also available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Eileen Leahy at +1 732 238 3628 or jnebmedia@elsevier.com to obtain a copy. To schedule an interview with the author(s), please contact Lauren Dial, PhD, at ladial@bgsu.edu.

An audio podcast featuring an interview with Lauren Dial, PhD, and other information for journalists are available at www.jneb.org/content/media. Excerpts from the podcast may be reproduced by the media with permission from Eileen Leahy.

About the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB)
Advancing Research, Practice and Policy

The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB), the official journal of the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB), is a refereed, scientific periodical that serves as a resource for all professionals with an interest in nutrition education and dietary/physical activity behaviors. The purpose of JNEB is to document and disseminate original research, emerging issues, and practices relevant to nutrition education and behavior worldwide and to promote healthy, sustainable food choices. It supports the society’s efforts to disseminate innovative nutrition education strategies, and communicate information on food, nutrition, and health issues to students, professionals, policymakers, targeted audiences, and the public.

The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior features articles that provide new insights and useful findings related to nutrition education research, practice, and policy. The content areas of JNEB reflect the diverse interests of health, nutrition, education, Cooperative Extension, and other professionals working in areas related to nutrition education and behavior. As the Society's official journal, JNEB also includes occasional policy statements, issue perspectives, and member communications. www.jneb.org

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Media contact
Eileen Leahy
Elsevier
+1 732 238 3628
jnebmedia@elsevier.com