Research Article| Volume 53, ISSUE 10, P822-831, October 2021

Download started.


Consequences of Picky Eating in College Students



      To examine the relation between young adult picky eating (PE) and psychosocial outcomes (eg, social phobia, quality of life) and dietary intake.


      Cross-sectional study including demographic, quantitative, and qualitative measures.


      Midwestern undergraduate convenience sample (n = 488) recruited early 2020.

      Main outcome measures

      Picky eating identity and bias internalization, social phobia, quality of life, and dietary intake.


      Pearson correlations were conducted among study variables. Independent t tests compared picky eaters and nonpicky eaters on key variables. Qualitative data were coded using content analysis.


      Picky eaters reported eating less fiber (t[445] = −3.51; P < 0.001; d = 0.34) and vegetables (t[464] = −3.57; P < 0.001; d = 0.33), and reported more social phobia (t[336.84] = 4.04; P < 0.001; d = 0.39) than nonpicky eaters. Picky eating behaviors were positively correlated with PE identity (r[190] = 0.48; P < 0.001; R2 = 0.23) and bias internalization (r[190] = 0.44; P < 0.001; R2 = 0.19).

      Conclusions and Implications

      Future research might explore additional factors that theoretically overlap with PE behavior (eg, other eating styles, disordered eating patterns) or play a role in PE (eg, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive difficulties). A greater understanding of these factors may lead to intervention to reduce PE in adults. In addition, validation of the PE identity and PE distress measures is essential for future use and to replicate this study's findings.

      Key Words

      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access

      SNEB Member Login

      SNEB Members, full access to the journal is a member benefit. Login via the SNEB Website to access all journal content and features.


      Subscribe to Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Cardona Cano S
        • Hoek HW
        • Hoeken D van
        • et al.
        Behavioral outcomes of picky eating in childhood: a prospective study in the general population.
        J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2016; 57: 1239-1246
        • Tharner A
        • Jansen PW
        • Kiefte-de Jong JC
        • et al.
        Toward an operative diagnosis of fussy/picky eating: a latent profile approach in a population-based cohort.
        Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2014; 11: 14
        • Galloway AT
        • Fiorito L
        • Lee Y
        • Birch LL
        Parental pressure, dietary patterns, and weight status among girls who are “picky eaters.”.
        J Am Diet Assoc. 2005; 105: 541-548
        • Dovey TM
        • Staples PA
        • Gibson EL
        • Halford JCG
        Food neophobia and “picky/fussy” eating in children: a review.
        Appetite. 2008; 50: 181-193
        • Mascola AJ
        • Bryson SW
        • Agras WS
        Picky eating during childhood: a longitudinal study to age 11 years.
        Eat Behav. 2010; 11: 253-257
        • Marchi M
        • Cohen P
        Early childhood eating behaviors and adolescent eating disorders.
        J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 1990; 29: 112-117
        • Antoniou EE
        • Roefs A
        • Kremers SPJ
        • et al.
        Picky eating and child weight status development: a longitudinal study.
        J Hum Nutr Diet. 2016; 29: 298-307
        • Ashcroft J
        • Semmler C
        • Carnell S
        • Van Jaarsveld CHM
        • Wardle J
        Continuity and stability of eating behaviour traits in children.
        Eur J Clin Nutr. 2008; 62: 985-990
        • Cole NC
        • An R
        • Lee S-Y
        • Donovan SM
        Correlates of picky eating and food neophobia in young children: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
        Nutr Rev. 2017; 75: 516-532
        • Jacobi C
        • Agras WS
        • Bryson S
        • Hammer L
        Behavioral validation, precursors, and concomitants of picky eating in childhood.
        J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2003; 42: 76-84
        • Jacobi C
        • Schmitz G
        • Agras WS
        Is picky eating an eating disorder?.
        Int J Eat Disord. 2008; 41: 626-634
        • Johnson SL
        Developmental and environmental influences on young children's vegetable preferences and consumption.
        Adv Nutr. 2016; 7: 220S-231S
        • Kauer J
        • Pelchat ML
        • Rozin P
        • Zickgraf HF
        Adult picky eating. Phenomenology, taste sensitivity, and psychological correlates.
        Appetite. 2015; 90: 219-228
        • Nelson MC
        • Story M
        • Larson NI
        • Neumark-Sztainer D
        • Lytle LA
        Emerging adulthood and college-aged youth: an overlooked age for weight-related behavior change.
        Obesity. 2008; 16: 2205-2211
        • Ellis JM
        • Galloway AT
        • Zickgraf HF
        • Whited MC
        Picky eating and fruit and vegetable consumption in college students.
        Eat Behav. 2018; 30: 5-8
        • Zickgraf HF
        • Schepps K
        Fruit and vegetable intake and dietary variety in adult picky eaters.
        Food Qual Prefer. 2016; 54: 39-50
        • American Psychiatric Association
        Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
        5th ed. American Psychiatric Association, 2013
        • Wildes JE
        • Zucker NL
        • Marcus MD
        Picky eating in adults: results of a web-based survey.
        Int J Eat Disord. 2012; 45: 575-582
        • Ellis JM
        • Galloway AT
        • Webb RM
        • Martz DM
        Measuring adult picky eating: the development of a multidimensional self-report instrument.
        Psychol Assess. 2017; 29: 955-966
        • Blake CE
        • Bell BA
        • Freedman D
        • Colabianchi N
        • Liese AD
        The Eating Identity Type Inventory (EITI): development and associations with diet.
        Appetite. 2013; 69: 15-22
        • Blake C
        • Bisogni CA
        Personal and family food choice schemas of rural women in upstate New York.
        J Nutr Educ Behav. 2003; 35: 282-293
        • Thompson C
        • Cummins S
        • Brown T
        • Kyle R
        What does it mean to be a “picky eater”? A qualitative study of food related identities and practices.
        Appetite. 2015; 84: 235-239
        • Faul F
        • Erdfelder E
        • Buchner A
        • et al.
        Statistical power analyses using G*Power3.1: tests for correlation and regressionanalyses.
        Behavior Research Methods. 2009; 41: 1149-1160
      1. George D, Mallery P. SPSS for Windows Step by Step Guide: A Simple Guide and Reference. 11.0 Update. 4th ed. Allyn and Bacon; 2003.

        • Durso LE
        • Latner JD
        Understanding self-directed stigma: development of the weight bias internalization scale.
        Obesity. 2008; 16: S80-S86
      2. National Cancer Institute. Dietary screener questionnaires (DSQ) in the NHANES 2009–10. Accessed October 23, 2020.

        • Mattick RP
        • Clarke JC
        Development and validation of measures of social phobia scrutiny fear and social interaction anxiety.
        Behav Res Ther. 1998; 36: 455-470
        • Flanagan JC
        A research approach to improving our quality of life.
        Am Psychol. 1978; 33: 138
        • Burckhardt CS
        • Anderson KL
        The Quality of Life Scale (QOLS): reliability, validity, and utilization.
        Health Qual Life Outcomes. 2003; 1: 60
        • Hsieh H-F
        • Shannon SE
        Three approaches to qualitative content analysis.
        Qual Health Res. 2005; 15: 1277-1288
        • Miles MB
        • Huberman AM
        • Saldana J
        Qualitative Data Analysis: A Methods Sourcebook.
        SAGE Publications, 2018
        • McHugh ML
        Interrater reliability: the kappa statistic.
        Biochem Med (Zagreb). 2012; 22: 276-282
        • Little RJA
        A test of missing completely at random for multivariate data with missing values.
        J Am Stat Assoc. 1988; 83: 1198-1202
        • Zickgraf HF
        • Franklin ME
        • Rozin P
        Adult picky eaters with symptoms of avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder: comparable distress and comorbidity but different eating behaviors compared to those with disordered eating symptoms.
        J Eat Disord. 2016; 4: 26
        • Mintz SW
        • Du Bois CM
        The anthropology of food and eating.
        Annu Rev Anthropol. 2002; 31: 99-119
        • Bisogni CA
        • Connors M
        • Devine CM
        • Sobal J
        Who we are and how we eat: a qualitative study of identities in food choice.
        J Nutr Educ Behav. 2002; 34: 128-139
        • Rosenfeld DL
        • Burrow AL
        The unified model of vegetarian identity: a conceptual framework for understanding plant-based food choices.
        Appetite. 2017; 112: 78-95
        • Tomiyama AJ
        Weight stigma is stressful. A review of evidence for the cyclic Obesity/Weight-Based stigma model.
        Appetite. 2014; 82: 8-15
        • König LM
        • Giese H
        • Stok FM
        • Renner B
        The social image of food: associations between popularity and eating behavior.
        Appetite. 2017; 114: 248-258
        • Elkins A
        • Zickgraf HF
        Picky eating and food neophobia: resemblance and agreement in parent/young adult dyads.
        Appetite. 2018; 126: 36-42
        • Ellis JM
        • Schenk RR
        • Galloway AT
        • Zickgraf HF
        • Webb RM
        • Martz DM
        A multidimensional approach to understanding the potential risk factors and covariates of adult picky eating.
        Appetite. 2018; 125: 1-9
        • Farrow CV
        • Coulthard H
        Relationships between sensory sensitivity, anxiety and selective eating in children.
        Appetite. 2012; 58: 842-846
        • Abraham S
        • Noriega BR
        • Shin JY
        College students eating habits and knowledge of nutritional requirements.
        J Nutr Hum Health. 2018; 2: 13-17