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J Am Diet Assoc. 2003 Jun;103(6):692-8.

Predictors and consequences of food neophobia and pickiness in young girls.

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  • 1Department of Human Development and Family Studies, The Pennsylvania State University, S-110 South Henderson Building, University Park, PA 16802, USA.



Vegetable intake among children is well below recommended levels. We assessed whether food neophobia and pickiness contribute to low vegetable intake in school-aged girls and if there are distinct predictors for neophobia and pickiness. Children with food neophobia are reluctant to eat new foods whereas picky children resist eating many familiar foods. Design/subjects Participants were 192 7-year-old girls and their parents, recruited for a study of girls' nutrition and development. We examined relationships between food neophobia and pickiness and assessed whether these variables predicted girls' vegetable consumption and predictors of food neophobia and pickiness.


The data were analyzed using a two-step process. First, we used a two-way analysis of variance to assess whether girls who scored high or low on food neophobia and pickiness measures had different levels of vegetable consumption. We used multiple regression analysis to determine predictors of food neophobia and pickiness in the girls.


Girls with both food neophobia and pickiness consumed fewer vegetables (1.1+/-0.1) than girls with neither neophobia nor pickiness (1.6+/-0.1). Neophobia and pickiness were modestly related in this sample, but had different predictors. Girls with food neophobia were more anxious and had mothers with food neophobia. Picky girls had mothers with less variety in their vegetable intake (r=-0.22) and mothers who perceived their family to have little time to eat healthful foods (r=0.36). In addition, picky eaters were breastfed for fewer than 6 months (r=-0.25). Pickiness was predicted primarily by environmental or experiential factors subject to changes; neophobia was predicted by more enduring and dispositional factors.


Because food neophobia and pickiness negatively influence vegetable intake, intervention strategies to increase vegetable intake should focus on predictors of neophobia and pickiness, especially those subject to change.

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