What does it mean to be a 'picky eater'? A qualitative study of food related identities and practices

Claire Thompson, Steven Cummins, Tim Brown, Rosemary Kyle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
260 Downloads (Pure)


Picky eaters are defined as those who consume an inadequate variety of food through rejection of a substantial amount of food stuffs that are both familiar and unfamiliar. Picky eating is a relatively recent theoretical concept and while there is increasing concern within public health over the lack of diversity in some children's diets, adult picky eaters remain an under researched group. This paper reports on the findings of a qualitative study on the routine food choices and practices of 26 families in Sandwell, West Midlands, UK. Photo elicitation and go-along interview data collection methods were used to capture habitual food related behaviours and served to describe the practices of nine individuals who self identified or were described as picky eaters. A thematic analysis revealed that those with the food related identity of picky eater had very restricted diets and experienced strong emotional and physical reactions to certain foods. For some this could be a distressing and alienating experience that hindered their ability to engage in episodes of social eating. Further research is needed to illuminate the specific practices of adult picky eaters, how this impacts on their lives, and how possible interventions might seek to address the challenges they face.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-9
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2015


  • Adult
  • Body Weight
  • Choice Behavior
  • Diet/psychology
  • Eating/psychology
  • Emotions
  • Feeding Behavior/psychology
  • Female
  • Food Preferences/psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality
  • Qualitative Research
  • Stress, Psychological
  • United Kingdom
  • Young Adult


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