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The Picky Eater Test

My research for my writing leads me down all sorts of interesting online paths. My patients tell me what they wonder about, and they also tell me what they search for online to answer their questions. I am curious about what their online searching tells them, so I check it out myself. One topic that often comes up is picky eating. People want to know if they are picky eaters, so they ask the internet. The internet has the answer in the form of The Picky Eater Test. The Picky Eater Test is meant to tell you if you are indeed a picky eater.

Now, in my opinion, no one needs a test to know if they are a picky eater. If you are a picky eater, you know you are a picky eater. Additionally, all the online picky eater tests are exceedingly subjective. Cultural eating habits inform what we eat. If you eat a varied array of foods from your own culture, but much fewer foods from the typical American eating pattern, you are likely not a picky eater. A further issue with the online picky eater tests is that they use foods that are less common as a marker of pickiness. I don't think that not preferring tripe and calamari means you are a picky eater. If you avoid eating tripe, calamari, chicken, steak, fish, turkey, ground beef, hot dogs, sausage, and pork, maybe then you are a picky eater.

A final problem with the picky eater tests is that there is no widely accepted measurable definition of picky eating. It is a fairly subjective term, and children, parents, pediatricians, dietitians, and mental health providers may all define picky eating somewhat differently. In contrast, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID,) has a definition, and trained mental health providers all use the same criteria to decide if a patient has ARFID. Some children and adults with picky eating do meet the diagnostic criteria for ARFID.

With all those qualifications, I will propose here my own version of the picky eater test.

people eating at an outdoor cafe

The Picky Eater Test

  1. Are there very few vegetables you like?

  2. Are there very few fruits you like?

  3. Do you only eat out at familiar restaurants?

  4. Will you only eat food prepared at home or by a few select people?

  5. Do you avoid trying new foods?

  6. Do you stop buying a familiar food when you notice that the manufacturer changes something about how it tastes or looks.

  7. Do you avoid certain food textures or mouthfeels, such as lumpy foods, sticky foods, or chewy foods

  8. Do you avoid mixed foods, such as casseroles, salads, or soups?

  9. Do you have a ready list of foods you won't eat that you can provide in case you need to eat out?

  10. Do you avoid parties or events where food will be served?

  11. Do you not eat if you do attend a party or other event?

  12. Do you bring your own food to social events?

  13. Do other people notice that you avoid many foods?

  14. Are your food avoidances causing issues in your family?

  15. Do others often modify what they are doing to accommodate your food avoidances?

  16. Would you prefer to be hungry than eat certain foods?

  17. Do you wish you were able to eat more foods?

If you answered "yes" to many of these questions, then you might want to discuss your picky eating behaviors with your healthcare provider. If you are a picky eater, I am pretty sure you knew if before taking my picky eater test. Where there is some ambiguity is in deciding if the picky eating is problematic. When you have to start making choices in your life that are directed by your eating behaviors, then your picky eating might have become a problem. The good news is that picky eating can be improved. Reach out to a dietitian or other healthcare providers who can help!

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