Mealtime Behaviors and Food Consumption of Perceived Picky and Nonpicky Eaters through Home Use Test

Mandy Boquin, Sarah Smith-Simpson, Sharon M. Donovan, Soo Yeun Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Picky eating has been investigated through numerous surveys and food recalls, but few studies have applied in-home meal evaluations as a method to investigate behaviors and food preferences of children perceived by their parent to be a picky eater (PE) or nonpicky eater (NPE). A 2-wk in-home meal study was completed to investigate differences in PE and NPE mealtime behaviors and food selections using real-time parental observations. Parents (n = 170) and their 2- to 4-y-old children (83 PE and 87 NPE) evaluated 5 standardized meals in-home. Parents recorded their child's and their own hedonic liking of the products and completed an assessment of their child's behavior and consumption at each meal. Significant differences were found between perceived PE and NPE children for all 16 behaviors assessed. On average, perceived NPE were assessed to consume a higher percentage of the meal served and to have higher acceptance scores for most of the foods evaluated. Some foods, though, like breaded chicken and plain pasta, were liked equally by PE and NPE. Several significant differences in hedonic liking were revealed when PE children were compared to their parents. Yet, few differences in liking occurred between NPE children and their parents or between the 2 parental groups. Because study participants evaluated meals real-time rather than memory recall, the differences and similarities found between perceived PE and NPE may be considered direct experiential evidence with reduced subjective bias as created when subjects recall past experiences. Thus, findings from this study can provide the foundation to establish an objective definition and classification of PE and NPE. Practical Application: Parents have varied perceptions of what behaviors characterize picky eating. Due to the lack of behavioral validation studies focused on picky eaters (PE), it is difficult to assess whether parents' perceptions of picky eating align with their child's actual mealtime behaviors. This study demonstrated distinct empirical differences between parentally-perceived PE and nonpicky eaters (NPE) in both mealtime behaviors and reactions to common food products in the home setting. The study also revealed several similarities and few differences between parents of PE and NPE.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S2523-S2532
JournalJournal of food science
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014


  • Home use test
  • In-home mealtime
  • Mealtime behaviors
  • Parental perception
  • Picky eating

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science


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