Food Neo phobia – fear of trying new or unfamiliar foods



Trying to encourage healthy eating in a child who doesn’t want to eat healthy foods, can be one of the most frustrating aspects of parenthood. After spending time buying and lovingly preparing a meal that your child looks at with distaste and then gives you a look that says  “what are you doing to me?” can be disheartening and may make you feel like giving up.
What you are up against is not just your child’s preference and attitude but nature itself. A child refusing to eat something is not always fussy eating it can be about self-preservation.

Food Neo phobia is not an eating disorder, it’s not even ‘fussy eating’ it is a natural inclination to avoid a food that you are unfamiliar with and some children are more neo phobic than others. It is thought to be an inherited trait, or it can be a trait influenced by parents and those around them.

Millions of years ago humans used food neo phobia as self-preservation, to avoid eating poisonous foods especially the children. As a food became familiar then they would feel more comfortable to eat it. Some healthy foods like greens can have a bitter taste and and might need to be prepared and presented in a way that makes it more agreeable to a child’s taste buds. Like using butter, spices and adding the vegetables to other foods rather than giving it to them plain.  Teaching them why they should eat the foods is so important because otherwise it is hard to convince them to make the effort to eat something that they don’t think tastes as nice as carbohydrates.

Young children are heavily influenced by parental choices, if they can see their parents and those around them eating the food it is much more likely they will eat it. Children are also affected by feeling unwell and can associate a food if they had eaten it with making them unwell.

In the same way that they can be influenced to eat junk foods or foods that are not good form them. In some studies, where children with a more food neo phobic approach have been given a variety of food choices, there was a strong result for then choosing to eat carbohydrate foods. It is these children that tend to miss out on the highly nutritious choice of vegetables and protein, and why it is important to find ways to encourage them to eat healthy foods. By rewarding the children for trying the foods with praise or a sticker, and repeating this until that food becomes familiar this should overcome the fear of trying that food and even go on to encourage them to try more foods.

Rather than forcing a child to eat certain foods, or nagging them it is far better to do the following:

  1. Eat healthy foods yourself
  2. Introduce new foods regularly and at an early age
  3. Reward with stickers/certificates – not with treats

As well as the above if you can educate your child by taking them shopping to super markets and farmers markets, even farms where the foods are grown and reading books on the subject. Teach them to cook, or at least show them what you are doing – getting them to participate in the cooking process makes it more likely they will eat the foods you want them to. Get them planting and watching a food grow– even if it’s just in pots, anything from herbs to carrots.

 1). Predictors and consequences of food neophobia and pickiness in young girls. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 68, 131-136 (January 2014) | doi:10.1038/ejcn.2013.239
 2). Food neophobia and mealtime food consumption in 4–5 year old children. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2006, 3:14  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-3-14

Vegetable Medley – like sunshine on a plate!


So easy yet so tasty and different.

Ingredients – this is a rough guide but you can increase or decrease according to how many servings are required.

1 chopped carrot
2 cups of frozen sweetcorn
1 cup frozen or fresh shelled peas
A large handful of chopped akle
I finely chopped white onion
Olive oil
2 tsp sweet paprika
1 heaped tsp turmeric powder
Big pinch of chilli flakes (or fresh chilli)


Place olive oil in the pan on a medium heat, add all the ingredients except kale, keep stirring so it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan. After a few minutes of cooking add the kale. Altogether cook for no more than 10 minutes to keep ingredients fresh.

Serve as a side dish, or you can add chopped chicken, flaked salmon, tofu or halumi with a small amount of cooked brown rice or quinoa to create a complete meal.



Avocado and Butter Bean Humus

Recipe from “Ava Avocado”Ava Avocado Front Cover CMYK

Try this deliciously different and healthy humus that’s full of good fats, Vitamins, minerals, fibre and plant protein.

1 soft avocado, 75g butter beans (lima),
2 dessert spoons of tahini, a little olive oil,
1 peeled garlic clove,
the juice of half a lemon, pink salt to season.

Place all ingredients in a blender until smooth, add a little water or more olive oil if too thick.
Can add a pinch of chili to give it a little kick.

Serve with wholegrain organic pitta bread, or chopped carrots and celery into sticks and
have fun dipping and crunching.

Butter eban+avocado pate

Make your own baked beens – SUGAR FREE and more DELICIOUS!

Baked Beans


Making your own baked beans is so simple and it takes almost the same amount of time as opening a tin of beans!

You can use different types of beans, haricot, butter beans, mung beans or even pinto or black beans.

This recipe uses haricot beans.


I tin/carton of drained organic haricot beans

4 teaspoons of tomatoes puree

1 – 2 capfuls of balsamic vinegar2 toms

A little water

Splash of olive oil

Pinch of Pink Himalayan salt


Add all ingredients together into a pan and stir as you heat through. Add more water if the sauces over thickens.


To spice the beans up add a sprinkle of cayenne pepper.

Add chopped parsley to deepen flavour

Add Palm sugar to sweeten (Children may be so used to the commercial style of high sugar in beans that they might need to get used to the healthier homemade beans by adding a small amount of sugar)