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Selective Eating and ARFID in Adults

girl is on a healthy diet and refuses a fatty hamburger in a city street food diner.jpg


Being a picky or selective eater as an adult is often a life-long and complex issue. Some selective eaters develop ARFID (Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder). ARFID is a more recently recognized eating disorder and is the most severe form of selective eating


While some people may be perfectly content with their limited diet, others may feel the need to address and expand their food choices, improve their appetite, or simply take steps to make feeding themselves less of a chore. 

If selective eating is causing distress or impacting your overall well-being, seeking treatment can be life-changing! The dietitians at Dr. Daisy & Co can help. 

What kind of selective eater are you? 

Selective eating or ARFID can present in adults in three distinct ways

  1. Fear of trying new foods (food neophobia)

  2. Having very few food choices and rigid food rules 

  3. Low appetite or interest in food


Some people have one of these traits, some have two, and some have all three of these traits. 

Being a selective eater as an adult can be difficult in a variety of ways:

  1. Limited food choices: Selective eaters have few foods to choose from. These foods are often brand and situational-specific and can depend on texture, smell, color, preparation variables and more. As a result, meals may become repetitive and finding suitable options in various settings can be challenging.

  2. Low appetite or interest in food: For many selective eaters, remembering to eat and deciding what to eat is a burdensome chore. Some selective eaters are very rarely hungry or get full very quickly. 

  3. Social challenges: Eating is often a social activity, and being a selective eater can make social situations uncomfortable or anxiety provoking. Whether it's eating at restaurants or attending holiday dinners, the fear of not finding suitable foods can create anxiety. Further, explaining one's eating preferences to others can be exhausting since most people just don’t ‘get it’. 

  4. Health concerns: Often selective eaters fear that their limited food choices are impacting their health. Many adult selective eaters were made to believe this in childhood, whether or not there was real reason for concern. 

  5. Food neophobia (fear of trying new foods): Many adults who are selective eaters have had a life-long fear of trying new foods. We teach our clients about the neuro-science behind food neophobia, which is extremely helpful and validating!  

  6. Emotional toll: Selective eaters can have feelings of isolation, embarrassment, or shame. Your family and friends likely did not understand why your selective eating wasn’t something you could just control. Most of our clients with selective eating feel misunderstood.


Here’s a few things we do during the initial appointment:

  1. Learn about your individual experiences with food throughout your life, your motivation for seeking support, and what you'd like to accomplish while working together.

  2. Conduct a thorough nutrition assessment to determine if total energy needs are being met by the current diet. 

  3. Identify any potential micro or macro nutrient deficiencies.

  4. Evaluate the spacing and timing of meals and snacks. 

  5. Provide nutrition-related recommendations, skills, and strategies to improve nutrition if needed without necessarily adding new foods. Discuss a longer-term treatment plan for overcoming selective eating.

For follow-up sessions, we use a variety of models, techniques and strategies to work with adults with selective eating or ARFID including

  • ERP (Exposure Response Prevention)

  • SOS (Sequential Oral Sensory)

  • Food Chaining

  • CBT-AR (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for ARFID)

  • Food Sorting (a technique developed by Dr Daisy) 

Our treatment plans are tailored to our client's specific needs, neuro-differences, and circumstances. The severity of selective eating or ARFID, the presence of neuro differences, medical conditions, and personal preferences all influence the choice of interventions. 

The dietitians at Dr. Daisy & Co employ a collaborative and zero-pressure approach with selective eating issues. If this sounds good to you, click the booking link below or call our office for more information! 

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