Why Do We Dislike So Many Foods? Understanding Food Aversions



For most of us there are foods that we will not eat; we simply do not like them. This chapter hopes to demystify why this happens. It is unlikely that we have given much thought to our food aversions, except to avoid the foods we dislike. Many, if not most, food aversions develop in infancy and childhood. Many of our food choices develop from a combination of unconscious pairings, rewards and punishments, and the eating behaviors we observe in our parents. Food aversions also develop when our senses (seeing, texture, temperature, and smell) seem to indicate something we would not like. In addition, our individual cultures teach us the “correct” appearance, texture, and temperature for food. If we are served a food or beverage that does not match our expectations, we are likely to reject it. We continue to learn about the calorie, sugar, and fat content of specific foods vis-à-vis a vast variety of media messages we receive each day. In order to lose weight or manage a health concern such as diabetes, we may begin modifying our diet to avoid those specific foods. Some people will avoid meat products (vegetarians) or all animal-based foods (vegans) as an ethical ideal. Despite our best efforts, changing food preferences is very hard and as we mature, the process becomes progressively more difficult. Systematic processes have been developed; however, all programs designed to modify food aversions have generally met with limited and temporary success. Although we would like to believe that our eating behaviors are largely based on logic, most of our food preferences were created at a very early age and persist as we age.


Eating Behavior Classical Conditioning Food Choice Operant Conditioning Specific Food 



Conditioned response


Conditioned stimulus


Unconditioned stimulus


Unconditioned response



We wish to thank Heather Heintz and Angelberto Cortez, Jr. for their assistance in designing the tables for this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Whittier CollegeWhittierUSA

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