Family dinners are supposed to be easy and nice but when the dinner is at your teen’s girlfriend/boyfriend’s house, do they get nervous or anxious because they have to try new food?

My son Matthew was invited for a family dinner at his girlfriend’s house last Saturday. Simple enough right? Wrong.

Matthew was terrified! He is a very picky eater or as he calls himself a Neophobe.  Food neophobia   is generally regarded as the reluctance to eat, or the avoidance of new foods. In contrast, ‘picky/fussy’ eaters reject a substantial amount of foods that are familiar (as well as unfamiliar) to them.  I don’t think Matthew is a Neophobe, but I do believe he may  have ARFID- Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), also previously known as selective eating disorder (SED), which is a type of eating disorder where the person limits the foods he eats based on appearance, smell, taste, texture, brand, presentation, or a past negative experience.

So, this eating problem is a BIG problem for Matthew.

Matthew gets extremely anxious when it comes to eating over people’s homes.  He avoids situations where there may be food he won’t like. When Matthew was a little boy he ate everything, but when he got older his diet  choices got smaller and smaller. Now mind you, Matthew is healthy and never  gets sick — thank goodness–  but still, his eating habits are not the greatest.

He JUST started eating sandwiches for the first time in his life —  peanut butter sandwiches on Wonder bread. That in itself was a miracle! He  didn’t want to start high school eating only fishies, pretzels and chocolate chip cookies for lunch.  Matthew recognizes he has a problem and has been struggling to overcome his fear of new foods. I have come to learn that the more I push him, the more reluctant he becomes to try new foods.

Last year we went on a cruise and he tried the steak and loved it. So guess what he ate every night for dinner?  You got it, steak and fries. Breakfast is pretty easy for Matthew, he eats cereals and waffles and pancakes and drinks 2 1/2 gallons of milk a week. So he gets a lot of Vitamin D.

Lunch and dinner are the challenges. Now that he’s a teen, he can’t eat his favorite food, chicken nuggets and french fries every day like he did when he was younger.  So, he added black beans and rice in for variety but those are the only two things he will eat for dinner,  To say it has been a challenge is an understatement!

So, here lies the dilemma that happened last Saturday. Matthew got invited to dinner at his girlfriend’s house! I asked him what they were having because I know Matthew hasn’t most likely eaten whatever food was being served.  He said they were having “pasta”.  I told him that was very broad and he needed to find out what kind of pasta. Well, it was spaghetti. Now, here I am driving him over to his girlfriend’s house and I am literally trying to calm him from his anxiety of eating  the pasta. He really wanted to try to food for his girlfriend. He said this was a good test to try new foods. I told him most likely they would have the pasta with spaghetti sauce. He said, “I don’t like red sauce.”  I told him he could add butter to it, but without anything it would taste bland and awful. I also told him to just ask for a small bowl and say he had a late lunch, which he did. I also told him to  honest and let her parents know his fear of trying new foods so they didn’t get offended. Honesty is always best. 

Matthew started to get hot in the car, even though the  cold AC was running. I told him Matthew, “It’s just  food. It won’t hurt you or kill you. What are you afraid of? “He said that he was afraid he wouldn’t like the taste and that it would make him sick. I then told him well we all have tried new foods we didn’t like. I tried sushi and I really really didn’t like it. But, it didn’t kill me. I thought it tasted awful, but I survived and he, too, will survive.

When I dropped him off, I told his girlfriend that he must really like her. I also told her to take a picture. So here is Matthew trying the spaghetti.  I texted him asking him how it was and of course he said “okay” and “plain.”  I said,  “Of course it’s plain! You put nothing on it.” I told him I was proud that he tried it.

So, now you know about my Matthew and his fear and anxiety over trying new foods. Do you know anyone who suffers from the same disorder? How did they overcome it? Would love to know of some suggestions and recommendations.