What Causes Food Likes and Dislikes?

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  • Written By: Mitch Morgan
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 17 December 2019
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Food likes and dislikes are based on a variety of factors, and the reasons usually vary from palate to palate. A food’s taste or smell might deter someone from eating that food, but may also be the same reason another person likes the food. The method in which a food is prepared or presented may determine likes and dislikes. If a person links an unpleasant experience or memory to a particular food, he or she may be less likely to eat the same food again. Foods linked to positive memories or experiences, however, might be consumed more regularly. Food likes and dislikes are especially common in children because of their refusal to try or eat certain foods.

The taste of a particular food may cause someone to like or dislike it. A food’s smell is also a factor. The taste may be appealing for some, while for others it might be appalling. A potent or odorous food may prevent a person from eating it because the odor it emits is usually linked to the way it tastes.

Preparation or presentation may cause food likes and dislikes. A dish containing spicy ingredients like hot peppers may be less appetizing to a person who prefers milder foods. Foods such as red meat that are cooked for different lengths of time might determine likes and dislikes. Steaks cooked to rare may be enjoyed by some, but disliked by others who prefer their meat well done because rare meat appears bloody or undercooked.


A food’s texture or makeup sometimes causes food likes and dislikes. Some people might prefer processed or pureed foods, for instance. Others will only eat whole, unprocessed foods.

People who have had a previous bad experience with certain foods are more likely to avoid similar foods in the future. Alternately, people are typically more inclined to regularly eat those foods linked to positive memories or experiences. If a person has ever gotten sick after consuming a certain food, he or she is less likely to eat the same food in the future, even if they know that the food was not the cause of the illness.

Strong food likes and dislikes are particularly common in young children. The reasons are generally harder to pinpoint than adults, but do usually pertain to similar factors such as smell, texture or presentation. Kids tend to have pre-conceived notions about some foods, particularly vegetables or roughage, based on taste, smell, texture, and a combination of other factors. If a child is forced to eat a certain food he dislikes, he might be less likely to eat it in the future.


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