Posted by: E (The Third Glance) | June 12, 2012

I’m not a picky eater, I’m just Stenophagous!

ste·noph·a·gous  (st-nf-gs), ste·noph·a·gic


Feeding on a single kind or limited variety of food. (steno = narrow, phagus = feeding on/consuming prey of)


I learned a new word today while working on a term paper (a friend of mine found it, actually, and loved the word so much she had to share): Stenophagous. The dictionary defines it as eating a limited variety of food. It was used in a context of something quite unrelated to humans, but I can’t help but think that the word applies incredibly well to a lot of us on the autism spectrum.

While I like to consider myself a relatively healthy, varied eater, I know this really isn’t the case. I have a few (probably about 8) meals that I cook for myself that qualify for lunch and/or dinner. I have the same breakfast nearly every day (cinnamon raisin bagel with butter, and if time, strawberry yogurt, and a glass of orange juice, diluted ½ with water), and the same lunch (peanut butter and jelly sandwich on lightly toasted bread – tip for all of you who make lunches – toast the bread on the lowest setting of the toaster in the morning. This crisps it up, but doesn’t turn it brown. Then make the sandwich and pack it away. 4-6 hours later, when you go to open it up for lunch, the bread is just at the right texture – not soggy!) For dinner, I basically rotate through my repertoire, often repeating more than I should. I’d say my diet is pretty stenophagic.

For me, my issues with food come from extreme sensitivity to textures. I can’t deal with multiple textures at one time, nor can I deal with most “mushy” textures. Quiche is my worst nightmare. I’m really wary of trying new foods, though I’ve gotten better over the years. I really enjoy flavors, and many Indian and Thai dishes, that are curry based and come with copious amounts of rice are fantastic – flavor (modulated with rice) and only one texture at a time (again, can be modulated with rice). But I’m always terrified of making a new food for myself – there’s no guarantee I’ll like it, and while I’ve gotten to the point where I can try it, if I don’t like it, I can’t force myself to eat it. This means that I rarely try new foods (that I cook for myself) because I don’t want to take the risk of cooking and not eating. And so, I am stenophagous.

I like that word a heck of a lot better than the alternative (“picky eater”) – and now just think, this new vocabulary word, which sounds utterly fantastic, can be used to cheer yourself up over your (or your child’s) stenophagic diet. Instead of telling the host you can’t eat what they’ve served be cause you’re picky, instead tell them you’re stenophagous. And let them work the rest out for themselves. 🙂


And just because it’ll be fun: in the comments section, take a guess as to what organism my friend was reading about when she discovered this fantastic new word. If someone guesses right, I will write a blog post about the organism and why it is super cool. (Can you tell I’m a scientist?)

Also, this is probably the last you’ll hear from me until after 6/21 – my orals are at 9am on that morning, and I have a massive term paper (can you read the procrastination?) due in 2 days. But the word was so fantastic, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share it.


  1. What an interesting word! I agree, I know some people on the autism spectrum who have stenophagic diets. The first animal that came into my mind when I read ‘stenophagous’ was a snail. Good luck with your orals and paper : )

  2. Reblogged this on AutismeTanken and commented:
    Nam! Et super lækkert ord for det med kun at spise få ting.
    Alfreds favorit er stadig pasta med pesto.

  3. I Googled it and I still don’t have a guess but when you Google stenophagous, your blog is the seventh listing shown 🙂

    • Neat! That’s really funny… apparently, it’s one of the 10% least searched words on Miriam-Webster Dictionary.

  4. For some reason, I’m thinking plankton!

    • You’re remarkably close (well closer than anyone else here) – but many plankton are generalists… 🙂

      • What about the Whales – don’t alot of them feed JUST on plankton??

  5. Wood warblers?

    • Nope, but thanks for guessing! 🙂 I know next to nothing about wood warblers…

      • I also have no idea about wood warblers BUT apparently they are stenophagous 🙂

      • Apparently “The Yellow, Wilson’s and Lucy’s Warblers feed almost entirely on insects; the other species feed primarily on insects but also eat some berries”(from:

  6. Stenophagous – I picture a a large dinosaur with a frilled neck and horns on it’s head, like a triceratops. Good luck on finals my stenophagosaur-friend!

    • Aww thanks 🙂 If I ever discover a new species of dinosaur (read: EXTREMELY EXTREMELY unlikely, but over the course of a long and fruitful scientific career, who knows, right?) I should totally call it “Stenophagosaurus”

  7. Koalas are pretty stenophagic.

    My oldest can’t take mixed textures either. I would say cottage cheese and rice pudding would do it for him. Immediate self induced vomiting.

    • Thanks for the comment! Yes, they are – and very adorable as well. 🙂 Also both of the above foods would have a similar reaction from me. 😛

  8. Great new word! If I was active in Toastmasters at the moment, this is one I’d consider using as a meeting’s “Grammarian.”

  9. Totally cheated and because I did, I’m not going to print an “answer,” but instead encourage you to write a post about the organism you are referring to. In my search I found a couple of different species that are stenophagous, though my daughter certainly falls in the limited variety category! I keep reminding myself that the eskimos raise their children on whale blubber and they seem okay, so what’s the problem? What a fun post! Good luck with your orals.

    • Aww, come one, half the fun is doing the research yourself! Plus, if you DO figure it out, I would be thoroughly amazed. 🙂 And I’m curious what organisms people find that are stenophagous. Now I want to know what you found… I will tell you if you are right, of course. 🙂

      • Yes, but I’m a good “student” and the instructions were to “Guess”!! I didn’t bother trying to guess, went straight to google. But since you’re encouraging me to share what I found, here goes – The Everglades Kite (a type of small hawk), who eats a particular species of snail, a number of feathered mites who can survive on a single species of bird, sea slugs and Aphytis melinus, which is an internal parasitoid of the California Red Scale. That’s all I had time to unearth. Can’t wait to hear back!!

  10. Would have guessed the R. Bonasus as their jaws are highly modified for durophagy and solely eat hard shelled bivalves, but you hint smaller. I will not hazard a guess at any of the countless arthropods (To include my favourite from the Hemiptera). Fiddler crab would be too easy. So I will take a stab at Quagga mussel, as it seems to be of some concern.

  11. Maybe, after considerable thought, I may change my answer to the sulphur-eating bacteria known as Thiocystis. This change of answer is purely based upon reflection of what may be of interest to you and your colleagues, and as you say you use microscopes in your studies, and that sulphur-eaters defy preconceived thoughts of what is required for life (at least prior to the 1980’s) . . . But I am shattered and rambling now . . . Thiocystis (part of the “purple sulphur bacteria)!

  12. I love learning new words. I could not guess an answer to your question, but I am glad that my love for Malt O’ Meal can now be called “stenophagy!” 🙂

  13. While I don’t have a spectrum diagnosis, I have some quirks that are definite nods to the autism that is prevalent in my family. And this – is me. I also have problems with textures. I’m not much of a meat eater – not for the morality, but for the stringy, gelatinous, bloody ickiness of it. I go to great lengths to avoid slimey anything – non-firm fruit, mayo, pickle-touched bread, what happens to fruit at the bottom of yogurt, bananas open for longer than a few seconds, etc. etc. It drives family nuts, but it makes me nauseous to think of consuming such things. Therefore, I refuse to force my son to eat anything. I sympathize with him and – quite frankly – have bigger fish to fry. On second thought, I don’t eat those either. lol

    • Indeed – food is one of my biggest issues. Your son is lucky – my parents and I used to do battle regularly over food. It once took me over an hour and a half to choke down a baby carrot. (You know, the peeled ones 2″ long). Slimy = AWFUL. Food in Europe has been a challenge for me – there’s a post coming on that soon…

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