Eating behaviour depends partly on food preference, which may be determined by different types of emotions. Among the emotions generated by food, disgust and pleasure are common and can lead to increased and reduced food consumption. We tested the hypothesis that (1) elderly men and women felt different emotions towards food, and (2) low energy intake is related to negative emotions towards food. In February 2004, a convenience sample of elderly participants was recruited locally by telephone. Food intake of 52 elderly people, aged 63-80 years, was monitored throughout each day for one week and made it possible to assign the elderly people to two groups (low and high energy intake from food consumption data). One month later, each of them assessed their likes or dislikes towards 30 food pictures (vegetables, cheeses, fruits, starchy foods, sweets, meat, fish, offal and eggs) using 19 emotional words (eight words with a positive valence: 'to like', 'thrilled', 'satisfaction', 'surprise', 'serene', 'amused', 'pride', 'interest', and 11 other words with a negative valence: 'disgust', 'indifference', 'guilt', 'uneasiness', 'nostalgia', 'impatience', 'doubt', 'frustration', 'embarrassment', 'disappointment' and 'lassitude'. The emotional intensities experienced with the different pictures were analysed by ANOVA for each group (men and women, small and big eaters). There were differences in likes and dislikes between men and women. Both guilty and liking scores towards food were generally higher in women than in men. Small eaters felt more doubt, unease, disappointment and indifference towards food than big eaters. In conclusion, the report of low food intake was related to more negative emotions towards foods that might be associated with the willingness to restrict food intake or to undernutrition.