Some people never outgrow being picky eaters. While most adults will enjoy hundreds, even thousands, of different foods, extremely picky eaters may have just 20 to 30 things they are willing to eat. Being a picky eater can damage a person's social life and career, as so many activities involve food. Picky eating is also potentially unhealthy, as picky eaters often avoid vegetables and eat junk food. It is possible, however, to stop being a picky eater and expand your palate.
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Tell yourself that you will enjoy trying new foods. Even if you think you don't like the food, your tastes may have changed or you may enjoy a different preparation. An optimistic approach will help.
Taste new foods; don't commit to them. Don't let a restaurant of new foods be your only option for a meal. Instead, go to a buffet that has familiar foods and take a bite or two of something new. Ask your friends for samples of their restaurant meals. Buy a little bit of something from your grocery store's salad bar. If you know you have an out, you'll feel more free to take a chance on something new.
Evaluate each new food. Rather than asking "Do I like this?" ask "What does this taste like?" Think of yourself as a professional food taster. Is it salty or sour, bitter or sweet? Do you notice any interesting spices? Can you tell anything about the ingredients or the cooking techniques? Once you've eaten enough that you can describe the food, then you can think about whether or not you like it.
Give foods a fair chance, but respect your preferences. Professional restaurant reviewers never give a rating based on a single visit, but if they get bad service over and over again, the review won't be good. Try foods more than once, and in different preparations -- and it's OK to not like some things.
Get involved with your food. Buy something you haven't tried and use it in a recipe. Make a familiar recipe with an unusual twist. Grow your own vegetables. Shop at a farmer's market or an ethnic grocery and ask about the foods that are available. The more you learn and the more of a hand you have in making the food, the more comfortable you'll be with it.
Tips and warnings
- You may be a picky eater because you are a supertaster, a natural adaptation that occurs in about 25% of the population. Supertasters have more taste buds and notice flavours more intensely. Be aware of this, but do not let being a supertaster prevent you from trying new foods, especially healthy foods.
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- New York Times; When Picky Eaters Grow Up; Tara Parker-Pope; December 2008
- Seattle Times; When Picky Eating Doesn't Stop at 5 -- Or Even 55; Annie Groer; December 2006
- The Sunday Times; Something Fishy About Being so Fussy; Lucy McDonald; February 2007
- Mayo Clinic; Children's Nutrition: 10 Tips for Picky Eaters; Mayo Clinic Staff