Ever hear of nutrition and picky eating in the same sentence? Not really. Being a picky eater isn’t exactly great for a balance diet, nor is it something connected a lot with adults. By the time university roles around, being an openly picky eater is pretty much frown upon. (This time by your friends too, not just your parents.) I am a picky eater. I have been my whole life, much to the annoyance of my parents. I called peas “evil green things” and pretty much refused to eat anything green. I also was quick to say no to trying new food, whether it was a fruit, meat or candy. I even survived a family vacation by eating nothing but chicken fingers for a week straight. I was dedicated to my picky eating ways!

While I will still classify myself as a picky eater, nutrition and maybe a little bit of social pressure has started to get the best of me. It has been quite the food journey since hitting university, though nothing to make a documentary out of (I am looking at you “Supersize Me”, “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” and “That Sugar Film”.) I have learned to open up and at least try new things, though I admit trying seaweed again isn’t going to happen anytime soon. And with a whole world of amazing flavours and creations out there, why so I limit myself without at least giving it a try first?
So here are my tips to other picky eaters out there.

1. Re-try after 5 years. I did this with Pumpkin. Pretty sure this all started with carving a pumpkin at Halloween one year. It was gross, it was slimy, it was swishy. I wasn’t having it! Fast forward to a university Thanksgiving dinner at a friends house, where pumpkin pie was dessert. Reluctantly I gave it a try, and it was amazing! It was totally worth giving pumpkin a second try.

2. Try a “cousin” food. I hate lettuce. It doesn’t taste like anything! Plus it gets soggy in burgers and salads. One day, my mom made a spinach salad with craisins and oranges, and I loved it! Pretty sure I shocked my mom with that one. Spinach tastes better (in my opinion). This can be done with sweet potatoes for regular potatoes, parsnip for carrots, red capsicums for green capsicums. Looking for similar food can give similar texture, but better taste.

3. Get out of the pattern! Humans are creatures of habit. Break it by going to a friend’s house for dinner, a new restaurant, buying something different at the farmer’s market, or go traveling! Anything that will widen the palate scope and get you thinking out of the box. Don’t forget to take note of spices and sauces along with the main ingredients. It might just mean your next chicken dish might not be so ordinary, but extraordinary!

4. Host a tapas party. Great time to sample new foods without a full commitment to a meal. Have everyone bring a dish to share and go for it! Easily customized to themes, it a great place to try something new without having to buy anything! Plus, swapping recipes can be half the fun, and give you a contact if you need a reminder of “what was that amazing goat cheese and pear thing you made?”

5. Find balance. Don’t feel pressure to like everything that is presented. Say yes to what looks good, give it a try, and move on if it’s not your cup of tea. Make amends to try one new thing every time you’re at a party, and then feel okay to sticking to your comfort foods if that rice pudding texture was way to much like cottage cheese. Comfort foods are your friend and are okay, after giving something new a try.

Strawberries are a great comfort food!
Strawberries are a great comfort food!

The take home message is this: Keep trying new foods. There are tons of different spices, methods, and combinations out there and what each person likes will greatly vary. Being a picky eater is no longer an excuse. If there can be great gluten-free, vegan, raw meals out there, us picky ones should be able to survive without eating chicken fingers for a whole week.
Happy eating!
-SB

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