Think Picky Eating only happens in kids? Think again! Adults can be picky eaters, too. To help, I’m sharing tips & recipes to help expand your palate!
Often times when we think of picky eating, children come to mind. Trying to get your gets to eat their broccoli can sometimes be a battle. Heck, some days getting them to eat anything at all is a win. Toddlers and little ones are infamous for their picky eating behaviors. So what happens when those picky eaters grow up? Do they magically become great eaters?
First, it depends on how they grew up, eating wise. If that child who was selective in their toddlerhood took those behaviors and taste preferences into adolescence and then into adulthood, then you would have what I call an adult “picky eater”, or selective eater. I don’t place blame on either the parents or child. There are many factors that play into why a child or adult is a picky eater. Sensory issues, lack of exposure, bad food memories, social factors, even our biology, and more can affect our food preferences.
Now I’m not saying you have to like all foods – because you don’t. You are perfectly entitled to your food preferences. It is not appropriate for someone to shove a food you dislike in your face and tell you, “Come on, just one bite” or “Go ahead and try it, it tastes great!” However, it does become a problem when the list of foods you DO like is so short it’s hard to get in the adequate nutrition your body needs. This is or could lead to a form of Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, or ARFID.
I am not attempting to tackle all the aspects of ARFID in this blog post, nor am I directing this post to those with ARFID. This post is meant more for those with less severe “selective eating” behaviors.
The most common form of adult “picky/selective eating” I come across is…can you guess it? “I hate vegetables!” In my years as a dietitian I have heard that sentence almost more times than I can count. And, funny thing, what do you hear dietitians saying most often? “Eat your fruits and vegetables!”
It seems we are at a crossroads.
So, in doing my dietitian-ly duties, I am determined to help people expand their palates and come to like, if even a few, vegetables. With that said, I will not force you to eat something you absolutely hate. There is not purpose in that. But, I believe with time and repeated exposure (plus some tasty recipes), you can come to like a food you once did not like. Taste preferences can change!
I offer the example of my husband. When we first were married my husband hated onions. Like, pick them out of food, hate. I thought their flavor went well with many foods and put them in a lot of meals I made. I wasn’t going to just stop cooking and eating them because he didn’t like them! So I cooked them in different ways, combined them with different foods, experimented with seasonings, and kept on serving onions to him.
I don’t know exactly when things changed, but now, 7 years later he LOVES onions – maybe even more than I do. He puts them in everything! His taste preferences about onions changed dramatically. Though, I’m still working on getting him to like brown rice and whole wheat pasta… I guess you could say he’s a work in progress. 😉
I believe most adults who consider themselves ‘picky eaters’ don’t do it for the attention or because they want to see the reaction on their aunt’s face when they turn down her famous casserole. I believe most do want to change and expand their list of foods they do like. It’s definitely easier said than done. It won’t happen overnight. But with persistence and patience, palates can expand to like more foods. Here are 6 tips to help:
1 . Regular, repeated and unpressured exposure to new foods.
This is probably the most important tip I can offer. In my work at WIC, I often tell parents of picky eaters it can take up to 20 times or more of exposure for a child to come to like a new food. It’s the same with adults. Keep on serving that food you want to come to like on a regular basis. Don’t put pressure on yourself to to eat it all. One bite can even be a success.
2. Pair new foods with familiar, well liked foods.
Don’t set yourself up for failure by having a meal with all new foods that you normally don’t like. That’s like taking a child who has never swan before in their life out into the ocean and letting them go. Not wise. Don’t let yourself drown in a plate of unfamiliar foods.
3. Try 1 new food at a time.
Similar to above, start small, then work your way up to more later. Taking on tomatoes, asparagus, kale, olives and onions all at once can be completely overwhelming and is not realistic. I mean, have you ever dated 5 people at once? It doesn’t work. Pick 1 new food, be dedicated to it and give it your best effort.
4. If you don’t like a certain food one way, try preparing and serving it in another way.
You don’t like steamed broccoli? Try it roasted (btw, roasting vegetables is a total game changer!). Or maybe try it in broccoli cheese soup or turkey broccoli casserole. There are so many different ways to enjoy a food. Explore your options and try a few out!
5. Don’t beat yourself up if you are still disgusted by certain foods.
You’ve tried mushrooms 30 times, different ways, really trying to like them but, you still don’t like them. It’s okay! Move on to a different food. If you’ve really given a strong effort with repeated, regular exposure to a food and you still cannot stand even the sight of it, move on. You don’t have to like every single food.
6. Keep positive!
Food is not just about taste receptors in our mouth. Our mind and mentality play a big role in food likes/dislikes, too. Go into it thinking positive: you can like this new food, it smells delicious, the presentation looks great, etc. If you start a meal thinking, “I’m not going to like it, I’ve tried it 1,000 times before, it makes me want to vomit, it looks disgusting, the smell is horrid, etc.” you are NOT going to have a good experience. Thinking positive can sometimes make all the difference!Picky Eating in Adults: tips & recipes to help expand your palate Click To Tweet
Another thing to note is to celebrate the small things. If 1 month ago you couldn’t even be in the same room as Brussels sprouts and now they are on your plate, that is something to be celebrated. You are making progress! Find those wins – no matter how big or small – they help keep you moving forward.
Now don’t think I’m going to leave you high and dry here with no recipes to try. I have rounded up some of the best recipes from registered dietitians featuring vegetables even non-veggie loving friends will like. Which recipe will you try first?
Maple Bacon Roasted Carrots from The Lean Green Bean
Roasted Carrots with Miso & Honey from One Hungry Bunny
Charred Brussels Sprouts Salad from Abbey’s Kitchen
Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts from Abbey’s Kitchen
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate Glaze from Small Bites by Jessica
Butternut Squash Caulfredo from Byte Sized Nutrition
Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Pasta from Snacking in Sneakers
Yellow Squash Fritters from The Wandering RD
BBQ Chicken Spaghetti Squash Bowls from Snacking in Sneakers
Vegetarian Enchilada Spaghetti Squash Boats from The Foodie Dietitian
Jambalaya Spaghetti Squash from One Hungry Bunny
Favorite Green Beans from Chef Catherine Brown, Organic Grower, Culinary Nutritionist
Green Bean with Peanut Sauce from Create Kids Club
Green Beans with Sesame from Food, Pleasure & Health
Roasted Sweet Potato & Cauliflower Bowl from Your Choice Nutrition
Peanut Satay Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Chicken from Abbey’s Kitchen
Chickpea Stuffed Sweet Potatoes from Chef Catherine Brown, Organic Grower, Culinary Nutritionist
Mexi-Veggie Stuffed Sweet Potato from Wellness for the Win
Flatout Sweet Potato Cauliflower Pizza from Amy Gorin Nutrition
Southwest Breakfast Sheet Pan Bake from Kiss in the Kitchen
Roasted Sweet Potato Coins from Your Choice Nutrition
Crispy Baked Sweet Potato Fries from Small Bites by Jessica
3 Ingredient Sweet Potato Fries from Wellness for the Win
Sweet Potato Nachos from Wellness for the Win
Nepali Style Cauli Aloo from Food, Pleasure & Health
Chocolate Peanut Butter Breakfast Smoothie (with cauliflower) from C & J Nutrition
Cauliflower Fried Rice from Wellness for the Win
Vintage Broccoli Cauliflower Casserole from The Foodie Dietitian
Roasted Veggie Pasta Salad from Home Cooked Happy
Vegetable Ginger Noodle Stir-Fry from Foods with Judes
Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers from Kroll’s Korner
Tomato, Corn & Avocado Salad from Your Choice Nutrition
Tomato & White Bean Naan Pizza from Amy Gorin Nutrition
Easy Homemade Pasta Sauce from Craving Something Healthy
Meaty Mushroom Bolognese from Nutrition to Fit
Meatless Meatballs from Nutrition Nuptials
Chicken & Corn Curry from Your Choice Nutrition
Zucchini Noodle Lasagna with Italian Chicken from Hungry Hobby
Grilled Summer Veg Kamut Salad from Chef Catherine Brown, Organic Grower, Culinary Nutritionist
Chicken & Squash Fajitas from Your Choice Nutrition
Roasted Garlic Parmesan Zucchini from Byte Sized Nutrition
Teriyaki Turkey Meatballs from Your Choice Nutrition
Parmesan Kale Chips from Healthy Inspiration
Chicken & Veggie Burrito Bowl from C & J Nutrition
Vegetarian Eggplant Meatballs from Byte Sized Nutrition
Roasted Eggplant Tomato Dip from BeeKay Nutrition
Oven Roasted Lemon Asparagus from Your Choice Nutrition
Roasted Garlic Turmeric Parsnip Fries from Bucket List Tummy
Blueberry Spinach Salad from Your Choice Nutrition
Spinach Parmesan Egg Muffins from Your Choice Nutrition
Peachy Green Smoothie Bowl from Your Choice Nutrition
Additional Resources for picky & selective eating:
Adult picky eaters: how to increase variety in your diet from BeeKay Nutrition