How to become an omnivore...and like it?
April 25, 2011 11:57 AM   Subscribe

An adult friend of mine is very, very picky about food. She doesn't eat any vegetables in their recognizable forms (e.g. hates tomatoes, but tomato sauce is no problem). Fruits, meats, dairy and other starchy stuff (bread, potatoes, rice, etc.) are all OK, but she'll gag on a piece of lettuce. What can she do to expand her tastes? Is it as simple as forcing yourself to eat a tomato once a day, or is there any pattern for how people can learn to appreciate more foods?

I can definitely appreciate her situation. I used to hear that you should try a new food three times-- if you don't like it after that, give up. After too many times to remember, I still don't like uni or natto at all :-/
posted by phaedrus441 to Food & Drink (42 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
This was me... until I learned that broccoli and green beans are delicious with a little olive oil and garlic. You can disguise the taste of foods without disguising them completely.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:00 PM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Can she try vegetables prepared differently? I hate just plain tomatoes, but tomatoes + mozzarella + some balsamic vinegar is amazing. BLTs are also awesome.

This previous AskMe could be really helpful.
posted by specialagentwebb at 12:03 PM on April 25, 2011

This is me to a tee, and I will be watching this thread with interest. I drive my wife insane with my stupid food dislikes, and I know it is just stupid and irrational. (Prime example: I hate tomatoes, can't stand a tomato slice on a burger or tomatoes in a salad, or tomato soup -- but I am totally fine with tomato sauces on pasta and such, and I am totally fine with salsa. WTF is wrong with me?)
posted by Lokheed at 12:04 PM on April 25, 2011

cream of broccoli soup
roasted vegetables
whole foods has an aisle of raw kale chips
posted by rr at 12:05 PM on April 25, 2011

I have picked up some tips when discussing picky eaters with my other mama friends. Some of their kids have sensory issues and the feeding specialists recommend to start with foods that they are comfortable with and change just one thing. So if tomato sauce is no problem, next time try a different one or add some pureed tomato to it (even just a few tablespoons at first). When they are comfortable with that, get a different brand or make it even chunkier. If rice is ok, maybe try different kinds of rice. Sometimes the issue isn't the food itself but just the idea of trying something new.

For a toddler it can take up to 15 exposures to a new food. It's great if you can get them to pick it up and play with it - that counts. I'd include your friend in cooking with you. Maybe make pizzas and if she only ends up putting cheese on hers but helps you cut up some veggies then that's a step forward. One day she might decide to take a nibble of that green pepper and one day might even put a sliver on her pizza.
posted by dawkins_7 at 12:07 PM on April 25, 2011

Lokheed, it does sound like you guys are similar. However, when she has chips and salsa, she makes sure she only gets the sauce-- no pieces of vegetable allowed!

specialagentwebb, even when they're prepared differently it doesn't seem to work-- fried rice must be picked through for pieces of veggie before being eaten.

dawkins_7, those are great ideas! In fact, her main complaint with food seems to be that she doesn't care for the texture. Perhaps just a little tactile exposure to start would be a good idea...

Thanks everybody!
posted by phaedrus441 at 12:09 PM on April 25, 2011

Has she told you that she wants to expand her tastes? Or is this something you have decided she should do? I'm a picky eater and I HATE being told that I have to try this or that.
posted by desjardins at 12:11 PM on April 25, 2011 [9 favorites]

The best way to get people to love a wide variety of vegetables is to roast them. Just about anything (asparagus, broccoli, onions, sweet potatoes, carrots, zucchini, kale, beets, etc, etc) is made instantly delicious via roasting.

Cut the veg up into bite-sized pieces, toss with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, then pop in a 400 degree oven for about a half hour (or until pokeable with a fork). (For kale, though, it gets crispy rather than soft, and should come out after about 10 minutes.)

Instant delicious.
posted by phunniemee at 12:11 PM on April 25, 2011 [5 favorites]

I used to be like this. I don't remember when it happened, but at some point in my 30s I figured out that it was all actually food, and if it was so disgusting people would not eat it so much. "What the hell is my problem?" I thought to myself, reflecting on my decades of ordering special at restaurants. Sorry if this isn't helpful, just throwing out some anecdotum.
posted by rhizome at 12:13 PM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

desjardins, she *says* she wants to. I actually enjoy her current circumstance, since I get to eat all her leftovers when we go out, haha.
posted by phaedrus441 at 12:13 PM on April 25, 2011

Does she really want to expand her food selection? Texture is such a stumbling block for some people, and I'm not sure that adding iceberg lettuce makes much difference in the big scheme of things.

Most vegetables can be pureed, without losing too much of their nutritional value. Very fine shredding can also make some food less icky, mouth-feelwise.

Cream soups are another easy way to eat most vegetables.

I've got big sensory issues (turtlenecks, anything around my neck or wrists) and I'm not remotely interested in training myself out it. Life's too short. I'd hate to be sandbagged by someone dead set on me wearing a wristwatch.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:14 PM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Food sissies are my pet peeve.

It's OK to say, "I don't like cauliflower," but only after you've tried it a few times a few different ways. I thought I didn't like brussel sprouts. Turns out, I just didn't like my mother's brussel sprouts -- once I found a good recipe for them, I love 'em. Eat them all the time. (Roasted with some olive oil, garlic, and coarse salt? Yum!)

So she needs to reframe her food prejudices: it's not that she doesn't like tomatoes, she just doesn't like HOW she's been served tomatoes. I'm not big on them, either, frankly. But a good slice of tomato with a hunk of fresh mozzarella on it is delicious. Or a ripe grape tomato in a salad slathered with vinaigrette -- yum! But serve me a slice on a burger and I'll remove it immediately.

How about sushi? I fucking hated sushi. Hate hate hate it. But wait, is that tuna? Well, I like rare tuna, and I like wasabi, so... Hey! This is GOOD!

She should consider both sides of the equation: sometimes, trying something new means ONE MOUTHFUL OF YUCK. But for every few mouthfuls of yuck, she'll stumble across a LIFETIME OF YUM. it's a bet worth taking!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:14 PM on April 25, 2011 [10 favorites]

I think that for adults at least half the game is in the head. When I try new things, I do it because I like trying new things and I am proud to be a person who tries new things. If I do not like something I try, it's not a huge drama either. I just move on.

It's one thing to decide okay, I'm going to get some actual visible tomato on my chip this time, and do it and consider how I feel about it. It's another to act like people regularly die from tomato bites and have to be bribed and cajoled to put the damn chip in your face. (And I do not like big raw onion chunks in anything, salsa included, so I did actually have to teach myself to really try eating it rather than dampening my chip slightly.)

"Be a grown-up" is not very friendly advice, but I think it's really important. Toddlers can't really tell you that they are uncomfortable with the fibrous texture of broccoli stems, but an adult is capable of eating broccoli and saying, yeah, it's this tougher part that's not floating my boat, adjust, and move on.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:20 PM on April 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't *want* to hate raw tomatoes, but have never been able to keep a big bite down. Seriously, it's just WHOOPS TOMATO RETURN. I try a bite every few years to see if anything has changed. Sauce, soup and even salsa (not too chunky) aren't a problem. I've met a few people who are the exact same way. Someone told me it could be a problem with the acidity in raw tomatoes.

She could try my mom's technique: melted cheese. My brother and I would have eaten poop if it had Velveeta on it, and now we're both big veggie fans.
posted by cyndigo at 12:34 PM on April 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's about going in with the right attitude. You have to want to try something, and then you have to repeat it. I never say that I dislike a food unless I've eaten it at least five times (over the course of a few years, space it out if it's especially troubling) and with a positive attitude at those times. You're not going to like peas no matter what if the only times you've eaten them are when you're unhappy or you're surrounded by filth or they're made poorly.

Your friend has to be willing to try things, and then she has to be willing to repeat the activity multiple times until she enjoys the new food. If she's not going to be up for this, it's generally a waste of your time to push her.

I will say also that it really helps to go to a market where the produce is utterly beautiful. Displayed wonderfully, with reverence and delight, with all the lovely smells and colors, fresh as possible. You could make it into a whole activity of her picking something new to try that she likes the look of, figuring out how to cook it, having her do most of the work in the kitchen, and by the time she gets to the table with it she should be invested enough to at least be interested in eating it.
posted by Mizu at 12:45 PM on April 25, 2011

This is to a large extent me. It's a problem I'm verrrry slowly working my way out of by trying little bits of vegetables prepared lots of different ways to figure out what I can tolerate. There's no vegetable yet that I actively *enjoy* other than onions, but I've found various ways I can stand most vegetables.

I do pretty well with crunchy things, so raw carrots and bell peppers work for me. Otherwise, if things are pureed, or cut up really small and mixed with e.g. pasta or rice, that helps a lot too. Over time I've gotten better about a wider variety of things. I'm still not the omnivore I'd like to be, but keeping an open mind to trying new preparations (and giving myself permission not to finish them if I hate them) has been a slow but steady process.

Of course there are also certain things I'm pretty sure I will just never like in any form. Mushrooms, I'm looking at you. I'm okay with skipping right over the mushrooms to work on other things that I like in at least some forms.
posted by Stacey at 12:49 PM on April 25, 2011

I was the pickiest eater in the family as a kid, and now I'm the bravest eater. Here is how it happened over the years:

A) Bribery. Of the monetary kind, but other kinds could also work.
B) Having no other easy options, or in other words, being forced to as a matter of convenience. At times that meant being in the only open restaurant in the middle of nowhere. I've alse been forced to make drastic dietary changes for medical reasons.
C) Going to restaurants with people who knew what was good. That's a great way to get into foreign foods, and hey, other nations have done a much better job with whole swaths of the food triangle, if you ask me.
D) Trickery. I've eaten things I hated before because I didn't realize it. And I unknowingly enjoyed them and admitted to friends later that they were actually okay.
E) Sounds stupid, but drinking. It does lower your inhibitions, and has on several occasions persuaded me to eat something I normally wouldn't.
F) Realizing that I only thought I hated some foods. I thought I hated mushrooms when I was younger--nope, I just hate canned mushrooms. I thought I hated cabbage, but that was because I'd only encountered it boiled.
G) More important than any of those things has been cooking. Finding a recipe that sounded tolerable and then preparing it myself was a total game-changer for me, especially after I got real confidence in myself as a cook. When you take responsibility for cooking food, you may become more forgiving of its imperfections.
posted by heatvision at 12:51 PM on April 25, 2011

I endorse this advice: How to Like Food. (Not a self-link, but by a pal, sorry.) That's how I came to like eels and quail.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 12:59 PM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I was little, I was always fascinated by all the pretty, brightly-colored produce in the grocery store. I was constantly asking my mom to buy X for me (usually something "weird" like starfruit or an oddly-shaped squash), and she rarely ever would. I'd always hear "no, you won't like that" or "you'll never eat it," which I can understand for something like a box of cereal, but for one single veg or fruit, looking back on it now, it's completely ridiculous. It's not like we couldn't afford the extra two bucks to try something new. We grew up eating a lot of potatoes and broccoli, and mostly canned veggies. I think my mom was just scared of trying new things, and projected a lot of it on to us kids.

Something I intend to do when I have kids is to let them choose a fruit or vegetable of their choice whenever we go to the store. Anything that looks interesting, we'll get it and try it as a family. Bonus points to whomever picks something no one has tried before. I do this as an adult, which is probably the only reason I've ever eaten white asparagus, but watching kids get excited about trying new things is always fun.

Maybe your friend can try to do this. If she challenges herself to pick up one new-to-her thing in the produce aisle each week, to take home and try in private, away from the pressure of other people expecting her to like it, she may get more comfortable with the idea of trying new foods in general.
posted by phunniemee at 1:10 PM on April 25, 2011

Food sissies are my pet peeve. ... So she needs to reframe her food prejudices

It's one thing to decide okay, I'm going to get some actual visible tomato on my chip this time, and do it and consider how I feel about it. It's another to act like people regularly die from tomato bites ... an adult is capable of eating broccoli and saying, yeah, it's this tougher part that's not floating my boat, adjust, and move on.

I'm another (slowly recovering) picky eater, and comments like these are completely missing the point. There are plenty of foods that I don't particularly enjoy the taste of, but that doesn't stop me from eating them if they're put in front of me. That's not what I mean when I say I'm a picky eater.

What it means is that when I bite into, say, a pickle, the taste and texture causes an immediate wave of nausea, up to and including a gag reflex. It's hard to dispassionately evaluate what you do or don't like about the way something tastes if all your attention is focused on not puking at the dinner table. That potential major embarrassment outweighs the minor embarrassment of people thinking what I eat is weird and boring.

Yes, I'm aware that this is a completely irrational response to taste stimuli that most people have no problem with. Yes, I'm sure it would be possible to re-train my taste buds through repeated exposure. No, I'm not going to do that experimentation in a social setting. The only times I've ever managed to teach myself to enjoy new foods have been in low-pressure situations (e.g. cooking for myself at home) where I know I don't have to force myself to choke anything down.
posted by teraflop at 1:16 PM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's one thing to decide okay, I'm going to get some actual visible tomato on my chip this time, and do it and consider how I feel about it. It's another to act like people regularly die from tomato bites and have to be bribed and cajoled to put the damn chip in your face. (And I do not like big raw onion chunks in anything, salsa included, so I did actually have to teach myself to really try eating it rather than dampening my chip slightly.)

"Be a grown-up" is not very friendly advice, but I think it's really important.

If you're thinking of responding with something similar to what I quoted, above, then you don't get it. I don't blame you for not getting it, and I'm sure we picky eaters SEEM like babies to you, because you've never experienced what we've experienced.

I can tell myself a thousand times to "be a grownup," but that doesn't stop my automatic gag reflex. Non-picky eaters keep trying to make this into a "psychological" issue (in the Freudien sense). As if I'm scared to try certain foods because I'm scared of the unknown or whatever. It's got nothing to do with that. Or, if it does, it's happening on some deeply subconscious level to which I have no access. It's really simple: I put the thing in my mouth. I gag. If I keep trying to eat it even though I'm gagging, I vomit.

"What if someone held a gun to your head and forced you to eat pickles? You'd say 'shoot me'?"

No. I'd eat the pickles. And I'd throw up. If you said, "Eat the pickles and KEEP THEM DOWN -- or I'll kill you," then I'm dead. I am physically incapable.

For most of you non-picky eaters, there's probably SOMETHING that would cause you to have this reflex: eating bark or feces or whatever. I know, I know: those aren't foods. I'm just saying that's how -- for instance -- pickles affect me. Just the smell... ugh... I can't even finish this sentence. I'm starting to feel sick.

I have had some success via very slow acclimatization. I taught myself to like skim milk by drinking glasses of whole milk with a TINY bit of skim mixed in. I'm talking an eye-dropper amount. Each day, I upped the amount of skim. It took my about three months, but I finally was able to drink an entire glass of skin milk. And now I love it.

It's hard to do this with some foods. Vinegar makes me gag. I haven't figured out a way to gradually introduce vinegar into my diet, over the course of months. Just a tiny bit on my tongue makes me sick.
posted by grumblebee at 1:31 PM on April 25, 2011 [5 favorites]

My best success with this (over years of practice) has been preparing my own foods and then hiding small bits of the food I don't like inside. I can't really tell it's there by taste or texture, but since I know it's in there it helps me with my psychological aversion to the specific food. I'm pretty sure there's a book out there which recommends different vegetable purees to add to recipes so that they are healthy in disguise, but I can't remember the title.
posted by summit at 1:53 PM on April 25, 2011

The Toronto Star had a series a couple of months ago following a picky eater trying to improve. Here are: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. I'm not sure if there was more after that. It was an interesting read. Good luck!
posted by jamesonandwater at 2:09 PM on April 25, 2011

Oh, I forgot to add what worked for me. Personally I drown things I dislike eating in vinegar, lemon juice, coriander or black pepper - all things I love the taste of - or put them into sandwiches. After a few times doing this I can often ease back on the flavouring/bread. This has worked with me for tomatoes, green beans and lentils. I stll hate beans among other things, though.
posted by jamesonandwater at 2:13 PM on April 25, 2011

The Man who Ate Everything is a book by a food critic who taught himself systematically to like all the foods he previously didn't care for. There might be some insights in there for your friend.
posted by mmascolino at 2:17 PM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm another (34-year-old) picky eater and the pompous, arrogant attitude of some of you is shameful. You'd be the first to yell "Don't judge a gay person for their genetics!" yet at the same time you throw out words like "baby" and "grow up!" when you discuss something I was born into.

I hate most foods. I don't *dislike* them. I HATE them. The textures, the smells, the aromas all make me gag.

I mostly eat carbs. Bread, white meat, pasta, rice. And I eat a very limited selection of fruits and vegetables. But the rest is just off limits. In fact, I strain spaghetti sauce and salsa because I like the taste of them, but despise the texture. It causes anxiety when I'm at somebody's house for dinner, and I usually end up not eating anything and making excuses like "I just drank a Slim-Fast and can't eat right now, thanks, though."

It's not a conscious choice. I would love, love, love to eat like a normal person. Nothing would make me happier. But it isn't an option. And even some foods I don't mind - like lettuce, for example - have such a strong taste and presence in my mouth that they overpower everything else. I have to scrape 9/10 of the lettuce off of most prepared foods. It's just too much!
posted by tacodave at 2:22 PM on April 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Most food gets better if you put some sea salt on it. Maybe she needs to try vegetables with more salt, until she gets used to the taste?
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:06 PM on April 25, 2011

Food sissies are my pet peeve.

: (

I'm just like Lokeed. I promise I'm not trying to be a big dumb baby but I also promise I truly, sincerely, 100% despise tomatoes. Etc. There are many vegetables on my Will Not Eat list. I've tried them, I swear, and I wish like hell I could cheerfully eat more vegetables and other healthful stuff. (And yes, I try them again every couple years to see if anything's changed.)

And no, REALLY REALLY WANTING TO! doesn't work for me. Even though I was a greedy little kid and am a greedy adult no amount of monetary bribes would ever work. So advice like 'just be a grownup!' or 'make up your mind to want to try new foods!' merely makes me feel like a crappy failure. So instead of being a person who doesn't eat broccoli or eggplant now I'm a crappy failure who won't eat broccoli and eggplant because I'm a sissy.

Really, as I've grown up I've simply had to make sure I eat reasonable quantities of the few vegetables I can stand and the even fewer I genuinely like. Leafy green salads, carrots, the one root vegetable dish I like that my dad makes, etc. Graaadually I've gotten to a point where I can make myself eat things like pea pods or the occasional thin slice of onion on a sandwich--inconceivable fifteen years ago but now pretty routine. It just might take time for your friend to expand her choices a bit.

You didn't say how old she us but I'm 28 and only now able to eat salsa without scraping off the chunks of vegetables, or have that onion slice on my sandwich. It's embarrassing and if anyone brings it up I feel like I have to apologize for being such a big dumb baby--of COURSE I wish I liked better foods, especially vegetables. But until my taste buds magically realize that broccoli is not the enemy I mainly wish people would just drop it.
posted by Neofelis at 3:38 PM on April 25, 2011

Seconding the roasting suggestion! I have always liked broccoli, asparagus, radishes and brussels sprouts, for example, but roasting them with olive oil, salt and pepper just elevates the experience of eating veggies. Especially with roasted broccoli -- the taste is completely different, in the best way possible.

I'd definitely recommend that your friend tries her veggies both cooked and uncooked before deciding how she feels about them. For a while, I thought that I hated onions, but I know now that I just hated cooked onions. (But it's OK if after trying something, your friend still doesn't like it. As other people above have said, it's sort of hard to remain open minded when you're gagging.)
posted by houndsoflove at 3:44 PM on April 25, 2011

This sounds very much like my husband and for him it is a texture issue. He also has difficulty eating most fruits as well. He will eat most vegetables prepared in Indian dishes, since they are often cooked down to a rather soft texture. Pureed veggies into spaghetti sauce or pasta can also work. For fruit he pretty much only tolerates smoothies.

For him this is deeply rooted in a sensory processing issue. It is not an issue of “I don’t like the flavor of…”, but rather he finds it hard to tolerate the textures as a part of the eating process. This isn’t about taste, it’s about how the body processes the physical experience of putting certain items into one’s mouth. Think about it like people who can’t tolerate tickling or some other forms of light touch, their body responds to it negatively. It’s the same thing with a lot of food textures for some people.

I’ve seen good Occupational Therapists trained in Sensory Integration help young children work on this, but I’ve not had any experience in how that might work with an adult.
posted by Palmcorder Yajna at 3:55 PM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding that this may be a texture problem. I can't eat raw tomatoes without gagging, and it's all about the texture. Cooking the veggies she doesn't like in a way that changes the texture may help.
posted by immlass at 4:31 PM on April 25, 2011

I'm a picky adult. A very very pick adult. Up until recently, I had never even tried pizza (I kid you not). I found for me, that my issue with eating is that it's a comfort issue. When I'm feeling insecure there is no way in the world I'll try something new. However, if I'm feeling confident and if I know I'm with people who won't bother me or judge me, then I'm a lot more willing to try new foods. But I don't think you should put pressure on your friend because I find the more pressure people put on my eating, the more I'm not likely going to eat.

Eating new things is my biggest fear and I can't conquer those fears unless I feel good in most other aspects of my life.

PS. It should be noted I don't have an eating disorder and I eat tons of what I like!
posted by DorothySmith at 5:05 PM on April 25, 2011

I have a problem with most egg dishes and a relative has problems with some vegetables and meat. We tend to break out the ketchup and/or special sauce (steak sauce, cheese, butter). I'm a dipper and the relative's a douser. Throwing something we like into the mix helps us through the dining experiences.
posted by dragonplayer at 5:51 PM on April 25, 2011

This is a pretty good (and funny!) how-to manual for losing picky eating tendencies. I did not read it before losing mine, but I definitely did the things in the article and I now eat all types of things instead of just peanut butter sandwiches and spaghetti.
posted by traversionischaracter at 6:02 PM on April 25, 2011

I used to be a picky eater. In some ways, I still am, due to some genetic and irrational sensory stuff. Despite that, I probably still eat a greater variety of food than most people. It boiled down to me really taking the time to figure out my likes and dislikes and the reasons behind them.

Your friend (and you, too, why not!) should start a food diary to track what she does and does not like.

For example, I've only recently discovered (in the past 5 years):
  • Cilantro will only ever taste like soap to me (genetic issue), so dishes I hated before are fine sans the stuff.
  • I like the flavor of most beans, but not the default texture (weird sensory issue), so I look for unusual bean recipes
  • Veggies I thought I hated, I LOVE broiled (learning how to cook better)
  • I have an intolerance to butter and melted cheese-heavy foods (genetics again)
  • I thought I hated hot stuff, but turns out I just hate when vinegar is substituted for heat (learning how ingredients work)
  • I love most Indian and Middle-Eastern foods (yay for finding cuisine types that match my palette)
  • I still will not eat broccoli and now can now precisely articulate the many ways in which it offends me.
Track what you ate, how it was prepared, and how you felt during and after the meal. This is also a way both of you can have fun branching out into different cuisine types!
posted by Wossname at 6:54 PM on April 25, 2011

Speech-therapists actually work on this kind of stuff with children. It's a little bit like desensitization to food phobias. There are two approaches that I've found to work well because they're both focused on positive reinforcement: Chaining and SOS therapy. You can tailor these as needed since you're an adult. But feel free to email me if you want more details.
posted by jadegenie at 8:14 PM on April 25, 2011

I was a super-picky eater, maybe picky as the pickiest of you folks, and now I'm a big foodie nerd. Foreign cuisines converted me. Chinese, Indian, Japanese, (real) Mexican, Jamaican, Moroccan, Ethiopian, Vietnamese, Lebanese...

In one corner, we have the familiar veggies that I had been shamed and bribed into "trying" and mocked and punished for disliking. In the other corner, we have previously-unknown vegetables or radically different varieties, or stews that turn everything sweet and fragrant with interesting grains. No baggage, nothing like my mom's (admittedly skillful) familiar home cooking, with spicing unusual enough that anyone from my boring-ass suburb would turn their noses up at it.

I found a partner in crime, we tried new things together, it was our secret for quite a while.(If old friends/family had known, it would've been a fresh round of hell teasing. No thanks.) But no, we didn't force ourselves to try things that we thought we didn't like, that would have been torture.

I do retain my childhood dislike of lima beans. I don't like a big slice of tomato on a sandwich, and I don't like tomato guts, so I just use the more firm-fleshed varieties. I hate ketchup and yellow mustard.
posted by desuetude at 8:58 PM on April 25, 2011

I'm the same way with regards to tomatoes. I think it's the sweetness I don't like. I used to put my store-bought salsa through the food processor to puree all the vegetables too. (Hint: If you have a big piece of vegetable on your chip, try eating it with 2 or 3 chips instead of just one... will kind of disguise it.) And I prefer most veggies raw, with the exception of corn and potatoes.

Getting her to eat salad may just be a matter of finding a taste she does like and focusing on that. I never knew how much I love Italian salad dressing until a couple of years ago when, you know, I tried it. And now I can tolerate more bitter greens in my salad than I could before, because Italian dressing is just so yummy I don't care what it's on! (P.S. If she's like I was, she's never had anything but iceberg lettuce, which is really watery and tends to make your stomach hurt. Get some other lettuces!)

Also, try the same food in different forms. I'm not a huge fan of cooked spinach, but I do like spinach-artichoke dip (Applebee's has it, so does Chili's) and raw spinach in a salad is great.

What helps me is that I've learned to like so many new foods that I'm pretty willing to try almost anything once. Or if I go out to eat with family (or friends who don't mind), if they have something that looks interesting and I don't know if I'd like it, I'll try a bite of theirs.
posted by IndigoRain at 9:49 PM on April 25, 2011

IndigoRain, that is really interesting you mentioned spinach and artichoke dip! She loves it, and in fact, prefers it from Applebee's of all places!

As for the rest of this discussion, I really would not have guess that so many people were picky eaters! I suppose everybody is to an extent, though. I just recently learned to like olives after eating a favorite salad at a restaurant over and over that just happened to have olives in it. At first I just forced them down (because hey, I'm paying for them, amiright?), but slowly I've started to love them.

Thanks, everyone, for all the great tips!
posted by phaedrus441 at 5:59 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

If she wants to expand her likes, she'll have to try new foods, and be prepared to like them OR not like them on a case-by-case basis. Wanting to like something isn't enough, but maintaining optimism and curiosity is essential; it's hard to separate the food on your fork from a preconcieved notion that you don't like X, but every dish has to be evaluated individually. "I always hated Grammy's broccoli casserole, and we tried cream of broccoli soup last week and it was disgusting, but I'm going to order that plate of broccoli-rabe stirfry at the chinese restaurant because maybe it will be fantastic dry-cooked with oil and garlic. Oh, ugh. Nope." But all that means nothing about linguine with broccoli pesto - she should absolutely try that too! This will not be easy on your food bill, and will involve you ordering bland thing and her ordering new thing, and being prepared to swap.
posted by aimedwander at 7:42 AM on April 26, 2011

Definitely same-food-in-different-forms, or suggest that she cook it in ways that she knows she'll like. As a kid I hated cauliflower until someone's mom dipped it in egg batter and fried it in hot oil. YUM! Maybe she could fry up something she enjoys like chicken, and try tossing in a couple pieces of some blander veg to see if she likes it.

I was never a big savory pickle fan until I tried little sweet pickles that came on the sides of appetizers sometimes, then would add small pieces to sandwiches, then started buying jars of sweet pickles... and now I love dill pickles and pickled things. Kimchee, kombucha... love 'em now. have her take small steps with flavors that she likes to get to wackier flavors.

Cooking for myself has also gotten me to try new things - making roasted veg and preparing things in different ways has inspired me to buy things I wouldn't normally buy.

as for me growing to enjoy salads: good seasons italian salad dressing mix. make it with balsamic vinegar and vegetable oil. little packets in the grocery store, or sometimes in a special box that comes with a measuring cruet to store it in. just buy it. start with lots of bacon/croutons/cheese/non vegetable items and gradually decrease them as you learn to enjoy the vegetables (which you certainly will if they are bathed in the wonderful dressing of the gods).
posted by ghostbikes at 8:29 AM on April 26, 2011

On a related note, my coworker just happened upon this article:

Picky eaters are seen as having a disorder??? Seems a bit much to me.
posted by phaedrus441 at 11:12 AM on May 2, 2011

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