Learning to eat better/more
July 5, 2007 2:07 PM   Subscribe

Help cure me of being a picky eater.

As long as I can remember, I've been a fairly picky eater. This leads to a good bit of social embarrassment as well as a limited and probably not totally healthy diet. I've gotten a little bit better as I have grown older, but I would like to expand my tastes more and train myself to be more adventurous when it comes to food.

Stuff I generally don't like: soups, most salads (except Caesar salads), just about all vegetables, seafood, many ethnic cuisines (especially Mexican, Chinese, or Japanese food), most foods with a mushy texture, foods with a lot of sauces on them, anything with mushrooms or onions, anything with beans, meatloaf, many fruits (I do like apples and bananas, but most others I don't eat).

The foods I like and eat at least fairly regularly: burgers (turkey or beef, usually with cheese only, sometimes w/ mayo also, rarely with lettuce & tomato); pizza (usually just with pepperoni, sometimes with sausage or bacon); spaghetti or other pastas (sometimes stuffed with cheese, spinach, occasionally chicken; simple generic Ragu-style sauces); baked potatoes, french fries, and recently learned to like mashed potatoes (but no sour cream on the baked, no gravy on the mashed); steak (as long as there isn't some weird sauce on it); grilled chicken; chicken wings (but none of the "exciting" sauces like jerk or teriyaki or whatever; just the bbq sauces); sandwiches (usually just some sliced turkey or ham & cheese, occasionally with mayo, lettuce, tomato), some Indian food (again, not the vegetable dishes).

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. As you can see, generally a lot of fairly simple and sometimes bland foods. I know that I'm never going to be one of those people who can travel anywhere and eat anything. But, I would like to be able to go out with my friends when they go to a Mexican restaurant without having to make some lame excuse like "I just ate, so I'll stick to the nachos." I also worry, now that I'm 30 yrs old, about my future health, especially because of the lack of vegetables in my diet.

I think a lot of it is mental, and I'm sorely lacking in willpower. I also wonder if I maybe have an oversensitive olfactory sense, because often very strong smells of food, sometimes even food I like, makes me feel a bit nauseous, but I think it's mostly just because my parents let me be a picky eater when I was young (my dad is also somewhat of a picky eater, but my mom and brother will eat ANYTHING).

So, practical advice? Tips? Recipes? Mental exercises? Anything?
posted by papakwanz to Food & Drink (32 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
There is a possibility that you are a Supertaster from the way that you describe your preferences. Many people who are simply cannot stand certain aspects of items which others cannot detect.

Just an example, cats cannot taste sweet flavors. They lack the genetic code which would give them that ability. That is why they don't care for fat free candies or pure sugar, but love whipped cream. They can taste the fat, but not the sweetness.
posted by slavlin at 2:11 PM on July 5, 2007

Do you cook? If not, learn. If yes, try branching out a little at a time. It won't be so strange if you made it.
posted by hydrophonic at 2:12 PM on July 5, 2007

Just remember: it is only a meal. For you, I, and most of the others on this site, it is very likely you will have another meal within a day, tops. Life will go on if you don't like a particular meal, you can eat something you like next meal. Of course, this is assuming that your pickiness is due to mental blocks.
posted by kellyblah at 2:21 PM on July 5, 2007

That blue-dye on the tongue test thing claims that I am a super-taster, and it seems we have fairly similar dietary preferences. I'm picky particularly when it comes to vegetables, although I love most ethnic food.

I don't have many particular tips, however, you could try broadening your scope for veggies. For example, I've always hated tomatoes, onions, most lettuce except for Romaine (yes, the only salad I eat is a Caesar as well), mushrooms, bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant, etc. But I love napa cabbage, snow peas, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, bok choy, daikon, etc. It turns out that my veggie palate is just very ethnic. ;) It took me a while to figure it out, and you might never have tasted these things because you don't eat at the ethnic restaurants where they're typically served.

In terms of social embarassment, it seems as though it should be fairly easy to figure out maybe 3 common menu items for the type of places you end up going that you can eat. Since I'm not too sure of your preferences, its hard to recommend, but, for example, Mexican restaurants will almost always have various meat tacos, which you can get as plain as meat, cabbage or lettuce, and tortilla. It sounds like you'd probably like Carnitas. I think it would probably help to go to these types of restaurants with a friend who knows your food tastes and have them help you order.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 2:22 PM on July 5, 2007

I'm a recovering picky eater. (Seriously, I could've written your post as recently as three years ago.) I'm still not as adventurous as I would like, but here's what's helped me:

-Hydrophonic's suggestion is a good one. Sometimes if you've made the food you can feel more comfortable eating it.

-Try to figure out what it is that makes you NOT want to eat certain foods. For me it's sometimes smell and a lot of times texture. I seem to have special difficulty with food that contains multiple textures (say a burrito with soft meat but crunchy onions or lettuce). A friend of mine who secretly confessed to me his picky eating, doesn't like food that's too "globby" like Jello or pudding or custard. Sometimes I just don't like the way food looks: Brunswick stew looks to me like something a dog ate and then threw up. I also don't like grits, polenta, or semolina for similar "pre-chewed appearance" reasons. If you can figure out reasons you don't like something, you can maybe find ways around it. (Don't look at it while you eat it; hold your breath so you don't smell it; look for dishes that use a different texture of the food in question).

-I also decided that when I was going to try an entirely new food, I'd try it prepared very well. In other words, if you're going to eat green beans for the first time, maybe it's best if that's not at a crappy meat-and-three buffet restaurant. Sometimes this meant that I most certainly didn't prepare a new food for myself the first time I ate it. For example, I've still not tried eggplant, and you can bet I'm leaving it to a professional.

-I also have a very sensitive gag reflex for unfamiliar or disliked food. A lot of times I'd try new foods at home. So that way, if the worst-case scenario came to pass and I wanted to throw up, I was in my own home and nobody else would know.

I hope some of that helps. I've still got a ways to go (see eggplant, above) but I'm getting more vegetables down the gullet, and am less scared of unfamiliar restaurants or (my main reason for changing my eating habits) offending a host at a private dinner.
posted by 100watts at 2:26 PM on July 5, 2007

It's all about small steps. (and i'm with hydrophonic. this will be easier if you're doing the cooking) Make some pasta with finely diced zucchini in it, and a sauce that will overwhelm it. Then the next time you have it, make the pieces a little bigger, and the sauce a little subtler. Continue until you're eating pasta with grilled zucchini rounds and olive oil.

Also, start eating salads. constantly. with every meal. start somewhere you can (a caeser), and slowly modify it each time until you're eating a healthy garden salad with spinach and a bunch of different vegetables.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 2:29 PM on July 5, 2007

For me, trying new foods at restaurants has helped. My Mom isn't a great cook (sorry, Mom!), but there are things I wouldn't have thought I would have liked that I do like, when they're cooked correctly. Like seafood, and certain vegetable side dishes. Get yourself out to restaurants, and try new things!

Also, I'm working on breaking down things I don't like into things I think I don't like and things I know I don't like. Things I think I don't like, I try again. I thought I didn't like peanut buttter. So I tried it. And guess what? I don't like it! One less thing to worry about. I know I do not like mushrooms (in most situations), so I won't worry about them. Baby steps!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:29 PM on July 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've found Jeffrey Steingarten's thoughts on learning to eat everything to be helpful.
posted by waterlily at 2:33 PM on July 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Maybe you are a supertaster! Jacques Pepin is one.

Do you cook? A lot of these items you eat sound like restaurant items. Cook! Start with what you like, and then slowly and gradually add in vegetables.

It sounds as if food you don't like is actually scary to you. If it is, what about it is scary? Texture? Appearance? Category (as in: "I hate onions. This sauce reminds me of an onion-containing sauce I saw once. Onions may lurk here, too!")? Anyway, start with what's least repugnant, learn to cook it, then gradually expand your horizons, beginning always with the least awful and advancing by increments toward the scary limits.

What if you just told your friends the deal? They could help in restaurants by not trying to get you to move too fast. Also, they could cheer you on. Honestly, the project sounds like it could be made fun if people got involved. You could have little graduation ceremonies when you hit important milestones. ("This summer I mastered tomato soup!")

I bet you're a supertaster. This is excellent, in that you hate things like gravy and sour cream (don't learn to like them! It is a curse!). On the other hand, you're right: you gotta eat vegetables so you don't get the diverticulitis.

These are threads on the same topic:


(Steingarten is the bomb.)
posted by Don Pepino at 2:36 PM on July 5, 2007

i agree with hydrophonic - i am a recovering picky eater. one thing that really helped me was learning to cook.
posted by Flood at 2:37 PM on July 5, 2007

I'm also a picky eater, and I don't like trying new things. The trick is to let other people force you into it. Things that have worked for me:

1) Going out to eat with coworkers. I was recently on a business trip with two very not-picky eaters. I didn't want to restrict them, so I just went along with whatever they wanted and tried to pick something safe.

2) If you're going to an ethnic place, go with a friend (or friend/coworker) who is familiar with the cuisine and your taste buds. The first time I had Indian food, I went with my boss who's wife is Indian, and he was able to recommend things I'd actually eat. A coworker convinced me to try pho, and now a group of us go every Friday.

Even if you don't end up liking it, then you know for sure (like I know with Indian). And you might end up pleasantly surprised (like I was with pho).

You could even make an event out of it. Go out with a bunch of friends. Eat enough beforehand that you won't starve, but leave some room to taste everything your friends get (tell them you'll be doing this ahead of time). If your friends are anything like mine, they'd be thrilled you're being so adventurous.

3) Cook, or get to be good friends with someone who cooks. My roommate cooks, and I'll always try at least a little bit of what she makes for dinner. After all, she went through all that effort to cook for the two of us -- I have to at least give it a try. So, I now like tuna noodle casserole and chicken parmesan, but not yellow curry.

I've got my standard dishes for most places (I think the aforementioned roommate can probably order for me anywhere we go). At Mexican restaurants, I almost always get steak (or carne asada -- same thing) tacos with just cheese. I think that'd be a pretty safe bet for you too. I can't help with the Chinese and Japanese, because I get orange chicken and teriyaki chicken, neither of which seem like good bets for you.

(On preview -- some of this has been mentioned already, but it bears repeating.)
posted by natabat at 2:43 PM on July 5, 2007

How to be an Omnivore

An amusing, yet novel, approach to learn to love previously unloved foods. Keep trying them.

I'm not sure if this will work for foods with a texture that you don't like (it hasn't yet for me), but I am working on just giving peas a chance, so to speak :)
posted by odi.et.amo at 3:00 PM on July 5, 2007

Well, there's a very simple solution here that's pretty much guaranteed to work: stop being in control of what you eat. Have someone else order it. Food isn't a choice, really, at its core. If you stop feeding your picky habits, they'll stop asserting themselves.

My suggestion? Have someone else order for you, and eat whatever they order. It's food, you don't have to enjoy it, you need it to live. Alternately (if you cook) you can buy only healthy things for your house--then you're forced to come up with something healthy. I've done this before, with good results.

It all comes down to having too many choices--you'll almost inevitably choose only your favorite things. But when you have no choice, you'll eat almost anything. Having likes and dislikes are normal, but choosing from your favorites rather than from what is available can become a problem, as you've discovered.
posted by Phyltre at 3:05 PM on July 5, 2007

You've got all the taste patterns associated with the typical male supertaster.


I am basically in the same boat as you, but also a vegetarian.

There's lots of places I don't feel I can go eat. My overseas travel is limited by my fear of getting stuck being unable to order things I can stand eating, either because of communication reasons or because they just don't have anything bland enough.

I have the same sense that a lot of it is in my head, though I definitely do have sensitive taste buds (my tongue burns after eating something that friends say "isn't even a little spicy" and I always notice milk going bad a long time before anyone else).

Anyway, I don't have any general advice for you, but I have some specific advice:

1) Taquerias can make real bland stuff if you ask them to! A quesadilla with no salsa, for instance. I have in the last 2 years learned that I like black beans, which means I can have burritos (just cheese rice & beans, no salsa!).

2) Japanese cuisine is known for being exotic, but they actually have a lot of very mild flavors. If you can stomach the nori (the seaweed they wrap sushi in) there's tons of stuff to order that's not scary or gross or raw fish - cucumber rolls & tamago (egg omelet) nigiri make a fine meal! Also most places serve agedashi tofu, which is tofu (very mild) breaded & fried in a mild sauce. And I find edamame pretty easy to eat. If you have good sushi in your area

To all you guys who are suggesting you learn to cook new things: how do you know how it's supposed to turn out if you've never really had/liked it before?
posted by aubilenon at 3:10 PM on July 5, 2007

I am also a picky eater. I am getting better. Too slow for my wife, but better. I really like Asian spices, so it is easier for me to force my way through anything almost in a heavy stir fry or spicy Thai or Indian sauce. It helps if I don't know what I am eating until I am done. Getting things prepared more high end helps also.

On the hiding the problem, rather than confronting it: I have just lost 55 pounds. People used to ask why I wasn't eating anything like it was a problem. Now they view it as a testament to my willpower. This allows me to pick around at friend's houses without painful questioning.
posted by spartacusroosevelt at 3:14 PM on July 5, 2007

Wow, we're almost identical, except I'm much worse. But still, very similar patterns in what we eat/don't eat. I'm 32, and I've gotten much more adventurous in the last few years which has worked out rather well for me. I find there's very small 'windows of opportunity' where I'll feel adventurous and may try something otherwise, forget it, don't even bother trying to get me to try it. So now when I sense one of these I make sure to try something. In your defense, my mother claimed my whole life that it wasn't her fault and she couldn't get me to eat anything since I was around two. I spent every night at the dinner table by myself pushing uneaten food around while the rest of the family was off watching tv or whatever. But then again, I bet if I was airdropped into Thailand or something, within a week or two I'd probably get with the program, who knows? Anyways, I doubt this helped anything, but thanx for motivating me to investigate this a little further, that 'supertaster' thing sounds interesting...

oh yeah, you can eat at almost any kind of restaurant by just ordering plain food. At mexican restaurants, it's quesadillas, just chicken and cheese please, it's never been a problem. I believe indian restaurants can give you that flat bread plain, rice, and tandori chicken or something (all separate of course). Anyways, I'm sure you get the idea.
posted by imaswinger at 3:14 PM on July 5, 2007

I got over finicky eating by telling myself, its called FOOD not poison, someone eats this or made this because they LIKE it, why don't I?

Some tastes are definitely acquired but are worth the effort, bleu cheeses, some olives, fish sauce, and cilantro come readily to mind.

Texture used to be my undoing, squishy foods bad, but a friend insisted that for pulled pork, "the gushier the better" was the rule, now its mine too.

You have to remember its FOOD, food= good. Try it again.
posted by Max Power at 3:55 PM on July 5, 2007

Echoing Max Power in a big way here.

I used to be a picky eater. Then, as many others have suggested, I read Steingarten's The Man Who Ate Everything and made the instant decision to GET OVER MYSELF. A lot of the stuff I claimed to not like, I realized I hadn't even given a proper try out. Now I tell myself that I have to try something six times before I'm allowed to say I don't like it. Guess what? My "don't like" list has been reduced to mushrooms and offal. Pretty much everything else, I eat.

I used to be practically phobic about seafood. Then I moved to a city which has some of the best seafood in the world. I tell myself that if everybody else likes it and praises it, then the problem's with ME. Guess what? I've now eaten fish, prawns, sushi, octopus, squid, mussels, you name it. (And I was practically phobic about the stuff before.)

Something that's helped a lot is eating good quality food. (Like the seafood.) I never liked blue cheese before... but then I had some St. Agur. Good god, that stuff's amazing! I'd go out of my way to pick olives out of dishes... until I had a kalamata marinated in garlic and olive oil. *drool* And cilantro? Now that we grow the stuff in the garden, I can't get enough.

The only problem with overcoming your food issues is that other people's start to really annoy you. (Steingarten goes on about this with his rant about MSG "allergies.") The last time I was home in the US, I stayed with a family member who didn't eat any vegetables other than potatoes. She wouldn't even eat iceberg lettuce. I was kinda embarrassed to have brought a guest. So if the social angle provides motivation for you to try new things, run with it.
posted by web-goddess at 4:12 PM on July 5, 2007

Another recovering picky eater here.

Learning to cook is definitely an advantage. I started as a teenager, mostly because I didn't like most of the food that was given to me. Which leads to the next point...

A lot of people aren't picky, and will buy the large, tasteless tomatoes in the grocery store, because they are larger; use canned sauces because they are easier; eat fatty cuts of meat because, well, I have no idea why anybody eats fat on steaks, or even dark chicken meat for that matter.

If you are going to try something new, start simple, and be fair to yourself by getting the best possible example of a food you can. You wouldn't want your first burger to be at a McDonald's.

As far as the salads, maybe try them with no dressing, or better dressing? Most bottled dressing is full of crap.
posted by bh at 4:12 PM on July 5, 2007

To answer the question above - you don't have to know how it's supposed to taste when you start cooking. You just have to make something edible. Knowing what had gone into cooking something made it at least 50% easier for me to eat it.

Learning to cook cured me of my picky-eating, too. Basically, I could take out the stuff that I found to be nasty. Is it fatty? Outta there. Mayo? Disgusting. Out of my food. And so on. Also. I educated myself about my food - where does it come from? What is is made of? And honestly? There are a lot of things that are grosser than eating zucchini when you find out about just what's in Froot Loops, not to even go into factory farms. Of course, it also just became important to me not to feed myself poison, or empty calories, but to feed myself FOOD that was good for me. If it is somewhat mental for you, I don't know, maybe that sort of thing will help.
posted by Medieval Maven at 4:15 PM on July 5, 2007

You eat with more variety than my father does and he's in his sixties and in no danger of dying from malnutrition.

I picked up a lot of his bad habits, but learned to like foods by going to good restaurants: I didn't like sushi until I discovered the difference between good sushi and supermarket sushi; I didn't like mushrooms until I went to a restaurant that used quality mushrooms and discovered the difference between fresh and canned; same for anchovies. Even in my late 30s, I'm discovering new things: I didn't like South Indian vegetarian until I found a restaurant this year that changed my mind on that, and my girlfriend even discovered she liked cauliflower under those circumstances. (I still find that icky, though.)

You just have to teach yourself to experiment, and choose wisely in the experiments. There's a lot of positive reinforcement in discovering new yummy things that you didn't know about before.

Of course, if you're a supertaster, all bets are off, and you have legitimate reasons for being picky.
posted by commander_cool at 4:18 PM on July 5, 2007

I used to be a super picky eater and now I am just sort of picky. Here are some things that worked well for me

- realizing that the way my Mom cooked stuff wasn't really in many ways the best way to make things an that I should try some of these foods again cooked by people who are cooking them well. I have friends who like to cook and who like to cook things they think I'll like that are outside my comfort range. It's fun to try things out knowing no one is going to be a pain in the ass if I just don't really like something.

- trying to figure out if it's the taste I don't like or the texture and then trying new ways to season or texturize the food to make it bearable and then expanding. So, for example I don't like tofu. Feels weird in my mouth, tastes like nothing. However, I like it when it's in smoothies for a few reasons (good protein esp) and so I am getting used to having it around. I have friends who swear it's tasty prepared certain ways and I've tried it, some I like, some I don't. Cilantro is like this for me. It tastes weird to me but I've been able to sort of realign what I think food is supposed to taste like to get how it interplays with other foods and anjoy that even if the specific taste is still sort of weird.

- knowing the difference between being picky and being opinionated. I'm also opinionated. There are lots of foods where, if I had my druthers, I wouldn't eat them. Then there is a short list of foods I pretty much won't eat (would go hungry instead of eating). If someone is taking me out to dinner, I'll pick something that *I like* if I'm going to dinner at a friend's place, I'll usually mention a la being a vegetarian, that there are some things I don't eat. If I'm going to some big food event, I just suck it up and bring a Powerbar if I think there's going to be a problem.

For myself, I decided there is a short list of things I really won't eat and everything else I need to at least try, especially if it's cooked by someone who is a decent cook. Once I find something that I think is palatable that I didn't think was before [lately it's salsa because of the cilantro and cooked up root vegetables that my friends made] I try to get some version of it in my life on decent rotation so that's it's not just a once in a while thing but something I get used to eating. It's like a big growing tree, every new branch has potential branches off of it.

Lastly, don't beat yourself up. If you let people know it's something you're working on and that you're not just trying to be fussy and particular they will cut you a lot of leeway. It's okay to just have nachos at the Mexican place.
posted by jessamyn at 4:20 PM on July 5, 2007

How often are you actually trying new foods? When you try a new food, how many times do you eat it before writing it off?

Frankly, a lot of picky eaters seem to have themselves locked in to a really tight circle of self-reinforcing behaviors. You only eat cheeseburgers, so that's what your tastebuds are used to, so when you try something that doesn't taste like a cheeseburger, it tastes weird and you decide that it's hideous and that you hate it.

But here's the thing: it's probably not hideous. It's just different. Some things you may never like. But if you give something the chance to become familiar, it may suddenly stop seeming foreign=icky.

I also question this whole my tastebuds are magic thing, because if you routinely eat and enjoy Caesar salad (bitterish lettuce! garlic! anchovies! strongly flavored cheese!) you're clearly able to enjoy strong flavors.

Lots of vegetables are far less strongly-flavored than the things you're already eating. If you commit to trying a new vegetable (pick something easy, like celery or jicama or peeled cucumbers, something that's mostly water and pretty neutral-tasting) at least ten times before writing it off, I find it really hard to believe that you wouldn't be able to add at least a handful of veggies to your repertoire.

(And man, not to dog on your food choices, but you gotta get some roughage.)
posted by thehmsbeagle at 4:42 PM on July 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh my god, waterlily, you're the best! I've been looking for that piece from Slate for months now (on a quest similar to OP's) and couldn't find it. Bookmarking it right now.
posted by katemonster at 5:14 PM on July 5, 2007

It's time consuming, but learning to cook and garden is the best way to break the picky spell.

I was a long-time picky eater until my health started to really suffer. I started out with small amounts of mild vegetables to build up a tolerance because before I would literally gag because of vegetables. I try to focus on one vegetable a month now.

Carrots, baby spinach, cucumbers, butterhead lettuce, sugar snap peas, and sweet potatoes were the earliest additions and now I'm close to being a certified vegetable heavyweight, though I confess I gave up on kohlrabi. Now I eat !gasp! garlic and cabbage, foods I once gagged at if I smelled them from the kitchen. I first ate onions in a well-pureed soup, which helped me get over their pungent aroma and awful texture.

Reading about food is another booster: ditto the Jeff Steingarten, Marion Nestle, Micheal Pollen, Anthony Bourdain, etc.

The farmer's market also helped if you don't have the time to garden. You can talk to the farmer's about why the vegetables are good and what to do with them and you are generally in an environment where people are enthusiastic about them. Also try cooking classes and gardening classes. The former worked well for me. I added mild fish and zucchini to my diet easily after a cooking class.

Go to a really good restaurant too. They know what to do with vegetables and are a great why to be introduced to new foods that are actually prepared properly.
posted by melissam at 5:22 PM on July 5, 2007

I would suggest desensitisation. Nutritionists recommend to parents (i'm sure they are all childless) to try a food seven times with a child before giving up because it takes time to develop a taste for it. (anecdote: on the third try, my son threw up on his dinner - so for all of you cranky that your parents didn't make you eat vegetables - that may be why).

So back to the main thing - choose a vegetable - say tomatoes (which is strictly a fruit because of the seeds, but it's works well savoury) and add it to your meals twice a week for 4 weeks. A lot of people tolerate cooked tomato better than raw, and tinned tomatoes (while not beautiful) come in crushed varieties which can be added to minced beef for a quick italian sauce.

Try them raw and cut into bite size pieces - celery, carrot, capsicum are good with this.

Try deli type foods or salad bar foods - yeah, I know you risk salmonella - but isn't that better than scurvy? Commerical coleslaw has so much mayonaise in it you'd never know there were vegetables involved.

Try a variety of ethnic foods to see different treatments of vegetables, asian soups, indian curries, italian pastas.

When trying a new food, take your time and really taste it. Try to describe the taste to yourself, note the textures as well - and try to identify what you don't like about it so you can counter it. EG - celery - very strong taste, crunchy, don't like the stringy bits (you can use vegetable peeler to get rid of them).

Try tinned vegetables, a lot of them are blander than the fresh variety.
posted by b33j at 5:43 PM on July 5, 2007

I was picky until I went camping and got really hungry one time. I was so hungry I was willing to try some foods I knew I didn't like: sautéed mushrooms, sardines, ripe olives, etc. God, they were delicious!
posted by RussHy at 5:53 PM on July 5, 2007

Don't eat unless you are very, very, really, truely hungry.

When you are starving anything you eat will be the best you ever had.
posted by phoque at 6:12 PM on July 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Pushing your comfort zone requires a bit of help - bringing friends into the mix is definitely a good start, especially anyone you know who is an adventurous eater. I used to absolutely loathe tofu (despite having been a vegetarian for three years) but recently I got into the habit of sharing food with friends when we went out to dinner. I would try a bite or two of my friends foods, and since most of my friends are vegetarians, I ended up eating tofu (just a bite!) once or twice a month for the last year or so. I have now become a serious tofu fan and buy it and cook it by myself, which would have shocked the hell out of me a year ago. It's good, cheap, healthy protein and can be made a million different ways. How did I not like it before?

I find that being broke during and after college also helped me get over some of my food fears. I was never a big fan of beans, but when I realized I could buy enough beans for about 12 meals for under $2, I found a lot of ways to prepare them that made them palatable.

Having friends and family invite me over for dinner has helped a lot! Because I could never be so rude as to pick at food someone else bought and/or prepared for me! I've tried a lot of foreign foods that I had never encountered before this way. And family members' cooking converted me away from refusing to eat fish altogether.
posted by SassHat at 7:56 PM on July 5, 2007

Get in the habit of having a drink accompany your meals, and make it a drink that 1. you already like the taste of, and 2. cleanses the palate (ie overrides and strips out the taste of whatever you were eating and allows to you start fresh), such as coke, or wine. (and 3. is socially acceptable :)
If your experience is similar to mine, you'll find that with a few sips inbetween, you can eat foods in succession that would previously revolt you. Give it a few months/years, and the pickiness habit is broken and surprisingly... you can start to ditch the drink, like trainer wheels no-longer needed, and eat stuff with no regard to how picky you used to be.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:34 AM on July 6, 2007

I would second SassHat's advice: If your friends want to help you work through your picky eating issues, maybe they will let you try things off their plate. You order your bland quesadilla or whatever, so that you know you'll have something to eat and you don't have the pressure of forcing yourself to like something because you're paying for it, but you also have the opportunity to take baby steps by tasting their foods. If you like what they're eating, you may have expanded your horizons a little and you might want to order that for yourself next time.
posted by srah at 6:29 AM on July 6, 2007

I think Poor Richard's Almanac had the saying "Hunger is the best pickle." They used to serve pickles to stimulate the appetite. That way you eat with more relish.
posted by RussHy at 4:56 PM on July 6, 2007

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