Ah, the “picky eater”… we’ve all seen one, and maybe you were one or still are. In their smallest form, these are the kids seen pouting in restaurants and throwing hissy fits in the grocery store’s cereal aisle. You pity the parents that begrudgingly serve their child chicken tenders for the fourth time in a week, because they simply can’t get them to touch anything else. With a faint sense of horror, you wonder if the child will ever grow over three feet tall because they refuse to touch a vegetable.
Thankfully for societal expectations and changing taste buds, the majority of these miniature food critics grow out of their bad eating habits. But what about the others? What about those who cross the threshold of adulthood with zero desire to eat anything other than a grilled cheese and french fries at a restaurant? Is it possible to live a normal life when you’re out to eat and can’t find a single palatable entree on the whole menu?
As a representative of this small percentage of the population, I’m here to tell you: yes, you can survive adulthood with a limited palate. But who wants to merely survive eating meals for the rest of their life? Why shouldn’t us picky eaters strive to get over the habits that have limited our dining experiences since we were little ones? As a recovering picky eater, I’ve compiled a few tricks, along with insanely motivational quotes, that can be used to push past your old eating habits.
Advice from the Absolute Pickiest of Picky Eaters
“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” –Confucius
Like most lifestyle changes, it’s better to start out with minor adjustments to your routine, to avoid getting overwhelmed. To get over a fear of sharks, you wouldn’t try scuba diving in a shark cage, would you? Of course not! You’d watch Jaws and then work from there.
The same goes with being a picky eater; you can’t develop an entirely new set of food preferences over night. Start with the foods you know you enjoy and work your way up. For instance, if you usually order something off the menu and then ask to take everything off of it (my signature move), try forcing yourself to leave the item as is next time. This way, you’re still eating something you know you like, it just has a few “upgrades.”
It can be so easy to avoid anything new, but you’ll never get a more experienced set of tastes buds if you don’t at least try. And besides, I’m sure the server and kitchen staff will appreciate you not altering the restaurant’s well thought out recipes.
Push Your Limits
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” –Neale Donald Walsch
After accepting tiny adjustments in your food, take it to the next level: order a dish you’ve never tried, and up until this point wouldn’t have considered eating. I’m not suggesting to try force feeding yourself raw squid if you happen to despise seafood, but the point is to push yourself past comfortable. Perhaps you could try adding shrimp to your next pasta dish?
Instead of analyzing everything that looks or sounds gross on the menu, try to find something that seems interesting. Interesting doesn’t necessarily mean appetizing to your inner picky child, but it’s a start. When the server comes, order it, without special requests. Absolute worst case scenario is that you hate the food. And even IF that’s the case (I’ve found most often it’s not), you can still brag to anyone that will listen that you– Picky Eater Extraordinaire– tried Tuna Tartare without collapsing… Yes, I’ve actually done this.
Give Up Control
“Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him now that you can trust him.” –Booker T. Washington
If you’ve tackled the first two steps without a breakdown or embarrassing display at the dinner table, you’re ready for the Final Frontier: let someone else order for you. I know, it sounds absolutely reckless, but that’s kind of the point.
The next time you’re out to eat with someone close to you (please make sure this is a friend or family member: don’t do this while at a business lunch, as you will most likely be heavily judged), ask them to order for you. If they’re aware of your “selective dining habits”, they will appreciate the fact that you’re trying to make a change and be flattered that you trust their taste in food. Don’t give them pointers or requests on what to order, just accept your newfound fate as a Daredevil in the food world and try to eat your meal. Again, the worst that can happen is you don’t like it or wouldn’t order it again.
Change Your Food, Change Your Mindset
“You are not stuck where you are unless you decide to be.” –Wayne W. Dyer
Being a picky eater kept me in such a bubble, that I really didn’t realize how much I was missing until I was continuously called out on all my food hang-ups. When I joined foodjunky.com in October, I began ordering lunch every single day, often with coworkers. My eating habits weren’t an issue until it came time to order from the local Thai, Mediterranean, and Mexican places, and my inner-child lost her mind. I was forced to order off menus that didn’t have a single thing that looked appealing to me or eat alone. It was on one of these days that I finally gave up the longstanding struggle between my appetite and the rest of the world.
It occurred to me that in my quest to eat only foods that I approved of, I was swearing off entire cultures’ worth of food. How could I be so close minded as to refuse to eat Mexican food because I was scared of a little spice? (Quesadillas are delicious FYI.) I finally realized that in being picky about food, I was being picky about life. There are so many things to try out there, don’t waste an opportunity to say you tasted Bouillabaisse just because you’re only used to eating burgers. What are you waiting for? In the words of Henry David Thorneau, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams”.