Wondering how to not be a picky eater? From one (former) picky eater to another, I’ve got your back with these tips on trying all kinds of new foods.
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It’s no secret kids are picky eaters. But many adults can be picky, too, when it comes to food – including myself! For the longest time, I was so reluctant to try new foods because I was afraid I wouldn’t like them. In some cases, I even convinced myself I wouldn’t like the taste of certain foods because of how they looked, smelled, or felt to the touch. But as I’ve immersed myself in the world of food over the past few years, I’ve learned (little by little) to let go of the things holding me back from exploring new flavors, ingredients, and cuisines.
Opening my mind to food has been so rewarding. Not only because I’ve discovered a ton of new foods I love that I’ve been missing out on for the past 25 years, but also because it’s helped me be more adventurous in all aspects of life. It sounds a little silly, but it’s true! So if you’re also a picky eater and want that to change for one reason or another, keep reading for my advice on how to not be a picky eater – from one (former) picky eater to another!
Try Foods You Normally Shy Away From In A Different Form
If you’re wondering how to not be a picky eater, here’s one piece of advice: try foods you normally shy away from in different forms, and see what you like!
What do I mean by that? For example, say you don’t really like black beans. Whether it’s an aversion to the concept of the food, the texture, or the flavor, trying it in different forms will help you narrow down two things:
- What you like about it
- What you don’t like about it
Instead of just eating black beans with a fork, try them in a recipe like these enchiladas or this spicy chili. Or maybe you’ll enjoy refried black beans with tortilla chips since their texture is a little different than whole beans. Flavors and textures vary based on how you prepare an ingredient, and what else it’s paired with – so experiment to discover what you like!
As a former picky eater myself, I know for a fact that this is not the easiest thing to do. But having an open mind can make this easier! If you tell yourself you’re not going to like something before you even try it, then you probably won’t like it. But if you approach new foods with zero expectations for how it’ll taste, you may surprise yourself.
Case in point: After over a year and a half of food blogging and learning how flavors and textures interact in a dish, I’ve come to discover particular ways in which I do enjoy foods I never, ever thought I would.
- Cold cheese – I NEVER in my life thought I’d eat a cold cheese cube. (Melted cheese, on the other hand, was always my favorite). But then I discovered that a mild aged cheddar isn’t so bad when it’s dusted in spices or wrapped up in pepperoni, and now I’m craving it all the time.
- Goat cheese – Getting into the nitty gritty, the flavor of goat cheese used to always gross me out more than other cheeses. But since I opened my mind to cooking with goat cheese and learned that I actually enjoy it paired with other powerful flavors (like tomato), I’ve started to eat it cold! I still won’t eat it plain on a cracker, but spread some on a sandwich and I’m all in.
- Blueberries – I keep trying these, and I’m still not the biggest fan of popping blueberries by themselves. But when they’re baked into muffins or turned into a jam that I can spread on toast, croissants, or even burgers, I love the flavor.
- Most creamy condiments – For a long time, the only condiments I’d ever use were ketchup, barbecue sauce, and olive oil. No salad dressings, no sandwich spreads, no crema on my tacos. But once I learned that there are endless flavored varieties of the plain condiments I still can’t stomach, I started wanting condiments on everything! Dressing up a little mayo or sour cream with simple spices or avocado and lime juice makes a world of a difference.
Again, if my experience proves anything, it’s that you may surprise yourself once you open your mind! Sure, you might taste a few things you hate and regret it instantly, but I promise it’ll be worth it. Because for all the momentarily unpleasant flavors that hit your tastebuds, you’ll discover a whole new world of foods you never thought you’d like. And get to enjoy them for the rest of your life 🙂
Pair New Foods With Things You Already Like
I realized I’ve been subconsciously implementing two great strategies outlined in this article on WebMD:
- Start off small. Serve yourself your favorite foods with a small portion of one new food, and don’t feel like you have to eat all of it. If you don’t like the new food, you’ll still have all your favorite foods to eat!
- Pair a new food with something familiar that you like the taste of, like dipping zucchini fries into your favorite sauce.
These strategies have seriously helped me branch out and try new foods. When you pair something unfamiliar with your favorite foods and flavors, you create a safe space to try the new food with no consequences. If you don’t like it, so what? You still have a delicious plate of your favorite things to enjoy. This is where Strategy #1 shines as the best way to approach completely new foods.
Strategy #2 is a little riskier, since you might be “contaminating” one of your favorite foods with something you end up not liking. That’s why I like to think of these two strategies as stepping stones. Start with #1, then if you kinda like the new food but still aren’t completely sold on it, move to #2.
For example: take something like baked sweet potato.
First, try a small portion of it on the side of your favorite chicken dinner. If you even think you might like it, go a little bigger next time. Maybe try a stuffed sweet potato recipe, topped with your favorite foods (buffalo chicken stuffed sweet potatoes, anyone?). Or try the sweet potato casserole at your next Thanksgiving dinner. Whatever you choose, make sure to pair the sweet potato with something you absolutely know and love – and you might be surprised at how much you enjoy it!
Expose Yourself To Different Cuisines
If you’re a little more adventurous than the average picky eater, one of the easiest ways to expand your palette is to try foods from different cuisines. This might sound scary – but it’s not so hard if you have a friend or family member that can show you the ropes!
When I was a senior in college, I hadn’t branched out much past a few favorite cuisines: American, Mexican, Italian, Chinese, and Thai. But one night my roommates were ordering Indian takeout and asked if Alex and I wanted in – and to be honest, I was a little on the fence. I’d never had Indian food before and had always wanted to try it, but had no idea where to even start. But Alex was up for it and I figured why not, so we had them show us the ropes.
And let me tell you, it was one of the best dinners I’ve ever had!
Alex and I both learned that night that Indian food is incredible, especially when it’s fresh and authentic. Literally everything we ate was so delicious – we couldn’t wait to have all the leftovers the next day. Fast forward to today, and Indian food is our go-to takeout order. We’ve even started trying to make our own Indian dishes at home.
I will say, we really lucked out here with both of us learning we loved Indian food. But while you may not discover your new favorite food this way, you’ll still get to experience flavors and ingredients you may otherwise never have tried. And that will help open your mind to all kinds of new foods in the future! So take advantage of any opportunity that comes your way to try a cuisine that might be out of your comfort zone, and you never know what you’ll discover.
Find Your Motivation
From a more psychological standpoint, it may be easier for you to try new foods if you feel strongly motivated to change your picky eating habits. Why are you reading this article in the first place? Is there a specific reason you can pinpoint as to why you’re interested in how to not be a picky eater?
The answer will be different for everyone, so find your own motivation and approach trying new foods in a way that works for you.
For me, the motivation to try new foods came from the desire to expand my culinary abilities. As I started cooking more, learning more about flavors and ingredients and different cuisines, my curiosity got the best of me! Instead of shying away from the unknown – or the misconceptions I had – I was actually excited to taste something new. I even started giving foods I thought I didn’t like a second chance. And yeah, I’ve wrinkled my nose at a few things here and there when I still couldn’t stomach the taste. But more often than not, I’m surprised by how much I enjoy the new foods I try – and I can’t wait to keep discovering what else is out there!
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