How to overpower adult picky eating
Children are notorious for being picky eaters. Any parent of a picky eater knows the struggles, bribing, and pleading to get a picky eater to eat. Generally, most picky eaters will outgrow their finicky eating patterns. But what about those who don’t? Surprisingly, some adults who were former picky eaters as kids never really change that narrative. They hang on to their childhood food dislikes by having a very limited set of foods they will eat.
Adult picky eating can take many forms. Trying out new foods can be a struggle and if a familiar food they do like looks, smells, or tastes different than usual, they may refuse to touch it. Many adult picky eaters dislike vegetables the most and may have strange eating rituals such as eating only smooth foods or limiting their diet to bland meals. Other unpopular foods are foods with a slimy or slippery texture, foods with “lumps,” or having their food get mixed together or even touching. A 2015 study that sampled 2,600 adults who identified themselves as picky eaters, 75 percent reported the pattern started in childhood. In many cases, they grew up with parents who put pressure on eating and made mealtimes stressful.
Adults who carry their finicky eating style with them may try to keep it a secret. Being an adult picky eater can cause a great deal of stress that can lead to problems both personally and professionally when eating with others. They may get anxious about meals, especially if it’s a social occasion.
So what do adult picky eaters actually eat? Usually the foods they stick with are bland comfort foods such as French fries, grilled cheese, toast, and crackers. Salty and sweet foods are also items they usually tolerate.
Overcoming picky eating
Most adults who struggle with being a picky eater would sincerely like to change. And they can but it may take some time. Here are some ways they can break the bonds of picky eating once and for all:
· Be motivated to want to change
Being sincerely motivated can be the match that makes change happen. Any adult picky eater who is tired and frustrated being stuck in this mode is often swayed by tension within their families caused by their picky eating. If they have children, setting a good example can be a perfect motivator to change. It has also been found through studies that understanding how your behavior is affecting others around you, is more likely to make you want to change.
· Take a tip from food experts
There is no one-size-fits-all technique but many childhood feeding experts recommend starting by establishing regular mealtimes with only one or two snacks and no grazing in-between. This allows you to get hungry for meals and snacks increasing the likelihood of eating at those times. Reduce significantly any sugary drinks that could be contributing to feeling too full to eat at meals.
· Do not put pressure on yourself or take it from others
One of the worst things to do is to put undue pressure on yourself or when others are nitpicking your eating habits. No one should say a word about what or how much you are eating at mealtimes. Your family can help by being supportive and nonjudgmental. You should also not judge or compare yourself to others. Learn to relax and simply enjoy the pleasure of eating. When you are ready, you can try a new food but do it because you want to and not because someone else is making you.
· Start with small changes
Filling up your plate with large portions of foods new to you is a bad idea. It will be too overwhelming and stressful. Instead, serve family favorites including foods you like along with new food you are ready to try. Commit yourself to just a few bites. If you don’t like the food, you still have the other foods you will eat at that meal.
· Use foods you love
When trying a new food for the first time, it always helps to have a favorite food paired with it. Even preparing a recipe with the new food you make yourself can help you be more receptive to it once it is ready to eat.
· Try out new preparation methods
Maybe you absolutely despise steamed vegetables but have you ever tried them roasted? Different cooking methods bring out different flavors. If eating raw carrots makes your stomach turn, sauté or grill them instead. Roasting veggies such as broccoli, beets, asparagus, or Brussel sprouts, often makes them softer and sweeter.
· Don’t give up
As children, it may take up to 15-20 times before they may try a new food. This same applies to adult picky eaters. Studies have shown that the more times we try a food, the more we begin to like it. Just being around the food can increase familiarity with it leading to you becoming more adventurous with it. Sometimes watching others eat the food can help. Cook the food in a recipe. Place it in your mouth and then take it out. If you want to chew and swallow it, go ahead. But don’t put pressure on yourself to do so.
· Ask for help
If your struggle with picky eating is not getting better, then working with an eating disorder specialist could be a solution. They can help you understand the psychology behind your picky eating and can suggest ways to get more comfortable with different types of food.