How many times have you liked a song a lot more the second or third or tenth time hearing it?
What about movies? The first time I saw Juno I thought it was so overrated. (No 16 year old talks like that or is that cool.) Then the second time I saw it I wasn’t so judgmental and I enjoyed it a lot more.
Sometimes you have to give things a second (or third) chance to fully appreciate their awesomeness, and I think the same thing applies to food, especially if you’re a picky eater. Do you wish you could start eating more healthy but feel like you just can’t get into it because the food is so boring? Do you agonize over menus at restaurants because you can’t find anything that suits you? If your answer is yes, and you’d like to expand your epicurean horizons, then I’m talking to you.
The first thing I want to address is WHY certain foods make you feel like you’re chewing cud. There are many reasons, but here are a few:
1. Leftover dislike from childhood
Kids are picky eaters. And personally I think the more you try to force certain foods on them, the stronger their distaste grows. So let’s say as a kid your well-intentioned parents tried to get you to eat more broccoli. At a time when the only green thing you were interested in was probably Sour Apple Blow Pops, the taste of broccoli was gross, and being forced to eat it made it even more disgusting. Now as an adult just the smell of it makes you gag.
2. Unfamiliar taste/texture
I think this quote from this article at summertomato.com pretty much sums it up:
“The psychology of taste is further complicated by our natural aversion to things that are new or different from what we are expecting. Foods with unique textures such as mushrooms and okra often fall victim to this bias. In these cases the unfamiliarity and strangeness of the texture makes us slightly uncomfortable, and we interpret this feeling as a personal dislike. However, this reaction reflects the food’s uniqueness rather than its true character.”
By the way, that’s a really good article about overcoming food aversions.
3. Salt or sugar addiction
If you are used to eating processed food and/or fast food, then regular ol’ whole foods are probably going to taste bland to you. That’s because the fare you’re used to eating is filled with tons of salt or sugar. But, there are many flavors out there besides salty and sweet, you’re just not used picking them up. Once you lose your taste for processed food it becomes much easier to detect and appreciate the flavors in more natural foods.
4. Genuine dislike
Hey, sometimes you just don’t like stuff. It happens. As I’ve mentioned before, I really don’t like dill or celery. But I managed to polish off a LARGE portion of it over the last two weeks because I know how to cook it the way I like it (SOUP to the rescue). I think that if cooked or prepared properly, just about anything can be delicious. Or at least edible.
After doing a Google search, it seems that at its more extreme end, picky eating can be quite the ordeal, to the point where there are support groups for it. This post isn’t directed towards people whose picky habits have become a source of major social anxiety, but rather those who are mild to moderately fickle and open to changing those habits. If you suspect that your taste buds are temperamental for any of the reasons I listed above, here are some suggestions for expanding your palate:
-Keep an open mind. If you focus on the idea that you are not going to like something, or that it’s gross, then it probably will be. Instead, try to set aside your biases and look at the particular dish as an adventure, not a punishment. If millions of other people around the world like it, there has to be something good about it, right?
-Keep trying. Those childhood aversions can run deep, but if you’re dedicated enough, you can overcome that with a little exposure therapy. This might sound…unpleasant, and to a certain degree it can be. But realizing that a certain food isn’t just edible, but in fact pretty good is worth it. I mean, how many things have you learned to love in your life? I bet there are a few. Why exclude healthy food?
-Opt for the freshest ingredients you can find. If you don’t like apples and you eat an old, grainy one, it’s not going to help.
-Go to a high quality restaurant. Chefs know how to make everything taste good. It’s their job to make the fireworks go off in your mouth. Take advantage of that and try something you normally don’t like and see if it makes a difference.
-Learn how to cook. First of all, if you want to be healthy you should be learning how to cook anyway. Second, sometimes you just need to figure out a way to prepare something so that it’s tasty to you. The right spices and cooking method can make all the difference!
-Phase out the junk food. It’s time to expand your palate beyond sweet and salty. It’s time to stop drowning your tongue in salt and sugar.
So, are you a picky eater? Are there any foods that you just can’t stomach? Have you learned to like a particular food that you once hated?