A five-step plan for overcoming picky eating (a.k.a. an open letter to Anderson Cooper)
July 2nd, 2012
04:00 PM ET
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Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic is a Bay Area writer and editor. Her first book Suffering Succotash: A Picky Eater's Quest to Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate, a humorous non-fiction narrative and exposé on the lives of picky eaters, will be released by Perigee Books on July 3.

My Dearest Anderson Cooper,

You need to be rewired, neurologically speaking.

Let’s back up. First, I watched with sympathetic awe as you took to your talk show and admitted that you are an adult picky eater who really isn't too jazzed about the whole eating thing. Next, I got a little teary as you brought on other adult picky eaters who have long lived with the undeserved shame of their limited diets. However, when I got to the part where you attempted to eat spinach live on television, I dropped to my knees, tore my hair, rent my garments and wailed, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING ANDERSON COOPER?"

Because having to fork up a pile of nasty, seeping spinach that had probably already gone cold by the time you got to it? NO. I'm a recovering picky eater turned full-time foodie, and I still wouldn't eat spinach like that! Anderson, you need my help.

Here's the deal: you absolutely do not have to like foods (especially spinach) just any old way, and people who tell you otherwise are flat-out wrong. When attempting to change your mind about the foods you hate, it is vital that you give yourself the opportunity to have those foods prepared in the best, tastiest way possible. A few months ago Kat gave you some excellent recipe ideas. However, making sure you eat broccoli roasted rather than steamed is just the first, albeit crucial, step toward rewiring your neural pathways.

When you are faced with a food you dislike, your brain reacts to that food as if it's a threat to you. Say the texture or flavor of broccoli made you gag once. Maybe it happened when you were a baby and you don't even remember the event - all you know is that you don't like it.

Guess what? Your brain remembers the event and is carrying a grudge, so from that time forward whenever you encounter broccoli, it says, "Yep, that there broccoli tried to kill us. Never again, Brassica oleracea, never again. Set neural pathway to HATE." Once that pathway is set in the brain, your entire body will do its collective best to protect you from broccoli's nefarious plans to improve your health if you try to eat it. Your tongue might reject the flavor, your gag reflex is often triggered, and you could even throw up - the body's final defense against an unwanted intruder.

Here are five simple steps that will help get those neural pathways rewired.

Step 1: First Foods

Now don't worry, I'm not going to start you with kale, which is so aggressively good for your entire body, you can actually feel it toilet brushing your internals all the way down. Kale may make your skin look amazing and fight cancer while also expunging the dregs of last night's cocktail from your liver, but it’s also one of the more difficult greens to love, and my advice to you is to work up to it. (Personally, I think kale’s so good for you because when toxins and diseases get one taste of its rough bitterness, they run screaming for the nearest exit.)

No, you have to start with an attainable food, maybe cauliflower, broccoli, or gentle greens (beet greens, spinach, tender chard) and get a recipe - a good recipe, mind you - from someone who understands picky eating and understands food. Hell, if you can't find anyone else, I'll cook for you. I'm a former picky eater and I’ve already converted several people to my way of making broccoli, beet greens, okra, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.

Step 2: Picky Say Relax

Getting yourself mentally prepared to calmly accept a food that would otherwise freak you out or disgust you is key. If you aren't relaxed, the mere idea of the hated food bullies your body into an instinctual fight or flight mode, which leads to a clenched or churning stomach, and can really do a number on your digestive system. Do what you can to override your body's natural instincts. Deep breathing, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, a glass or two of wine...whatever it takes to chill you out before facing down a hated food, do it.

Step 3: Force Dispersal

If you object to either a food's flavor or texture, minimize the effects of the food's collateral damage in your mouth by combining it with a neutral medium. Even with all my picky eating progress, I'm still not the biggest fan of big piles of cooked greens, so I spread the greens out in cooked pasta or farro. That way, I'm not faced with a mouthful of unchewable greens that pisses off my gag reflex, but I’m still eating them and growing accustomed to their flavor.

Step 4: The Piggyback Effect

Based solely on the results of the taste test you took on your show, I think you're an undertaster, which means food carries less of a flavor impact for you and, consequently, doesn't hit your pleasure centers. In other words, food is bland for you, so it's no wonder you don't enjoy it! This is where you can benefit from the Piggyback Effect.

You know how some kids like to douse everything they eat in ketchup and how other people might eat anything as long as it's deep-fried? This is something I've taken to calling the Piggyback Effect. Allowing liked flavors to piggyback on a hated flavor helps dial down the intensity of that hated flavor until it becomes background noise.

I dealt with my dislike of butternut squash by adding curry powder, scallions, garlic, and even blue cheese. Maybe I completely drowned out the actual flavor of the squash, but because my brain realized that I was able to eat squash without it killing me, my pathways were rewired to the point where I no longer need those other ingredients to piggyback on the squash. I weaned myself.

Step 5: Crowd Sourcing

Don't attempt to eat hated foods under pressure. You know, like on national TV with everyone watching? Doing that just turns the entire experience into something extremely stressful and very not fun. Instead, take a stab at these foods when you're among friends, family, or anyone else with whom you really enjoy spending time. Not only does it aid in changing your association with that hated food from something negative to something positive, which is key to rewiring those adorably protective neural pathways, but if your attention is focused on your dining companions and how much fun you're having and not what you're eating, your entire system is relaxes and isn't snapping into fight or flight mode.

Go out to dinner with Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert - I'm sure either of them could keep you laughing hard enough that you'd eat an entire serving of broccoli without even realizing it.

Dude, it’s not easy to do all of this, so treat yourself gently. You're probably not going to like the hated food on the first, second, or third tries, but if you keep chipping away, it will happen. It took me a long time to go from despise to tolerate to like to love to crave. I'm not asking you to love food, I’m just asking you to try this. Try this for me, for yourself, for everyone who loves you and wants you to live a good long life wearing tight black tee shirts on TV and kicking parents off your talk show because they give their kids vouchers for boob jobs!

And why am I so personally bent on helping you? Because you did what I’m trying to do: you put a face on picky eating that people had to respect. No one in their right mind could call you wimpy, whiny, or annoying. You allowed yourself to be recognized as an adult picky eater and helped to make other picky eaters feel less alone and less ashamed of something they can't biologically control and something they didn't choose to be.

Now I know this is a lot to digest, but it's really quite simple. Come on over and let me show you just how simple it can be.

I remain ever your most humble servant and picky eating cook,

Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic

Previously - The psychology of food aversions and Food aversions: Your questions answered and Anderson Cooper, eat your vegetables!



soundoff (100 Responses)
  1. Jacky Lamenzo

    Hi everyone, I'm Jacky Lamenzo and I consider myself a "Recovering Picky Eater." I love this article so much – it really resonates with me. I'm a Holistic Health Coach and looking to help others get over fears of exploring new foods like I've done. On my website, http://www.jackylamenzo.com, I share my story. Please feel free to reach out if you think I could be of help to you or anyone you know!

    August 30, 2014 at 1:23 pm | Reply
  2. Lex

    It is soooo hard as a picky eater. As I get older, it is hard tobe confidentand take myself seriously, or even willingly go to social events where I know food will be involved and all eyes on my plate.

    Sometimes I think I am doing something right, because i'm stillalive and healthier than most, so why change. One day I feel it will catch up to me. I eat no veggies or fruit whatsoever. Basically eat cheese, chicken, pasta with parmesean, bread, rice, thats about it with someadditions hereand there. No soup, nothing mushy, nothing that has that weird crisp texture, nothing that smells bad, nothing that chews back, nothing with too much work for little pleasure. Sooo picky. I wish I had someone who can help me with my dietand take me step by step to slowly introduce things to me based off my pickiness and their understanding of food. I really feel it is holding my life back and is oh so annoying. i was suggested to try juicing, but that sounds scary.to me, what is thin and healthy is like thick trashy juice in my head. Help

    July 10, 2014 at 10:42 pm | Reply
    • Betty

      Hi Lex,

      I really hope you don't mind me contacting you out of the blue – my name is Luke and I work for a television production company called Betty in London, England.

      I’m currently working on a brand new TV series for Discovery International and we’re carrying out a worldwide search, for people who may be interested in participating in this new show with world-famous adventurer, Bear Grylls.

      I'm looking for people from all over the world who have a fear, phobia or personal challenge they wish to overcome and I saw your post whilst carrying out some research into the series:

      I read that you wish someone could help you go with your picky eating habits so I thought I'd get in touch to let you know of this opportunity.

      This sensitive series sees Bear Grylls travel into the wild with a travel companion, who has a personal challenge they wish to overcome. These companions are not survivalists themselves, but rather real people who have stories to share and the urge to overcome their individual hurdles, in this once in a lifetime opportunity.

      Due to the sensitive nature of the series, I'm always keen to speak to people who have personal experience – and as a team, we are consulting experts and professionals throughout the process for advice and guidance. We also have a Psychologist and medical professional on location during the filming process.

      I would love to chat to you about it – I'm not sure if this sounds of any interest to you? Or perhaps, you may be able to help me spread the word?

      My email address is luke.mortimer@betty.co.uk – any further questions you may have I will be happy to answer them.

      Have a lovely day Lex and thank you for your time. Hope to hear from you soon.

      Warm wishes,
      Luke

      July 21, 2014 at 8:17 am | Reply
    • MT

      I am from South Louisiana, love to fish and spearfish, go crabbing, etc. The one problem? I cant stand seafood!!! Its horrible!! Everyone around here looks forward to crawfish boils and anything with lump crab meat. Snapper, wahoo, tuna, you name it, we catch it and cook it.
      It all taste like a boat launch smells to me. Nothing worse than living in Cajun country and not liking seafood.
      I also cant stand fruit, but that's another story for another day.

      September 15, 2014 at 5:17 pm | Reply
  3. Bobby Banks

    I really like it when people come together and share opinions. Great blog, continue the good work!

    http://www.poweropen.org

    June 21, 2014 at 11:57 pm | Reply
  4. Webster

    "Picky eater" is Indian for "Lazy Parent"

    June 16, 2014 at 6:42 am | Reply
  5. Unegen

    What's this "undeserved shame"? Picky eaters ENTIRELY deserve shame. It's food. You eat it. It's nutritious. You may enjoy some of it, you may not. You do not have to be excited about every mouthful. Functional adults eat a variety of foods, if for no other reason than good nutrition. FULLY functioning adults have a sense of curiosity and adventure, and this usually spills over into enjoying food. If you are "picky," yes, there is something wrong with you. Fix yourself.

    May 6, 2014 at 11:41 am | Reply
    • DB

      Why do adult picky eaters deserve shame? No one has to justify themselves to you. Don't be mad because a picky eater once rejected your disgusting home cooking.

      June 16, 2014 at 1:12 am | Reply
    • jessicajfox

      I'm an adult picky eater because my parents forced food in my throat to the point of gagging, and now whenever I try to eat anything healthy, literally anything except a few types of fruits and raw spinach, I gag. I've even vomitted after eating things like celery and baby carrots, which are supposed to be easy for picky eaters. I made myself eat them anyway and have gotten sick. It is something that your brain can make your body prevent you from doing. It is not easy at all, and it's not fun to suffer while eating. That's not how it should be, it should feel nourishing, not like you are killing yourself to do it. So don't say it's just someone being lazy or picky, because it isn't. Just because it's easy for you, doesn't mean it is for everyone. Also, since you clearly don't have this issue, don't try to understand it since you clearly don't.

      June 16, 2014 at 3:59 pm | Reply
      • Betty

        Hi Jessica,

        I really hope you don't mind me contacting you out of the blue – my name is Luke and I work for a television production company called Betty in London, England.

        I’m currently working on a brand new TV series for Discovery International and we’re carrying out a worldwide search, for people who may be interested in participating in this new show with world-famous adventurer, Bear Grylls.

        I'm looking for people from all over the world who have a fear, phobia or personal challenge they wish to overcome and I saw your post whilst carrying out some research into the series:

        It sounds like you have suffered over your battle with picky eating and tried new things to help overcome your eating habits. I thought I'd get in touch to let you know of this opportunity.

        This sensitive series sees Bear Grylls travel into the wild with a travel companion, who has a personal challenge they wish to overcome. These companions are not survivalists themselves, but rather real people who have stories to share and the urge to overcome their individual hurdles, in this once in a lifetime opportunity.

        Due to the sensitive nature of the series, I'm always keen to speak to people who have personal experience – and as a team, we are consulting experts and professionals throughout the process for advice and guidance. We also have a Psychologist and medical professional on location during the filming process.

        I would love to chat to you about it – I'm not sure if this sounds of any interest to you? Or perhaps, you may be able to help me spread the word?

        My email address is luke.mortimer@betty.co.uk – any further questions you may have I will be happy to answer them.

        Have a lovely day Jessica and thank you for your time. Hope to hear from you soon.

        Warm wishes,
        Luke

        July 21, 2014 at 8:20 am | Reply
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    January 27, 2014 at 1:39 am | Reply
  7. HH

    I'm a picky eater. This does not make me a bad person. There is no reason to eat foods you dislike "because they're good for you." There is another item out there with the same vitamins and minerals that you can eat instead.

    Don't make dinner a dread for your kids. If they don't like something, don't make them eat it. Try cooking it a different way, as the article says – but don't force it if they dislike it then, too. They won't eat it as an adult, either, so this is pointless. It's a control issue on the part of the parent, and nothing more. Food should never be used as a reward or punishment ("you can't have dessert unless you clean your plate/eat your broccoli"). If they don't like the broccoli, they'll eat twice as much of the peas, so what's the big deal???

    August 29, 2013 at 9:12 am | Reply
    • HH's Mother

      I don't care if you don't like it, this isn't a restaurant. This is what's for dinner. Eat it or go to bed. Your choice.
      Controlling parents? You obviously haven't given me grandchildren yet because you have no clue how controlling you kids can be. You started as serting your independence from the womb. If you've been hiding your children from me, it's no wonder you let them run roughshod over you. You give sheep a bad name.

      August 29, 2013 at 9:35 am | Reply
      • DB

        Wow... HH's mom has some inner issues that she needs to deal with.

        June 16, 2014 at 1:14 am | Reply
  8. Alicia

    We didn't have much money, so if I was a picky eater I would probably have been sent to bed with no dinner.

    August 27, 2013 at 4:56 pm | Reply
    • Princess Mom

      There are some meals I would gladly go to bed without.

      September 5, 2013 at 8:49 pm | Reply
  9. katiemercedes

    Anderson's adorable but his skin could definitely use some beta carotene. Thanks for this great article; very inspiring! I'm going to try this on my boyfriend; beer and ketchup are the most nutritious things he consumes.

    December 4, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Reply
  10. Артём Власов

    Живи по своим правилам!!! mmmrevolution.com Всё просто и понятно

    November 27, 2012 at 1:59 am | Reply
  11. the truth

    Weight loss is easy, become atheist. Ever see a fat atheist? NO

    July 8, 2012 at 8:12 am | Reply
  12. dinnerwithtj

    I'm trying to overcome picky eating publicly, on youtube – http://www.youtube.com/dinnerwithtj

    I'm a comedian, and this approach – the fact that I can potentially entertain others along the way – actually motivates me. Celebrities (other comedians) get to pick the foods I try each week. Before this, I wasn't really open about my disorder but I came to a point where I was sick of living this way.

    July 7, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Reply
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    July 6, 2012 at 4:22 am | Reply
  14. Truth™

    Mr. Cooper does not seem to have any weight or health issues, so why not let him eat what he wants? Or would that be too simple?

    July 5, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Reply
  15. Former picky eater

    I was a picky eater growing up, but I think it was due to the fact that my parents ate boring foods and fed me the same. Also, most vegetables I knew were overcooked, soggy, and disgusting–often from a can or frozen (which isn't always bad when used the correct way). Now, I love most foods–particularly vegetables that most people avoid. I think many taste aversions are due simply to foods that are not fresh/in season and are not cooked properly. Most people I know grew up hating Brussels sprouts. I never ate them till my 20s. Now–since I learned to toss them in olive oil with a sprinkle of salt & pepper and then roast them in the oven so the sugars carmelize and they get a little crips on the outside–they are like candy to me. Same with cauliflower and eggplant–which can be very bland. I love salads with fresh, homemade dressings. Spinach is so versatile–heck, you can even drink it in a smoothie or juice it! Kale is a superfood and is so healthy! I still avoid things like foie gras, pate, etc.–because the idea of a spreadable meat is just horrifying to me. But most things–kangaroo, for one example–I will try at least once. Food is about community and experimentation. It's actually beautiful when you think of how cultures evolve around the things that grow from their unique soil. Eat fresh & local (nothing beats fresh, seasonal fruit and veggies)–and experiment with different flavors (Asian, Indian, Cajun, Middle Eastern, etc.). Don't dowse your food in ketchup or half a salt shaker, but make sure to season! And ditch the boiling water for the veggies–saute or roast!

    July 5, 2012 at 11:53 am | Reply
  16. Hypatia

    Not possible. My little sister somehow survived childhood on a diet of Mom's pot roast and yankee doodles. We're not sure but we think it might have been a miracle.

    July 5, 2012 at 11:43 am | Reply
  17. Dru

    I have food allergies and my parents have spent over 30 years telling me that I am just picky. Grrr.

    July 5, 2012 at 9:10 am | Reply
    • agreewiththat

      i agree with you on that aspect of parents thinking your allergies (or even your flight/fight) response are 'all in your head' or worse 'your lying'. how can you lie about the way your body rejects things like eggs, dairy, horse hoofes (jello), poisons in so many forms – like from the insides of cans with green beans, etc., and other wonderful things like not being able to breath, almost fainting from some type of insulin or allergic reaction, and the feelings you get of complete horror at certain things. the only thing i can come up with in understanding is that they are too lazy to actually view me as someone separate from my siblings, and/or they lie about their own feelings to themselves so they can't fathom someone else actually being in-tune to the way things actually make you feel. i don't know. but i'm with you, grrrrr to a low tempered degree cuz hopefully and thankfully you grow up to be an adult whom they may someday see as someone besides one of the crowd of children they produced. It is easier to ignore a child's own knowledge than to be open to the knowledge of a child who is smarter than the parent in that respect – perhaps .... each person is different ....

      July 9, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Reply
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  19. Lou Cypher

    Eat kale? I'm quite content to die young of bowel cancer, thankyouverymuch.

    July 5, 2012 at 3:55 am | Reply
  20. Nick Naranja

    I don't like green peas alone. I'll eat them in a soup, or straight out of the garden, but boiled green peas make my stomach turn. I found out in my late teens that most of my aversion to vegetables was related to quality. Fresh produce cannot be beat.

    July 5, 2012 at 2:09 am | Reply
  21. Dorene

    I grew up being forced to eat entire servings of foods that caused me sensory overload. No matter how much I tried to explain that foods like tomatoes and squash caused my brain to think I was going to die, I was made to eat them. Countless hours, tears, and vomit ensued. It shouldn't come as any shock that I grew into an adult picky eater with major food issues.

    Now, I have friends and family who love me, and encourage me to try new foods at my own pace. I've recently acquired a taste for sweet potatoes that I never would've imagined. So before you judge the picky eater in your life, be aware that there may be a painful, shameful back story there. Show some love and encouragement ... it might be overcome with your help.

    July 5, 2012 at 12:31 am | Reply
    • true

      I agree with the painful story thing. My mother to this day won't touch macaroni and cheese (a comfort food for myself and many I know) because she was basically force-fed by an evil grammar school teacher (because she received subsidized lunches & should eat what she was given). Food should be pleasurable in addition to nourishing), not torturous!

      July 5, 2012 at 11:57 am | Reply
    • Betty

      Hi Dorene,

      I really hope you don't mind me contacting you out of the blue – my name is Luke and I work for a television production company called Betty in London, England.

      I’m currently working on a brand new TV series for Discovery International and we’re carrying out a worldwide search, for people who may be interested in participating in this new show with world-famous adventurer, Bear Grylls.

      I'm looking for people from all over the world who have a fear, phobia or personal challenge they wish to overcome and I saw your post whilst carrying out some research into the series:

      It sounds like you have suffered over your battle with picky eating and the memories of being forced to eat certain foods can leave a lasting impact on us. I thought I'd get in touch to let you know of this opportunity if it was something you may be interested in.

      This sensitive series sees Bear Grylls travel into the wild with a travel companion, who has a personal challenge they wish to overcome. These companions are not survivalists themselves, but rather real people who have stories to share and the urge to overcome their individual hurdles, in this once in a lifetime opportunity.

      Due to the sensitive nature of the series, I'm always keen to speak to people who have personal experience – and as a team, we are consulting experts and professionals throughout the process for advice and guidance. We also have a Psychologist and medical professional on location during the filming process.

      I would love to chat to you about it – I'm not sure if this sounds of any interest to you? Or perhaps, you may be able to help me spread the word?

      My email address is luke.mortimer@betty.co.uk – any further questions you may have I will be happy to answer them.

      Have a lovely day Dorene and thank you for your time. Hope to hear from you soon.

      Warm wishes,
      Luke

      July 21, 2014 at 9:50 am | Reply
  22. BMB

    Sickening. Want the cure for picky eating? Get hungry. Really hungry. Go without eating so long that you would eat out of a dumpster, take anyone's uneaten leftovers, eat something you found on the ground. Think you'd never do it? You've never really been hungry then. True hunger, not what First Worlders call hunger, when they want to cram more potato chips into their maws and wash it down with soda.

    There are teeming millions on this planet starving to death and millions more who are horribly hungry all the time. They eat rotting things, garbage from dumps. They beg. For anyone to sob about how they're pitiful picky eaters – well, just hang your heads in shame, because you're revolting. You ARE the problem.

    July 4, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Reply
    • Lou Cypher

      LOL, yeah ppl are starving because of the picky eaters and not their local dictators, yeah good luck with that theory dingbat

      July 5, 2012 at 3:57 am | Reply
    • goatsandgreens

      I remember being told as a child to clean my plate because of all the starving children in India. Being a bright little child (brat, if you wish), I seriously asked if I could wrap it up and send the meal to them. I was even willing to go into my piggy bank for the postage.

      Whether I ate it or not wasn't going to help anyone else, anywhere else on the planet.

      (Mind you, I wasn't normally a picky eater, although the texture of cottage cheese to this day still skeeves me out.)

      November 27, 2012 at 6:57 am | Reply
    • Jessica

      No. YOU are the problem.

      Taste aversion is a legitimate evolutionary tool that is purely biological and not easy to overcome. Being healthy comes from eating well, listening to your body and only eating until you are no longer hungry. Cleaning your plate because people in other countries are "starving to death" is only going to induce unnecessary guilt and is one of the worst things you can ever say to someone – especially a child – who is experiencing reluctance related to food.

      November 8, 2013 at 7:06 am | Reply
    • Lex

      You know what's funny, I am a picky eater with a smaller appetite than normal people. So I rarely think about or crave for food. I can go allll day without eating and have more energy than all these people out here calling themselves healthy while puffing on cancer sticks. I eat what I love. Only reason I want to expand my food pallate is for social reasons. I am 5'6 and weigh 135 lbs. You think picky eaters east junk food all day. Ugh, that annoys me because I dont. I make hot meals at home and always have been that way. If I buy junk food it's once in a blue moon because its easy. But I dont crave or survive off it. I dont think you understand picky.

      July 10, 2014 at 11:00 pm | Reply
  23. veggieconquistadora

    My cure for picky-ish eating was living in Japan. My husband and I are vegetarians, so we don't eat any type of animal (land, air, or water creatures), or anything that killed the animal to produce (gelatin, broth, etc). In Japan, they put fish broth in nearly everything. It got to the point where I would eat absolutely anything that was not an animal, even if it disgusted me. It really is true that you start liking things if you just force yourself to eat them. I was forcing myself out of politeness – my coworkers were already accommodating me by trying to bring me vegetarian food, and by taking me to places where I could eat, so I figured I better eat what I was given. Now I can eat natto (fermented soy beans), all kinds of seaweed, and mushrooms. I hated mushrooms. Now I love them. So, I always tell my nephew, who is 5, to try a tiny bite of everything I make for him, and if he doesn't like it, he doesn't have to finish it. But if I make it again, he has to try it again. He is slowly getting less picky, and adults need to do the same thing.

    July 4, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Reply
    • CDMH

      If you conquered natto I am impressed. I am not a picky eater, but natto is definitely a no-go for me. At least I tried.

      July 5, 2012 at 12:42 am | Reply
  24. Jennifer

    My husband is an extremely picky eater and I won't lie when I say it causes me some heartache. I love food. I love everything about food. I could spend hours looking at cookbooks and watching Food Network and it pains me that no meal I cook will ever be consumed by my husband. He has it in his head that he will never change so I don't think any of these tips will help him. :(

    July 4, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Reply
  25. Vern Sawyer

    You're not going to convince me that green vegetables don't taste like poison, because they do. They practically burn on the way down, if I can even manage to swallow a bite of one, which is rare. Vegetables are objectively evil and would kill all of us if given the chance.

    July 4, 2012 at 8:00 am | Reply
    • Todd

      ALL vegetables are disgusting? You eat nothing but meat, pasta, and grains?

      Man, you must be the size of a house.

      July 5, 2012 at 10:19 am | Reply
      • Lex

        I'm responding to you even if its 2 years ago. I eat nothing but meat (chicken breast), pasta with parm no sauce, and grains. I'm 5'6, 25 years old, and weigh 135 lbs of goddness. No health issues. Are you a dietician? Understand before you reprimand.

        July 10, 2014 at 11:10 pm | Reply
    • Jessica

      "Taste like poison"? "Practically burn on the way down"?

      What the hell are you doing to those poor vegetables, man? And do you chew?

      November 8, 2013 at 7:09 am | Reply
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    July 4, 2012 at 4:29 am | Reply
  27. Thinking things through

    Stephanie's ideas are excellent ones. While I've always loved certain veggies, this approach has helped me appreciate brussels sprouts and peas. I'm still working on carrots. (And cottage cheese - those curds! - will just never happen.) One factor I've discovered is the freshness factor. Growing up, peas and brussels sprouts were canned or frozen. Now that I appreciate them fresh - and the former roasted with seasonings rather than merely boiled - they are different veggies.

    I think a lot of veggie hate is due to people disliking bland insipid steamed vegetables; punch them up with character and freshness.

    July 3, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Reply
    • smay381

      I like cottage cheese plain. But I also mix it with 1 egg, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, and spinach and put it in my lasagna if I dont have any ricotta.

      July 5, 2012 at 11:46 am | Reply
  28. jess

    I consider myself a reformed picky eater. There are still a few things I can't stand, specifically olives and mos seafood (I can eat seafood in very small amounts but it still freaks me out) It's a texture/anxiety thing.

    July 3, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Reply
  29. K

    Thank you for this article. A lot of people don't understand what it's like to be a picky eating adult. It's not as simple as just "eat it! What's wrong with you??" There's a lot of anxiety there. Going to a friend's house for dinner and not knowing what they're going to be serving is nerve wracking. So many just don't understand. Thankfully I've gotten some help but still have a long way to go. I really appreciate this article :)

    July 3, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Reply
    • Jennifer

      I know what you mean. My husband is the PE and if we're going to a party, I found out beforehand what will be served. I never ever expect/ask a host to serve different foods; if it is something he won't eat then he'll eat beforehand or we'll bring his food. Another reason he gets anxious at parties is the inevitable "Why aren't you eating?"

      July 4, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Reply
    • veggieconquistadora

      As a vegetarian, I'm very sensitive to other people's food aversions and allergies. I always tell people what I'm making, and if I haven't had them over before, I like to ask about food aversions/allergies. My mother in law hates sweet potatoes that aren't super soft and in a dessert, so I don't serve sweet potatoes in food to her. My mom hates the texture of tofu, so unless it's pureed in a sauce or a dessert, I make something separate for her. I want people to enjoy the food I make, so I like to make things that I am pretty sure they'll like eating. I also try to make 3-4 dishes for dinner parties, so people will most likely have SOMETHING to eat.

      July 4, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Reply
  30. tim-tibo

    I only eat nutritous foods, which means 95% of all of the food on all of the shelves at your favorite grocery store are off limits, and 95% of all of the food served at ever restaraunt is off limits. IF you call that picky, then so be it. It is all about health. One thing I realized as I hit 45 years is that "it feels good to feel good" and healthy eating makes you feel really good.

    July 3, 2012 at 11:44 am | Reply
    • Thinking things through

      I agree - at least 90 percent of the time I eat healthy foods good for me. I'm working towards near 100 percent of the time. The few things I dislike that are probably good for me I can make up in a similar food category. Parsnips instead of carrots; yogurt instead of cottage cheese.

      July 3, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Reply
    • Vern Sawyer

      Yeah, feeling good does feel good. That's why I use drugs.

      July 4, 2012 at 8:05 am | Reply
      • -_-

        Well, you'll feel good right to your early grave.

        July 4, 2012 at 11:45 pm | Reply
    • geeky

      Semi-reformed picky eater here. The one thing I still will NOT eat is anything with mayonnaise in it. The smell and taste of it makes me gag. I don't feel a need to overcome that though, since mayo isn't nutritious at all. For a long time, I wouldn't eat salad either, because the only salad dressings my family ate were either mayo-based, or creamy, which I also hate. Once I discovered italian dressing, I loved salad!

      July 5, 2012 at 10:32 am | Reply
  31. Jamie

    There are some foods that I'd prefer not to eat, not because I hate them but just because I'd rather eat something GOOD rather than "meh"...like pasta salad. Pasta is so much better hot!
    Aside from that, the things I do not like to eat ever: raw peppers and mushrooms. What is up with mushrooms? As far as I can tell, they're not even food. If they were food, they'd be somewhere on the food pyramid...but they're not. (And don't say that they're vegetables, because mushrooms are no more vegetables than celery is a reptile.)

    July 3, 2012 at 10:34 am | Reply
  32. dave

    When I was a kid, I hated spinach – that overcooked sickly slimey looking green mess. Now I love fresh baby spinch in salads or on sandwhiches
    When I was a kid I choked on a fish bone from a really bony piece of trout, hated fish for years until I learned that there were fish with few bones
    When I was a kid I choked on a piece of undercooked bacon - would not eat bacon for years
    When I was a kid I hated that over boiled smelly whitish brownish stuff called cabbage - now I love red cabbage braised with apples

    Bad food experiences last a long time. Ask yourself why you don't eat certain things. Maybe it was just a bad experience and yo would like those same things if they were cooked correctly

    July 3, 2012 at 8:39 am | Reply
    • dave

      spinach is good in homemade soup too - put it in at the end, since you can eat it raw it needs almost no cooking time

      July 3, 2012 at 8:40 am | Reply
    • sarah

      do you have a recipe for the braised cabbage with apples, or is it just those two ingredients and i'm wanting to complicate things?

      July 3, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Reply
  33. ReginaLou

    Best picky-eater story ever.....When presented with several jam choices (including grape) for toast at an upscale hotel, my friend actually asked the waiter if they had any grape JELLY....since she preferred jelly to jam.

    July 3, 2012 at 12:12 am | Reply
  34. speedro

    Dear Stephanie, the only thing more annoying than a picky eater is a self-proclaimed 'foodie'. Thanks for ruining MY appetite with your article.

    July 2, 2012 at 8:59 pm | Reply
  35. jillmarie

    I'd love for Anderson Cooper to read this and comment! He always struck me as being healthy and fit, and no doubt he is, but I was shocked to learn he doesn't like his veggies, lol!
    C'mon, Anderson, I know you have the sense of humor to comment on this!
    Loved this article- even as someone who loves vegetables, it came with some great suggestions. I want to make beet greens now!

    July 2, 2012 at 6:59 pm | Reply
  36. sha

    I must be the only person on the planet who hates bananas. Just the smell of them makes me gag. I love vegetables though–even the difficult for most people ones like beets, okra and brussel sprouts. Love them all. I feel sorry for picky eaters. It must be very hard for them and the people who share their lives.

    July 2, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Reply
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      My Dad hates bananas, too. But loves banana bread. Odd.

      July 2, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Reply
      • Going Bananas

        I hate anything banana-flavored or anything that contains bananas, but I have no problem eating bananas. Ditto cherries. Love bings, hate cherry-flavored anything. Weird.

        July 4, 2012 at 11:50 am | Reply
      • Lauren

        lol

        July 6, 2012 at 4:59 am | Reply
    • sputnick1

      I hate bananas. They make me sick.

      July 3, 2012 at 10:39 am | Reply
    • veggieconquistadora

      My husband can't eat raw bananas. They hurt his stomach.

      July 4, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Reply
    • Rog

      bannanas make me skitter myself bad!

      July 4, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Reply
    • -_-

      I dislike bananas, too. I like banana bread, though, and banana-flavored things.

      July 4, 2012 at 11:49 pm | Reply
    • ghj

      Anyone who was diagnosed with celiac 50 or 60 yrs ago hates bananas. That's cause bananas were considered an ok food and you had to eat many of them each day. Of course no kid would like that.

      Turns out we did not have celiac and Dr. Haas' Banana cure was bogus.

      July 5, 2012 at 11:04 am | Reply
  37. Shannon

    A vegetarian whom doesn't eat vegies?Lordy lou what do you eat?Please don't tell me processed pretend meat?That stuff is ok in moderation but shouldn't be your main nutritional source.For a long time esp. when I was preg. I juiced my veg. to make sure I was getting enough vitamins.But dietary fiber is also very important and juicing takes out the fiber.But processed foods do not have very much fiber either.Not getting enough will lead to cancer and other diseases.Not to mention parasites.There are many recipes on the internet.

    July 2, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Reply
    • Leah

      It's definitely not easy! I eat the occasional Boca Burger, but for the most part I eat a variety of nuts, eggs, yogurt, and fruit. I would love to incorporate veggies into my diet, but they all taste so "green".

      July 2, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Reply
      • Ally

        Leah, If you're willing to try and find ways that you'll like veggies I suggest soups. My boyfriend isn't a fan of veggies in general. It's the texture / crispness. I make all sorts of soups that he does like. One of my favs is a creamy broccoil/cauliflower soup.

        I cut up and saute onion, celery, garlic in some olive oil in a big pot. Wait until they're slightly softened. I cut up cauliflower, broccoli and carrots (enough to fill the pot 3/4 of the way). Add them to the pot along with some vegetable stock. Simmer until the veggies are kind of tender. Take an immersion blender and blend it up so it's creamy. Add salt, pepper, other spices as you wish. Sometimes I'll add some half and half (don't know if you eat dairy).

        The blender chops up the veggies so they aren't "green" tasting to me. Just creamy and hearty.

        July 5, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Reply
    • Thinking things through

      I remember a "vegetarian" I knew years ago. The closest she ever got to a vegetable was salsa. In actuality she was a starchitarian. Her diet consisted of breads, pasta, corn chips, desserts, potatoes, some cheese. Starchitarian. Her weight ballooned out double over the two or so years I knew her. Salsa seriously was the healthiest she ever got, and she bought the commercial sugar-laden brands. (I now can my own - without sugar.)

      Is Anderson Cooper a non-meat-eater? No idea on this end, you are talking to someone who still thinks that name would be great for a legal firm. Anderson, Cooper, and Sons...

      July 3, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Reply
  38. Leah

    As a vegetarian who doesn't eat vegetables, I would love to hear of some of these recipes that makes "green food" taste better. Anyone have any suggestions?

    July 2, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Reply
    • jurby

      a vegetarian that doesn't eat vegetables? now there's one heck of an oxymoron!

      July 2, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Reply
      • Thinking things through

        More accurate term: non-meat-eater. My suggestion is to make good friends with your condiment and seasoning rack. Phase out, slowly, the heavily starchoid stuff you are left with if you are a non-vegetable, non-meat eating person. Otherwise you are headed for big trouble. I hope you do eat eggs if you don't eat meat or green/multicolored veggies. I don't care how many "supplements" you swallow down. And I hope you don't eat that fake meatoid stuff as an alternative - soy protein isolate/textured soy protein has been "rendered down" with nice things like hexane.

        July 3, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Reply
    • sb

      How about chopping greens up really finely and adding them to tomato sauce? You could eat it on pasta or pizza. I also like chopped spinach or grated carrots in macaroni and cheese. If you like mashed potatoes, you can make them half potato and half cauliflower. Also, if you make a smoothie with bananas, frozen berries, yogurt, and maybe some peanut butter, you can add a little bit of spinach and not taste it.

      July 3, 2012 at 9:39 am | Reply
    • geeky

      You need to experiment with cooking vegetables in different ways. I used to be like you. I hated all vegetables except green beans and corn. I think it's because I was young, my mom tried to force me to eat nasty overcooked boiled peas and spinach and squash. When I got older, I discovered stir-fry. I discovered that I hated the boiled mushy vegetables my mom cooked, but I loved fresh vegetables stir-fried with a little soy sauce. The texture is so much better a little crisp, and for me, my aversion to vegetables was usually more of a texture thing than a flavor thing. Once you find out how to cook vegetables with a nice texture, you can learn to love them. It just takes some experimentation. Good luck!

      July 5, 2012 at 10:43 am | Reply
    • Recipe ideas

      I have been a vegetarian my entire life, and have a very strong dislike for many vegetables (usually due to the texture). I tried a blended butternut squash soup and found I am fine with the taste of butternut squash, just not the usual texture. I also love butternut squash filled ravioli. Since I have a revulsion raw slimy seeds and stingy foods, I buy butternut squash already chopped up at Trader Joe's or in the frozen food section. My husband also will cut it up into cubes (about 1 inch in diameter) and toss it with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, then bake it until it caramelizes. It tastes quite a bit like sweet potatoes then (which I love). Along the same lines, I find that many veggies taste better chopped up into pieces, tossed with salt and pepper, and baked. For instance, I feel this method does wonders with cauliflower, carrots and celery. The same method but with larger pieces works well for asparagus. I made a Sloppy Joe recipe (with fake meat) with very small pieces of chopped up celery in it and little pieces of onion in it, and I can't even identify either when eating it (although the onion flavor IS there and crunch IS there). I read you can also chop up little pieces of bell pepper into it and it has the same effect. I am fine with well washed spinach that is chopped up and sauteed with oil or butter, as well as minced garlic (which I like) and salt. I then put the sauteed spinach on a poached egg placed on half of a toasted English muffin. It is amazing how much spinach I can eat that way!

      August 25, 2014 at 2:25 pm | Reply
  39. Ally

    I love vegetables of all kinds and feel sorry for people who say they hate them. As the author of this article said, you need to prepare them correctly!

    I remember the disgusting boiled, mushy brussels sprouts with powdered orange Kraft cheese my mom made me in the 80's. But today I halve them, toss in olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them in the oven until just tender. Yum!

    July 2, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Reply
    • Scott

      MMM i love brussels sprouts but nobody in my familiy will eat them. I figure more for me. Same with beets, rutabegas, turnips and chard. There is more to life than corn, peas and brocoli

      October 15, 2013 at 7:29 pm | Reply
  40. Nathaniel G.

    I'll eat pretty much everything other than sea urchin or cottage cheese. Otherwise, I'm game. But I'm married to a very picky eater, so I know the torment of trying to plan a variety of healthy meals for the week while avoiding tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, squash, eggplant, radishes, etc etc. It's pretty much broccoli, asparagus, or salads as a side every night.

    July 2, 2012 at 10:00 am | Reply
    • sputnick1

      Get a divorce

      July 3, 2012 at 10:40 am | Reply
      • Apollo

        Save someone else the trouble and go kill yourself.

        July 4, 2012 at 11:51 am | Reply
  41. AleeD®

    "There are a few flavors [sic] I avoid"
    I'm not a fan of cantaloupe, eel or green beans but everything else is fair game. However, I found out recently that I'm allergic to garlic & cow's milk, so I avoid those items as best as I can.

    July 2, 2012 at 7:17 am | Reply

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