Living with and loving a picky eater

Guest post by AJisaokay
diy dalek plate art

My husband Eric is a picky eater. I often joke with him that he doesn’t like anything good except me. I think this might be karma repaying me for all the grief I gave my mother as a picky eating child. However, I outgrew that and Eric, while he has made strides, hasn’t completely outgrown that phase.

I really value being able to plan meals and cook at home with and for each other. It saves money, it’s healthier, and I feel like it strengthens our connection. However, it can be frustrating trying to figure out dinner each week with a picky eater. Have you ever tried Googling recipes for picky eaters? I have, and basically went through recipes saying “nope, nope, no way, nope, WHAT KIND OF PICKY EATERS ARE THESE PEOPLE FEEDING THAT THEY THINK THEY CAN GET AWAY WITH SHRIMP AND SQUASH ORZO?!”

So, here are some tips and tricks I’ve learned on living with and loving a picky eater. (Note, this is primarily for adult picky eaters. I’ve never had to feed a child picky eater… yet!)

1. Make a list of things you know work

When you live with a picky eater, you might feel like you eat the same things over and over and over. I was starting to feel that way, and so I made a list of all the recipes I know Eric loves. There were a lot more than I was expecting! I came up with about 18 recipes I know we can make that we both enjoy. This may not seem like a lot, but we cook on average three times a week (and eat lots of leftovers). That means if we planned well, we have about six weeks of recipes.

2. Find the common threads in those recipes and expand from there

When you look at our recipe list, you see lots of pork, lots of chicken, lots of potatoes, and lots of bread. Throw in some pizza and I’m pretty sure Eric would be completely happy with nothing but those things for the rest of his days. When I look for new recipes, I look for stuff that includes at least two of those, and maybe one new element.

3. Try new things, but not too often

I try a new recipe probably once or twice a month. Probably one in four is a hit with both of us. If I was trying new recipes every week (which I have done in the past) I would get frustrated, fed up, and stop trying. If it’s a smashing success, it gets added to the rotation. If it gets anything less than a rave review first time around, I usually don’t bother trying that recipe again.

4. Ask for help

Generally speaking, I am the planner and the grocery shopper, and Eric and I split cooking duties. However, sometimes I don’t feel like dealing with his eating habits and I say “You are planning dinner this week.” Sometimes I don’t have the time to grocery shop, and I turn the list over. This is not the easiest thing in the world for me. I have had some fairly incapable roommates before, who could not be trusted with those tasks (to be honest, I think they failed on purpose so as not to be tasked with those tasks again, but that’s another story). Eric is capable and I need to let him help me when I need it. The world did not end when he got the wrong butter.

5. Some stuff, you have to let go

I definitely worry about Eric’s fruit and vegetable intake. However I am his wife, not his mother, and he is a grown-ass man. He seems healthy. He is capable of taking care of himself. He doesn’t need me to make him eat his vegetables.

6. Sometimes, you gotta treat yo self

I love biscuits and gravy. I love fruit. I love macaroni and cheese. I love steak. I love mashed potatoes. I love soup. These are all things Eric does not like, and most are difficult to make in small portions. Whenever Eric goes out-of-town, some of my friends and I get together for what I call “stuff Eric won’t eat” night. For my birthday this year, I told him I was cooking whatever I wanted to eat all week, and he could fend for himself. Every now and then I cook for myself and our roommate and don’t consider Eric. I eat lots of fruits and veggies for lunch. I consider him when meal planning probably 90% of the time, but I would go crazy without the other 10% of thinking only about what I want to eat.

I am lucky that Eric is usually willing to try new things even when he is fairly certain he won’t like them. He generally doesn’t like pasta. I made some sausage pasta with curly noodles the other night; he ate it and loved it! Another recipe goes into rotation. Slowly but surely, we are working together to find things we both love and can enjoy together, without me getting bored of eating the same stuff over and over.

What are your picky eater hacks?

Comments on Living with and loving a picky eater

  1. Growing up, my multi-cultural family ate pretty much anything, but my husband is the kind of guy whose family always orders burgers/pizza/pasta at every restaurant. So when cooking for him, I find the most success in three strategies. YMMV, as this is easier if the person is willing to change opinions/try new things. 1) Find alternative preparation. He doesn’t normally like eggplant, but if I make eggplant parmesan, aka, breaded, pan-fried, and smothered in marinara, it’s palatable, and he starts getting used to the taste and texture. 2) Branch out. He had never tried leeks or fennel before he met me, so he had no bad childhood associations with them. Turns out he loves them! 3) When trying new or unusual foods, get the good stuff. My husband thought he didn’t like fish, but this is mostly because his mom prepared it in weird ways. Will he eat it fresh, sauteed in a pan with just butter, salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon? Yes, he will! Also, I love sushi. Instead of buying supermarket sushi for him to try, I waited until we went out to a good restaurant and had him try the fresh, high-quality stuff. And hey, he wouldn’t order it for himself, but he’d eat off my plate again! Little steps and an open mind are key.

    • The alternate preparation tip is really good. It seems like a fair number of picky eaters have texture aversions. Like I mentioned, Eric doesn’t really like mashed potatoes, but if I leave the skins on and leave them a little lumpy, he will eat them. He doesn’t really like pasta, but seems to be fine with the little curly noodles as opposed to long noodles, probably because they stay a little denser and are less slimy.

      • As a fussy eater I agree with the texture thing. I’ll try anything once but some textures are a problem for me. Mushroom taste, great, slimy mushroom texture, ewewewewewew!

  2. My husband is picky. He loves carbs (pasta, potatoes, pizza), cheese and is very picky regarding homemade stuff and vegetables. Meaning if I cook a pumpkin pasta casserole, he’ll probably sort the pumpkin bits out. Or if I bake cookies, he’ll probably sniff them out to see if there’s anything fishy about them (like raisins, or cranberries), and refuse to eat anything that doesn’t look industrial-made.

    Time and again, I found myself spending the evening cooking a meal away and him refusing to even try it because of the odd onion bit, or wrong color. This has led to some frustration over time but my stance for a couple of years have been that if he doesn’t like whatever I’m cooking, it’s totally ok for him to eat something else (usually granola bars or chips), but I won’t have any complaining that I “did it wrong”.

    I absolutely take into account what he likes and dislikes in a general way (no baked beans will ever enter our home) but I also cook what I want to eat. I cannot survive on an all-pizza or pasta diet. I need veggies, and fruits, and sweet stuff. So I usually cook a main carb dish and a side vegetable dish and dessert which he may or may not like, and it’s ok this way.

  3. A few years ago the check out lady at the grocery store said to me “Oh you must have a picky kid like I do”. Nope. I have a husband that eats like a 5 year old. I can list his foods on one hand: pizza, beef (in limited forms), potatoes, ice cream, bread. He would be happy to live the rest of his days eating only those things. He will occasional venture out for some Zaxby’s chicken strips (has to be Zaxby’s) and bbq pulled pork. He also will not touch anything sauce like (which to me is one of the main points of eating food). I am also picky, but not the extent he is. One of our biggest problems is that I can’t eat ground beef. No idea why…just never been able to. It weirds me out. Really I am not a fan of meat in general. It tends to cause my IBS to kick into high gear.

    He won’t touch my favorite foods. Black beans and rice, mexican food, chinese food, soups, squash dressing, mac and cheese, SAUCES…he won’t touch any of it. That is one of the big reasons we eat out as much as we do. I know it’s not good for us or our budget but I just can’t cope with cooking something we will both eat most of the time. Feeding us gets seriously exhausting.

    • Maybe it would work to make batches of things you each like to eat and freeze them in individual portions? Then you can just pull dinner out of the freezer and thaw it, each eating separate dinners without having to cook two meals in one night. I dunno if that would work, but it does sound exhausting to deal with those hang-ups!

      • Yup, this is what I was thinking too.
        Making your own “frozen meals” in individual servings works really well, but can be expensive to start since you need to buy the containers. But if you’re comparing it to eating at restaurant, the cost will be made up *so* fast. I’ve thought of doing it but we mostly eat at home so the savings would take much longer to catch up to the investment.

        • My fiancé and I recently started a “fast food fast.” The economics of food is really fascinating, because we’re saving money on gas and restaurant food, but that money is going into our grocery budget, not our pockets. Furthermore, as a cook who, uh, makes a lot of mistakes, I often get frustrated that what was supposed to be a week of meals is instead a burnt blob I’m scraping out of a pot, meaning I have to buy more ingredients and start at square one again. Not that I want to discourage anyone from giving up restaurant dining, but it’s not for the faint of heart.

  4. My newphew is suuuuper picky. He recognizes 2 food groups:

    1) Any type of meat or fish or fowl.
    2) Junk food.

    I call him “Teenage Paleo”. There is one advantage : he’s happy to eat the same thing over and over again.

  5. I have written all the picky eater approved meals on 3×5 cards with their recipes. At the start of the week I remove the ones we used the week before and give the pile to my boyfriend. He picks what he want to eat that week. That way we are both involved in the planning and we don’t keep eating the same meals over and over.

  6. So Supertasters are a thing. They have more tastebuds on their tongue. This doesn’t mean they have some kind of superpower for picking out which spices were used in a lasagna (that’s a practiced skill), but it does mean that they are hyper-attuned to basic flavors – *especially* bitterness. My husband can come home and have a big bowl of microwaved brussel sprouts as a snack. I cannot. He can eat desserts that leave me cringing from the sweetness.

    Now, I’m the antithesis of a picky eater. I will try *anything* except for natto and hakarl. That has more to do with an insatiable curiosity about food than it does my extra tastebuds. But I will never like a plain cup of coffee and I’d rather have a mead than a beer (and IPAs make my tongue want to die).

    How does this help the loved ones of picky eaters? It doesn’t really. But knowing that there’s a biological, physical basis may provide some peace of mind for the non-picky eater.

    • I’m not sure all picky eaters are necessarily supertasters though. My husband is the picky eater in our house and yet he will douse any number of foods in enough vinegar to make my eyes water and has a sweet tooth to rival most toddlers. It’s actually bland foods he’s more fussy about.

      • Well no, not all of them are. Only about 20% of the population falls into the range of enough tastebuds to be call supertasters. 20% of the population also has far fewer tastebuds and doesn’t taste things as well as average (this is a bell curve distrubution obviously)

        But there are other biological quirks that can lead to particular eating habits – saliva production, nerve damage, mucus production (most flavors actually come in through sense of smell as we’re chewing and swallowing), and what mom ate while she was pregnant and nursing (even how much morning sickness she had).

        Then of course there’s learned aversions which can come from something as simple as making an “ick” face instead of a “yum” face in front of your kids when you put a piece of broccoli in your mouth. Or something as dramatic as food poisoning.

        And as far as the vinegar goes, that’s a significant element of cookery. Similar to how you can add a pinch of salt to make a food taste more like itself (salt on tomatoes – yes!) a bit of acid has a similar effect. If I’m cooking something and it’s “okay but meh” a pinch of salt and a dash of acid usually take it to “Tasty!” It’s like going from a cathode ray TV to a 4k one.

        • “Then of course there’s learned aversions which can come from something as simple as making an “ick” face instead of a “yum” face in front of your kids when you put a piece of broccoli in your mouth.”

          So true! My father-in-law has a habit of going “EWWW” at the mention of foods he doesn’t like, and guess which foods neither my husband nor his sister eat?

          • I am a reformed picky eater. Well… Semi-reformed – there are still things I can’t/don’t eat, but the list is small (cooked vegetables, mushrooms, anything from the water) and totally flexible. (Fish sauce is fine, in moderation. I wouldn’t order fish by choice, but if someone grills it and puts it in front of me, I’ll eat it. Etc…)

            Back to the point: I grew up with a super picky mom who made her food preferences KNOWN – and was pretty vocal about ‘icky’ foods which, unsurprisingly, became my ‘icky’ foods.

            When I went to college, I started trying new things and discovered a whole world of food and flavors that I LOVED and had never been exposed to. (How did I live before Indian food?!)

            Notably, the food preferences that stuck with me are foods that were never once served in my household and were openly reviled by my picky-eater mom.

            Does that make sense? The topic of, say, curry had never even come up in my house, so I had no preconceived belief about whether or not I liked it.

            Fish? Mushrooms? Cooked vegetables? Those were openly loathed by my mother and, in turn, remain loathed by me to this day.

            My husband will eat anything, and my pickiness is limited to a small enough amount of items that it never limits where we can eat, but I’ve already decided that if/when we have kids, I will NEVER ‘icky face’ food in front of them, no matter what.

    • I think for Eric it’s often more of a texture thing, which I completely understand. I had a lot of food texture aversions as a kid. It doesn’t really upset me that he’s picky, it can be a challenge and sometimes I get frustrated but everyone is allowed to have preferences.

      • I find texture issues are actually easier to cater to than flavor aversions. Don’t like fresh tomatoes? Let’s try fried green tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, or tomato bisque. Don’t like canned green beans? There’s fresh, frozen, fried crunchy, and pickled left to try.

        There’s a few textures I don’t like (slimy – I will never be a fan of okra outside of it being deep-fried). But of course, ultimately it requires the cooperation of the eater to say “okay, I’ll try it that way.”

        And I have to say, I think you approach the whole thing with an amazing amount of aplomb

    • I believe that this is a condition, but my boyfriend’s entire family will only eat at 4 restaurants. That’s it, no deviation, they are all nation wide chains. On a recent trip with his family, his father told me ‘I don’t understand trying new things, I know what I like, why would I risk eating something new and not liking it when I know if I order something else I will like it?’ My jaw hit the floor. At this point it is part of his family dynamic and their culture. As all 3 sons have started in to adulthood their partners (myself included) have pushed them to try new foods with limited success, but all three have dug in their heals more times than we (the SO’s) can count. When his family gets together it’s just easier to go along with their weird eating habits than it is to insist we go someplace else. At home however, that’s another story.

      • I had a coworker like this and I just. cannot. grok. it.

        Like, I understand the logic, but I just can’t internalize it. What if you find something you like *better*?

        I have come to accept though, that there are people out there who just eat food for the sake of fuel. They won’t understand why it’s rude to salt your food before tasting it or why it’s cringey to ask for A1 sauce as you order an aged ribeye at a steakhouse.

        • Heh, I have a friend who is trained as a chef, and one time she made fancy steaks for dinner for this couple she was dating. Apparently it was beautiful: New York strip cooked perfectly to medium, seasoned only with a bit of salt and fresh-cracked black pepper, with a red wine pan sauce on the side. The husband took one look at it, took it back into the kitchen, cooked it all the way to well-done, and smothered it in A1 and ketchup. My friend broke up with them over it.

      • I totally can understand your in-laws perspective. I eat for emotion, and when things are predictable flavor wise they provide comfort to me rather than stress of trying something new and then going hungry.

      • Okay, but here’s the thing specifically about trying out new foods at a restaurant when you KNOW you’re a picky eater: if you don’t like what you ordered, you still have to pay for it, AND then you either have to order something else (!) or go hungry.

        I’m a fairly picky eater, but I will try new foods (more often than some of the others in this thread, I think). I’m reluctant to do so at restaurants though, so I tend to gravitate towards chain restaurants and/or places I can view the menu ahead of time on their website.

        • YES! I grativate toward the same things at chain restaurants for the same reason. It sucks to be saddled with a bill for food that I didn’t like (and for no fault of the restaurant). If I can just order what I know I’ll like then I don’t look like the ass for sending it back, or only picking at it.

        • See, when I’m eating alone, I usually get what I know I like, but if I’m out with friends, we’ll often all get something new and share. That way, even if one person doesn’t like what they ordered, chances are good that at least one of the other people will, and the one who didn’t like the one dish will probably like at least one of the other dishes, so nobody goes hungry and nothing gets wasted. Of course, that works best with at least one person like me who’s not even remotely picky, so if nobody else wants something, you’ll have at least someone who’ll eat it.

    • Thank you! Yes! I was just about to comment this. I am a supertaster, and it actually kinda sucks. 🙁 It’s linked to my crazy good sense of smell, and so I have issues with food if it even smells too strongly sometimes.

      One of my solutions has been to deconstruct my food. I won’t eat a burger with the ‘fixings’, but I will usually eat the fixings on the side in the form of salad. I rarely if ever have sauce or dressing directly ON my items, but I always get it on the side, and I will usually dip, since I can control the very tiny bit of sauce it takes for me to taste it without getting overwhelmed.

      And over time, yes, it does change. I happily try most foods, as long as I can take them apart. Makes me seem very picky, but this is really the only way I can eat like a human.

  7. My picky eater of a husband turned around to me the other day and asked if we could cut down on meat (this came as a bit of a surprise as he’s a committed carnivore who would happily eat steak for every meal). Foods on his “no way in hell” list include: beans, lentils, chickpeas, fake meat, “hippy grains” like cous cous/polenta/quinoa, aubergines, fruit in savoury dishes… Guess what 95% of the tasty sounding veggie recipes I can find include. At least he will eat fish from time to time.

    I had a small victory recently in getting him to eat a new variety of apple. Previously pretty much the only fruit he would eat were Granny Smith apples, just barely ripe and kept in the fridge. Now he also eats Honey Crunch apples (just barely ripe and kept in the fridge, of course)!

    • Hahaha sounds like you guys will be eating a lot of salad! Times like that are when you turn to your husband and say “Sure honey, I’d be happy to cut back on meat. What are your suggestions for doing so?”

    • Some suggestions for not-meaty main dishes:
      -grilled cheese
      -mac & cheese
      -breakfast for dinner (eggs, pancakes, fruit, hot or cold cereal?)
      -pasta with red sauce (including acceptable veggies — maybe pureed?)
      -sliced fruits & veggies, like lunchtime or snack time (add string cheese, hardboiled egg, or peanut butter for protein)
      -baked potatoes w/ toppings
      -vegetable soup (adventurous, but customizable – use veggie or meat broth)

      • Thanks for the suggestions. Funnily enough I got him to start eating mac and cheese about a year ago by putting bacon in it, but he did accept it the other night with mushrooms instead so that’s a win.

      • Technically grits and polenta are different. They are made from 2 different types of corn and the process of making them creates different textures. But people do use them interchangeably and you can.

        Sorry for being pendantic but I’m from the South this is kind of ingrained so to speak.

    • I know you said he doesn’t like quinoa, but I’m going to suggest this anyway. I think quinoa tastes like squishy, popping, bland dirt pods on its own, but in a really flavorful sauce it’s a whole different thing. We make a quinoa chili that comes out the same flavor and basically the same consistency as regular chili, but meatless. Might be a good compromise for a picky-friendly food that doesn’t use meat (if he’s okay with the quinoa in this incarnation). We use this recipe and swap out the meat for the grain: We tried simpler recipes that use mainly just chili powder, but we found without meat they didn’t taste right; the more complex blend of spices in the linked recipe gave us a much more accurate chili flavor)

  8. I’m sorry but this level of pickiness from adults just seems immature and exhausting. I would have no patience at all for it. Adult people who have lived 20+ years should have enough understanding and experience to know that the world does not revolve around them and their preferences. Also, that they need to eat fruits and vegetables because carbs and meat have little in the way of vitamins and minerals. Pickiness to the levels described in these comments is learned, and can (and must) be unlearned.

    Maybe my patience is low for this because my college roommate would only eat “white food” (pasta with butter, cheese, white bread, chicken, mashed potatoes). She actually used to send back things like cheese quesadillas if they had lettuce and tomato garnish. After 3 years of that I was ready to strangle her. I just found it very rude, immature, and foolish to eat like that. I would have never found someone attractive who eats like a 5 year-old. For that matter, I would not have gotten away with it when I was 5. My family’s rule was that I had to try everything, same with my partner. As a result both of us will eat just about anything.

    I don’t mean this comment to sound like “well back in my day…” I get that adults do have the power to make their own choices, but damn, my response to a partner who was such a picky eater would be “get over it.”

    • I read an article a few years ago about the developmental basis for toddler eating preferences. Foods that are soft and bland (mashed potatoes, etc) are easier to eat for very young people. This is also related to speech development. Some kids who have a harder time developing palate muscles for speech, and those with developmental delays, will also be pickier eaters for longer. There is a developmental basis for this.

      At a point though, it becomes about choice and lack of exposure. As a child the texture of broccoli creeped me out through more exposure I learned to accept and eventually like it. Same with tastes, like bitter. Children have a higher desire for the sweet taste and lower tolerance of bitter. Coffee tasted awful to me at 10. As an adult I drink it black because I have learned to like bitter. As I have gone on a more whole food, non-processed diet I have learned to find things like raisins very sweet, and processed sugar way too sweet.

      Tastes need to be acquired. It takes many exposures to learn to like certain tastes. Refusing to expose yourself to them as a child or adult just means that you will never learn to like them and miss out on experiences and vital nutrients. Children may need to be made to try things repeatedly and adults need to make themselves do it too.

      • I find your comments on the texture and palate development interesting.

        I am a self-confessed picky eater. Let me be clear – it’s all about textures but it took me years to figure out. For a long time, I just knew I hated cream cheese, jelly, most puddings, jello, mashed potatoes — a lot of semi-solid but mushy foods. I also hate that “blobby consistency” which rules out things like cottage cheese, etc.

        I was born a premmie, had severe time learning to speak and was in special education classes till age 10 because of a severe speech impediment. It was, in part, caused by my palate being severely under developed. Contrary tothe soft foods/palate connnection you describe my case all but it seems the opposite – I hate soft, squishy foods.

    • To be fair to Eric, he doesn’t expect to me cater to his pickiness. That is my choice, because I like to cook and feed the people I love, and I like it when he cooks for me. He would be completely fine with me making food for myself and him feeding himself, but I like to be able to share meals. I don’t begrudge him his food preferences, especially since he is willing to try new things or retry things he hasn’t like previously at my request. I definitely would’ve strangled your roommate and I highly doubt I could’ve married someone with that level of pickiness.

      • I get this. Making food/cooking for other people is a big part of how I show love and affection. I think we overlook that part of living with picky eaters. We (the people who will eat anything) are so focused on the other person’s relationship with food that we overlook our own. In my family when someone is sad or stressed, they bake. When I was unemployed for a month I went on a quest for the perfect chocolate cake recipe (for folks keeping track at home I made 30 cakes in 30 days). My family considers long chats over wine and cheese to be the perfect way to spend an evening. When my picky eater won’t eat my stress cake (not the most appetizing term) or won’t sit and chat over wine with my parents or heck even turns up his nose at a new soup I worked really hard on all day, it hurts. I see that as rejection of me, not just the food. Understanding that A) I am not my food, rejection of a carrot is not rejection of my love and B) I might need to find a different way to express my love and affection towards this person. Has helped our relationship immensely

        • Baking is the best way to combat stress/sadness in my mind! When I moved to New Orleans I didn’t know anyone and had a job I hated. I baked so much. It made me feel better and had the added benefit of making my new coworkers love me!

      • It sounds like your guy is reasonable about his pickiness. I am much more okay with people who will try things but who have a limited list of things they actually like. Trying and re-trying foods is the only way to learn to like them. It also shows that a person is willing to compromise and try to be open-minded. That is a different story in my mind than someone who flat out refuses to eat anything not on their approved list of foods. Good for him.

    • Yeah if your room mate was sending things back for touching, that’s a bit much. As a life-long picky eater ( I’ve gotten better! ) sometimes I would just not eat anything on that edge of the quesadilla, sometimes I would end up going hungry because the only other options were the icky foods. That’s my choice, not someone else’s burden. When it comes to cooking at home, if my husband tries to make something new, I will try it but there have definitely been instances I can’t get halfway through something for whatever reason. As was said by someone else, you don’t criticize the person who made the food, you just quietly go make something for yourself (and hope the other person is willing to take the rest of your meal as leftovers).

      You know how people get pleasure out of really good food? It’s sort of the opposite. When it’s a flavor/texture/whatever I really don’t like, my body will want to reject it which is reeeeally uncomfortable when you’re trying to make food go into your body.

      For all of you that put up with us picky eaters, thanks for putting up with us and please feel free to order something wild and crazy the next time we’re out to eat and I can get my nice, safe bland food. 🙂

      • I don’t disagree on the food touching thing, but there might be something else at play. My little sister was born super prem and she’s a classic picky eater, right down to foods not being allowed to touch. I HATE having to feed her when she comes stay, not because she’s picky, but because I cook her something and she won’t eat it, but won’t say anything.

        Her food. Cannot. Touch. My mother has actually experimented with meals she’s fed her and found if she puts the pasta sauce/meat on the pasta, she’ll eat less compared to if she leaves them on opposite sides of the plate. Mum is convinced it’s to do with her prem-baby thing, so who knows? Maybe there’s a connection there?

      • It sounds like you have a totally reasonable approach to your pickiness. Eating half of something that you don’t like because someone else made it for you is giving it a fair shot in my mind.

        Although I am not a picky eater, I am a vegetarian. I understand and echo the concept of restricting my diet being “my choice, not someone else’s burden.” I do not eat meat to oblige a host who did not know I was veg but I do quietly eat around it and try not to draw attention. I bring my own food when I know my host may be unaware of my diet or how to feed me. My dietary choice should never be a burden to someone else.

    • I completely agree. I’ve discovered that picky eating is often a sign of many other emotional issues– the worst of which is the constant need to be “in control” at all times. Friends who have had emotionally abusive relationships were often with partners who wouldn’t eat anything besides cheese, bread, and meat. I consider it a gigantic red flag, and a sign that they have not and will not grow up or mature.

      I do not tolerate picky eaters. Every picky eater I have met is childish, immature, self-centered, or just downright nasty when they don’t get their way in other areas of life. It’s like they use food as a way to control OTHER people and make everyone else cater to their limited palate. They enjoy being the “special” one in the group and I think it’s a way to get attention.

      An example of this was at a yearly get-together with friends. We all go out for sushi together, and it’s been a tradition for 5+ years. A friend brought her new boyfriend, who just complained and complained that we were going out for food he didn’t like, as if it was a personal offense and we had set out to make him upset. She ended up leaving the traditional dinner to make him happy, and he was very pleased because he got his pizza and the attention that he wanted. We were embarrassed that he made this scene, and embarrassed for the two of them. It ruined the atmosphere.

      I’m okay with acquaintances having this “quirk,” but that kind of person is not welcome in my life due to the negativity they bring. They keep me from enjoying my life.

      • You have a fair point that some people use picky eating as an excuse to be controlling, but I think it’s a little unfair to paint every picky eater as childish, immature, self-centered, or just downright nasty. There are picky eaters who will throw a fit when they want pizza and everyone else is having sushi, but as many of the self-proclaimed picky eaters in these comments have pointed out and as I have seen with Eric, there are also many who have deeply entrenched preferences and do their best not to inconvenience others with them. You just don’t always know that people are picky eaters because they don’t make a big stink about it, you only know of the ones who are on a power trip because they are the ones drawing attention to it. Our roommate commented upon reading this article that Eric is one of the pickiest eating people he knows, but he never even realized it until I pointed it out. I only know because I eat with him on a day to day basis, and I didn’t even really realize it until we moved in together.

        • You have more patience than I have. I just haven’t met a picky eater that I could get along with!

          I just don’t understand because I grew out of it, and it frustrates me because I love food and I love going out. I wouldn’t be able to hang out with someone like that on a regular basis as it’s just something that’s important to me. My friends agree, but it could be because it’s a part of our identity- we love finding out about crazy new food and enjoying it as a group. I would hate to have to worry about one person in the group. It would hold us back from being spontaneous.

          For me and my friends, it’s an automatic deal breaker, and I bet it would be a deal breaker for the picky eater as we regularly stretch boundaries. That kind of person just wouldn’t fit in, and that’s okay. I mean, some people wouldn’t hang out with me because of my political or religious beliefs, and we all have that right.

          As I said, I’m alright with having picky eaters around, but that would prevent them from becoming a close friend. It just represents everything I’m against. Plus, why would a picky eater want to hang out with me, when I just get frustrated with their preferences?

          • Luckily for me, Eric’s brand of picky eating doesn’t particularly limit our going out choices. He likes food of various ethnic varieties & can find something he wants to eat pretty much anywhere we go. If health & money concerns didn’t limit eating out I’m not sure I’d even notice his pickiness, it’s only when I’m trying to get us to eat the one same meal that it becomes a bit of an obstacle.

            It’s totally fine to recognize that a picky eater wouldn’t fit in with your group, just like an introvert wouldn’t feel particular comfortable hanging out in a group of extroverts. But recognizing that a type of person doesn’t fit in well in your social circle is different than saying all of that type of people are downright nasty.

      • I’m definitely a picky eater, and I would actually prefer you didn’t pay attention to me when I eat. I will eat a lot less if I feel like I’m being watched, and I’ll apologize a lot more for bothering people. I don’t view being picky as something to brag about.

        • The difference is that you are able to accept that you are inconveniencing people. It’s when picky eaters turn it into “WELL NO ONE COULD POSSIBLY LIKE AVOCADO, IT’S ALL A RUSE” or feeling that their limited list of food is more important than the group’s preference is when I get frustrated and upset.

          Trying new and different food is a big part of me and my friends’ identity, and so a picky eater just will not fit in. End of story. That’s okay– why would a picky eater want to hang out with us when we regularly go to strange restaurants that don’t offer chicken fingers and grilled cheese? Why would a picky eater want to come over when I’ve prepared a strange recipe that I invented on the spot? I don’t blame them!

          • “The difference is that you are able to accept that you are inconveniencing people. It’s when picky eaters turn it into “WELL NO ONE COULD POSSIBLY LIKE AVOCADO, IT’S ALL A RUSE” or feeling that their limited list of food is more important than the group’s preference is when I get frustrated and upset.”

            Okay, so your problem isn’t with picky eaters, it’s with jerks. For every person who makes a show out of it, there are a zillion more who are happy to try a new thing within their comfort zone, or who might not be, but who would have a great time finding that bland option at your exciting restaurant and hanging out with you without ever saying a word about what anyone else was eating.

            For the record, moderators, I’m not loving how every other article emphasizes respectful discussion, etc, and yet nobody seems to mind that this comment section is rife with “picky eaters are immature brats and I could never like someone like that”.

          • L, I agree with you that some of the comments are a bit on the judgey side, & it can be hurtful to picky eaters. But at the same time, I think for the most part the comments have been on the side of helpful suggestions & commiserating in the frustrations of feeding picky eaters. Sometimes there is a fine line between between making sure people aren’t being mean & encouraging discussion that leaves room for disagreement & at times it’s hard to place that line concretely. I certainly don’t appreciate the judgey tone that picky eaters are all immature brats, but I also don’t want discussion to be stifled by people feeling like they can’t express their opinions. I guess what I’m trying to say is everyone should feel free to say what they think, but we should all try to say it in the most civil way possible. I think that might be my new mantra.

      • I have to say – I think this is the wrong attitude to have.

        While I’m a self-confessed picky eater – and mine is mostly texture based – I have come to realize I’ll eat most foods in one form or another. If we’re ordering food and it’s not something I like, I usually can find something I will eat, will quickly adapt or simply forego and order a tea/coffee/soda then pick up my own food later.

        I would have never left a group get together for such a reason.

      • Well as a self confessed picky eater I can’t stand when people insist I don’t like something simply because of how it looks or because I haven’t tried it ‘the right way’ or even worse when they cook and purposely put something in I don’t like just to see if I will notice. I don’t expect people to cater to my every whim, I am capable of eating around mushrooms or not having an eggy desert but I have encountered people who purposely try to trick me into eating stuff I do not like then get angry when , surprise, surprise, don’t like it. You can’t pigeon hole every picky eater into a ‘they are little brats’ category simply because you have met some who are. I have some food allergies, so I do have to insist on not being fed or exposed to those, I will go without food rather than risk getting sick but aside from that I am willing to try new food every day happily and work around my dislikes with no fuss or worry.

        I hate egg. Hate it. The flavour is disgusting. I can eat some cakes and stuff with egg but there’s a lot I don’t eat either. When you eat pavlova or lemon tart and a summer desert I taste fried eggs with cream and sugar. Vile. Apparently eggs are all my mother ate the whole time she was pregnant with me and I have never liked them, not even as a toddler.

      • That reminds me of my first double date! My friend’s boyfriend is a super picky eater, won’t ever try anything new, but I didn’t know that. I made tempura asparagus sushi, which was a problem, because he isn’t willing to ever even try sushi. His girlfriend loves sushi and tried to get him to give it a try, and he caved, by picking a roll apart, taking the batter off the asparagus and eating just that.

        The best part was when my friend told him I’m vegan, he went on and on about how horribly limiting that must be. I’m pretty sure I have way more variety in my diet!

      • You hit the nail on the head. The same roommate used to berate her parents, boyfriend, and random customer service representatives if her needs were not exactly met. She also engaged in no clubs or activities, and had no hobbies beyond watching TV. One semester in sophomore year and another senior year she dropped out of all of her classes and just stayed in bed. I think she was eventually diagnosed with depression.

    • I feel this, but I think it’s not really picky eaters that are so bad, it’s the picky eaters who use their pickiness to control everyone and everything around them. I know plenty of picky eaters who are adaptable and don’t expect the world to revolve around their limited palates.

      There are the others, though, where I look at it and go: tell me how this isn’t a form of power and control; manipulation?

      This girl I grew up with (she’s now a woman, obvs) dated and married a dude who LITERALLY ate nothing but Top Ramen and plain cheese pizza. No exceptions. No flexibility. He traveled with Top Ramen packets so that he could always have something to eat.

      I mean, that’s insane right?

      But, while I could never imagine boning a dude who eats like a toddler, it’s like: whatevs. Her choice.

      The shitty part is that he would (and probably still does, but I wouldn’t know because I haven’t seen them in years) A.) complain incessantly if he was asked to go somewhere where Top Ramen or cheese pizza wasn’t available (like, to the vast majority of restaurants) AND B.) if he had to go anywhere where food was being served (like to a family BBQ), not only did he bring along his own food (whatever floats your boat, weirdo) but he MADE THE GIRLFRIEND/WIFE COOK IT FOR HIM. (Asshole.)

      So, the pickiness was annoying but whatever. It was the forcing it on his partner that made it cross the line into oh-no-he-didn’t territory.

    • Respectfully, I don’t think pickiness like this “must” be unlearned because I don’t think picky eaters are behaving badly and that their behavior needs discipline.

      However I’m pretty sure that picky eaters would be happier if not so picky. So if they want to unlearn then that’s great but I think there may be more constructive ways of helping them in that objective than telling them to get over it. Like any anxiety related coping behavior it requires much work and support to turn around.

      I am an utter omnivore and keen cook (from a family of the same) who has married into a family of incredibly picky eaters and it’s very frustrating that I can’t share this joy with them. But the reasons for this pickiness are deep and ingrained, however much I want it they won’t change overnight and I’m not sure I have the right to ask or demand that.

    • Daisy, I don’t know you, but I think I love you! Lol.
      I completely agree. I understand really and truly not liking something, but picky eating seems extremely childish to me. For one, you probably aren’t getting the nutrients your body needs. Plus, how can you know you don’t like something if you won’t even try it? There are so many amazing types of food out there!

    • Yep, I sure do love having to be catered to because of my allergies and super-taster qualities. I absolutely love having to suss out if I can eat something at a certain restaurant. It’s really fun. I’m allergic to shrimp, MSG, most stone fruits, onions, and elderflower. I’m also lactose-intolerant, so I can’t have things that are heavy in milk products. On top of that, I’m a super-taster! I have tried and tried to like coffee, beer, kale, and red meat, and my taste buds just don’t want to accept them. I’m actually to the point where I want to try miracle berries to see if I can cut down some of the bitter flavor and eat practical things like kale.

      I actually like a variety of different foods, just as long as they’re not bitter and I’m not allergic. I’m partial to pizza (no mozzarella and parmesan. I’d like to keep my intestines in working order), avocado, chicken, sushi, hummus, beans, peppers, etc. I enjoy things that a lot of people who haven’t progressed from childhood taste buds don’t like, so don’t lump me in with everyone else. It’s tiring enough for ME to find things I can have without having to rope people into it. And yes, I do most of my own cooking.

  9. I have a friend who has issues with food textures, but he always takes a “no thank you” helping (a couple bites) and eats it. Over the past couple of years he used to gag a bit, which was really embarrassing for him. But he’s slowly getting better by just eating a few bites at a time.

    I can relate to an extent, since I’m not a strict vegetarian anymore. I eat meat sometimes, but if I’ve had it recently (or if it’s pork in any form) I just can’t eat it. It’s a mix of ethical and taste reasons, but sometimes it just comes down to not wanting to but it in my mouth. (Insert inappropriate joke here!)

      • But here’s where the “It’s a choice” thing comes in. I used to gag on tomatoes. And on broccoli. Then I became a vegetarian. When your friend’s parents go out of their way to make you a vegetable dish because the vegetarian unexpectedly came to dinner, you figure out how to eat a helping of steamed broccoli. For me it was cutting it up very small and tossing it to the back of my mouth so I could swallow with out chewing. When I worked at Starbucks they had just started carrying sandwiches, which I could eat at a discount. However, the caprese (tom, basil, mozz) was the only vegetarian one. So I ate it a lot. At first, I had to spit out the tomato if I got too big a bite in my mouth at once, but over time I adjusted. I could eat tomatoes as long as there was enough cheese with them. Now, I freaking love tomatoes and will eat a slice with just salt and pepper. I still don’t really like broccoli, but I can eat it in stuff if it’s cut small enough, and I can even chew a piece of it with out gagging.

        And that’s the point a lot of other people have made. Trying new things, and being able to like new things, is a habit that can be developed like any other. Eating vegetables is important and we can make ourselves do it even if we don’t enjoy it. With enough practice we might even come to enjoy it! But ultimately, it has to be important to the person. You can’t make an addict quit if they don’t want to, and you can’t make a picky eater improve their diet if they aren’t interested.

        Of course, this isn’t talking about picky eaters like Eric who are willing to try new things. He may not be at the “force myself to eat it anyway” phase of motivated, but he’s in a nice middle ground that seems perfectly workable.

        • But oh my god, deliberately choosing to eat food that makes me gag? Not to say this is true for you, but imagining that for myself feels more emotionally fucked up than being a picky eater.

          I guess it can see it being necessary if you really are limited in the foods you can eat–like, if you can’t eat ANY vegetables. But I won’t be a better person if I learn to eat parsnips instead of sticking with potatoes, you know?

          I’d love to hear more about your experiences. Has it made a noticeable difference in your life being able to eat tomatoes and broccoli? Do you think you’d do something similar with other foods that are more uncommon or that more people dislike? (Anchovies?)

        • Had the same experience going vegetarian, and especially when I went vegan. I am so grateful that someone made me something that I’ll be a good sport.

          I used to be super picky about veggies, and even stuff like rice. One thing I found was that it was mostly how things are cooked that made a difference rather than what it was. Where I’m from, you cook veggies by boiling them until they’re very mushy. When I discovered roasting veggies, it was like a whole new world. With rice, I tried cooking it with coconut milk and finally I stopped gagging whenever I ate it. I’m adjusted enough now that I can eat rice any other way.

  10. My husband and I went rounds and rounds in our early relationship with what we ate. He was coming off several years in the military and he had gotten accustomed to the blandness and lack of fresh veg. He didn’t especially like fruit or vegetables, but I don’t know how to cook/eat without them. So we established ground rules: He eats what I cook, given that I reasonably take into consideration what he likes. If he wants something specific, he has to ask. Occasionally he has to try new things. With this, we’ve added *CRAZY* things like fresh tomatoes, anything Asian-flavored that isn’t General Tso’s, squash, berries, non-peanut nuts, onions. It’s a whole new world of flavor for him!

    And a new rule now that we have kids and I refuse to raise a picky eater: He CANNOT complain or say anything disparaging about food in front of the kids. There are no “I don’t like that” or “It’s gross” comments allowed ever. If he doesn’t like something I cook, he takes a little less of it, but still eats it. Haven’t found a food my kids don’t like yet 🙂

    • I told Eric if we ever have kids he has to eat what I make in front of them and not say a damn word! Haha. With him being picky and me being picky when I was little, I dread what eating challenging combining our DNA might bring.

      • Haha mine and my husband’s combined DNA I’m sure will be many, many worse struggles than picky eating (I’m looking at you, Teenage Experimental Drug Phase). I think for kids, it’s more about the sense of normalcy around every kind of food. My daughter is almost 4 and she knows that while she gets to request what she has for lunch, she has to eat what I cook for dinner. Just like I eat it. Just like Dad eats it. Just like the baby has tiny bites of it. No one gets to be picky when you cook for a bunch of people. My husband can have taquitos for lunch every day (shudders) but he’s going to have curry for dinner just like the rest of us, and the kids see him eat it.

    • I agree with the idea that the spouse should not saying anything negative about the food in front of the kids! My coworker ends up going to the grocery store nearly every night and getting 3-4 different things from the prepared food section to satisfy her picky family. Her husband is a beef and potatoes guy, and her kids literally don’t take a bite until they see that he does. They wait for his reaction! It’s especially bad since my coworker isn’t a great cook, and she’s been labelled that way in her family, so her family assumes that anything she makes will taste bad before they even try it.

  11. My husband could eat pizza or cheese burgers for every meal happily. I cannot. The truth is that we are BOTH picky eaters – but in different ways…

    To get through this faze with him, I took a serious look at how we both grew up and the kinds of food were both accustomed to from childhood.

    For him, that’s box pasta, ground beef, canned veggies, frozen lasagna, potatoes. This is mostly the cheep stuff that you can pull together in one pan, very quickly. And that makes sense, since his mother raised 3 children on her own while working full time and going to school. She needed things to be fast and cheep and easy.

    I grew up with a wanna-be-gourmet-chef. My dad cooks DELICIOUS and complex foods with gravy and garnishes and exotic meats like lamb and sea bass. He’s all about crispy and juicy and presentation and experimentation.

    So what I’ve found that works for both of us, is taking something I know he likes, and making it from scratch. This makes me feel healthier (because I know what’s in it, and it’s not food coloring and corn syrup) and it makes him comfortable because it’s familiar. My best example is starting with pasta-roni white shells and cheddar and a hamburger patty and ending up with (mostly) home made Chicken Alfredo. Sometimes it takes two or three tries to find recipe that’s just right for both of us, but so far it’s working!

    I’ve recently started keeping a Pinterest Board of the foods that my hubby and I both like for dinner, and that make usable leftovers for lunch too. I’m trying to find 30 different meals that we both like, fresh and as left overs. That way, we could eat something different that we both like every day.

    So far so good – I’m loosing weight, we’re saving money, and my husband is eating less junk food. What more can you ask for? Here’s my board if you wanna see it:

    • Making familiar processed/premade meals from scratch has been really helpful in my household too. Before I moved in, my now-husband made basically every meal in the microwave. We still end up with frozen pizzas and burritos and such in the house for him to make for himself for lunch though.

      • Honestly, sometimes the microwave is my best friend, and frozen pizzas are still a staple of our diet. Working 50+ hours a week means sometimes you just don’t wanna go the extra mile.

        But for me, variety is the spice of life, and cooking is only fun for me when people enjoy my food. So I’m still looking for other solutions but this was an easy place for me to start.

        • Oh, work schedule is absolutely a huge factor too. I rely much more heavily on shortcut cooking when I’m tired from work, and on days when my mental state isn’t great. I don’t think I could handle 50+ hours, kudos to you!

    • Thanks for sharing your board, definitely going to want to try those potstickers, and that budget bytes sesame chicken recipe is one of our favorites too!

    • This is me and my husband. I will never understand how he can *prefer* the jarred salsa to the fresh stuff, the boxed noodles to those made from scratch. You’re right, I’m just as picky. I can’t eat a lot of overly greasy, overly salted foods. They just start to make me feel icky. By contrast, he can only eat super healthy and made from scratch for so long before he has to drive to a fast food restaurant because he just doesn’t feel *full*.

      • Ugh, the fast food cravings of my spouse drive me crazy! He is a skinny dude and really can’t eat large portions of things. So when that thing is a salad or a lighter vegetarian meal, he wants to go get a cheeseburger. We cook separately because of this often so I can eat weird salads and he can eat meatloaf. But he cooks on his own just fine, so it’s not extra work for me.

        Also about both being picky: We eat scrambled eggs for breakfast. He uses spicy fake cheese squares and ketchup. I use normal shredded cheddar and salsa. So we both have cheese, a tomato-based condiment, and spicy. But can we compromise on how we get that flavor? NEVER.

  12. My husband can be hard to cook for; he’s diabetic and anosmic (no sense of smell). The diabetes is hard because both of us really love our carbs, but he’s supposed to limit it to 60g per meal at the very most. He rarely feels satisfied with the serving size he’s “allowed” to have, and he’s not particularly interested in vegetables, which makes it hard to come up with meals that make him feel full while staying in a healthy carb range. The anosmia is less of an issue, but it does mean that a dish that seems perfectly seasoned to me might seem bland to him, since smell is so tied up in taste.

    It does get very frustrating to try to cater to his food wants/needs but I do it because (as a comment above says) I like to feed the people I love. And I do it because I want to help keep him healthy for my own sake and that of our (currently theoretical) children. I want him around as long as possible, and if that means working around his sometimes immature food preferences, so be it. But I definitely wish he would make more of an effort to change his own habits.

    • Having read the comments that were made after mine, I’m seeing that my choice to call my husband’s food preferences “immature” was pretty unfair. I was seeing it that way because it’s frustrating to see him making choices about what to eat that reduce his quality of life and could have a serious negative impact on his long term health – but I make bad choices too. I know it’s not as simple as doing what one “should” do for one’s health, or I wouldn’t be overweight and out of shape. I’m sorry if my comment contributed to this thread feeling intolerant towards other readers.

  13. I am living with and loving a picky eater too! It’s nice to see I am not alone. My husband won’t touch seafood, a lot of different veggies, and he doesn’t care for most sauces. This is a challenge as I am the opposite of picky and I’m a sauce-aholic. I try to look at the bright side: more sauce for me! The key is to let him know ahead of time if I’m going to try something new (or new to him) and not ask him to try it. If I can manage it, he’ll usually try it and often like it on his own. If I start insisting he’ll like it and should try it, forget it! He’s come along way since I met him and he was only eating pizza, rice, chicken, and hamburgers all plain with no sauce! Now the new challenge is our 1 and a half year old son and sitting back watching my husband ironically try to coax him into eating and trying new things.

    • I’m started telling my husband that it’s “OK if you don’t like this new dish.” I’ve had to do that because it would hurt my feelings when he would push my food away, and we had a few fights. So now, we’re both in the same frame of mind, that this new dish is just something we’re trying, and we’re trying because we’re looking for things we both like, because we both want to enjoy our foods and be healthier. It’s helped us both to feel less defensive and more open to feedback.

      This helped us a lot – but I think I’m going to add in **not** suggesting he try some of my new things, and just letting him ask instead if he wants to try. I make myself tons of other food that I KNOW he won’t like and maybe I just shouldn’t offer him any…. I think it’s a great idea 😉

      • That’s something I need to work on. I get disappointed when Eric doesn’t like something I made, especially if I love it. Logically I know it’s not my fault he doesn’t like it but it’s still hard not to take it personally from time to time.

  14. I am a picky eater. I was raised by a mother who just cooked blandly using a very limited set of ingredients. I actually love a lot of really flavourful, exciting foods–it’s just that there are a lot of foods I refuse to eat. Can’t stand ’em, won’t stand ’em.
    For me, it really helps when people communicate pretty much what I can expect from the food. Ingredients as well as the textures. It helps me brace myself and prevents me from writing the whole dish off as something I don’t like.
    For me at least, there is one commandment: DO NOT LIE ABOUT WHAT IS IN THE DISH. Cauliflower “mashed potatoes” might fool lesser mortals, but you will not fool me. And my revenge shall be swift.

    • I don’t lie about what’s in something, but I will occasionally ask Eric to try something without telling him what’s in it, just to try to make sure he keeps an open mind.

    • I find that trying to claim a food is something it’s not sets people up to dislike it. I have a recipe for a vegetarian “meatloaf” that my husband and partner really like, but they both agreed that they both probably would not have liked it if I’d referred to it as meat loaf instead of telling them it was a lentil loaf (though for two different reasons; my husband loves meat loaf and would have been disappointed and my partner irrationally hates it and would have been biased against the dish). The dish is very tasty, but it does not taste like meat.

    • I only lie to my sister, who is kinda weird about what she doesn’t like. She legitimately doesn’t like lentils, which is fine. But she thinks chickpeas are lentils, despite me explaining the difference over and over. If I put them in something without telling her chickpeas are in it, she thinks it is great. I can make three bean chili with obvious whole chickpeas floating in it and she thinks it is delicious and eat all the leftovers, as long as I don’t point out that it’s chickpeas. She also will eat all the hummus so I’m a little jaded and just don’t take her pickiness very seriously anymore. She also thinks the same chili recipe is onionless and that the red pepper chunks are tomato chunks.

  15. One thing that has done wonders for my picky fiancé is a group Pinterest board. He pins foods he likes, I pin foods I think he will like, we cook them, everyone’s happy. I also take the “very best of” approach and “don’t cook the way Mom used to cook it” approach.*

    Sometimes if I want to eat more adventurous meals than he does, I prepare something that I can take to work for lunch. That way I’m not grumbling that I have to make gumbo again when I really want beef pho because I’ve already satisfied my appetite for beef pho.

    *His mom used to keep a jar of grease by the stove for deep-frying. She would pour the grease from EVERYTHING she’d fried into the jar of grease and use the grease in the jar throughout the month. So if she fried fish early in the month, tough luck, your chicken and French fries now taste vaguely of catfish.

  16. My whole family is picky eaters, each of us with a different “pick”. Some it is political or religiously held (kosher, vegetarian) some it is allergy and some it is just preference. Our most successful meals are “top your own”– pasta with choices of sauce, veggies, fake meats, etc. Taco bar. Baked potato with choice of toppings. And so on. Then everyone eats what they want and everyone is happy.

    • This is a really good idea! One of our favorite meals is nachos and it’s perfect because he can make his plain and I can jazz mine up with all the fixins

    • Yes! I do this a lot when serving a group of people with preferences or dietary requirements I’m not sure of. I am really big on build-your-own-burritos/wraps. You can also make a build your own salad bar. Burgers could be good, you could make one type of patty or several (veggie, chicken, beef etc) and lay out a variety of toppings. Waffles or pancakes maybe too.

  17. If we could eat pizza and/or cheeseburgers every single night, my fiance would likely be the happiest man on the earth.

    He is also fairly picky. He enjoys trying to new things, but it can’t be too far out of his realm of “safe” foods. For instance: he LOVES cheeseburger parfaits and cheeseburger quesadillas. They’re new-ish, but not completely different than what he already eats. Same with English muffin pizzas and a pepperoni pizza pasta that I make.

    I need way more fruits, veggies and chicken in my life. He doesn’t really like chicken, so our compromise is that we either defrost one chicken breast that we can cut in half to make two smaller portions OR we have two separate dinners and he either has leftovers or just pasta & sauce or whatnot. To satisfy my veggie intake, I buy frozen veggies (they don’t go bad that way!) and we just pop them in the microwave. Since they’re generally easier to deal with, he’s more inclined to make and eat ones that he likes, too.

    Another way to encourage him to eat new foods? He does the majority of the cooking! Part of it is a practicality issue because I work later than he does, but also, he’s a better cook than I am (I’m a mean baker, though!) and he enjoys it.

    Like others have mentioned, there’s a lot of hurt feelings that happen if I make something that he doesn’t like. I always tend to feel like it comes down to me and my abilities in the kitchen, when really it’s not every anything personal. I’m working on switching to “let’s try this new recipe I found” and “it’s OK if you don’t like it, but be honest so I know if we should make it again” ( he has been known to say “it’s so good!” and then not eat it when I make it again). When we’re unsure of something, I like to throw in a “what do you think we could do to make this better for next time?”, which turns it into something we’re doing together. It also really helps, because sometimes we just need to switch up the type of meat (ground sausage vs. link sausage, for example) or up the spice level a little to take it from “meh” to “this is good!”

  18. As a somewhat-reformed “picky kid,” I was interested to learn as an adult about the possible connection between OCD and picky eating (I’m OCD)


    I always thought I was just plain-old picky, but when I really looked at it, I was — and still am to a lesser extent — really sensitive to textures. Combinations of textures or inconsistent ones throw me off. Sauce? Yeah, no thanks. Something squishy with little crunchy bits? Pass. I still take my turkey sandwiches dry as a bone. My husband, though, is an adventurous eater and has been known to lick the spoon after scooping mayo out of the jar (I will rush out of the room gagging).

  19. This is a fun thread to read.

    It would be interesting to know the gender breakdown of picky eaters. Seems like, perhaps, men are less willing to try new vegetable dishes or things that may be considered “healthy”, and women may be less picky from being socialized to eating things that are less fatty, greasy, or junk-food oriented. Just an observation.

    Between the two of us, there is not a single food that my husband and I wouldn’t eat, or at least try. Sure, he doesn’t care much for beets, and I eat (mostly) vegetarian, but eating, cooking, and experiencing new foods is something that brings us together. We have both agreed that we could NEVER EVER be in a romantic relationship with a picky eater – even if all the other qualities were the same. That’s just us.

    While I would never be with a picky eater, I can understand having preferences and making choices about what you eat . We all want to be in control of the experiences we have, and while I get thrills from new foods and flavors, I can imagine that some people find it less risky to only eat what they already know to like.

    We have a good friend who is a picky eater. He claims, somewhat seriously, that salad greens are only for rabbits. We cater to him the best we can for dinner parties, but at some point, we have to step back and realize that he’s an adult who is capable of making his own eating decisions.

    Suggestion: are there dishes you can make piecemeal, so that you can add additional ingredients or flavors that you like to your own plate?

    • I was just wondering about the gender breakdown right when I got to your comment. I’m wondering if there’s an engrained social aspect — women are typically expected to cook, so maybe they’re more likely to try new dishes. Men are less often expected to cook, so they can “get away” with cooking/eating the same thing over and over. Just a thought.

  20. I’m also a picky eater, and my aversions relate to spice, texture, and combinations. I couldn’t eat ketchup until I was in my teens because it was too spicy for me, and I still won’t touch a lot of ethnic foods because they’re so hot that they hurt my mouth. I generally avoid things with strong flavors or mixed flavors. I can eat casseroles and salads, but I eat each ingredient separately. I don’t exactly freak out anymore, but I will refuse to eat something if it’s touched something else on my plate. I only eat one food at a time.

    But I’ve learned how to work with my pickiness rather than work against it. Rather than making a fuss about food touching, I ask for separate plates when I order or only fill my plate in a way that food doesn’t touch. If I don’t like something, I don’t finish it, and when I’m alone, I get something I do like. A lot of my anxiety went away when I learned that I didn’t HAVE to eat what someone else made for me. Having the option of eating later actually made me more willing to try the scary new food someone gave me. If I’m going to a new restaurant, I look up the menu before I go so I’m not freaking out at the restaurant. When you add the pickiness to my various allergies and intolerances, I can be a pain to eat with. I get that. I warn waitresses that I’m the “difficult” one, I apologize, and I tip well. If I’m eating at someone’s house, I thank them for what they’ve made whether I eat it or not. At home, my husband and I eat separately, and I buy different food for us. Sometimes we eat together, and he doesn’t complain if it’s the same thing over and over because he didn’t have to make it. Like I said, I work WITH my issues rather than fight them. It’s much easier.

  21. I have a fussy husband too, though luckily not TOO fussy, just enough to be annoying. He won’t eat toast, but neither will he eat anything but super fresh bread – making using up a loaf of bread a one-woman job. He won’t eat broccoli stems, only the very tops of the florets – this is getting worse over time to the point where I may not bother with broccoli anymore because I get so angry with the waste. He reckons this has always been the case, but I know for a fact he used to eat EVERYTHING I put on his plate. He won’t eat corn kernels IN things, but will eat it on the cob. He can’t eat anything creamy because it upsets his stomach.

    What has really interested me about reading through these comments (and it’s the same in my household, so I’m not judging), is… why are we, as women, talking about all the things WE do to accommodate cooking our fussy partners dinner? Why is it, that the one who ISN’T fussy, still has to bear this frustration? Why aren’t the fussy ones cooking since the rest of us will eat what we’re given?

    Something to think about. I know I certainly will be. (along with eating a buttload of creamy pasta, broccoli stems, and corn while my husband is at chess club one night a week).

    • That’s a fair point, although in my case Eric definitely pulls his weigh with the cooking & meal planning. It’s not 50/50 because he has after work obligations while I don’t but it’s definitely a partnership. For me, I’m the one trying to accommodate mostly for 2 reasons. First, Eric would eat pizza all the time & be happy whereas I would get bored. If he did all the cooking I would go crazy eating the same thing. Second, cooking at home & eating together is more important to me than it is to him. He’d be fine with us doing our own thing for meals, and I’m not. So I make more of an effort because I’m the one who pushes for making/eating meals together.

  22. To be honest, I have very little patience for picky eaters. I grew up in a house where my parents were like, “Oh you don’t like what we made? Well, you can make yourself a peanut butter sandwich, or you can go to bed hungry.” I nearly always ate what they put in front of me. There were a couple of very specific things that, even after years of trying, I still do not like (green peppers, which inexplicably taste like soap to me), but growing up, I was required to try at least two bites of whatever was put in front of me before even being allowed to consider the PBJ option, “Once to try it, and the second bite to make sure,” was the rule.

    When I was internet-dating still, I would actually filter out people who said they were picky eaters, and tried to seek out people who were adventurous eaters (willing to try steak tare tare, for example). I wouldn’t consider my fiance a picky eater in the more typical sense of the word, but even his few dislikes (avocados, cucumbers, most tree nuts) have occasionally driven me bonkers because they are all things I absolutely LOVE. But, we have worked around it, and he’s come around on all of those foods in a few particular dishes, and we pretty much always plan, cook, and do all of our grocery shopping together, so I never feel like I’m being unfairly loaded with that work. Also, cooking with him is super fun! When it’s just me because he’s out of town or whatever, I usually just pull something out of the freezer to reheat, because I don’t like doing a whole bunch of dishes if it’s just me.

    • Eric’s parents told me a story about when he was a kid they tried to do the “you’ll eat what’s for dinner or you won’t have dinner” thing. Apparently that lasted 3 days before they broke because he just didn’t eat. He’s kind of a stubborn dude, lovable but stubborn! Based on that story I take the fact that he’s willing to try new things to be just huge improvement.

    • My parents also offered me the PB&J option, and that was hugely freeing for me. Seriously, changed my attitude like WHOA. When I was around 7 or 8, they stopped letting my preferences dictate where we ate and told me if I didn’t like anything at the restaurant, I could have a PB&J when I got home. Knowing I wouldn’t starve if I didn’t find something I liked actually motivated me to try new foods. I stopped panicking about eating out.

  23. I have a child who is a very picky eater. Like, we had him in feeding therapy because he was so underweight, picky eater. On top of that, he has multiple food allergies for which we carry an epi pen.
    When you deal with that for years, you get to a point where you’re just happy if he eats something that resembles a macronutrient. If I make him a plate of dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets while the rest of the family has loaded baked potato soup, so be it. I know lots of parents will say I’m making the problem worse that way, but he was literally starving himself to death before when I was trying to get him to eat normal (and yes, children will and have done that in the past) and I’d rather have a picky child than a dead one, thank you.
    This is a place I never thought I’d be. I used to believe (and still have a hard time not thinking) that being a picky eater was a sure sign of an unintelligent, low class, trashy person, and surely the only reason they were that way was because their unintelligent, low class, trashy parents raised them that way. Imagine my horror when my first born refused to eat anything but Mac and cheese and yoplait yogurt! That wasn’t supposed to happen to me! I was an educated, intelligent, classy person! It took me a long time to realize that 1. It wasn’t happening to me, it was happening to my child. It was part of who he was, but also may indicate medical problems (it did, and it took forever to be diagnosed due to what I believe was sizism in health care, but that’s a whole other can of worms). 2. My beliefs were steeped in classism and cultural bias that I needed to confront, as well as my own body hate issues.
    My son is seven now and his diet has expanded some, though most people would still think of him as a terribly picky eater. I do worry about how his eating will likely affect his social life one day, at least we know what foods cause his random projectile vomiting now, and he’s started gaining some weight. It’s a long journey. I hope he grows up as healthy as your husband, and finds a partner as understanding as you.

    • You are so NOT making it worse that way. Let him eat what he needs to eat right now. There’s a long, long time ahead for him to widen his tastes. I say this as both a selective eater (somewhat improved, though, over recent years) and the mother of a very picky toddler! It must be so hard for you to watch (my boy’s only 3, so I’m hoping he’ll grow out of it…) but I’m sure you’re doing the right thing for him.

    • My 3 year old son only eats:

      greek yogurt (blueberry or strawberry)
      soy sausage patties
      satsuma oranges
      peanut butter cracker sandwiches (made with Ritz)
      rice and beans
      and chocolate chips

      But the only thing he’s ever super consistent on is chocolate chips 😉 He goes through phases where literally every meal he will eat peanut butter crackers. It’s exhausting trying to get him to try new things, but he was that stubborn kid from infancy. He only nursed, REFUSED bottles by screaming his head off for hours whenever anyone would try to feed him from a bottle, and never drank regular milk. We work with the pediatrician on it, but once I learned that he was growing normally I started to calm down. Doctor said some kids are just like this, and I’m glad he’s not just a Doritos-only kind of kid.

  24. I think the “No Thank You” bite is the best deal in the world. I am the opposite of picky, and I’m one of those cranky, twitchy people who just can’t even when feeding extremely picky eaters. “What do you mean, you don’t like onions Or garlic? They’re the chief seasoning ingredient for, like, the planet? !” *head explodes* But knowing that the eater in question will at least try something takes some of the twitch out of my life. A previous partner was incredibly fussy (Pretty much white and beige food only) and drove me up the wall. When we visited the family for a holiday, I was truly bemused. I wasraisedina from-scratch, lots-of-ethnic-cuisine household. I didn’t know that people really ate Wonder Bread. Or packaged stuffing. Canned cranberry sauce was truly alien to me. Partner was, therefore, rather overwhelmed and horrified by strange and exotic things like raw cabbage, or spring mix, or perry much any fresh vegetable that wasn’t carrots. This made for serious cultures Shock for both ofus, and a lot of frustration for me. Particularly since this person spent about 10% of the conscious day in the loo. If you’re not getting enough fiber to keep toilet time under half an hour on average, something’s gotta give. (Sorry)
    Partner hated trying anything new, especially vegetables, and it took ages to find a compromise. “How do you know you won’t like it if you’ve never tried it? ” Well it’s Greeeeen!” Eventually we hit upon the “No Thank You” bite, and while I was still disdainful of partner’s eating habits, I wasn’t actually murderous.
    P.S. Picky eaters-do your thing! As long as your digestive system works and there’s no tantrums, I am not worried about the contents of your face. There’s usually beige food at every meal, so we’ll both be okay.

    • The “no thank you bite” is not a great deal at all. It’s a way for you to control someone else’s life.

      I cannot just eat a bite of something to make someone else happy. I physically can’t do it. Last year I spent fifteen minutes staring at a bite of pie until I finally just ran away and sobbed because I couldn’t try it. I was 31 years old.

      It’s not how I want to be but it’s a fact of my life and it’s not up to you to understand it.

  25. I am totally a texture eater. For the longest time I had a short list of things I would eat, however my wonderful husband really used his excellent culinary skills to add things to my list. I’ve grown into eating raw tomatoes. The best ones to eat for me though are the beef steak ones with the least amount of jelly. Onion I still can’t stand to bite into, but if it’s pureed in there or a scallion or leek I’m good to go. Never shall I ever like a banana. Never.

    The coolest discovery was my texture eating issue with veggies was easily solved by freshness and proper cooking. Fresh broccoli, green beans, kale, or brussel sprouts sauteed in olive oil with garlic and balsamic are all things I can eat now! The mushiness of over-cooked or canned veggies is what I actually turned my nose up to. If you’ve only ever had canned asparagus, you’d think you hated it too 😉

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