Field notes from a former adult picky eater

  • Being a picky eater as an adult can be difficult. Here are a few tips that might help you expand your food horizons

Admittedly, I was every parent’s worst nightmare as a child: a picky eater. I was the type of kid that would literally order from a fast-food chain if the restaurant my family picked was not to my liking. My family once ate at Sinangag Express when I was around 8 years old and I made them buy me (the now phased out) chicken tenders from Jollibee. 

While the rest of my family was enjoying tapsilog and the like, I was eating fast food chicken. Photo by logan jeffrey on Unsplash

The picky eating didn’t stop at childhood, though. 

I was a picky eater up until I moved from Cebu to Manila for college. Living semi-by myself and not having anyone cater to my culinary needs was a much needed wake-up call. For the first few months, I barely ate anything our dorm would serve. Aside from the inter-regional food barrier (like how specific dishes were prepared), there were also new dishes I was unfamiliar with. 

At one point, I was just absolutely embarrassed by myself. I was still a picky eater at 18 years old, and I worked hard to change it. If you’re a picky eater and don’t want to be, here are a few things that might be able to help you.

Stop thinking of yourself as a picky eater

As a former picky eater, how you perceive yourself and the food you eat matters. Instead of thinking of yourself as a picky eater, reframe your perception to something along the lines of “recovering picky eater” or “food adventurer.” Even if your palate is “still picky,” you have to convince yourself that you’re open and willing to try new things. 

kimchi on a bowl held by two hands
One of my post-picky eating favorites is kimchi. It’s also one of the first things I grew to like after making my decision. Photo by Portuguese Gravity on Unsplash

Being a picky eater limits the amount of experiences you get to have when it comes to food—which is also heavily tied to culture and being able to relate to other people. By shedding that “picky eater” label, you might have an easier time convincing yourself to give new things a try. 

Don’t think, just eat it

It’s usually the anticipation that kills you, and that applies to trying food you’re nervous about. Waiting and rationalizing just make the experience more uncomfortable than it already is, so instead of thinking and hyping yourself up to “gain the courage and the confidence” to eat something—don’t think. Don’t even think about thinking. The second the dish, snack, or drink lands in front of you, pick it up and eat it. It’s way better that way. 

Give traumatic childhood dishes a second chance

There’s always that one dish that completely traumatized us as kids. Mine was dinuguan in a porcelain bowl next to fruits. The fruit part is important because 6-year-old me thought it was fondue. I think you can figure out the rest. 

If you don’t look at the textural differences, it would be easy to mistake a bowl of dinuguan for chocolate fondue. Photo by Maria Georgieva on Unsplash

Flash forward to the year 2018, my brother (who was visiting from Cebu) insisted that we eat at Kanin Club. He’s absolutely nuts for their crispy dinuguan, and basically force-fed me a bite. Turns out, I adore dinuguan. While my childhood trauma from the dish is still valid, that doesn’t mean that I have to carry that cross with me forever. It’s now one of my favorite dishes and I’m grateful that my brother made me try it. 

Try everything at least twice

When I try a new dish or something I thought I didn’t like, I have to try it at least twice. The first try is kind of just to get the jitters out of the way. The second try, though, is usually when I can decide if I don’t appreciate something or if I actually like it. Your first try might also be clouded by pre-judgment, which means it might not be a reliable experience. 

Trying things twice gives you the benefit of giving yourself a shot to experience something. If it works the first time, great! If it doesn’t, try it again. You might like it this time around. If not, the next tip comes in extremely handy. 

Have a chaser nearby

Sometimes (well, most of the time), things don’t just turn out the way we want them to. It’s great that you’re pushing your palate and trying out new things, but that doesn’t mean every dish is going to be a win. Sometimes, even if you try something more than twice, your preferences just aren’t aligned with what you’re eating. 

Whenever you’re trying something new, always make sure you have a sure win nearby to chase down the taste of the new thing you’re trying in case you don’t end up liking it. While eating food you’re not a fan of won’t kill you (again, most of the time), it’s still a bit of an unpleasant experience. Have a glass of water or another dish that you’ll like on the ready if it ever happens. 

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