My Picky Eater Recovery

by Sally on May 25, 2011

There’s a story that’s gone down in family history that ends with my mother pouring a glass of chocolate milk over my head. If you know my mother, you are likely lifting your jaw off the floor because she is the kindest, gentlest woman you ever will meet. But every mom has her breaking point, and I had pushed mine to hers.

I was an extremely picky eater as a child. As in, I existed on buttered noodles, fruit, and the occasional Steak-umm or Chicken Rondelet for years. And on this fabled night, I had requested a variety of foods for dinner only to refuse every single one of them once they were prepared. My final request: chocolate milk, which I also rejected. The rest, as they say, is family history.

As an adult, I’ve tried very hard to conquer my finicky ways, with a lot of success. I now love fish and asparagus. I’ve progressed to lukewarm on beans. I’m inching my way towards liking tomatoes. Eating these once-hated foods as an adult has been eye-opening (onions actually do taste good!) and empowering (I can attend any dinner party without fear). Being a mom has motivated me even more to broaden my horizons.

I currently teach an Introduction to Nutrition class and have incorporated the theme of picky eating recovery into my course. Using Jenna Pepper’s great blog, Food With Kid Appeal, we talk about the “mindset model”–of how just thinking about a food in a different way can change your perception of it. So instead of thinking “Tomatoes are so slimy and squishy and I hate them”, I now think “They’re such a beautiful color and so nutritious, and sundried tomatoes in pasta are really yummy”.

In class, I ask each student to take a Picky Eater Pledge: to choose a previously-hated food, try it in different ways over the course of a month, and then write about it.

My own choice this quarter: Brussels sprouts. I tried them steamed and suffered through just one mushy, grayish-green bite. But then I discovered this Brussels Sprouts Salad, and I seriously can’t get enough.

If you want to sign Jenna Pepper’s Picky Eater Pledge, go here.

And if you’ve successfully rediscovered a food you once hated as a child, tell me about it!

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Diana May 26, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Olives- that’s my new thing to keep trying. I always disliked them, but read up on how good they were for you, and so now I am eating them.

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Sally May 27, 2011 at 9:07 am

Olives are on my list too! Do you eat them straight-up or otherwise?

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Aviva Goldfarb May 27, 2011 at 10:30 am

That Brussels sprouts salad looks amazing!! We also love them halved and roasted, or thinly sliced and sauteed until they are caramelized with a little olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar.

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Sally May 27, 2011 at 10:35 am

Aviva, my next attempt will be roasted Brussels sprouts, because I’ve heard from others they are delicious that way as well. Thanks so much for reading!

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tracyNRD May 27, 2011 at 10:34 am

Yes, with you both on not liking olives. Love olive oil, but not olives. Not much for Feta or Goat cheese or gravy. Totally a texture thing with each of these.

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Sally May 27, 2011 at 10:37 am

Tracy–I have serious texture issues as well, though I love feta and goat cheeses. For me, “squishy” is my problem, so cooked veggies have to retain some crispness or I strongly dislike them. Since tomatoes is squishy both raw and cooked, it’s taking me a while to warm up to those! Thanks for your comment!

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Laura May 28, 2011 at 8:31 am

After trying it at your house, made the Brussel Sprout salad on Thursday. And yum! I added dried cherries.

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Kat (Eating The Week) May 31, 2011 at 10:40 am

I also am a reformed onion eater. Until just a few years ago (I’m 34), I couldn’t deal with them at all – not fresh, not cooked, not alone, not with other ingredients. It wasn’t just capricious pickiness, either; the taste made me gag.

But now they’re on my list of kitchen staples along with black pepper, garlic, olive oil, etc. My husband’s love of onions probably helped turn me around – I prepared them in dishes, and eventually stopped picking them out and learned to enjoy the taste.

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Sally June 2, 2011 at 8:58 pm

I used to pick onions out of everything too, as did my husband. In fact, we were at my mother-in-law’s house recently and she commented that she made the potatoes without onions because of him. It was nice to be able to say, “Oh, he eats onions now!”

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jenna Food w/ Kid Appeal June 2, 2011 at 3:07 pm

huzzah for brussels sprouts a delish way! have you tried olives in tapenade? kalmata olives in a nice tapenade to dip bread in or toss with pasta was my gateway to olives. still don’t eat the black ones from a can on the thanksgiving relish tray, blech. last week i minced about 8 olives and tossed them with tomato sauce. i topped a scooped out zucchini with the red sauce, added left over ground beef, then topped with cheese for zuke pizza, yum!!

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Sally June 2, 2011 at 8:56 pm

Great ideas, Jenna. I especially like the tapenade idea. I could see myself liking minced olives. I’ll have to try that.

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Marta June 8, 2011 at 11:38 am

I always hated Brussels sprouts until a few years ago when I learned that if you make a little x in the bottom of the stem, it lets out all the bitterness. Then you can just steam them with butter and they’re delicious. Also, you can shred them in the food processor and fry them up with soy sauce and garlic.

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Sally June 8, 2011 at 2:15 pm

What a cool tip! I’ll have to try that. And stir-fried shredded sprouts sound pretty great too. Thanks Marta.

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Sarah T November 9, 2012 at 8:54 pm

My husband and I are both picky eaters, but about different things. He dislikes almost all vegetables and doesn’t care for creamy things, while I have a number of fairly random foods I won’t eat. Asparagus and anything that comes from a goat or sheep all taste horrid to me, but I’ll at least tolerate bell peppers now (my husband actually likes those). Oddly, I loved olives until I was about 10, but now I can’t stand them.

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