Are picky eaters born or made?
February 28, 2016 2:26 PM   Subscribe

 
(Henry also eats one type of salami from Formaggio Kitchen, “but what is interesting,” says Klein, “is that it used to be cervelat, but then the consistency of the sausage changed and now he only likes the Salame Ligure. We all noticed the change . . . but only Henry couldn’t let it go and just eat it.”)

I... am having a lot of trouble with this sentence.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:50 PM on February 28, 2016 [11 favorites]


I wish more restaurants offered half-portions of their adult menu for kids, or a couple of items on the kids' menu that were in line with their adult offerings. When we go out and have a SPECIAL meal, the kids' menu is nothing but burgers, mac & cheese, and chicken fingers, no matter where you go, which means my kids are getting the message that the best, most special food is "boring kids' food."

(Sometimes we order for them off the adult menu anyway, but a) this is very expensive; b) there are way too many choices for them to pick for themselves at their ages -- one or two adultish entrees would be great; and c) the portions are way too big for a kid.)

It is hard, though; even kids who are "good eaters" go through phases. Right now my 4-year-old won't eat anything green because green in his brother's favorite color. He won't even drink from a green cup. I realize this phase will pass and I am ignoring it (except for the cup part) but it's very irritating.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:00 PM on February 28, 2016 [15 favorites]


I was labeled a "picky eater" as a child because there were two foods that I resisted long-term. I'd only eat eggs if they were scrambled, and I wouldn't eat frozen spinach under any circumstance. Other than that I was good to go. That was enough to earn me the title in the late 70s/early 80s. Today my best friend can't take her five-year-old to Costco with us because if he sees things in the cart that aren't on his short list of edibles he comes spectacularly unglued. She insists he isn't a picky eater at all.
posted by Sternmeyer at 3:08 PM on February 28, 2016


There are people who like to attribute food fussiness and picky eating to over-entitlement and yadayadayada, but honestly, I think that's completely misguided. Kids' taste buds are still developing and they're playing around with figuring out their identities a lot. Their preferences really do just change and evolve. And the reason a lot of kids prefer the blander simple dishes is that tastes are really intense for younger kids. It's overwhelming. But the loathing of all things vegetable/green a lot of kids develop after going into school seems to be social and cultural.
posted by saulgoodman at 3:10 PM on February 28, 2016 [13 favorites]


Hell I wish more restaurants offered half-sized portions for adults. I can't eat half a pound of hamburger, but I love the taste of a well prepared slab of ground beef with extra special fixings.
posted by Bringer Tom at 3:11 PM on February 28, 2016 [29 favorites]


A young child's mouth is still sensitive - cheese made the roof of my mouth itch, tomatoes stung. And then after that, you're losing your milk teeth. We moved to England right when all my milk teeth were falling out, and my parents were going into ecstasies about finally having crusty bread!!! Wonderful crusty bread!!! Which ripped and tore at my mouth full of loose teeth, of course. Once my permanent teeth grew in, they fixated on other kinds of bread - ciabatta, whole wheat - which just tasted bad as far as I was concerned, and I wished they would switch back to the white crusty bread, but of course not.
posted by tel3path at 3:20 PM on February 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have to say, I think this is just another iteration of the alarmist, oh-how-much-better-things-were-in-my-day screed. Anecdata: I was a horribly picky eater and eventually grew out of it when I was ready, and now am fairly adventurous at the table.

The philosophy when I was a kid seemed to be that children were to be punished into eating things they hated, presumably because of some ideas about how it was sinful to waste food (which it is, but that's a systemic societal problem, not one to be solved on the scale of forcing a five-year-old to force down broccoli). I think it's something to be lauded, not criticized, that parents moved the the "you'll eat that egg salad sandwich even if you gag on every bite" model of mealtime (an actual example from my own childhood) to making sure the kid actually gets some nutrition without turning the dinner table into a battleground. It's not like forcing kids to choke down food they hate will make them like that food any better. Seemed stupid to me then, and I don't see it as any more sensible to me now.
posted by holborne at 3:21 PM on February 28, 2016 [19 favorites]


My brother would vomit if forced to eat things he didn't like, well over 40 years ago. Sitting at the table all night and spankings didn't help. Pickiness is not new. And my family has lots of weird food issues in general. Possibly related to our depression! Or who knows what. Even my grandparents, raised in the Depression, had things they would not eat if not actually starving to death.

As a result, we approached my kid's pickiness with patience and some guile. He used to only want plain pasta; then we introduced cheese; then meat. Then meat by itself. Now we eat far less cheese and pasta, and more meat. Which is good because for a while the only protein he got was dairy and eggs. He always liked fruit but no veggies ever, unless you count potatoes, which I don't. (But hey; he didn't use to like potatoes either).

So we instituted the "pick a random vegetable and make it" project where we turned him loose in the produce section and we had to cook whatever he picked. So far eggplant parmesan and purple cabbage with bacon have been hits, which I can guaran-damn-tee you he would never have touched otherwise. Also spaghetti squash treated like pasta. There have been a few misses but generally they were ones where we all decided "nah."

My next area of attack is soups. He is extremely suspicious of soup. But there are so many excellent soups we are not eating, full of things he already loves! So I found some frozen shepherd's pie things and he loves those. The interior is basically beef stew, it includes carrots and peas, things he has never eaten before. Eventually, I hope to get him to eat the stew without needing a pastry shell.

Long-term; getting him to eat legumes and green vegetables. As a person who has always had trouble with green vegetables, I know that this is something we'll have to sidle up to.
posted by emjaybee at 3:21 PM on February 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


I'd gladly not put out my hair at mealtime and worry about my child eating if he wasn't on ADHD medication that completely suppresses what little appetite he has. Similarly if I knew he would eat his lunch and daytime snack instead of chatting with his buddies at lunch, I wouldn't have to make sure breakfast and dinner were so calorie intensive.

Yeah, it's a nightmare. Yeah, we're likely a fringe case of this extreme so the criticism in the piece should be something I should just be able to brush off... but... well this just reminds me of the piece in the globe back in 2000 where it confined 'fat' as a problem of the poor in Boston since there were no fat people in Back Bay... seriously...
posted by Nanukthedog at 3:26 PM on February 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


I was a horrendously picky eater as a child, and completely indulged by my mother (who still had lingering resentment about being forced to eat certain foods a child), to the point that more often than not she would cook an entirely separate* meal for me to eat. Then I turned 15 and something just flipped in my head, since then you can count the number of foods I'll avoid on the fingers of one hand. I'm pretty sure that at least in my case the end result would have been pretty much the same whether I was indulged or not.

* Well sort of, usually it would be more or less the same vegetables with sausages or hamburger meat for the protein.
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 3:39 PM on February 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm a picky eater and I absolutely refuse to believe I was born.
posted by srboisvert at 3:50 PM on February 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


I was a medium-picky eater as a child. There were things that were either too intense in their flavors (like sharp cheese) or where the texture overwhelmed things in a gross way (like big pieces of cooked tomatoes). I grew out of almost all of those issues -- like anyone, there are a few foods I don't like, but I'm far from a picky eater as an adult. I don't have kids, but I have seen the same pattern with friends' kids. While I'm sure there are trends and changes over time, I have trouble getting overly excited about kids having a picky eating phase.

But having just said that, I know quite a few adults who are extraordinarily picky, and in ways that (from the outside) appear to be very unhealthy, such as not eating any vegetables other than deep fried potatoes. So if it is not a picky phase and instead is a lifelong issue, then at the very least that person needs to have the information to be proactive in terms of their health and make informed decisions among their alternatives.
posted by Dip Flash at 3:56 PM on February 28, 2016


I honestly wonder how many of the little tombstones we see in old cemeteries are from children of the kind they called "sickly," who just would not eat. I'm betting it's a nonzero number.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:15 PM on February 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


My dad was a picky, non-eating child (the first time he ate a hot dog, my grandmother cried from happiness) and now he's a foodie's foodie. I was a pretty picky kid and am now also a foodie, of vegetarian proclivities. My son is three and also pretty picky and goes through periods of prefering to live on air. He's small for his age and we have to choose between getting him calories or making a stand over tomato sauce. I'm going to assume that he'll take after his parents and grow out of it. I learned nothing from being forced to eat slimy zucchini as a child. I didn't start to expand my horizons until my teens.

I will say that we did everything "right" when introducing him to food. I ate a varied diet while breastfeeding, we home made all his first purees and used interesting seasoning like coconut curry, and we model eating a varied, interesting, healthful diet. He was a voracious omnivore until he was about a year old. Then he started getting opinions. Strong ones.
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:21 PM on February 28, 2016 [7 favorites]


There are people who like to attribute food fussiness and picky eating to over-entitlement and yadayadayada, but honestly, I think that's completely misguided.

I think it's a little of both. Yeah, food can taste more intense to kids. And having preferences is OK - I'm a middle-aged man who still doesn't like mushrooms and I will usually pick them out of my meal if they're there. I'm a monster.

That said, kids can be totally irrational and some parents avoid conflict rather than try to make kids eat what's served. our kids definitely had meals where they ate a grand total of two bites of food and went to bed on that. Not our ideal dinner but if there's always a bland, salty, creamy meal of Kraft Dinner waiting in the wings the kid is never going to move on and try new things.

These days my younger is still basically a starchetarian and has eaten a bag of salad for dinner which kind of surprised me since salad it isn't the stereotypical teenage-boy go-to meal.

Our rule of thumb is that kids won't let themselves starve to death and if they don't want to eat something then they had to try a bite and then we all moved on. The psychodrama in food conflict is way worse than an otherwise healthy well-fed kid skipping a meal.
posted by GuyZero at 4:22 PM on February 28, 2016 [7 favorites]


I always thought I was an extremely picky child but almost everything I wouldn't eat was highly processed... American cheese, Miracle Whip, Kraft Macaroni, anything "barbecue flavored," etc. I still don't like those things, but I'll eat homemade mayonnaise or aioli (garlic covers many sins). Same with creepy grocery store dips (grocery store guac is a huge no, while fresh guac is my favorite thing in the universe).

I always loved vegetables, seafood, spices, things that most kids hate. Funny how I was the picky one in my family for hating processed food, while my sisters all loved it but hated most veggies and seafood and spices and they were considered normal.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:27 PM on February 28, 2016 [7 favorites]


Kiddo's a really picky eater but apparently our habit of doing weekly Farmer's Market runs hit just when his taste buds were developing. Fresh vegetables are the mainstay, though plain pasta, hard boiled eggs, and most cheeses are also good. So yeah, we're okay with this.
posted by emmet at 4:31 PM on February 28, 2016


I was a very picky eater and one of my sons is too. I grew out of it, and eat almost anything now. I'm making sure he eats healthy and am hoping he grows out of it too. He has to try new things every now and then, but I'm not going create battles or starve him despite all the 'in my day you just ate what you were given and that was that' lectures I've gotten from others. I don't recall anything good coming out of the battles with my parents. In fact I think my son eats a lot healthier than I did.
posted by eye of newt at 4:31 PM on February 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


I honestly wonder how many of the little tombstones we see in old cemeteries are from children of the kind they called "sickly," who just would not eat. I'm betting it's a nonzero number.

If I learned anything from reading Little House On The Prairie it was that old-timey kids ate everything and anything as they were mostly in a perpetual state of being underfed.

Plus they would have been beat senseless if they refused an order from a parent.

My money would be on all those kids dying from actual diseases of which there were plenty.
posted by GuyZero at 4:41 PM on February 28, 2016 [7 favorites]


I am a picky eater, but less picky than I was for the first 23 years of my life. At 23, I got a job working on an organic farm (a CSA). I tried about 20 different things for the first time, several of which became new favorites.

Sticking something in your mouth is just so... personal a thing, and disgust at a texture, smell, or taste I despise is something I hate more than a physical injury or something.

And not sure if this is related, but I think oral sex is way, way more intimate / difficult than the other kinds. I could never understand why people thought it was less serious, somehow. (Because of the lack of pregnancy risk? I'm not sure).
posted by megafauna at 4:50 PM on February 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


Also, as a picky eater, I have to say Green Eggs and Ham is my most-hated book ever.
posted by megafauna at 4:51 PM on February 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


"The philosophy when I was a kid seemed to be that children were to be punished into eating things they hated, presumably because of some ideas about how it was sinful to waste food (which it is, but that's a systemic societal problem, not one to be solved on the scale of forcing a five-year-old to force down broccoli)."

This was my own experience, too. I don't like most vegetables and my mother says that she noticed this from the moment I began eating baby food. But this was the sixties, my dad grew up hungry-poor and a good portion of my early childhood we were poor. At home, if I wouldn't eat what was served, I went hungry. At family gatherings with my dad's family, this was an aggressive, shaming experience where there was this weird (mostly from one uncle, but also generally) competition like quality about which of us cousins ate the most/all of our food and an accompanying angry shaming -- at the table with fifteen other people -- if we (meaning me, usually) didn't.

I would gag or even very occasionally vomit when forced to eat the food (usually things like cauliflower, etc.) I couldn't stand, but everyone claimed that I was "faking" it. This just made everything worse and I developed an intense anxiety about eating in this general situation, where I'm served food in a social gathering. Even now, at 51, I am reluctant to eat dinner at other's people's home if I don't know what will be served, although I'm sure that no one would comment or even much care if I just didn't serve myself something. This anxiety runs so deep, I've spent my entire adult life mostly avoiding the risk.

When I would go to an informal daycare before I began preschool, I (in)famously would refuse to eat certain foods at lunch and she would keep me at the table until I did so ... and my mom would sometimes find me sitting at that table when she picked me up at 5:30. (There's an amazing passage in The Corrections about exactly this, except at home.)

As an adolescent, because I didn't get any alternative foods and because my father insisted on about ten different meat-and-vegetable meals that my mom rotated for decades, I would often eat little at dinner and would go to bed hungry (we didn't have snacks in the house). I was very skinny. I'm not averse to trying new things and my pickiness isn't scattered. It's mostly certain kinds of food with a particular taste, though my dislike is very strong.

All of this is to say that the implicit claim in the article certainly is not universally true. Some kids will genuinely deeply dislike certain foods, and will continue to do so, even when they are forced to eat them and even when they are forced to otherwise go hungry. I should admit that it's arguably true that I'm kind of an inverse example of the basic claim, except in my case it was handled so badly and involved so much anxiety, that the pickiness was actually reinforced, not weakened.

That said, I do think that for a lot of kids this article is correct. I'm naturally utterly, emphatically opposed to making mealtimes some sort of dominance/shaming experience and I think it's much, much better to be very low-key about it. But I think that this trend of parents making special meals for their picky kids almost every night is extreme and is counterproductive. Surely there's a middle-ground in there where kids are allowed to have their preferences but are channeled toward trying and eating new and various foods.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:53 PM on February 28, 2016 [10 favorites]


One of my cats is a picky eater. The other 2 are not. I don't believe it is about their psychology.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:58 PM on February 28, 2016


Thank heavens for peer pressure. My stepson, now 13, is a picky eater, of the kind described in TFA: prefers mac and cheese and pizza, string cheese, etc. But there's been a notable shift towards a more versatile palette in the past two years, which I attribute to school lunches, and the fact that he goes to a very diverse school. He's recently started eating things like hot peppers, fried rice, chicken tikka masala, steak sandwiches.

It's pretty much going the way I hoped it would go. We never forced him to eat anything, but being around other kids and seeing what they eat seems to slowly open up his interest in other food. He might still turn out to be a foodie!

The one seriously great thing about his pickiness, and I hope it never changes, is his complete disinterest in candy and soda.
posted by monospace at 5:05 PM on February 28, 2016


holborne: "I have to say, I think this is just another iteration of the alarmist, oh-how-much-better-things-were-in-my-day screed."

Well, the important thing for most parents is that we be reminded over and over again about how we're DOING IT WRONG, and if we were just to follow this ONE SIMPLE TRICK everything would be great. Never mind that the simple trick in question is invariably something that pretty much every parent has already thought of because we aren't morons. Never mind that said "simple trick" usually has a very nasty failure mode - for instance, in our case the only thing that "you decide what, they decide whether/when to eat" did was defer the conflict to bedtime, and the net result was that our picky eater child was magically transformed over a period of several weeks into a picky eater who throws huge tantrums at bedtime and leaves everyone in the house exhausted and unable to function. So we gave up on that one, and it's really great that in addition to feeling like I've failed to "win" this one I can feel comforted by the shame of knowing that it's because I was unwilling face some hard truths.

Just once I'd like to see these articles pay attention to the fact that parents have to solve multiple problems at the same time, often distributed across multiple kids who interact with each other, and face serious time and energy constraints because we have jobs too. None of this stuff works the way that authors of these articles say it does.
posted by langtonsant at 5:14 PM on February 28, 2016 [18 favorites]


Heh. I was probably considered a picky eater, growing up. I didn't like a lot of veggies, I didn't like steak, I didn't like pork, etc etc. Then I left home and ate out and had other people cook for me and... guess what? Turns out I like steak that's not cooked well done, as my parents always made it! Pork is a lot better when it's not super dry pork chops! Veggies are better when they don't come from a can or frozen package, and often even better when they're cooked with garlic (which my parents hate)! I think there has to be some room, some understanding, of "I don't like this prepared this way".

Which is sort of dovetailing into how we're feeding our 1 year old. My husband feels we ought to get her to enjoy plain, unseasoned food (including raw veggies) as much as possible at this age, so she doesn't expect to have them smothered in butter and spices to be able to eat them later on. That sounds fair, but I think she needs a lot of different flavor exposure so that she's not like some young kids I know who refuse anything other than plain chicken, plain pasta, etc. (I once made some baked chicken that was rolled in breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper, and it was deemed "too spicy".) It's really challenging to walk that line to set her up as well as possible... but it's entirely possible that no matter what we do, she'll end up swinging one way or the other on the pickiness spectrum.
posted by olinerd at 5:17 PM on February 28, 2016 [7 favorites]


The author of this screed-in-sheep's-clothing seems to be coming down firmly on the "nurture" side of causation, which makes me wonder how they would explain multi-children homes that include both picky and non-picky individuals.

I call shenanigans on the author's logic. Cranky, needs a nap. That's my assessment.
posted by Construction Concern at 5:19 PM on February 28, 2016 [9 favorites]


Shared before, but this: our child, now 24, is an excellent cook and a healthy eater. Eats everything. When she was a toddler, she only ate chicken nuggets (with ketchup) and macaroni and cheese as far as I can remember. Nothing green. How did she survive? That's the part I don't get.
posted by kozad at 5:24 PM on February 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Then, of course, there are the 25% of us that are super-tasters and things like broccoli *are* actually vile to them. I think this article should have mentioned that these parents can test their kids to see if they are actually tasting things as more bitter than they are. I mean, if broccoli tasted twice as bitter as I currently taste it, yeah, I'd cry if someone forced me to eat it.

My adult neice is a super-taster and her husband doesn't like sugar. I have no idea what they eat in common. Not much, from what I've seen.
posted by greermahoney at 5:34 PM on February 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


Garcia points out that there are more serotonin receptors in the gut than in the brain, which suggests that selective eating may be not only an effect of depression and anxiety — a coping mechanism that affords an anxious kid some sense of control — but also a contributing factor.
It's completely unfair to judge a entire discipline by a one-off quote repeated by a reporter. . . but this certainly doesn't increase my confidence in the science behind nutritional science.

If you ask me - which nobody will, 'cause those of us without kids couldn't possibly be expected to understand the deep mystery that turns otherwise thoughtful people into vengeful, petty tyrants once they have children - it's not surprising that those who have no control over their lives feel compelled to assert their autonomy in one of the very few areas where rebellion is actually possible. If we served meals to our friends and spouses in the same way we serve meals to our kids, we wouldn't have friends or spouses for very long.

Life is long. It contains many, many carrots. These particular one's don't actually matter. Your children know that, and so do you.
posted by eotvos at 5:45 PM on February 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


I attribute a lot of my own picky eating habits to texture and mouthfeel. I've noticed that there are two categories of food which give me problems:

Mushy, viscous foods--really creamy mashed potatoes instantly trigger my gag reflex the moment they come between my tongue and the roof of my mouth , while fluffier, drier ones do not.

Foods that feel like they contain foreign objects--If I take a bite out of something that's heterogeneous enough--like a muffin containing dried cranberries--I'll also gag while chewing, despite not having any problems with muffins or dried cranberries when consumed separately.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:52 PM on February 28, 2016


In general, I've learned to say "fuck off" to any article written by a random person in a magazine that claims to know more about what makes my kid tick than I do. Kids are people, people are complicated, life is complicated, and we aren't idiots. The outside advisors I listen to aren't talk-show hosts, but the people who also see my kid every day; his teachers, his extended family, our family friends. If one of them came to me and said hey, we see a problem, I would give them my full attention.

I read this article because I was hoping for some science as promised, but only got lots of anecdotes, some vague references to possibly-relevant studies and a heaping helping of "parents these days; too permissive, probably!"

Speaking of How They Ate In Olden Times, the husband has recently learned that his grandpa shared his egg allergy. Every morning he ate eggs because that's what you did on the farm, and every morning he felt sick and weak for several hours and had to push through it. Till one day he stopped eating eggs. He also had a lot of digestive issues (read: spent lots of time in the bathroom) that sound very similar to what the husband went through till he got his celiac diagnosed. But in those days you just ate what was in front of you then suffered in the shitter later. Or possibly died. Or was weakened enough that something else carried you off. After all, lots of allergies don't show up till adulthood, after you've had time to reproduce, so it wouldn't be something that prevented your genes from surviving.
posted by emjaybee at 6:02 PM on February 28, 2016 [12 favorites]


I learned to hate a lot of foods as a kid simply because my mother was a terrible cook.
posted by LindsayIrene at 6:08 PM on February 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


He is extremely suspicious of soup.

He is well to be so.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 6:15 PM on February 28, 2016 [18 favorites]


The author of this screed-in-sheep's-clothing seems to be coming down firmly on the "nurture" side of causation, which makes me wonder how they would explain multi-children homes that include both picky and non-picky individuals.

Right? I have one picky eater and one who eats everything with relish. The picky eater is also more sensitive in general. I'm sure I could, via some combination of threats and bribery, get her to eat more things, but what would be the point of that? To "win"? I'd rather she have a heathy relationship with food than eat the spinach. Our dinners are peaceful, and one day she'll outgrow it. Until then, she can continue to have frozen peas at every meal while her sister eats all the arugula.
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:22 PM on February 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


Food my toddler loves:
Pickles
Black olives from a can
Tofu
Seaweed
Noodles
Broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts
Berries of any kind

Food my toddler hates and violently wipes off of her tongue if she accidentally ingests:
Meat of any sort, including chicken nuggets
Fish
Eggs
Oatmeal
Cookies
Dessert
Most cheese
Potatoes
Peanut butter

Things she used to eat with gusto and now side eyes:
Cucumber
Avocado
Hummus
Bananas
Yogurt

Trust me, none of her preferences are because she hasn't been exposed to food or is being coddled. She'd rather starve herself than swallow a bite of chicken but she (at 22 months old) walks into our local Japanese restaurant and orders nunus, fofu, and sheweeeeed for herself. It makes mealtimes a huge pain in the ass because she won't just eat what we're eating for dinner, but I can assure you that it's not for a fucking lack of trying. She just likes what she likes and if her blood test for anemia comes back fine at her 2 year check up then I'm officially giving up and becoming a "short order cook" because I'm tired of forcing the issue.
posted by lydhre at 6:23 PM on February 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


I was a picky eater because I had a horrible gag reflex and was easily grossed out by things like gooey cheese and raw fish looking all raw-fishy. I finally grew out of it in college basically to uh, impress a boy who liked sushi :P
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:28 PM on February 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oh man. My toddler was eating salmon sashimi at that age, and then turned two and was immediately "I only eat white things and stuff made of food dye and sugar." I lost at least 50 smugness points that day.
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:31 PM on February 28, 2016 [15 favorites]


My son had a problem with his lower jaw that made him feel like he was choking when he ate food that wasn't soft enough, or food that was too chewy. Didn't realize until he was...almost 2 I think? And even then we only realized by chance.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:37 PM on February 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


There is a website: http://pickyeatingadults.com/ with a large number of adults who are extremely picky eaters. Beyond just not eating vegetables, but many who eat five or fewer foods, total.

ARFID Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder is being studied more and more to see what is actually behind the adults who eat very few foods.

I'll admit it, until the last couple of years, I ate a very limited number of things. In fact there are still lots of things I avoid. Until just a couple years ago, the only vegetables I ate were potatoes, lettuce and onions. And that makes me wide open compared to many picky eaters.

Things like coffee are abhorrent to me, always have been. It is so bitter, even when covered in sugars and creams and all sorts of crap, that I have no idea how anyone enjoys it.

It is only within the past couple years I have been able to eat green vegetables, and I still don't eat all of them. Many of them are still too bitter, some have textures I cannot abide.

I'm 40 and still have to fight my gag reflex on beans (the texture, my god, horrible,) can only eat mashed potatoes if I make them stiff as hell (again, texture) and can only drink hot tea if I, or my husband, make it as too many places over brew it and make it bitter as fuck.

My parents didn't make me this way, I just am this way. And, I'm 1000 times better off than the majority in the ARFID community as I have learned to eat so many foods.

There are so many people that are so restricted in their diets it has affected relationships and their careers. I'm lucky that I am happily married and love my job. My husband dealt with my weird food issues and now that I am working on them, it is easier on him. Many in that community are single due to food issues.
posted by SuzySmith at 6:58 PM on February 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


I was a picky eater, and we were poor, so, yes, as others have related, I ate what was on my plate. Regardless of how long I sat at the table etc.
Now I'm an adult and I choose my food. And those things I hated as a kid, well some of them I still hate, and some I eat.
Thank Jesus my old man forced me to eat things I didn't like, otherwise I'd have better childhood memories...

Or something.
posted by evilDoug at 8:08 PM on February 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


I am actually more picky now than I was as a child (probably because my parents were very traditional Silent Generation types who were uh, not prone to giving their children choice in food) so I raise my eyebrow quite a bit at this article.

Buzzfeed has a good checklist of standard Western food that picky eaters might avoid, if you'd like to test your own pickiness level.

I'll spare you the details of the long list of things I dislike (nearly all meat, many vegetables, some fruits, coffee/beer, etc.) but will note that this can be a pain when finding places to eat out.

My personal rule is to find something else on the menu to order if I want to substitute more than one thing--that is, if I want to order an item but it has both mushrooms and peppers then I find something else because I'm not going to make a waiter or my dining companions suffer through my own damn pickiness. It tends to work well enough.
posted by librarylis at 9:33 PM on February 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


There is some shame associated with having a child who is a picky eater. This might have been even more true back in the day, when it was considered to be a situation that called for punishing the child and forcing them to eat. How do we know that there weren't lots of picky eating kids, but they or their parents tried to keep other people from finding out, like some adult picky eaters do? Maybe people weren't as aware of picky kids for that reason, not because there were fewer of them. I don't think you can assume there really were fewer picky eaters without some actual data. "I don't remember knowing any kids who only ate chicken nuggets" isn't data.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert on picky eating or societal attitudes toward picky eaters.
posted by Anne Neville at 9:40 PM on February 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


Was hoping for a little more science and a little less from the subgenre of What's Wrong With Parents These Days, As Evidenced By Vague Recollections Of My Own Childhood And/Or My Parenting Of Thirty Years Ago.

There is something about this subject that flicks some deep emotional switch in people, though. A while ago there was a news article on my work intranet about varied diets in childhood, and the comments section, which is usually fairly mild with an occasional grumble, turned into outright war between people whose children were fussy eaters and people who had very strong thoughts about the inadequacies of modern parenting ("I don't have kids myself, but I saw an episode of Supernanny on this once and LET ME TELL YOU, PARENTS!") It got really, surprisingly vicious, until someone very, very senior commented to say oh, what an interesting article, my own kids were really picky when they were younger too!, and everything went very quiet.
posted by Catseye at 11:39 PM on February 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


I remember the first time I made asparagus on my own. I was doing it for the dorm Thanksgiving dinner, following directions for steaming it. It was simple and straightforward and I thought "well, this is easy and I get food I actually like by doing it." I tasted one to see if it was done. I ended up bringing only about 2/3rds of what I had originally to the table. It's now my go-to quick and easy vegetable (I need to learn to steam other veggies in the microwave).

But outside of things that really get ruined when overcooked (asparagus, salmon, brussel sprouts, all of which I now love), I was a pretty adventurous eater. I remember one time, having my best friend over for dinner (I think his folks were along also) and I had my dad make what was then my favorite dish (something involving rice, shrimp and tomatoes, can't remember the details). And he would not touch it. And I was so pissed. It felt like a direct insult to me. Admittedly, I was seven at the time, but it was odd, being on that side of the fence as a kid.
posted by Hactar at 12:04 AM on February 29, 2016


A definitely not-picky eater here, which was good because my parents would've laughed their heads off at the mere *concept* of making a separate, individual meal just for me or one of my siblings. We were allowed to take teeny-tiny servings of something we disliked, but were only allowed to SAY we disliked something if we had already tried it --- no refusing to eat something preemptively, or all foods of a certain color.

And yes, there are foods I avoid: liver (beef or chicken), olives, and pretty much any mac & cheese. And the sea urchin down at the local Japanese restaurant. But if necessary I can and would eat any of these with a smile: my parents also taught us it's good manners to accept what a host serves: if someone went to the trouble of making a home-cooked meal, unless it's actually medically unsafe you eat it and tell the host it was delicious.
posted by easily confused at 1:38 AM on February 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


if someone went to the trouble of making a home-cooked meal, unless it's actually medically unsafe you eat it and tell the host it was delicious.

According to the noted authority of Buzzfeed, I am the pickiest of picky eaters, so I am going to have to disagree with you there.

Because, call me crazy, no one wants me vomiting at the table. And that could happen. Has happened.

I grew out of a lot of my picky eating in my late 20s, and can navigate a lot of things, but I to this day will avoid certain situations and stay at home because of attitudes like the one you mention.
posted by Mezentian at 2:04 AM on February 29, 2016 [4 favorites]


I remember boys (always boys) around my age when I was a kid who would pretty much not eat anything but salami. Family friends from out of town had dinner with us and we're all having whatever and he's got two slices of salami on his plate.
Or I'd go over to someone's house and have whatever I might have been offered for lunch and the poor kid wants salami. No condiments, no bread.
As I got older, I saw this behavior in friends' younger siblings, or some of my younger cousins.
I always wondered if there was some brain-development thing that made that happen.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 3:17 AM on February 29, 2016


My husband is one of those serious picky eaters -- there's a list of 20 food items he will eat (we recently discovered likes Japanese hamburg, first new food since 2007).

They have to be cooked a specific way, as in, he'll eat chicken, but it must be either grilled with lots of sauce (like nandos) or fried, and must contain no bones. He'll eat corn, but it must be grilled and on the cob.

His parents started making separate meals at an early age.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 4:34 AM on February 29, 2016


I've only really 'outgrown' my pickiness in the past few years (I'm 28.) I was one of those super-restrictive kids, where at one point I would only eat plain cooked pasta, no sauce or anything, and my parents took me to the doctor to find out I was perfectly healthy and just being a jerk. I never ended up with any sensory disorders or physical ailments, just... was stubborn, I suppose.

The only foods that have remained on my 'no' list from when I was a kid are canned tuna (the smell makes me gag), mayonnaise (no), and beef. My steak-loving family will never let that one go, but beef just tastes so heavy and bloody to me.
posted by rachaelfaith at 4:52 AM on February 29, 2016


Buzzfeed has a good checklist of standard Western food that picky eaters might avoid, if you'd like to test your own pickiness level.

I looked at that list and found only three things I don't like, such as cottage cheese (ugh, the texture!). But when I thought about it more, even though I happily eat a long list of foods, I am still picky in other ways. I love sour cream, but I'll only eat the full fat kind, and there are a long list of totally standard modern processed foods (like Redi Whip) that I won't go near.

So picky is as picky does, and it's easy to define the term in a way that makes you feel like you aren't picky while considering all your myriad preferences and dislikes as completely normal.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:58 AM on February 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


There is a website: http://pickyeatingadults.com/ with a large number of adults who are extremely picky eaters. Beyond just not eating vegetables, but many who eat five or fewer foods, total.

Well I'll be. I've run up across adults who are like this twice. The most extreme case, a coworker at a previous job, ate nothing but chicken tenders, french fries, and milk. Every single day, for the four years we worked together. The other was an earlier coworker at the same company, and traveled with his own supply of Kraft Singles everywhere he went. Both people were great big overgrown man-children, who had obviously been pandered to at every stage of their respective developments. I assumed this was not a coincidence, but now I must reconsider.

Meanwhile, my almost-3-year-old eats a lot of hot dogs and peanut butter sandwiches, but her favorite foods also include salmon, really hoppy IPAs (don't ask), and pickle brine. (As in, after we finish the far of pickles, I have to dump the liquid out immediately or she'll drink it like juice and then get a stomachache) Having been a picky eater myself until after college, my fingers are crossed that this phase doesn't end, but I imagine the Great Food Wars are still ahead of us,.
posted by Mayor West at 5:02 AM on February 29, 2016


Mayor West: don't worry about your daughter and her IPAs; when I was 3-5 or so, every chance I got I'd have Saturday lunches with Dad: we both had liverwurst on rye sandwiches with a slice of onion in there, and a glass of Budweiser each (yes, mine was small!). I think I turned out more-or-less normal anyway.
posted by easily confused at 5:51 AM on February 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, what Mezentian said.

I am picky (although I oddly enough eat many things that so-called NON picky eaters don't like, like mushrooms and cottage cheese). It's nobody's business but mine. I am polite about it, and yes, it has caused me to avoid certain situations because I invariably have to contend with someone thinking they should try and talk me into eating something, or worse yet, TRICK me into eating something that I don't eat. I don't pitch a fit and ask people to accommodate me, I simply politely decline a serving.

I have been like this since before birth, my mother, who loved bananas, got sick if she ate them while she was pregnant with me (but not with my sister, who eats bananas), and I never ate fruit (other than three specific ones) after I had vegetables. I have tried many times, I get shaky, nauseated and sweaty at the thought. I am a grown up, I decide what I eat and what I don't. My parents didn't make different meals, they would just make me my own portion of whatever it was that didn't have in it whatever I didn't eat. You know what? That's not pandering, that's loving parenting.
posted by biscotti at 5:54 AM on February 29, 2016 [6 favorites]


In the article, the lists of what some of those picky eaters will eat seem very long to me. I grew up eating bologna sandwiches (on white bread) and sugar cookies. Occasionally I would eat a hamburger, but it had to be a fast food burger, NOT a restaurant burger, and it had to be PLAIN, just the meat and the bun. I would sometimes boil hot dogs and eat those -- no bun though, just the dog. No vegetables, no fruit. This was in the 1970s; given what we know now about processed foods and fast food being bad for you, I'm not sure I would let a child grow up eating that way, although I don't know what my mother could have done about it, because I was quite stubborn.
posted by JanetLand at 6:03 AM on February 29, 2016


Today my best friend can't take her five-year-old to Costco with us because if he sees things in the cart that aren't on his short list of edibles he comes spectacularly unglued. She insists he isn't a picky eater at all.

To be fair, this reaction isn't necessarily correlated with the range of things the kid will eat. My toddler will eat or at least try a variety of things, but the very sight of one of the foods she does dislike, even if it's on someone else's plate, can turn her into a tornado of upset fury. A lot of my own meals at the moment are spent eating with one hand while the other strokes her sobbing, tearstained head as she demands I stop eating whatever it is she doesn't like. The neighbours must think I'm chugging drain cleaner or something: "No! Is yucky! Mumum NO eat it! Stop it stop it pleeeeeeease!"

My theory on this is that it's related to the adjustment process young children go through where they slowly realise they are not actually the centre of the universe. Which in discussions like this sounds like a "look what an awful attitude we cultivate in the entitled youth of today!" thing, but it's a totally normal developmental stage. Discovering that your dislike of avocado has not caused avocado to stop existing is an unpleasant reminder of your own limitations, I suppose?
posted by Catseye at 6:25 AM on February 29, 2016 [6 favorites]


Last night at dinner, my 3.5 year old didn't like that I was eating latkes with sour cream (yes, she's a heathen who doesn't know what she is missing). Glad to know she's not the only one.
posted by Anne Neville at 6:53 AM on February 29, 2016


1/2 sour cream, 1/2 apple sauce, but never the two shall meet.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:58 AM on February 29, 2016 [4 favorites]


Remember, correlation is not causation. Just because adult picky eaters had parents who made separate meals for them does not necessarily mean that parents making separate meals causes picky eating. The causation could be the other way round. Maybe some kids are very picky, and that's the only way to get them fed enough to keep them healthy. Parents have a strong motivation to make sure their kid is eating something.

Those of you who say you can't imagine your parents catering to a picky eater- it's possible that they didn't have an extremely picky eater, so they didn't have to. I can't imagine my parents dealing with a kid with a severe mental or physical illness, either. That doesn't mean there was something in their parenting that prevented those things.

Of course, I don't know that those things are true, but you always have to be careful when you try to infer causation from correlation.
posted by Anne Neville at 7:02 AM on February 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


How would one of us feel if we were sitting at the table with someone who was eating bugs, or something else we find disgusting? If I ate sushi at the table with my parents, their reaction might not be all that different from my daughter's reaction to the latkes, come to think of it.
posted by Anne Neville at 7:10 AM on February 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh man. My toddler was eating salmon sashimi at that age, and then turned two and was immediately "I only eat white things and stuff made of food dye and sugar." I lost at least 50 smugness points that day.

Exactly our experience even down to the salmon sashimi.
posted by gaspode at 7:15 AM on February 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


My oldest is completely non-picky and my other two kids are very picky but weirdly so. Like my son once made a sandwich out of frozen waffles and salami and will eat sushi and raw oysters but won't eat vegetables ever. My mother watched him walk into the kitchen and say "Ooo! You bought prunes!" and grab a handful but once he got a bit of onion in a burrito and threw up. When he was around two, he wouldn't eat a green lollipop because he knew it was secretly made of salad. My youngest will make me fix her a turkey sandwich to bring to school when the school lunch is... a turkey sandwich.

All three should be picky because I let them eat almost anything when they were babies because I was worried they'd starve to death. I really don't think my youngest ate any food at all until she was about 16 months old. Just breastfeeding. Hated bottles. I always said I bought decorative baby food. I think one box of rice cereal lasted a year before I threw it away. I'd just hold some out on a spoon while they made horrified faces and then I'd throw it away.
posted by artychoke at 7:30 AM on February 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


The thing about that Buzzfeed list is that it's not going be accurate because it just asks if you eat certain foods like "beef," but doesn't account for different types within broad categories. For example, I'll eat ground beef, but won't eat steak, full stop. Similar thing with goat cheese: I'll eat aged goat cheese, but the fresh kind? Nuh uh. And peaches: I'll eat fresh, unpeeled peaches, but absolutely not canned or cooked -- wrong consistency.

In other words, my experience comports with what other people have said: for me, it's not so much about flavor as mouthfeel. Which is yet another reason that forcing children to eat is useless; there were lots of kids like me who would gladly have eaten, say, a raw carrot in place of one cooked into mush. Forcing kids (or adults for that matter) to eat something they find viscerally disgusting is never going to be terribly effective. It's also silly because it's not even necessary; kids will often eat the same thing presented to them in a more palatable way.

I also agree with Anne Neville that there was (and perhaps still is) a sense of shame associated with having a kid who was a picky eater. I think part of the reason my mother tried to force me to eat things I clearly despised was that she was freaking out at the thought of my going to another kid's house for dinner and not eating what was served. As others have said, I occasionally still get nervous going to someone's house for dinner for that very reason.
posted by holborne at 7:56 AM on February 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


I do not think it is kind of the NYTimes to deliberately set out to make readers want to throw this Henry person off a tall building: "He used to like avocado sushi, but no more, which is too bad, given the family’s upcoming trip to Japan was chosen in part to accommodate Henry’s food preferences." It is not Henry's fault that he is two and has crazy parents. NYTIMES UNFAIR TO HENRY.

If I had a kid, I'd do whatever necessary, within reason, to get the kid to school-age alive. Then I'd say, "Look here, kid. I'm planning and making your dinners. You can eat them or not, I don't care. But check this out: if you eat them, you get to plan and make your lunches. If you don't? I will plan and make your lunches." I went to school every day with WRONG SANDWICH (everybody else had Wonderbread, Kraft single, pudding, and some standing in the social hierarchy. I had Roman Meal, homemade jam, "natural" peanut butter, golden raisins, and a sad pariah existence), and therefore I know that this would work.

Who are these awful people who hog the porkloin for themselves and don't even give their kids the option? The kids eat nothing but cheesegrits "to avoid waste?" BS: if the kid doesn't eat the porkloin it's not going to waste, you put it in a tupperware and eat it for lunch tomorrow. Everyone needs to read Bread and Jam for Frances and quit cheaping out and giving kids nuggetized everything.
posted by Don Pepino at 7:58 AM on February 29, 2016 [7 favorites]


I'm a semi-recovered adult picky eater. It was in my childhood and still is now mostly about texture, and is actually only one of a range of sensory issues I have, but I had absolutely no vocabulary to explain that as a kid so I'm just I just came off as "entitled nonsensically random picky eater."

My mom catered to it a fair amount and while I sometimes wish she had pressed the issue a little harder so that maybe I would have learned to tolerate more vegetables then and not be doing the work of forcing myself to tolerate them now, mostly I'm glad that I have fond memories of our family dinner table being a loving and bonding place and not a battlefield. (Her childhood dinner table was a battlefield for other reasons, and I suspect she worked really hard not to replicate that dynamic for me.)

I've learned to tolerate a much wider variety of things than I ate in my childhood, but with a few exceptions, I haven't really learned to *like* any of them. I eat non-potato vegetables now because I understand about not dying of horrible nutrient deficiencies, and because it's somewhat embarrassing to be an adult out to dinner with other adults and be unable to bring yourself to eat anything on the menu. But if I could still eat all the time like I did at age six and not have to worry about health or appearances, I would, and I'd be a happier person for it.
posted by Stacey at 8:55 AM on February 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


I was mostly a texture-based picky eater, too, and as an adult I'm still not a terribly *adventurous* eater. At least not one on par with my housemate, who's been known to call the bison people at the farmer's market in advance and ask them to bring her a buffalo heart. But I eat sushi cheerfully, I love Indian food (bring me all of your mutter paneer and samosas, please), I'll at least try just about anything.

There are a lot of things that I thought I hated, as a kid, because I only encountered them cooked to mush or toughness. These days I'll cheerfully eat half a bag of raw green beans and call it lunch, or as much lightly-steamed broccoli and asparagus as you care to give me, but as a kid I wasn't offered that option. Once I had good red meat cooked medium-rare, I never looked back. Seafood, at least, was never a problem, because native Marylanders never lack for good, fresh, well-prepared seafood. (That same housemate, a native Midwesterner, mostly only met seafood in frozen fishstick form until she moved out here.)

The stuff I really hated as a kid, I still mostly hate. Fresh tomatoes, onions in any form, pickles. Unexpected crunchy bits in soft foods, like celery in tuna salad, or gristly/fatty bits in meat, can still set off my gag reflex. Carrots and celery in soup seem kind of pointless, still, and I mostly eat around them. I still don't drink soda, because the fizz hurts my mouth, and always has. Same for beer, plus I don't like the taste, but I'm learning to like hard cider.

I never liked garlicky things as a kid, or cheeses that weren't orange and individually wrapped. But now I am a horrible garlic monster who actually giggled with delight when I discovered that the design-your-own-pizza place near me offers who roasted garlic cloves as a topping. And I still eat cheese and crackers for dinner sometimes, but now it's good Brie with blueberries on top.

My family still teases me for my past pickiness, every once in a while, but thus far I've been too polite to tell them they had only themselves to blame for most of it.
posted by nonasuch at 9:34 AM on February 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


Pick your battles.

My son doesn't like mayo, mustard, pickles or anything called salad. We've been pretty food-challenged this year and one of the ubiquitous items in a box from the food bank is canned tuna. There are shelves outside the pickup window that hold things the bank can't give away and I usually do ok with that: a jar of pea-sized pickled capers. a bag of dried seaweed, onion dip mix.

Well the tuna situation was getting out of hand and there were two jars of mayo. I had to try, So I wrapped a bite of tuna salad in a piece of soft bread so he couldn't see the mayo or the seaweed, waited until he was totally distracted by the internet and popped it in his mouth. It got a thumbs up. I told him what it was after dinner.

He's going to be very disappointed when he discovers that only I put ito-wakame in tuna salad.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 9:45 AM on February 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


Chalk me up as another who thought he hated veggies until he had them fresh. My mom always made green beans from a can, simmered on the stove. Yuck. I had a revelation when I was newly married and my wife made fresh steamed green beans with a bit of butter and garlic. OMG! I also like fresh asparagus. OMG! Other veggies I'm weird about, like leaf spinach is fine, but once you cook it, I can't stand the taste. Broccoli is ok in small amounts, when mixed into other stuff like stir-fry, but I still don't like it by itself. I'm somewhat of a supertaster with certain things.

Fleebnork Jr. is (hopefully) starting to emerge from his maximum picky stage. We are currently working on trying a taste of something, and we tell him he doesn't have to eat it if he doesn't like it, but at least TRY it. This has had some modest success, although he still won't try anything green.
posted by Fleebnork at 9:56 AM on February 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Buzzfeed said I'm not a picky eater, but I definitely feel like one. I won't eat sour cream, mayo, mustard, other vinegar-based sauces (except ketchup and gloopy BBQ sauce), salad dressing, horseradish, wasabi, raw onion, or other vegetables that have that weird peppery bite like radishes. I'm afraid of many sushi rolls and dishes that don't have components listed because of these foods. I say afraid, because I will gag and vomit if I accidentally eat some of them. I've even come close to vomiting just accidentally touching sour cream. Trust me, if I could be not-afraid, I would. It would be so much easier.
posted by Night_owl at 11:35 AM on February 29, 2016


I can tell you that picky eating isn't always about bad cooking. I used to think it was. I was a picky kid who grew up eating mid-twentieth-century American type cooking- canned food, not much seasoning, a few dishes in rotation, you know the type. My husband and I don't generally cook that way (except once in a blue moon when I want some comfort food). People who have eaten our cooking tell us it is good. Not our 3.5 year old, though.
posted by Anne Neville at 11:39 AM on February 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


So, I was a voracious (not obese) eater as a child. I loved almost all foods, which was good, as my parents were into 70s health foods (I could even enjoy carob!). In my 20s I was very good about eating whole wheat bread, making my own spaghetti sauce etc. I liked junk food too, but tried not to overdo it. Then in my 30s I developed horrendous IBS-like issues and eventually (WAY too long) was put on a "low FODMAP" diet by the NHS, which bought it from Monash Univ in Austalia. FODMAP is an acronym for the complex sugars that are difficult to break down and therefore cause intestinal distress - mechanical disorder. Now I am unable to eat all the food that is good for you, and that I especially loved (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, mushrooms, garlic, onion, stone fruits, etc) as a child and adult. I blame all the antibiotics I have taken over the years, but who knows? The diet works like a charm, but I am the world's worst dinner party guest and say no to most invites. I dunno...
posted by mollymillions at 11:45 AM on February 29, 2016


A study conducted by Duke University’s Center for Eating Disorders and published in the fall found that even moderately selective eaters were more likely to show symptoms of depression, social anxiety, or ADHD than those kids who weren’t picky eaters. Severely selective eaters were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression or social anxiety.

I wouldn't be surprised if the causation is the other way around from what this seems to imply. Picky eating is common among autistic people and people with sensory processing disorder (SPD) and similar conditions. It seems more likely that being autistic/having SPD/ADHD leads to both picky eating and depression/anxiety than that picky eating leads to depression/anxiety/autism/SPD/ADHD.
posted by Lexica at 12:01 PM on February 29, 2016 [4 favorites]


Imagine you are anxious, and you've tried some foods you REALLY didn't like. Maybe you gagged on it. Maybe someone freaked out because you didn't like what they made for you. Maybe they punished you or called you a spoiled brat. Anyway, it wasn't a pleasant experience. You know the same thing could happen if you try another new food. How eager do you think you'd be to try other new foods? Remember, you're anxious- you worry about something bad happening. As an anxious person, I can easily see how the causality could work that way.
posted by Anne Neville at 12:15 PM on February 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also, nausea is a pretty common symptom of anxiety. It's also an excellent way to make someone averse to a particular food- most people probably have at least one food they don't like any more because they ate it when they weren't feeling well.
posted by Anne Neville at 12:24 PM on February 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Food consistency is something to be mindful of. Some people are just biased towards certain foods because they are slimy, they can see through them, or simply because they are too "squishy." Oxygen can allow for flavors to pull through a lot cleaner than if you were eating big chunks of whatever. Wine testers slurp not just to be pendant, but to allow for every drop of the wine to be tested. The activity of moving foods inside your mouth can allow you to taste many things you would have never though of. The aroma inside of your mouth when the food is there, and when it leaves, all adds to the overall flavor of the things you are consuming.

Most people will go years eating the same 5 foods over and over again without realizing it. Revisiting foods you didn't like when you lived at home with your parents can steer you in a completely different direction.

If you were born into a family that loves smoking, eating fried foods, and tons of sugars you are more likely to sustain that diet. Most of those flavors will clog up your tasting buds, and- what's even worse- prevent you from properly tasting things that are in your own mouth.

This is arguing for both sides I guess, that choices that you have in life, and the choices that are given to you by birth influence your eating habits. What kid is going to rationalize marketing campaigns for fast food (that are selling happiness) and think hmmm.... maybe eating an apple, which is cheaper and no one is saying is cool, would be more fulfilling? None. If you were allowed as a child to pick you own food, then you know right off the bait that you have a choice, but in 3rd world countriesit is probably much, much, harder to find picky eaters.
posted by lorigraves483 at 12:53 PM on February 29, 2016


It feels like kids weren't as picky back in the 70s but I don't think it's a fair comparison. Back then there just weren't the kinds of convenience and "kid-ized" or even drive-thru options. There was Kraft Mac & Cheese, and Ravioli-os but I don't recall a lot of other options. You could have a frozen dinner or fish sticks, but anything frozen required use of the oven and 30-40 minutes. I think kids didn't know they could be so picky! I don't remember being too picky about meals in general, but they always included a basket of bread and butter so I'm sure there were times that's all I ate. Still is.

On preview, sort of what lorigraves483 just said.

I went to school every day with WRONG SANDWICH (everybody else had Wonderbread, Kraft single, pudding, and some standing in the social hierarchy. I had Roman Meal, homemade jam, "natural" peanut butter, golden raisins, and a sad pariah existence), and therefore I know that this would work.

I was another kid who brought the wrong kinds of lunches. My wrong bread was Rye, but truly it was the Roman Meal kids who got the worst of it.
posted by Room 641-A at 1:22 PM on February 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


artychoke: When he was around two, he wouldn't eat a green lollipop because he knew it was secretly made of salad.
That is so awesome, I am using that next time I don't want to eat something green.
posted by soelo at 1:43 PM on February 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


The neighbours must think I'm chugging drain cleaner or something: "No! Is yucky! Mumum NO eat it! Stop it stop it pleeeeeeease!"

My father was a very picky eater and also found it hard to stomach it when other people ate what he didn't like. So many times I ordered a steak less than well done and heard him mutter, "eeeeewww." And even mentioning the word "sushi" in his prescence would get an undignified "euwyuuuk" out of him.

I was picky and lived almost exclusively on hamburgers and tuna sandwiches for most of the third through fifth grades. My mother's solution was to teach me how to cook. Now, I'm in the normal range of picky eaters, there's only 13 on the Buzzfeed list that I won't eat.
posted by teleri025 at 1:56 PM on February 29, 2016


I was a super picky eater, but I always liked my veggies. As a kid, I would choose to get broccoli and carrots as a side over french fries in any restaurant where that was a choice. But when I didn't like something, oh, did I not like it.

Potatoes. Seafood. Peppers. Pickles. Lettuce. Steak. Etc.

Then I grew up and started cooking myself. I realized I didn't like a lot of things because my mom sucked at cooking. Baked chicken, frozen mush veggies, and a packet of seasoned rice were go-to's. I discovered fresh veggies, realized I liked most things with proper seasoning, and roasted veggies anytime.

Now, I'd still consider myself a relatively picky eater (when I don't like something, I really don't like it), but I'm still way less picky than my parents are. I don't like mashed potatoes, but mashed cauliflower or turnips? Delish. Roasted potatoes are acceptable. I've even managed to include some fish in my diet, although seafood still makes me gag unpleasantly.

(Still, though, I took that BuzzFeed picky eater quiz, and still felt like an enormously picky eater because I said I didn't care for about 20 of the food items on that list. )
posted by PearlRose at 2:09 PM on February 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


I was not a picky eater, but I was not allowed to ever refuse to eat anything. My mother said it was rude to refuse eat what someone made for you. Both my parents were quite prepared to do WHAT EVER it took to enforce the rules they made. We were poor and the only milk we had was powdered. It was vile. Sometimes I barfed after I forced it down. Didn't mean I got to say no to it next time. Later on I was sort of unofficially adopted by a different family. In that family you were allowed to do a "no thank you helping," you still had to eat everything that was served but you could take a very small portion of food you didn't care for. I always thought that was a good way to handle it. Later I became a vegetarian (20 years). Now, I will eat just about anything, but I definitely have my preferences and stick to a mostly meatless diet. Because I was raised to believe it, it does seem rude, and wasteful, and entitled to refuse food that has been made for you.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 2:32 PM on February 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


Just before I logged into MF, I watched the first part of Michael Pollan's Cooked on Netflix. So I came here thinking about the fact that if I had been born in another circumstance, I might have loved eating earth-baked lizards. Which in my current circumstance, I find disgusting.
Similarly, when tiny-mumi was born and up to 2-years, I saw the Indian wife of my husband's best friend a lot (they have moved back to India since then). I asked her how Indian children learned to eat spicy food, and logically she answered: it is what there is.
I was particularly stupid because like several commenters above I was raised poor, and we never questioned what was served. Food was often really bad and often I chose to eat little or nothing, but it was not like there was an alternative. Ironically, my brother and I often preferred the vegs to the cheap meat we had, and we had to be forced to eat up the meatballs rather than the broccoli. My parents were not good cooks.

My gran was a really good cook. She was raised in a very poor home, but her mother was a good home-maker, and her first job (at 13) was as a nanny in a home where good food was valued. Then, when she met my grandfather, she learnt about fine dining, because his grandmother was a renowned cook. Gran knew how to make the most of just about everything, and when she got access to the riches of butter and imported stuff post WW2, her repetoire exploded.
It was from her I learnt to eat and enjoy food. And she was very generous. Each summer, I could invite friends to stay with us at her farm, and their parents loved it, because even the most picky of children learnt to enjoy meals and eat everything. I don't know exactly how she did it, but as I remember it, it was a lot like the French school lunches we so often hear about. Meals were always sit-down and always lasted more than 30 minutes. There was a dress-code and napkins. There were multiple courses and no-one commented on anyones food-choices. But Gran would charm all the picky eaters to just try one bite of everything, and within a couple of weeks, they would eat everything. It was a farm, so almost everything was made from scratch, except the bread, she never figured out baking. We had fish, shellfish, liver, tongue, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, beets, home-made yogurt, pickled herring, salads (I learnt later she didn't really like salads herself, but she never said a word when we were kids), spicy food, tons of mushrooms and lots of more conventional food. Everyone ate everything. There was a strange dilemma in that we kids were included in the process of preparing the meals but also excluded from the kitchen when the magic was going on. We could come along down to her friend, the fisherman, and we could clean the potatoes and even have responsibility for the salad, but the moment where she made the special wonderful gravy that could make tongue edible was off-limits.

Incidentally, when I learnt about the concept of super-tasters, I realized that my gran was probably one. But a super-taster born into dire circumstances and with few choices. So she learnt how to manage her circumstances: well, if I have to eat liver, how do I make liver work for me And I think maybe that was why she became a home-cook who could convince people to eat everything.
posted by mumimor at 2:43 PM on February 29, 2016 [7 favorites]


It seems like kids being picky is one of those situations where there are many options that seem reasonable on the surface and work for many families, but any given option might or might not work for a particular kid. Some kids will be ultra-picky if given the choice, but end up accepting and perhaps even enjoying whatever is available if their only other option is to go hungry. Some kids seem to be totally unable to tolerate certain foods and/or don't really mind being hungry, so they will end up miserable and chronically underfed if they aren't given enough acceptable options. What works beautifully for one picky toddler might be an unmitigated disaster with another.

I wish that the conventional wisdom around this kind of thing was less "if you don't do xyz, you're doing it wrong" and more "xyz works for a lot of people, abc works better for some people, and here are some other options you could try out if neither of those is a good option for your family."
posted by insectosaurus at 6:37 PM on February 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


"more "xyz works for a lot of people, abc works better for some people, and here are some other options you could try out if neither of those is a good option for your family.""

Yeah, because pickiness is really not just one thing, but a bunch of things -- normal phases of little-kid food refusal, lifetime taste dislikes, kids with control issues, kids with sensory issues, parents transmitting food issues to their kids ... it's a lot better to have a tool box and several things to try and an understanding that it could be a variety of underlying issues. Normal little-kid food refusal is often overcome (eventually) by saying "you have to try one bite of everything," but if you've got a kid with a sensory issue that's just going to lead to a lot of gagging.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:07 PM on February 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


My parents also to this day still tease me about not liking to eat anything green, which is very annoying to me. I simply don't like MUSHY CANNED NASTY vegetables. We weren't poor, my mom just made food that way because of her 50s upbringing. Also, because of that tradition, it's MY FAULT that I don't like her nasty canned beans.
posted by Fleebnork at 4:14 AM on March 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


My mother couldn't do anything top of stove but she was great at anything that went in the oven. My father was fantastic until he got hold of a fad, and then he was a horrible menace. (STIRFRY. STIRFRY EVERY DAY EVERY SINGLE DAY. Oh! It's avgo lemono again! Hooray, a noisome, greasy, curdled horror no self-respecting Greek person would be in the same town with but we four must snack it down and affect to relish it or the screaming will be unending! Did you know dandelion greens are packed with life-giving vitamins and minerals and that's why they taste like Satan's intestinal lining, hooray? Here's a hot massive horrorinducing ladleful!) I credit their various and spectacular failings with my ability to eat my own abuses wreaked upon the innocent contents of the CSA bag today.
posted by Don Pepino at 2:47 PM on March 1, 2016


> My parents also to this day still tease me about not liking to eat anything green, which is very annoying to me. I simply don't like MUSHY CANNED NASTY vegetables. We weren't poor, my mom just made food that way because of her 50s upbringing. Also, because of that tradition, it's MY FAULT that I don't like her nasty canned beans.

This a thousand times. I didn't realize vegetables weren't soggy, salt-laden lumps of mush until I grew up and left the house. I don't know if it was for a lack of budget or a lack of cooking know-how, but dear jesus if I had known about fresh vegetables when I was a kid I might have developed much healthier eating habits.
posted by lock sock and barrel at 10:18 AM on March 2, 2016


I wasn't a picky eater, not that I'd have been allowed to be. My younger brother decided to control life around the age of six by refusing to eat crunchy peanut butter (my favorite), cream of mushroom soup (my favorite), or ONIONS. And then we ate no fucking onions, though I was still made to swallow (and then regurgitate) raw tomato. I wonder if there's a breakdown on the gender of children who are allowed to dictate.

I *still* periodically try to eat raw tomato, because tastes change, and it still comes right back out. But I can eat tomato sauce, and salsa if the chunks are not too big, and etc. What the hell causes *that* I wonder.

Raw tomato gaggers of the world, please explain. I know there are others.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 5:14 PM on March 4, 2016


What the hell causes *that* I wonder.

Oh my god I am not alone. I am absolutely disgusted by large chunks of half-cooked tomato. And my wife loves nothing more than thin pasta with drizzly sauce and mostly half cooked chunks of tomato. I only ever succeeded at ever getting her to stop serving that shit because I got the diabetes and showed her on the meter that I couldn't eat pasta at all, no for reals even when we tried all the supposedly diabetes-friendly varieties.

But that's not the worst. The worst for me is wet bread. I cannot eat dumplings or sandwiches which are too drippy or which have sat around too long and gotten drippy when they aren't supposed to be. It's not the taste, it's something about the texture that sends that stuff right back up if I insist on trying to swallow it.

I have no idea why I have this aversion, or the one about tomatoes, and it's obvious other people don't understand. (There's a whole subculture in New Orleans that worships the roast beef poboy drenched in gravy, but while I love the smell the mouth feel makes me barf.)

What is really funny is that my father still adheres to the rule he was taught as a child to clean his plate. At the age of 73 I have seen him methodically put down a half pound hamburger and fixings, even though I know it's three meals for him. And he finds it mysterious and a little disquieting that I will throw away food because, especially since I started the low carb diabetic diet, it's not about wanting to keep eating, at a certain point my body simply refuses to keep going and lets me know that one more bite will come right back up.
posted by Bringer Tom at 6:25 PM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


. I am absolutely disgusted by large chunks of half-cooked tomato.

I dislike big chunks of mushy cooked tomato because of the texture, but I've known people who are allergic to raw tomato, so that may be an cause for some of the tomato preferences mentioned above.

But that's not the worst. The worst for me is wet bread. I cannot eat dumplings or sandwiches which are too drippy or which have sat around too long and gotten drippy when they aren't supposed to be. It's not the taste, it's something about the texture that sends that stuff right back up if I insist on trying to swallow it.

Hello, fellow traveler. May I offer to you the torta ahogada? It has an amazing flavor, but the wet bread is, for those of us with discriminating palates, a barrier to full enjoyment, to put it mildly. There are so many wet-bread dishes, from bread pudding to french dip sandwiches, and for me it is the culinary equivalent of nails on a chalkboard, but obviously most people love them.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:01 AM on March 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


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