What It Really Means If You're A Picky Eater

If you know a picky eater, you might find yourself rolling your eyes when they refuse to eat the broccoli or mushrooms on their plate. If you're the one who has a hard time getting some foods down, you probably wish people would believe you when you explain you just can't stomach certain cuisines. Let's look into why some people turn their noses up at mealtime while others are happy to consume anything in sight.

It starts with your upbringing. It's common for children to go through a picky eating phase at some point because they haven't been exposed to a variety of foods early in life. Some kids are more sensitive to textures and smells, which can make new foods unappealing. Children are also less tolerant of bitter and sour flavors than adults, which makes their aversion to some foods like vegetables more understandable (via ScienceDirect). 

But some picky children, especially those who grow up to be picky adults, are heavily influenced by environmental factors as well. Marcia Pelchat, Ph.D., a researcher at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, told Self that parents who don't try very many new foods probably aren't going to expose their children to a wide variety of tastes and textures. This can cause the child to grow up with a fear of new foods called neophobia, which they may pass onto their own children as well.

How to break out of the cycle of picky eating

Because environmental factors play a large role in the habits of picky eaters, it is possible to expand your eating horizons as an adult. The key is to start small and not overwhelm yourself with too many new tastes at once. Nutritionist Susan Piergeorge, M.S., RDN, suggested to Byrdie that a picky eater should begin by mixing new foods with options that they already like. If you hate spinach but love spaghetti, for example, stir some finely chopped spinach into your favorite sauce. Some other ways to become less picky include trying new recipes, eating with adventurous foodie friends, and not overthinking when you eat.

It's also important to be mindful when you eat and understand that you don't have to like every food you try. Everyone has different taste preferences. If you've tried red peppers prepared four different ways and you've never enjoyed eating them, you probably are never going to like red peppers. And that's okay! Just make sure you're eating enough of a variety of foods that you are getting all the nutrients you need to be healthy.