Oh My Guac!

Sometimes my process goes right out the window because, well, I don’t know that I’m trying new food. Though it doesn’t happen often, it isn’t unusual for me to be surprised by an unexpected ingredient, especially when eating at a restaurant. This happened (thankfully with success) during my first date with my now-husband, Drew.

On the night of our first date I was nervous but excited – I couldn’t believe I was going out to dinner with a co-worker! The typical questions went through my head – is this a date date or just a fun night out? How will it go? What if I embarrass myself or it goes poorly and work becomes awkward? I wasn’t really thinking about what I would be eating, especially when I walked into the restaurant and watched him stand up in his work shirt and jeans (confession – this was my first time seeing him with his shirt un-tucked and for some reason I thought it was SUPER attractive).  

We chatted while we looked over our menus so I don’t remember taking in much information other than seeing “fish tacos – fried cod and coleslaw.” The food came and we kept chatting while we ate, I was still so excited and chatty that I doubt I tasted much in my taco. Then I actually looked at it and there was a green, creamy blob I didn’t expect to see. I sat for a second then said “oh my gosh, there’s guacamole in here. And I think I like it!” Drew already knew a bit about my picky eating so he just burst out laughing and joking how amazing it was that I tried something and liked it.  

So, yeah, I had no idea what I was eating but liked it a lot! In fact, I almost always get the fish tacos when I go to The Claddagh Pub.  

Fish tacos

I think a few factors were at play that helped me try this food and like it so much: 

  • I was in an exciting, distracting atmosphere 
  • I was with someone I enjoy talking to  
  • The guac was mixed in with other ingredients I really like that almost masked the guacamole flavor at first 
  • There was no build up or (food-related) anxiety  

I Like Guac, but not on its Own 

I really like guac in tacos, burritos, nachos, etc. but I don’t like just chips and guac on their own. The texture is a little too grainy yet fluffy with chunks…which doesn’t feel right with the taste. If there are spicy guacamole recipes maybe I’d like it more, but when it’s too bland I only focus on the texture and not the taste. I’m working on liking guac and chips, but it might take a bit before it’s an app I choose at a restaurant or party.  

This Worked for Me, But Don’t Think You Should Stick New Food into Every Recipe 

I know this may feel like I’m saying try to trick your picky eater by sneaking new ingredients into their food without warning. This can lead to distrust, fear, and anger at meal times. My goal with this blog is to help do the opposite of that. So for this post I’ll recommend a different approach to this tactic. 

Pick an Exciting Setting 

At a party, theme/water park, the beach, anywhere your kid is too excited to be? Then they’ll be less likely to be focused on the food set before them and more eager to get back to the action.  

Kids eating at a baseball game
Photo by Wade Austin Ellis on Unsplash

Tap into Their Chatter Box 

Keep talking to them about the fun things you’re doing while eating to keep their mind off of their meal. Even better – ask them what the first ride, game, slide, etc. they want to do once they’re done eating. Give them something to be excited about so the fear of eating doesn’t feel so big anymore.  

Add Food They Love 

Masking the taste of the new food with food they already like can work wonders in helping your eater like a new food. I’ve done this with guac, pork, potatoes, onions, and more. By using a food I already like as a vehicle for the new food, then I swear I’ve tricked my own mind into believing I liked a new food I may have not liked if I tried it on its own.  

Keep it Light 

This can be taken in two different ways: light attitudes and light servings.  

Keep your conversations happy and exciting. Don’t be serious, don’t pull the stern “we aren’t leaving this table until you’ve finished your food.” Instead talk about what they want to talk about and what they’re excited for. Joke around, even if they don’t like it joke about it! Not liking a food can be a scary or disappointing moment. So instead of letting them stay down try to bring them up with humor! 

When giving them the new food, just use a bit of it. Don’t use a full amount as you would in your own dish because that is a scary amount for them. Instead, even just a few crumbs of a new food is sufficient. Yes. That small is plenty. Think about it, you’re used to the flavor and probably like it, so you think more is best, right? Nope. Not for a picky eater. Smaller is better because they can easily get the flavor out of their mouths quicker, the size doesn’t look intimidating, and they could try to pretend it isn’t even on their spoon.  

Don’t Do This Every Time 

Take it from me. Being expected to try a new food at every meal is exhausting. Don’t do this process every single time your at the exciting, distracting place. Just do it every once in awhile, especially on days they’re clearly too excited to think much of food. But if you keep doing this at every party or park, then they’ll associate that place with trying new foods and they won’t like it anymore! Think about it, if you are always pinched when you go to Target, then you won’t want to go to Target anymore or always be paranoid of being pinched. So don’t pinch your kid, give them a break and let them eat their chicken fingers in peace. 

Keep Reminding Them if This Works 

Find this tactic worked for your eater? Then remind them of it! Help them remember it doesn’t have to be as scary as they’re making it. Remind them they had fun when they tried a new food and let them know it can still be fun even if they don’t like the food. Heck, Drew LOVES to remind me of the guac incident and its helped me realize that trying a crazy new food I didn’t think I’d ever try doesn’t have to be a major event.  


First June Food of the Month Attempt – Bacon, Cheese, and Pepper Omelet

Over this past weekend Drew made everyone omelets. The core ingredients were eggs, bacon, and cheese (classic for kids and not too bad for me). That’s when it hit me that peppers are ALWAYS an option on menus, so it was time for me to bite the bullet and add some peppers to the frying pan.

Photo by Caio on Pexels.com

Now, eggs are still a relatively new food for me, and the one tip I’ve had for others is to add a lot of food you already know you like to the food you’re trying. With this meal I was turning that tip on the side a bit by adding a second food I still wasn’t sure about, peppers, to a food I’ve been working on for a while, eggs.

I picked out a nice, red pepper and chopped about half of it into small cubes. I didn’t add all of it to the omelet – in comparison to the full pepper I really didn’t add much – but while I was eating I found myself picking around the peppers or adding a lot more cheese and bacon bites to try to mask the pepper taste. This worked for the most part, but I found myself taking little breaks between particularly peppery pieces before going for another forkful.

Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

I was overwhelmed at points with the taste of the peppers and needed a coffee break for a chance to gather myself to try again.

What I Took from This

The loudest voice in my head was screaming, “There are way too many peppers in here!!” And it was right. I was over eager in wanting to try the pepper, so I kept dropping more pieces in the pan. What I should have done is cut less peppers to start with and then add even less to my omelet.

It took me a while to finish eating because I was overwhelmed at points with the taste of the peppers and needed a coffee break for a chance to gather myself again. I also found myself letting the peppers fall off of my fork, so I sometimes didn’t even get one with that bite.

What You Can Take Away from This -Learn From My Mistakes

Don’t do what I did. Yes, it’s exciting to think about your child trying a new food you’re sure they’ll love, but that doesn’t mean they’ll want to taste it in every bite. Instead add the new food sparingly and spaced far apart. Then they’ll have breaks from the new food and enjoy the food they already like. This will keep the tasting more positive and comfortable for your picky eater.

Even better, have them add the new food themselves! Then they can control what they’re eating and feel more confident once it comes time to try the food. Giving them some control over what they’re eating will do wonders with their confidence.


June Food of the Month – Peppers

Photo by Ju00c9SHOOTS on Pexels.com

One food I’ve seen come up time and again in recipes, meal prep ideas, and menu options is bell peppers. I’ve had tiny, tiny bites of them in the past, but this month I’m going to be intentional about fitting it into weekly meals to keep trying it more and more. On top of that, Addy, my youngest bonus daughter, recently asked to buy peppers to try more! Hey, if a 9-year-old wants to eat it I better try it too, right?

Why I Think I’ll Like Peppers

Before I get too far into my meal plan, I want to explain why I think I’ll like peppers. As mentioned before, peppers are popping up in most of the recipes I’ve seen, so they’ve gotten to hard to ignore. So instead, I’ve tried to look at why they’d make meals more enjoyable:

  • They’re crunchy, and I love crunchy! Adding them to a quesadilla, Asian stir fry, or salad will improve the texture of my meals.
  • They have a fresh taste. I am not a fan of bitter, underwhelming, or bland fruits and vegetables. Peppers have a bright taste that fills my mouth in a way that makes my mouth feel full, even if I only had a little bite. Having this flavor mixed into ones I know I already like will help me like it over time.
  • They’re healthy AND satisfying. A major reason why I want to like peppers more is that I’m trying to eat healthier to keep up with my running. Peppers will help fill me up without the extra carbs and calories of heavier foods.

The Recipes

I’ve started this already with an omelette over the weekend, with some success. But the one thing I’ve learned by searching for recipes with peppers is that there are TONS of ways to incorporate them into meals. One of the most common is stuffed peppers, so that seems like as good a place to start as any!

Drew and I have several recipes that we are eager to try. The one I’m most excited about is Delish.com’s Best Buffalo Chicken-Stuffed Peppers. I love buffalo chicken wraps, dips, salads, and sandwiches, so I’m hoping the heat of the buffalo and the creamy cheese and chicken mixture will help me appreciate the peppers more.

If I like this recipe I will branch out to Baked Lasagna-Stuffed Peppers (no beef for me) and see if Drew and the girls like them too. Then we have a healthier substitute for the typically carb-heavy lasagna!

Buffalo Chicken-Stuffed Peppers
JONATHAN BOULTON

Over the past few years I’ve grown to love Mexican food. The combination of gooey cheese, spicy chicken, and fresh salsa hits all my bells. However, there is rarely a time that I don’t edit my order. I’ve almost always asked to have peppers and beans removed from tacos and quesadillas, but now I’m going to try Cooking Classy’s Chicken Quesadilla’s {Chicken Fajita Style} without removing the peppers!

I’m hoping the extra cheese and chicken will help mask the pepper taste, but not lose the satisfying crunch!

The last recipe I plan on trying is much more chicken-focused, which will be a nice change of pace for me. I love Asian food, so The Recipe Critic’s Skinny Slow Cooker Kung Pao Chicken is right up my alley! This recipe is full of fun ingredients, though the zucchini may not make the cut this first time around. I hope it will be a go-to, healthier version of the frozen meals I get from Target.

I may also adjust the recipe a bit so the girls like it too. One thing I like about the Recipe Critic is that she provides variations for her recipes along with tips on how to store, meal plan, and reheat the dish. I think her helpfulness has made a follower out of me before I’ve even tried her dish!

Recipe Critic’s Skinny Slow Cooker Kung Pao Chicken

Ok, now I’m hungry from writing about these recipes! It’s time for me to start trying out peppers. Subscribe to my emails to be sure you get my next post covering my omelet tasting post sent directly to your inbox!

Have a recipe you’ll think I like? Drop a note in the comments to let me know!


I Don’t Like Talking About This

My picky eating is my all-time least favorite conversation. Over my 27 years I have faced this conversation countless times with a wide variety of people

  • family,
  • friends,
  • coworkers,
  • significant others (even scarier, their family members), and
  • random table mates that couldn’t understand why I didn’t like certain foods.

I have received almost every type of reaction possible when I tell people I’m a picky eater. From understanding and patience to immediate judgment that I’m trying to get attention. Believe me, attention is the last thing I want when it comes to eating. I never know how they will react to hearing about my picky eating. The fear of more judgment—sometimes even frustration—coming at me keeps me from talking about it. I’ve even had people mad at me for it, as if I had no right to be picky about what I eat. Believe me, I don’t want this and getting mad at me for it does not fix it. Even thinking about someone confronting me about my eating makes me anxious.

If you read in my post “What is ARFID?” I include a description of what physically happens to ARFID patients that fear trying food:
The physiological constriction of the mouth tissues, throat, and digestive tract from the fear stops the ability to eat a variety of foods.
I get that feeling by talking about my picky eating with almost anyone. Every time I write about this I get this feeling and it’s so uncomfortable. But if by writing about it here I’m able to lessen this fear or constriction for others, then I’ll keep writing.

This is a conversation that needs to happen in an honest and understanding way. Right after my first post I received feedback from others about how happy they are that I’m writing about this. They are so excited that someone is talking about it and getting the word out. They are hopeful that it will lead to more understanding and less judgment or pressure. I think almost every picky eater doesn’t like talking about their habits. So by writing about it on here I hope I’m saving them from future painful conversations. Or, hopefully, it’s making picky eating less shameful and instead help others understand that it can’t be helped in a lot of cases.

For most picky eaters we don’t like being picky. No, it’s not an act to get attention or get our way. It’s not something we are proud of or want to be known for. Picky eating is a fear-filled burden. Yes, I sound dramatic, but it’s true.

I am guessing most non-picky eaters are excited to go to new restaurants and try new foods. It’s exciting to think you’ll find your new favorite restaurant or meal that you wouldn’t have thought of before. That’s not my reaction at all. My senses go on high alert and I immediately dive into google to find out everything about the restaurant. My stomach starts to turn in knots if something doesn’t pop out to me that I like. If there is something that I might like…with a few alterations…then I start getting a stress headache about having to ask for the changes. I stress because I know that will open up the “you don’t like peppers/mushrooms/gravy/peas/mashed potatoes/etc.?!” from my table mates. Sometimes a normal “Nope” answer suffices and they go on their merry way. But too many times they want to know why you don’t like something. For this I usually reply “I don’t know, I just don’t.” Once I say that I know one of two scenarios play out, 1) they drop it and let it be or 2) they try to analyze why I don’t like the food. “Is it the taste/texture/smell/look?” Once the second scenario aficionados find out I’m a picky eater, I’m suddenly their most intriguing puzzle to solve. They ask what kind of foods I like then try to determine why I like them. They try to connect the dots on what I’ve tried in the past and what I could do different to make myself like the foods I didn’t like before (see my Beef Goulash Food Fail post). They then make it their life goal to “help” me to try new foods. The thing is, this kind of interrogation and attention sends me back a few steps rather than forward. I immediately regret going out to eat. I don’t want to even sit with them anymore. I lose my appetite and the food set before me will always taste bad.

I hate those situations. I don’t like going out to eat with new people at new restaurants. I didn’t like going out to eat for the first few dates of a relationship because I didn’t want that stress during a time that should be fun and exciting.

I don’t want to be a psychological investigation for a group of people. 9 times out of 10 I’d rather not eat at all than talk to a new person about my picky eating. But here I am telling you all about it.

What You Can Take Away From This

If you find out someone you are eating out with is a picky eater, unless they offer up information, don’t ask questions. Don’t let your curiosity run wild…verbally. Later you could look into picky eating and why some people are picky eaters, but don’t use them as your research subject. You may think “but I could help them figure it out!”

Stop thinking that. Most of the time you can’t help them out. Everything you want to ask has probably been asked already many, many times. And guess what, it hasn’t been unsuccessful at “helping” the picky eater. If anything you run the risk of making the dinner harder for them than it already is. So be a good table mate, accept the fact that they don’t like a certain food and leave it at that.

Someone they feel comfortable eating with and, just maybe, opening up to about their picky eating. That’s when you can ask questions. Trust me, by not asking the questions you want to ask immediately you’re setting yourself up to be that picky eaters trust buddy.

Until then, just eat.


November Food of the Month – Turkey

One of my biggest supporters who I’ve mentioned here before, Cassie, gave me a great idea while I was still just imagining this blog about a year ago. I will have a food of the month that I will focus on to try several times throughout the month. What perfect food for November is there but turkey??

My History with Turkey

I’ve tried turkey several times throughout my life, mostly at on Thanksgiving. My family has always been convinced I would like it and I think they’re right, to an extent. Whenever I’ve tried turkey in the past I’ve been put off by the texture and how dry it is compared to chicken. This isn’t to bash the cooks who’ve made it for me, I’ve felt this way literally every time I tried turkey no matter who made it.

Then last year I went to my future in-laws’ home for Thanksgiving. Janelle, my future mother-in-law, made a smoked turkey with the idea/hope that I might like that because it was closer to chicken than a traditional turkey. And she was right!! I really liked it and got very excited to have it again. However, I haven’t had turkey since that meal.

My Plan for November

This month I plan on trying turkey at least five more times. I will try different forms/ways of eating turkey (turkey bacon, turkey sandwiches, etc.) while looking for new ways to cook it that might help me like it more. I’ll keep you all updated through this blog, Instagram, and Facebook so you can follow along and maybe learn how to like turkey a little more yourself!


Some Cooks Just Can’t Be Trusted

My sister and cousin actually helped me come up with this post when we were discussing some of the food I had posted on my Instagram that I did not like. My sister, Shelby, came up with the line “some cooks just can’t be trusted” I took that quote and ran.

I can’t tell you how many times somebody’s told me about their all time favorite recipe that they know I’ll love and can’t wait to make me. They believe that, because it’s food I like,  I’m sure to love it. I mean, everyone they make it for really likes it, so why should I be different? Then I get to the table, the meal is set before me, and I immediately regret everything. A number of things could be, in my opinion, “wrong” with the food that others would never thinks is an issue. There could be a crazy spices on there I’ve never tried and am unsure of, the chicken could be in cooked a way I’ve never had before or,  even worse, the bone could still be in the chicken. (I do not like bone-in chicken, that’s just a big thing for me. Seeing a bone in my meat then a meeting freaks me out.)

Then there are those people who, just to be honest, don’t know what they are doing in the kitchen. I know I’m not the world’s greatest chef, I’m not even my home’s go-to chef, but I know good food when I see it. There are so many times I sit down to a meal and wonder who else would eat it because they really liked it, rather than just to be polite. But, I eat it anyway. Even if it’s just one little bite and then saying “oh you know I ate such a big lunch I really can’t eat anymore but this is great, can I take some home?” I know that’s not the most honest way to go about it but it’s just being real with you guys. It happens more often than you think.

I often wonder if not-so-great cooks are aware of their their short comings. Then there are times I wonder if they just don’t that much that their food doesn’t taste that great. You know those people, the ones that just want to eat, regardless if the food isn’t the best.

I’m already a nervous wreck when eating with new people, and it’s so much worse if they are the ones cooking. What if I offend them? What if they think my picky eating is selfish or entitled? But when the food is bad it gets so. much. worse. I, 1) Start feeling guilty for not liking the food, and 2) try to avoid eating with them again. It’s sad, but it’s true.

I bet a number of you are reading this and thinking “what’s the big deal? It’s just food, it’s not like you’re dying.” But the thing is fear is one of the driving forces behind ARFID. It honestly can get to the point that it’s inescapable at any meal, especially when I have no idea what’s about to be served to me. My fiancé gives me a hard time for having a general need to know and control (no one’s thrown me a successful surprise party for instance), but it’s tenfold when it comes to my food. I think this need has largely developed because of all the times I try food that someone promised me I’d like, only to find out I hated it. That’s not to say I will write off any food anybody serves me. It’s just that I’ve come to recognize that I need to know what I’m being served and, at points, need to have a say in what’s being cooked. That’s not a comfortable conversation for me to have though, so I need to eat with the cooks I can trust.

The thing is, 9 times out of 10 people are OK with me giving input on the food we’re having for dinner. My brother-in-law Michael made a good point about this a while back. People really do want me to enjoy my meal and don’t want me to suffer through in silence. So it’s better to say what I’ll like and get over my fear of them getting frustrated or disappointed.

So, back to the topic at hand. Some cooks aren’t aware of how bad their recipes are. Or they love to make something a certain way, without thinking others might not like it or if it just isn’t good. These are the cooks I tend to not eat with.

I have to be honest about that chili I tried on slow cooker Thursday. It was bad. Even my sister said it didn’t look good and she loves chili. She won the chili cooking contest with her church last year. She immediately told me ideas of what I could do to make that she’ll be better, or how to make a completely different kind of chilly and thought I would probably have more success with. My cousin, Kylie, also chimed in with the recipe she really likes to make. It’s called jalapeño chili. I’m sorry sis, but I’m not so sure about that one. Maybe in a year or two.

When I try chili again, I will probably go with some of the tips Shelby gave me to make something I’ll like. Like using chicken instead of beef, committing chili blasphemy and not adding beans, etc. But I don’t see that happening for a while because all I can think about is how that chili tasted at work.

What Can You Take Away From This?

If you are the picky eater, then be aware of the cook. What do they usually like to eat? What are they planning on making? If you don’t like it, will they be willing to change the recipe to your liking? If not, the next question I’d ask is…why are you eating with them?

If your child is the picky eater, then be willing to support them by talking to whoever is cooking about your Little’s picky eating. It doesn’t have to be anything major, like telling them to not make the meal they were planning on. But ask that some key ingredients be left out, if possible. Lots of kids don’t like onions (it took me until high school before I even tried onion rings [easiest way to introduce onions to your child]) so if your child doesn’t like them, simply ask that it be removed from some of the dish. Maybe ask what sides will be included (rolls are a very easy side to include) or even ask if you could bring some! Rolls, carrots, and corn have been my jam at family meals for as long as I can remember. They have saved me from extreme hanger and held me over until dessert. Find your kid’s favorite sides and bring them with so they know there will be something they’ll like.


Food Fail: Beef Goulash

There I was, sitting in the Lobkowicz Palace in Prague waiting for lunch to be served. I should have been enchanted with the idea of eating a meal in a historic palace half way across the world, I mean COME ON who doesn’t want to be served in a palace?! But instead I was filled with dread because they just announced the meal: beef goulash.

That’s right.

Beef.

Goulash.

I had no idea what it was, but I pictured brown, indistinguishable chunks of meat floating in brown broth, and I felt nauseous. I immediately hated palaces and all who cooked in them. To make it worse, my trusted meal buddy, Cassie, who understands my “particular” eating habits was in a completely different room with a table of friends who wouldn’t push her to try anything new if she didn’t want to. But I made the mistake of admitting I had never tried beef and didn’t want to. My table mates wouldn’t let me off the hook that easy.

For at least five minutes my table mates suggested some interesting psychotherapy of how I could trick myself into actually liking the beef when I tried it. Anything from pretending it’s another food to saying “it’s just food! The worst than can happen is you won’t like it, that’s it.” Well, as noted in my first post, not liking a food I try is one of the worst things that can happen to me.

Lobkowicz Palace is the tan building on the far left.

The food was served and didn’t look anything like the floating mass my fears cooked up in my mind. There were three pieces of (I assume) well-cut beef in a gravy with potatoes. So, finally I gave in and tried it. And guess what? No matter how much I tried to pretend it was chicken or plug my nose (super classy way to eat in a palace, I know) and swallow quickly, I didn’t like it.

Yes I was disappointed that I didn’t like the beef, but I was honestly more relieved that the conversation was over. No one was pressuring me to try the potatoes because I lied and said I liked them but wasn’t too hungry so I was fine not finishing them. In reality I was fighting back the urge to gag from the salty taste left over in my mouth and counting down the seconds until I could sneak out one of my protein bars.

I need to stop here and say I don’t blame my table mates for doing what they did. It’s what most, if not all, people do when they hear about my picky eating. It’s just that I was so over the conversation before it happened because I’ve had that same conversation hundreds of times throughout my life.

Our choir singing in a ballroom of the Lobkowicc Palace

Looking back, from the very start of this meal I was set up to fail. I let my imagination get away with me, ultimately making me more anxious and fearful of whatever plate would be set in front of me. I let others press me to try something I was very, very nervous about and had absolutely no desire to try. And I wasn’t even proud of myself for trying to food. That’s the biggest failure in my mind. It probably doesn’t seem like a big deal to most people, but trying something so outside my comfort zone should have been an exciting moment for me. It should have been something I look back at and be happy that I gave it a chance. But I don’t. I look back at the meal and wish none of it had happened. I honestly don’t even remember what we did the rest of the day because that meal stands mars the day as a negative memory.

You see attention, stress, and peer pressure is not the way to convince someone to try a food they’re terrified to eat. It sets them up to fail. The more anxious someone is to eat something the much less likely they are to like it. Parents of picky eaters, how many times have you sat in front of your crying kid at the dinner table, making them stay there until they tried the food on their plate? Of those times, how often did they actually like it?

I’m not telling you to not encourage your kids to try new things, even if they’re adamant about not wanting to try it. I’m saying the approach to convincing someone to try the food they’re terrified of eating has to change. If they’re scared, crying, cringing, or worse, then it’s time to connect with them. Say “Hey, I know this is really scary for you, but I will be so proud of you if you try just a tiny bite of this beef. That’s all you need to try, a tiny bite. If you like it, then great! If not, that’s ok. You don’t need to like it, but you should really give it a chance.” That will make a huge difference in their willingness to try something new.

Creepy picture of choir members eating because there isn’t one of me (what’s a girl to do?)

Now parents, it’s time to get real. I can’t tell you how much I see that common trope of the crying kid at a dinner table with the domineering parent telling them that they can’t go to bed if they don’t eat everything on their plate. If you find yourself in this situation then you need to stop and ask yourself if you want them to try to food because you really want them to like it, or if you want them to eat it because you told them to eat it? Are you trying to help them learn to like more foods and expand their palate, or are you trying to teach them who’s boss? I’m sure once you answer this question your opinion of them trying new foods will change for the better.

How to Create a Positive Space for Trying New Foods

Parents of picky eaters, if there’s anything you get out of this blog I hope this is it. You must create a positive atmosphere to increase the chances of your child liking a new food.

  • Don’t put the child on display while trying new foods. As you’ll see later, for me I absolutely hate it when people stare at me when trying new foods. It’s so uncomfortable and makes me want to abort immediately.
  • Don’t give them the ultimatum that if they “don’t try the food, then they’ll lose dessert, go to bed early, need to stay at the table”…you name it. That immediately increases the fear they are already experiencing and decreasing any positive vibes they may have had towards the food.
  • Don’t say “you’ll never know if you don’t try it!” I hate that saying. Not because I think it’s wrong, but because it’s so overused it has completely lost its power and meaning. I’ve personally heard it thousands of times over my 27 years on this earth and it’s changed nothing for me. Just stop.
  • If they don’t like the food, don’t say “well you only tried a little bit” or “really? I thought you’d love it!” That makes the eater feel wrong and guilty, not encouraged to try something else. I have felt wrong for years because I don’t like foods. It is an awful feeling that has literally left me crying on a bathroom floor on a missions trip praying that God would finally take the picky eater out of me (that story is for another day).
  • Do give them the option of trying a new food. Yep. The OPTION. This gives them the feeling of control and, hopefully, comfort at the table.
  • Do encourage them to play with the food without the expectation that they then must try it. I don’t mean throw it across the room. But move it around with their fork, pick it up with their hands, look at it at all angles. For me personally I don’t like surprises in my food. The more I can examine or investigate it, the more comfortable I become around it.
  • Do explain to them what kind of food this is like in relation to what they already like  (for instance, pulled pork is like pulled chicken because the texture is the same and the taste isn’t too different, especially if covered in BBQ sauce).
  • Do tell them that it’s okay to not like the food. If they try it, that’s good enough.

I truly believe this is essential to trying new foods. If you are the picky eater, don’t let pressure or stress be the driving force behind your decision to try a new food. That only sets you up to fail. Instead, only try foods around people who are patient, understand your picky eating, and aren’t looking to be “the ones” who convince you to try a new food. Those kinds of people aren’t looking out for you and your growth, they’re looking for a win for themselves.

I typically only try new foods with my fiancé, Drew, my former roommates who have seen me eat daily and know my struggle, my immediate family and some close cousins, and Cassie — you’ll hear a lot about Cassie in the future. We bonded over the fact that we are both picky eaters and quickly became each other’s safe place for any and every meal in college. When I try a new food, they all know not to stare at me as I try the food. They do watch me, but it’s different from staring. When watching, it’s the same as if we were in a normal conversation. By staring, I mean no blinking, watching my every move, and waiting for my reaction the moment it happens. That’s soooo disconcerting. I don’t like being the center of attention, especially when I try new foods. So when I feel like I’m being stared at I get nervous and the classic signs of ARFID go overboard. My throat closes up and I get hot and sweaty. This discomfort often translates to my opinion of the food, setting me up for failure.

Please be patient with your picky eater. The best way to encourage trying new foods is being encouraging. This means having a calm, kind attitude and understanding if they don’t like the food the first, second, fifth, or tenth time around. Just because you like it doesn’t mean they will, and that’s okay. 


How to Feed a Picky Eater: My Process

One of the biggest hurdles in life for me has been trying new foods. I know. That’s SHOCKING considering the name of my blog. But it really has affected my life on so many levels, not just what I decide to eat at each meal. Though I haven’t been diagnosed with ARFID, and I don’t believe I’m as extreme of a case as many ARFID diagnoses are, trying new foods is possibly one of my biggest fears and the hardest barrier to break through in my life.

Over time I developed a process or practice for trying new foods that my family has helped me figure out along the way. It’s called the bridge process that my mom learned about in a book she read when I was in high school. I’ve outlined the process below with the example of BBQ pulled chicken.

The Process

  1. Pick a food I LOVE, in this case BBQ pulled chicken. Then identify a food similar to BBQ pulled chicken – first food that comes to mind is BBQ pulled pork
  2. Find a recipe including the food – nachos with BBQ pulled chicken, cheese, BBQ sauce, and green onions. Then substitute the chicken for pork.
  3. Try a normal-sized bite of the nachos with a small* piece of pork on it.
  4. Repeat.

*You will see throughout my blog, as well as others, that it’s important to keep portion sizes small. If I was given a large pile of pulled pork with just a chip and maybe some cheese top, chances are I’d abandon the food tasting.

Repetition and persistence are key! Studies show that the more a child is exposed to a food and tries the food, the more likely they will like it.  I’ve adopted that general rule of thumb for myself. If I attempt the process outlined above and don’t like the food or, more commonly, am not sure about it, then I try it again later. Once I’ve repeated the same recipe enough, I venture into different recipes to see if I truly like the new food, or just the cheesy mess piled on top. I’ve done this with pork, avocados, tomatoes, peppers, and more.

But I don’t just eat the same recipe over and over again. I like to try out more than one recipe to see how many ways I could potentially like the food put in front of me. So I moved from pork nachos to sometimes eating Drew’s ribs, trying a piece of pork from my sister’s Chinese dish, and constantly ordering totchos.

Ok. Before I keep moving we need to talk totchos. This artery-clogging dish has changed Drew’s and my happy hours. These babies are a towering mess of cheese, BBQ sauce, and pulled pork stacked on fried tater tots. If you live in the Maple Grove area (or within 50 miles of it, seriously though) I highly recommend going to The Lookout Bar and Grill and getting a plate of your own to see just how amazing they are.

Totchos from the Lookout Bar and Grill

By consistently trying a new food in multiple ways, I can find out what I like about the food and what I don’t like. This helps me to not only get past a fear of a new food, but gives me more than one avenue to try others that relate to it.


What is ARFID?

As I said in last week’s post, I have dealt with picky eating my whole life. It went beyond pure childlike stubbornness (though I don’t doubt I was guilty of doing that once or twice in my life) and didn’t end after I got out of my parents’ home and into the adult world. This felt wrong. Being a college student with school-made meals should have pushed me to eat different foods simply because I was too hungry not to eat! I should have been more comfortable with trying new foods at this point, something that became increasingly apparent to me when I went on a trip to Europe and half my suitcase was packed with protein bars, crackers, dried fruit, and more American snack food. I was that typical American that didn’t want to try another culture’s food, and that really bothered me. But, I felt stuck, as if there was nothing that could explain my food block and that I just needed to live with it.

It took me until I was 26 to find out that there is an actual eating disorder that I can identify with, Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). The National Eating Disorders website has a great definition of ARFID that I totally relate to:

ARFID is often described as being a form of “extreme picky eating.” Dr. Kim DiRé, a trauma and eating disorder specialist, states that: “Avoidant/Restrictive Eating Disorder (ARFID) is an eating disorder like no other. The fear of food and/or the consequences translates in ARFID individuals as “if I eat that, I will die.” The physiological constriction of the mouth tissues, throat, and digestive tract from the fear stops the ability to eat a variety of foods. 

From https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/what-exactly-arfid

When I discovered ARFID I immediately sent that description to my family, fiancé, and friends who have seen me sit through countless meals I didn’t like (shout out to Cassie!!). Their first response: well yeah, we always knew there was something more going on with you.

That was when I decided I wouldn’t be ashamed of my eating issues anymore, but instead would work to try and hopefully like new foods. Like many things in my life, if I don’t make my goals or ideas known to others then I give up after a week or two. That’s why I decided to start this blog! It is an incredibly public way for me to not only try to push my food boundaries, but hopefully help other parents of ARFIDs, kids with ARFID, and even other adults who still deal with it every day.

However, as the definition notes, this disorder is rooted in fear. Instant regret filled me as people came up with new ideas for me to try or what they think I should do first. Even worse, I made the flippant comment that if I gained 1 million followers I would try a hamburger. THAT got my roommates excited (they used my grill more than I did!). Right after I told my fiancé and roommates I’d do this, I wanted to back out. The reality of trying new foods more frequently filled me with dread. Even worse I said I’d try hamburger-of all things! Why would I want to risk ruining a good night out by trying something I don’t like? Why waste money on food I might not eat?

But this is something I’ve dealt with since I was a kid and always hated. So. Here I am almost a year after the idea of this blog came to me and I’m finally starting it. I’m committed now, whether it truly gets me to trying a hamburger or not, I will work on this blog and myself in the process. I hope this helps anyone out there who either deals with ARFID personally, has a child with ARFID, or just needs new ideas to get their picky eaters to eat.

I will be constantly researching ARFID as I go, reading any book I can find on the topic and following other food blogs.

First book on my TBR list: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder: Children, Adolescents, and Adults by Jennifer J. Thomas and Kamryn T. Eddy

One note: I am not an expert in eating disorders or mental illness. I am simply a woman trying to work past this roadblock in my life and want you to follow along! I will be continually researching ARFID as I go, so stay tuned for any new tidbits I find interesting as I learn!

Second note: though I believe I meet some criteria for ARFID, I have definitely not experienced every symptom or definition. I’m lucky in that I have had family and friends come alongside me even before I found out about ARFID and have been trying to help me through my eating issues. I am starting from a very good place compared to where others are. If you believe someone in your life has a worse degree of ARFID and needs professional help, please encourage them to reach out to a professional

Feel free to comment below or email me any questions you have for me. I can’t promise to answer everything, but will do my best to help you out!


About Me

Hi all! I’m Laura Kessler, a notorious picky eater who has made some serious strides in expanding my palate over the last decade. Let me tell you a little about it.

Growing up, I always struggled with trying new foods. My parents dealt with me spitting out foods I didn’t like, crying in public over the food set in front of me, and outright refusing to even discuss trying new foods. It had gotten so bad I couldn’t sit by foods I didn’t like the look or smell of (I’m looking at you Swedish Sausage). How my mom ever got me to try new foods is a miracle — though I must admit, some minor bribing took place for things like oranges (ew) and bacon (OMG why did I fight it?!).

There’s always room for ice cream!

Many people attribute a child’s picky eating to them being stubborn to just not want to try new foods, whether they have an actual disorder is out of the question because they’re just trying to get attention. Though for some children this is true, for me it was the exact opposite. In fact, I believe I have the true eating disorder, Avoidant/Restrictive Eating Disorder (AFRID) that makes trying new foods a painful, and sometimes traumatic, event for me.

Thankfully, as an adult I no longer have the “if I try this food I will die” mindset, but trying new food is still an extreme fear of mine I haven’t been able to shake on my own. Parents of children with ARFID and adults with ARFID can get treatment to help work through it. I have not sought treatment, but instead have figured out a process I like to try new foods.

Though I’ve made some progress in trying new foods, I still find it difficult to be excited at the idea of going to a new restaurant, going out to eat with new people, or doing anything food related with people outside my close friends and family. It has been so bad that an anxiety has formed around food for me to the point that it’s unusual if I don’t feel nauseous at the idea of going out to eat at a new restaurant.

Baking after a run

That being said, I’ve looked for help, ideas, resources, etc. to try to expand my palate. When preparing for this blog, I’ve googled picky eater blogs to try to see what others are writing about and get a general idea of my approach. However, I haven’t found nearly as many that offer tips/tricks for parents of or picky eaters themselves. I’ve typically found recipes and ideas on “food even your pickiest eater will love!” that, honestly, I wondered if they asked a picky eater to try it before posting it (for example, spinach and snow pea pasta?? No thank you!). Most blogs or recipes I’ve found have been written by parents of picky eaters, not the eaters themselves. Now, that’s not to say all posts/blogs I’ve read were unhelpful – on the contrary I found some I’ve agreed with quite a bit – I just struggled to connect with these writers in a way that would make me trust their suggestions or recipes.

That’s why I thought I’d begin this blog – to give other picky eaters or their parents an insider’s look into how I am managing my eating habits and am working towards expanding my palate. Through this blog, I hope to help others understand how picky eaters (including those with ARFID) view food, give tips and tricks to make trying food more appealing, and (hopefully) greatly expand my palate as well!

I must note, I am not a licensed dietician or chef by any stretch of the imagination. I am simply a woman trying to earn my Un-picky Eater status one blog post at a time.