My Support Team: Drew

Every parent of a picky eater wonders, “how can I support my picky eater?” It feels so intimidating to try to help your picky eater when you aren’t sure where to start! Being a key member of your picky eater’s support team is critical to earning their trust. Once you do, you will be able to help your picky eater work through their fears of trying new food. One member of my support team has gone above and beyond over the last couple of years to support me and my efforts to become the Unpicky Eater.

One thing you’ll learn about me is that I am by no means the best chef in the world. Or in my own home 😅 That’s one motivation to become a better cook! Sure I love to bake, but cooking is a whole other story. I lean heavily on my wonderful husband, Drew, to help me out in the kitchen! Well, I should be honest. He cooks while I “help”… AKA give input.

In fact, his cooking skills are something that attracted me to him pretty quickly. Early on in our relationship he had me over for dinner (which, to my recollection, is the first time a guy cooked an entire meal for me, so I was impressed from the start!). He made me my favorite meal, Chicken Parmesan. He admitted after we ate that he was a little nervous about it because 1) what if he ruined my favorite meal for me and 2) he knew about my eating issues before we even started dating, so he felt a bit on the spot for this one. Spoiler alert: the chicken was AWESOME and we’ve had it several times since.

The Executive Chef of Our Home

Being a single dad for three girls, he has been cooking for other people for more than a decade now. In fact, he enjoys cooking when he has the time to do it. Playing around with new recipes and ideas is fun for him, especially if it involves any kind of meat. I am positive one thing that makes him a good, adventurous cook is that he loves food and isn’t afraid to try new things. Basically the opposite of me.

He enjoys making recipes up as he goes along, something that honestly brought up so much anxiety in me the first time we cooked together! “You’re not following the recipe exactly?? But how will you know it tastes right?” Let’s just say for my own sanity I had to sit out a bit during that first cooking adventure together. I’ve learned over the last year and a half to let him do his own thing and trust he knows what he’s doing. Otherwise I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to try out his rebellious and scary cooking habits. I’m not extra, I promise.

Most importantly, when Drew cooks for us he never puts my fears aside or shrugs off my concerns about if I’ll like something or not. One of the best things about his adventurous cooking skills is that he knows how to change recipes to be sure I like them. Whether it’s a little thing like swapping an ingredient or two or completely changing the way something is cooked, he never complains about having to switch things up for me. He gladly alters a meal or completely switches gears for me without giving me too hard a time about it. And even if he gives me a hard time it’s purely joking around, not actually being frustrated or impatient about my picky eating. He is one of my biggest supporters with not only being sure I’m comfortable with what I’m eating but with this blog and my effort to grow.

Ok, I’m starting to get all gushy inside just writing this down, but this guy is truly my biggest cheerleader for me and I couldn’t be more grateful for him. I’ve had some rough patches with my picky eating in past relationships (whether it’s romantic, family, or friends) and it’s hard to get over how lucky I am that he doesn’t let it be an issue for us.

How does this Answer “How Can I Support My Picky Eater”?

Next time you find yourself wondering, “how can I support my picky eater?” I hope you remember this post. Drew has been a major support and to not just me, but his daughters as well. I hope this post helps you understand how to best support your picky eater. Or, if you’re the picky eater, I hope it helps you seek these kinds of people in your life. Someone who doesn’t pressure you or make you feel guilty for needing to change a recipe. Someone who supports you no matter what, because they really care for you and your growth. Don’t accept negative pressure or judgment from people who are closest to you. If you’re a parent of the picky eater, don’t let others make your kid feel bad for their picky eating. Tough love is not always the answer. In fact it could cause more harm than good if it isn’t checked. Be patient and understanding, it can go a long way!


Overcoming the Fear of Trying New Foods

I know that the core struggle for picky eaters is really overcoming the fear of trying new foods. But that can be so hard to do for kids of all ages. If you read my July 2020 Food of the Month posts, you know my green bean tastings did not go well at all. I did not like green beans when I thought I would, and it was incredibly disappointing. It has gotten to the point that I have not considered yet what I want to do for my August Food of the Month (I am writing this on August 4, so I’m very behind!).

Overcoming the Fear and Pushing Ahead

When I start getting down, I tell myself something that others have said to me in the past. Just because you don’t like that food doesn’t mean you won’t like the next. Just keep trying! But sometimes trying can be so tiring, especially when it feels like it gets me nowhere fast. I need to remember that even though I seemed to fail this month, that doesn’t mean this journey is pointless. Sure, I don’t like green beans, but peppers were a huge success and are now a regular part of my diet! I need to keep pushing through and trying new foods.

Falling Into My Slump

Finding the next Food of the Month was hard for me this past week. I couldn’t get past the feeling of defeat or the thought that my progress has stopped. I searched through Pinterest and watched cooking shows to see if anything jumped out at me. Eventually, I had to tell Drew I had no idea what I was going to do. He immediately suggested we walk around HyVee and see if anything jumps out to me. I was still so down I couldn’t see any potential with the food around me. Drew would point out food left and right, giving ideas and suggestions, and asking if anything sounded good to me. I said “no” to everything we saw. I was still so obsessed over the failure that was my July Food of the Month attempt that I didn’t even want to try.

This is a pretty normal feeling for me. Growing up I’d try a new food, hate it, then avoid new foods for weeks at a time. When I’m stuck in these moods, I struggle to imagine that I’d like a new food, so I don’t consider it. Poor Drew had to accept the brunt of my frustrations but thankfully took it all in stride. He knows me enough to know that if I’m down, I struggle to pull myself out of it. So as part of my support team he worked hard to lift me out of my slump, but I couldn’t get out of it.

Trying green beans
Gathering the courage to try green beans

How the Fear of Trying New Foods Led Me to Want to Help Others

Co-occurring anxiety and a lack of interest in food are two warning signs/symptoms of Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). These two symptoms were on display as we wandered HyVee for what felt like hours as I rejected one food after the next. Like I said, this has happened to me a lot over the years, which only increases my suspicion that I have this disorder. I know others feel this way too, so I want to be totally vulnerable with this issue so that others know they are not alone and have someone to reach out to for support! I was able to get out of this slump eventually, but it took a few days to do it.

Co-occurring anxiety and a lack of interest in food are something I have struggled with a lot in my life. They also happen to be two symptoms of ARFID.

Finding My Next Food of the Month

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

After quite a few days of only eating food I like, I was able to clear my mind enough to approach August’s Food of the Month differently. I realized that I could continue with some food I already kind of like, but want to continue to work on. It was Saturday, August 8, and Drew and I had just come home from a morning fishing trip. I was famished and couldn’t stop thinking about my mom’s egg dish that she makes every Christmas morning. Then it hit me, I finally tried that dish last year (2018) and was excited that I started to like eggs and ham. I then reached out to my sisters and asked for the recipe – eggs were going to be my Food of the Month.

I was so relieved when I decided this. Not just because I finally decided on my Food of the Month, but because it is a food I sort of like, but there’s still have some room to improve. Also, by finding a new food to work on I am slowly but surely working on overcoming the fear of trying new foods. I am excited to get to work on these tastings and sharing it with you!

What You Can Take From This:

  • Pay attention to your picky eater’s feelings. If they are anxious, down, or disconnected, then be sure to check in on them to make sure they’re ok. Maybe they just need a break from trying new foods, and that is ok! Everyone needs a break at some point, so let them have one when they need it.
  • Be ok with taking things slow. One thing I have been doing is jumping in feet first on totally different foods that I wasn’t 100% sure on, and I got dinged for it. Now I’m taking it slow to work on a food that I kind of like but am still a little wary of. 
  • Follow along as I work on liking eggs! I bet there are picky eaters out there that are just as interested in eating eggs as I am. Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest to see how my tastings go and learn a thing or two about eggs along the way!
Get Your Picky Eater to Try New Food in Six Simple Steps
Get Your Picky Eater to Try New Food in Six Simple Steps

Buffalo Chicken-Stuffed Peppers

Final June Food of the Month – Chicken and Pepper Quesadillas

The Prep

Ever have that moment when you’re cooking, getting in your groove and feeling like a Food Network star (don’t lie, I know you have pretended to have a cooking show too), when it hits you. You forgot to buy a key ingredient. In my case, it was the tortillas for our quesadillas 🤦🏼‍♀️

How in the world do you make Cooking Classy’s Chicken Quesadillas without tortillas? I was afraid I’d have to nix the whole thing, but then it hit me – use the peppers! I had just made Buffalo Chicken-Stuffed Peppers and loved them, so why not change up how I use the peppers for this meal?

By basically ignoring the original recipe, I got to work cutting the peppers then combining the prepped chicken, cheese, and hot sauce. I started up the grille again (possibly my favorite way to cook peppers so far!) and stuffed the peppers full of the chicken mix. 

The Tasting

After the Buffalo Chicken-Stuffed Peppers were a success I was much more confident coming into this tasting. I used all the same tactics of adding the extra crispness of chips on top while topping the peppers off with fresh tomato salsa to cool things down a bit. Adding chips is a great trick for when a picky eater is unsure of a new taste or texture – load up the meal with what they like and they’re more likely to accept the new food! Even just by changing the appearance a little bit can be a game changer once it comes time to try the new food. 

Drew and the girls were with me this time when I tried this food, but because I ate the other peppers they weren’t nearly as interested about me trying this meal as they were before. So just having that attention off of me helped calm me down before taking the first bite. Even though I liked the other stuffed peppers, I had no idea if I would like the peppers with the seasonings and salsa from the recipe. So, when I piled the food on my fork I was sure to get a lot of cheese and chip pieces so I could possibly disguise any tastes I didn’t like. 

Thankfully I liked it!! The pepper’s taste mixed so well with the shredded cheese and hot chicken seasoning that I had to have another…then finish off the left overs for lunch the next day 😉 

What You Can Take From This

  • Don’t make every tasting a big deal – for Drew and the girls this meal was nothing new. They’ve seen me eat similar foods so they didn’t keep asking if I like the food or think it looks good. This helped me feel more at ease and natural with a new recipe in front of me. 
  • Keep trying new recipes with the new food – usually if I find a new food or recipe I like I only eat it that way over and over again. Your picky eater needs to know that there are so many different ways to eat a new food, or else they’ll fall into a recipe rut. I’ve been asked so many times why I eat the same thing at restaurants, and the answer has two layers to it: 
    • It’s either because I’m so happy that I like it I don’t feel the need to try something else, or
    • I’m afraid I will miss out on the recipe I do like by ordering something I might not like, thereby ruining dinner
  • Be prepared – this one is probably more for me at this point, but be sure you have exactly everything you need for a recipe. Picky eaters like me want to know what is in their food when they’re nervous about a new recipe. When you change something up on the fly it can send them down a fearful rabbit hole of worst case scenarios. So before you start cooking, double check you have all the correct ingredients and the right amount of them. That will save you from a potential melt down from your picky eater. 

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!


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.


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.