Study: Picky eating isn’t limited to kids

Study: Picky eating isn’t limited to kids

As the mother of a picky eater, my days often entail coming up with an arbitrary number of bites until dinner is deemed over. Turns out for some people, a reluctance of trying new foods isn’t just a childhood phase.

A recent study found 18% of the more than 1,300 adults surveyed qualified as picky eaters. This includes eating a narrow range of foods, being rigidity about how preferred foods are prepared or served, and difficulty trying new foods.

“By limiting the types of food you eat, you could be missing out on important health benefits. That’s why it’s important to eat a variety of foods to make sure you’re getting essential nutrients to help you stay healthy,” says Heather Klug, a registered dietician at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center.

Maybe you were pressured as a kid to finish all the food on your plate or eat foods you didn’t like. Or maybe you have taste or texture issues. Any of these reasons can foster a negative relationship with food and make it harder to try new foods, Klug explains.

The good news is you don’t have to like all foods – just enough variety to prevent nutrition deficiencies. Also, taste buds can adjust to new flavors with time.

Ready expand your taste horizons? Klug suggests taking small steps to shake up your meal routine:

  • Adopt an open mind to trying new foods. See it as an adventure rather than something you “should” do.
  • Try one new food at a time. You can pair this new food with other familiar, well-liked foods at a meal or mix it with a food you already like such as mixing brown and white rice.
  • Incorporate fruits and vegetables at every meal – bonus points if at least one of them is a “new to you” produce item.
  • Add variety to your weeknight dinner staples such as replacing beef with chicken in your tacos.
  • Swap out toppings for your go-to salad at lunch like adding a hard boiled egg or sprinkling nuts instead of shredded cheese.
  • Try a new way of preparing food. For example, if you don’t like raw broccoli you might enjoy the taste and texture of steamed or roasted broccoli.
  • At the end of each month, remind yourself of the new foods you tried and now enjoy.

“Sometimes it’s easier to eat the same thing for breakfast or lunch when you might be under a time crunch. But even making small tweaks to your standbys can help bring in missing nutrients and keep eating interesting,” Klug says.

It can take 15 to 20 times of trying a new food before you like it. That’s why Klug recommends not giving up after the first few tries. She knows from experience after a childhood aversion to eating brussels sprouts.

“They’re still not my favorite vegetable, but I’ve found a few ways to enjoy them such as roasted, shredded and mixed in with a salad blend, or shredded and sautéed in olive oil with Craisins and toasted almonds.  Keep trying and pretty soon you’ll find a new food you like,” Klug adds.

Now is the perfect time to make an appointment with a primary care physician. Whether you live in Illinois or Wisconsin, it’s easy to find a doctor near you. 

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  1. I appreciate this article and sending to my husband and adult son. Since they are adults, I refer to them as “selective” eaters. lol

    • Hi Kat. Yes, “selective” is a great way to describe these types of eaters! Having a “selective” eater in my household as well, I find the less pressure I put on that person to eat something, the better. I do try to encourage at least taking a bite and also trying different recipes. For example: I’m a pretty adventurous eater, but I don’t like Brussels sprouts, especially when cooked. I discovered that I don’t mind them shredded and in a salad. Hang in there with your “selective” eaters! It can be challenging though!

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About the Author

Vicki Martinka Petersen
Vicki Martinka Petersen

Vicki Martinka Petersen, health enews contributor, is a digital copywriter on the content team at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. A former newspaper reporter, she’s worked in health care communications for the last decade. In her spare time, Vicki enjoys tackling her to be read pile, trying new recipes, meditating, and planning fun activities to do in the Chicago area with her husband and son.