Someone who is fussy about food, stubbornly refuses to have foods that are important, and throws tantrums when others insist that they eat the foods, can be categorized as a fussy or picky eater.
Yes, adults too can be (and often are) fussy eaters. In recent years, adult picky eating has come into the limelight and is being discussed globally.
Known as ARFID, or Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, this is now formally recognized as an eating disorder.
It is defined as a condition where people pick and eat from a very narrow spectrum of foods. They may also display obsessive-compulsive tendencies and excessive sensitivity to strong flavours and stimuli.
This disorder is on the polar end of the picky-eating spectrum and affects a very minimal percentage of the population. Moderate pickiness is more common.
There is no single explanation for why some people become picky eaters.
In some cases, children don’t outgrow their childhood pickiness, but in others, it is a combination of genetics (DNA) and environment (upbringing).
So, how can expanding your food spectrum help?
For starters, you will eat better and healthier, and everything from social gatherings to vacations will become easier and more fun.
How can you fix your picky eating?
It may come as a surprise to you, but following similar principles that are used to tackle a picky child can help a picky adult too. Read on.
It’s normal to not like certain foods, so don’t beat yourself up over it. Do not force-feed yourself or go on a guilt trip.
Frankly, no one needs to clean the plate all the time. Everyone has a right to food preferences, and shame (or guilt) is not an effective motivator. It’ll only cause more damage.
Create small, attainable goals – for example, one new food a month- because changing eating patterns can take a long time- a few months or even years. Be patient and keep trying.
But Be Firm With Yourself
You need to deliberately expose yourself to new foods. Reward yourself for having an experience with a new food.
For example, if you managed to add broccoli into your menu, pat yourself on the back.
One Food At A Time
New foods must be slowly introduced to expand the palate.
Start small with one new fruit or veggie at a time that you don’t like to eat. Get used to each food's individual taste before mixing them together, or adding more foods to the list.
Eat Smaller Portions
Eat small portions on a small plate. This way the food won’t appear intimidating, and you’ll have a better chance to actually eat it.
Change The Look
Presenting the food in a way that pleases your eyes is equally important. It helps to sample the food in unique ways and trying out different textures.
Try mixing the foods you fear with things you enjoy. For example, adding cheese to a salad or dipping veggies into a spicy dip can be helpful.
You can also try changing cooking methods. For instance, if you don’t like sweet potato steamed, try roasting it.
Change The Texture
You can also use pureed cauliflower to give soups and casseroles a thicker consistency and an extra layer of taste.
Use pure´ed spinach, beetroot, or carrot to knead flour for rotis or parathas instead of water – it changes the colour and makes the rotis more attractive and nutritious.
Research shows that infants need about 7 - 12 exposures before they start eating a new food regularly. It is the same for adults too.
Tasting the food repeatedly builds familiarity, which helps in building liking. You can reset the pattern of likes and dislikes, but it takes time.
Know When To Stop
You must try hard, but if a particular food is just not working, don’t beat yourself for it, just move to the next food in the list.
If you cannot bring yourself to like banana or broccoli no matter how hard you try, it is okay to skip it as long as your diet is healthy, and you're getting enough of other fruits or vegetables.
Meanwhile, Sneak In Health
Till you get yourself to eat more foods, try these sneaky tricks to trick yourself into a well-rounded nutrition.
Just a drizzle of something that is high on nutrition goes a long way.
Sprinkle pomegranate seeds on raitas and dahi badas.
Use shredded carrot for great visual effect and greater nutrition.
Top curd with munchy-crunchy cereals, dry fruits, or fresh fruits.
Garnish salads with chopped amla that gives it a zing and some super-concentrated vitamin C.
Blend fruits and yogurt to make yummy smoothies.
You can experiment and make smoothies with a variety of fruits which can make a wholesome breakfast, a healthy snack or a light dessert.
Just use fruits and ice for slushies. Kids love them.
Stir it in
You can camouflage veggies – shredded, puréed or diced – in dals, stews, curries, soups and omelettes. Just a turn of the ladle and it’s in!
Juice it up
Juicing is a quick technique to derive the maximum benefit – through minerals and vitamins — in the fastest way possible.
Sneak in the vegetable or fruit you don’t eat, but you know you must.
(Kavita is a nutritionist, weight management consultant, and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico), Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa), and Fix it with foods.)