diets for picky eaters

If you're a picky eater you understand the dread of checking out a new restaurant with your more adventurous friends. When everyone else is ordering the calamari, you're scanning the kid's menu searching for chicken fingers. You have to inspect every piece of your food before daring to take a bite. Strange vegetables are the stuff of nightmares for you!

There's a certain amount of shame that comes along with being a picky eater. While 25 percent of children will identify as picky eaters during their formative years, many adults graduate to liking foods that most children wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole! Still, there are plenty of picky eaters out there who are well into adulthood and know that they can't go on living off chicken nuggets forever.

What does a picky eater do when they want to make the move from fried food addict to eating healthy? Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to incorporate a healthy diet into even the pickiest of palates!

How Can I Enjoy Eating Healthy?

Any picky eater will stare jealously at someone chowing down on a big salad full of unknown ingredients and wonder how in the world they can eat that! Eating healthy is a challenge to picky eaters because it means that they need to step far outside of their comfort zones and embrace a whole new range of flavors.

You don't need to rush out and force yourself to eat a farmer's market salad right out of the gate. In fact, force-feeding yourself foods that you don't like is the best way to derail your diet! If you want to start actually enjoying healthy food, follow the steps outlined here.

Start Small

Expecting your diet to change overnight is a sign of false hope syndrome and it will absolutely spell disaster for your healthy eating plans. Instead of forcing yourself to ditch all of your unhealthy processed food in favor of a raw vegan diet, consider starting small.

You can still eat all of your favorite foods. Simply add a little more nutritional value to them! If you are a macaroni and cheese addict, toss in a little broccoli or some roasted red peppers. These kinds of low-risk additions will not shock your system. Toss In some more nutrients

  • Add some vegetables to your macaroni and cheese.
  • If you're eating canned pasta, like Spaghettios, add a few peas. They won't mess with the flavor, and you'll get a nutritional boost.
  • Commit to trying one new fruit or vegetable a week.

Understand Your Food Preferences

An image of a girl which is selecting a foods in superstore

Not all picky eaters are the same! Whether you know it or not, there are certain common qualities among the foods that you hate.

If you simply can't stand the taste of mushrooms, ask yourself why. Is it the earthy flavor? Perhaps the texture is what sets you off? Knowing what makes your food preferences tick will help you avoid foods that will not work with your system.

If you hate mushrooms for the spongy texture, stick to vegetables that are more bright and crisp. You can start to incorporate peas, carrots, red peppers and celery into your diet. On the flip side, you should avoid foods like eggplant and squash.

Knowing what makes you tick is the first step to developing a healthy eating plan that you will stick with for the long haul!

How Can a Picky Eater Eat Healthy?

Picky eaters often have a tough time eating healthy because their food choices are far more limited. Still, there are sensible ways to begin the journey towards health and wellness. Non-picky eaters, listen up! These apply to you too!

Measure All Fats and Oils

It's easy just to dump a ton of oil into the bottom of a frying pan, but it's not the wisest move for your health. You're most likely using far too much! Instead of dropping a random amount of oil into that pot, bring out a measuring spoon.

You shouldn't be using more than one or two tablespoons at a time.

We shouldn't consume more than four tablespoons of cooking oil in any given day, so you're really doing yourself a big disserve by dousing the pot with half the bottle- even if you're cooking up some veggies!

Make Sure That Your Protein Is On Point

Picky eaters tend to consume protein from sources that are less than optimal. Think about the drive-thru at McDonald's and Burger King. Sure, that's protein, but it's really not the protein that you need to be healthy.

Instead, get your protein right from the source. Swap out your regular flavored yogurt for Greek yogurt. Make hard-boiled eggs a breakfast staple in your house.

Carry around some nuts to snack on when cravings hit. Having enough protein in your body will keep you nice and full all day long.

You'll be less likely to cheat with an unhealthy option!

Whip Up Some Green Smoothies

Spinach is the bane of picky eaters. They know that they need to eat this powerful green, but they just can't stomach the thought of slimy spinach on their plate.

Fortunately, there is a simple way to mask spinach in your diet! Green smoothies taste like delicious fruit, but they have a secret serving of spinach in them.

Simply toss some spinach in your blender, a splash of orange juice, a banana and some berries and you have a green smoothie that gives you tons of nutritional benefits.

It sounds wacky, but it works!

What Are Healthy Meals for Picky Eaters?

So you've decided that you want to be on the road to optimal health. What's next? Well, you don't need to totally abandon all of your favorites. By making a few modifications to your diet, you can enjoy some tremendous health benefits. These recipes are picky eater tested and approved!

Baked Chicken Strips

Don't succumb to the urge to head on out to the drive-thru! These baked chicken strips taste just as delicious as fast food and they are so much healthier!

  • Chicken breast cut into strips
  • Egg white wash
  • Bread crumbs

Heat up your oven to 350 degrees and spray a sheet pan with non-stick spray. Dip one strip into the egg white wash, then pop it in the breadcrumbs. Make sure that the whole strip is covered in bread crumbs. Do this with all of your chicken and toss it into the oven for 30 minutes. That's less time than it takes to order a pizza!

Once the strips are done, serve them with your favorite condiments or eat them plain. You'll get all of the satisfaction of a tasty chicken nugget with none of the guilt!

Fabulous Fruit Salad

Fruit salads are an amazing way to get some antioxidants and nutrients into your diet. It really doesn't matter what kind of fruit you use, but make sure that there are at least a few berries in the mix. Berries are some of the healthiest foods in the world.

Cut up all of your fruit and toss it in a big bowl. When you're ready to eat it, stir in three tablespoons of Cool Whip. The Cool Whip will make the fruit taste divine, and make this tasty salad more of a dessert!

Healthy Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches can be a fairly healthy food! Use whole wheat bread as your base and sugarfree peanut butter and jelly for the filling. You can buy sugarfree or organic versions of peanut butter and jelly at any health food store.

Kale Chips

We know, we know! It's the evil kale! Kale is so healthy that it would be a shame not to incorporate it into your diet. The trick is making this hated health food into something that you actually want to eat on a regular basis.

  • Several handfuls of kale torn into pieces
  • Sea salt
  • A few sprays of non-stick oil

Preheat your over to 425 degrees. Spray a pan with non-stick spray and coat your kale as well. When it's nice and oily, lay it on your pan and sprinkle the top with sea salt. Bake for fifteen minutes, or until the kale is crispy.

We won't tell you that kale chips taste exactly like the real deal, but they are a pretty awesome substitution.

Hummus and Veggies

Hummus is a great condiment because it can be really mild or packed with flavor. Today, anyone can get hummus at grocery stores all over the country, so you will not be lacking in choices. Pick some hummus that works well with your food preferences, and dip some raw veggies into it.

You'll be getting tons of nutrients from the vegetables, plus protein from the hummus. It's a complete meal that even the pickiest eaters will totally enjoy!

What Are Some Sensible Swaps for Picky Eaters?

Now that you have your meals down, let's talk about sensible swaps. Often diets fail because people take on too much instead of making meaningful little tweaks to what they are already eating.

When you make sensible swaps you're still rewarding yourself with all of the goodness and flavor of the original food. You're just doing it a little better and slightly healthier!

Go With Dark Chocolate

It's possible to have your chocolate cake and eat it too, even on a healthy diet. Dark chocolate is packed to the gills with all sorts of health benefits that you can't find in milk or white chocolate. 

Opting for dark chocolate is a great way to infuse your diet with more nutrients and still get that intensely delicious flavor into your diet. Remember, everything in moderation though!

Try Steel-Cut Oatmeal Instead Of The Boxed Kind

Boxed oatmeal might be more convenient, but if you're looking for a serious nutritional punch, try steel-cut oats instead. They have far more nutrients and taste even more delicious! You can top them with the same ingredients that you use on your regular oatmeal, so get creative with the flavors and find one that suits your picky eating style. 

Be Smart With Your Dairy 

Whole fat dairy products are just packing on the pounds unnecessarily. If you want to slim down and get a little healthier, swap out whole dairy for low-fat versions of the same products.

You will not even notice the difference, but your body totally will! 

Try to Always Eat Whole Grains

You can find whole grain versions of just about any food these days, so always choose whole grain over more refined products. There are several types of whole grains that you should work into your diet eventually, but for now, simply make sure that you're opting for whole grain bread and pasta. This is another simple swap that will pay off big-time in the long run.

What Can I Cook for Picky Eaters?

It's important to be patient when it comes to the picky eater in your life. After all, they didn't choose to reject so many different types of foods! Be gentle with them, and understand that they are not being picky to make things hard on you or insult your cooking. Their palates are simply different.

If this is a picky eater that you've known and loved for a long time, you are probably very well aware of their food preferences. Stick within that orbit. If your picky eater likes chicken fingers, you could introduce a very mild flavored breaded fish, but never anything like shrimp scampi or raw oysters.

How do you cook for the picky eater in your life?

Don't Automatically Apply Sauces or Toppings

Let the pick eater choose which sauces and toppings they want to put on their food. Many picky eaters find sauce to be overpowering and off-putting. Step into their shoes for a moment.

A sauce is composed of a ton of different mystery ingredients. How can they know that it doesn't contain something that they totally detest? Leave the sauces on the side!

Play the Hits, but Bring in New Flavors

When you're cooking for a picky eater it's wise to cook what they like to eat.

If your picky eater loves macaroni and cheese, make them a big pot of the good stuff, but add in a few vegetables or a creamy cauliflower base to make the meal a little more palatable for your picky friend. Alternatively, you can stir in a new protein.

Always remember to avoid any major red-flag foods. If your picky eater hate mushrooms, mixing in some shitakes and hoping that they don't notice isn't forcing them outside of their boundaries, it's very cruel.

Remember, they didn't choose to have these kinds of food preferences!

How to Stop Being a Picky Eater

Let's say that you are done ordering off the children's menu when everyone else is enjoying some adult fare. How do you stop being a picky eater and learn to love sashimi? 

The reality is, you're not going to love sashimi overnight, or maybe even at all, but you can do something to become a little bit less of a picky eater. You can broaden your horizons.

Remember to take baby steps. You have a whole lifetime of eating the way that you do and change can be really scary. If you're ready to take the plunge, there are a few things that you can do to stop being a picky eater.

Get Outside of That Comfort Zone

Make a commitment to yourself to try out at least one new fruit, vegetable or dish per week. It's okay if you take one bite and set the spoon done in disgust. The idea is to get out there are try new things.

When you're at the grocery store look for foods that are adjacent to the ones already in your diet. Do you love oranges? Why not try out a tangerine or grapefruit? By working within established flavor profiles, you can expand your horizons in a safe way that will help you grow!

Get to a Tapas Restaurant

Tapas restaurants are all of the rage now and it is easy to see why. They allow you to try little plates of food, rather than committing to a full plate. Get some friends together and go out to a tapas place. You'll be able to share different dishes in the comfort of your friend group.

Presumably, your friends understand that you're a picky eater and will be sensitive to your needs when selecting their dishes. If they order something totally outlandish, give it a try anyway. You could open up a whole new avenue for yourself.

Get Into the Kitchen

An image of a young girl cooking food

Finally, you need to get into the kitchen! Cooking for yourself gives you total control over what goes into your dishes.

You won't have to guess or stress out about the ingredients, and you can easily adapt dishes to be just enough outside your comfort zone. Getting into the kitchen will improve your relationship with food and make you less scared of new ingredients.

Even the pickiest eaters can eat healthily. It's important not to be ashamed of your picky eating tendencies, but see them as just another aspect of you that can be changed with a small amount of effort.

Start small, add healthy ingredients into your existing favorites and enjoy the process of finding new additions to your diet!

You don't have to use all of the suggestions outlined in this article. Everyone is different, so just do what works best for you.

Start small and get inspired by your triumphs. Soon, your palate will be broader than it ever has been, and you'll be well on your way to living a healthier and happier life.

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