How to Go on a Diet when You're a Picky Eater

Four Parts:Identifying Your Food PreferencesCreating Your DietShopping for FoodGetting Professional Advice

Studies have shown that picky eating can be the result of your environment, personal experiences, and even a genetic predisposition to disliking certain foods.[1] For adult eaters, being picky about what you eat can be a challenge, and in more serious cases, can lead to medical conditions like selective eating disorder.[2] But there are ways you can go on a diet and eat healthy, despite your picky eating habits.

Part 1
Identifying Your Food Preferences

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    Make a list of foods you enjoy. Be specific about the kinds of flavors and textures appeal to you. Most picky eaters tend to prefer bland or processed foods, such as potatoes, bread or bacon.[3] You may prefer pizza, french fries, or grilled cheese. Or you might only like to eat foods with a hard, crunchy texture, like cookies, popcorn, or crackers.[4]
    • Determine what your gravitate towards eating on a day to day basis. List all your favorite foods, and describe the flavor and texture of each food.
    • For example, you may prefer pepperoni pizza because it is salty, crunchy, and served hot. Or you may prefer plain cheese pizza because it is salty, crunchy, hot, and does not contain any other flavors that are too bitter, sweet, or strong.
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    Note any deal breaker foods. For most picky eaters, this will be green foods like vegetables and certain fruits. Or it may be foods with a bitter flavor, like lemons or oranges. Or you may have issues with food that have chewy or mushy textures, like bananas, yogurt, or steamed spinach.[5]
    • When you list deal breaker foods, be specific about the flavor or texture of the food that you dislike. For example, you may dislike bananas because they have a mushy texture, or you may have a hard time with strong vinegar flavors in your food, such as ketchup, sauerkraut, or pickles.
    • If you have any allergies to certain foods, add these to the list of dealbreaker foods as well.
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    List food preparations you like and dislike. Sometimes, picky eaters gravitate to certain foods because they prefer a certain preparation, such as fried instead of steamed, or sliced instead of mashed. For example, you may prefer potatoes that are baked rather than mashed, or spinach that is kept fresh in a salad, instead of steamed or cooked.[6]
    • You may also enjoy certain foods only on their own, or only when they are combined with other foods.
    • For example, you may dislike spinach in your pasta, or collard greens with potatoes because you find the combination of a soft, chewy food with a bland food off putting. But you may be fine with eating a spinach salad on its own, or collard greens on their own.

Part 2
Creating Your Diet

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    Decide what type of diet you are going on. There are a wide variety of diets you can try, from the DASH diet to a Paleo diet to the Mayo Clinic diet. A list of the top overall diets can be found here: As a picky eater, you should look for diets that do not lean heavily on foods that you dislike or do not enjoy. But you should try to be open to experimenting with different food pairings and combinations to find a diet that is healthy, but won't turn you off completely.[7]
    • For example, if you dislike vegetables and whole grains, the DASH diet may not be for you. But if you feel you are open to eating balanced meals within certain portion sizes, you might consider trying the Mayo Clinic diet.[8]
    • Similarly, if you prefer a less limiting diet, you may want to try the Weight Watcher's diet. In Weight Watchers, you can eat whatever you want, provided you stick to a target amount of calories. The idea is to make healthier choices that fill you up, without feeling guilty if you eat foods that may not be as good for you on occasion.[9]
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    Pair food you enjoy with healthier foods. Look over your “yes” foods and think about ways you can incorporate these foods in dishes with healthy ingredients. Go for moderate amounts of foods you enjoy, and foods that are good for you.[10]
    • For example, pair bacon with kale to create a dish that has a flavor you enjoy and lots of vitamins and nutrients.
    • Top your burger with avocado, lettuce, and tomato. Don’t forget to also add a slice of cheese for added dairy.
    • Put fresh herbs on your potatoes and eat them with seared salmon or trout. You can also incorporate potatoes into a burrito with rice, beans, and cheese to create a healthy, meat-free meal.
    • You can also mix vegetables like spinach or mushrooms into pasta and top the dish with a moderate amount of cheese. You can also make a pesto from pine nuts and herbs to put on your pasta to add a healthy element to a comfort food.
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    Prepare healthy foods in different ways. Try different preparations of foods you like and dislike in new or interesting ways. Skip mushy, canned vegetables and go for frozen or fresh vegetables. Prepare vegetables by roasting or barbecuing them to add a crunchy texture and a smoky flavor.
    • Toss raw cauliflower or broccoli in olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. Roast the cauliflower or broccoli in the oven to create a crunchy, smoky vegetable dish.
    • You can also make kale chips by cutting up fresh kale, sprinkling it with olive oil and salt, and baking it in the oven. Kale chips have the crunch of a chip, but are much healthier and to some, tastier.
    • Steam fish and meat in the oven, wrapped in tinfoil, to give these foods a soft, flavorful interior and a crunchy exterior.
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    Add different flavors to healthy food you dislike. Enhance foods you may not enjoy by adding spices such as salt and pepper, garlic, and fresh herbs, especially to vegetables and meat or fish.[11]
    • You can also disguise foods you don’t enjoy by adding healthy sauces like peanut satay sauce, teriyaki sauce, and chili sauce.
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    Get vitamins and minerals from healthier versions of food you enjoy. Often, picky eaters are worried they will not get enough essential vitamins and minerals without eating certain foods that may be unappealing. But you can get several vitamins and minerals by opting for replacement foods that are not shocking to your picky palate.[12]
    • For example, if you are looking to add more vitamin D to your diet, but hate salmon (a great sources of vitamin D), go for fortified breakfast cereal. Most milk is also fortified with vitamin D. So having a bowl of cereal for breakfast can give you the same nutrients a piece of salmon would give you.
    • Another option is to have sweet potatoes instead of bananas if you dislike mushy foods, but are looking to add potassium to your diet. In fact, a medium baked sweet potato (543 mg) has more potassium than a medium banana (422 mg).
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    Go for higher quality food. Some picky eaters don’t enjoy certain healthy foods because they can seem bland or stale. Look for better-quality food, especially produce, to really enjoy the flavors of healthier foods. The fresher the food is, the better it will taste.

Part 3
Shopping for Food

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    Look online for recipe ideas. One of the best resources for healthy recipe ideas is food websites and blogs. If you are trying to find ways to prepare spinach, for example, in ways you won’t completely hate, do an online search of spinach and feta recipes or spinach and pasta recipes. Focus on pairing foods you enjoy with foods you may not like as much, but want to integrate into your diet.
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    Shop with a list. It’s important to always create a list of ingredients before you go to the grocery store to shop for your meals. This way, you are less likely to gravitate to only foods you enjoy eating and can pick up items that contribute to recipes and meals.[13]
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    Make your own meals whenever possible. Part of trying to maintain a certain diet when you are a picky eater is getting your hands on the ingredients and trying to create meals in your kitchen. Making your own meals also means you will be able to decide what going into each dish, and push yourself to add new ingredients or prepare ingredients in a different way.[14]

Part 4
Getting Professional Advice

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    Understand selective eating disorder. Many adults who have severely picky eating habits may be suffering from selective eating disorder. Most people with this disorder are embarrassed by their inability to expand their food preferences and will try to hide their issues by avoiding social events that involve food or by making excuses to avoid eating in front of others. Spitting food into a napkin or pretending to chew food are ways that people with this disorder often deal with eating in public around other people.[15]
    • People with this disorder may also eat less than 20 different types of foods, associate certain foods with fear or anxiety and often rejects entire food groups, such as meat or vegetables.[16]
    • Selective eating disorder can start when you are young and develop picky eating habits. It can then get worse as you get older and develop into an OCD like disorder.[17]
    • Often, people with selective eating disorder will try to eat different foods but their associations to that certain food is so negative, they cannot force themselves to eat it.[18]
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    Talk to your doctor if you feel your picky eating is out of control. It’s important to speak to your physician if you find it difficult to adjust your eating habits despite trying several practical methods or solutions, like changing up your food options or preparing your food differently.[19]
    • Children who display picky eating habits should be encouraged to explore and try new foods. This will prevent them from developing more serious issues with food in adulthood.[20]
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    Learn to cope with your picky food habits. There is no clear cure for picky eating, other than to practice coping mechanisms to try to maintain a healthy diet.[21]
    • If you are diagnosed with selective eating disorder, you may consider joining an online support group to discuss ways to cope with this disorder. You should also tell family and friends about your diagnosis so you do not feel embarrassed or ashamed of your disorder.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Maintaining Diets