Why You Should Be A Picky Eater

It is ok to be a picky eater. Take a second, go back and read that aloud. It is ok to be a picky eater. Actually, it is better than ok, it is great. I recommend it. Most people will tell you the opposite. Most people just think of picky eaters as kids who will not eat their broccoli, asparagus, tomatoes, or whatever. Then they systematically guilt these children. They tell them there are “starving people in (insert cliché third-world location here) who would love to have this food”. Kids get punished and shamed for not eating what is put in front of them, and so they develop patterns of punishment and shame associated not only with the foods they “should” eat but also with the foods that were served alongside them, with mealtimes in general. But for us to eat healthily, we must have healthy feelings about food. How do these feelings relate to being picky? Easy. If it is ok to not eat what you don't like it is ok to take deep pleasure in the foods we do like. It is that simple. And if you love your food, it will love you back. But what about those foods we love too much? Those guilty pleasures? Those foods we pull out of our fridges, our freezers, our cupboards and eat somewhere between 5 and 20 times more than we “should” at a time? We do not actually like most of those foods. As I write this I can feel your disbelief. But think about it. When you are digging into that guilty pleasure food, how do you feel? How do you eat? Do you go to that food because you like it? Or do you go because you want to forget something else? When you eat it, do you savor every bite? Or do you plow through it, hoping it that the joy it will bring you will be proportionate to the volume of it that you eat? That is not love. In the movie, Ratatouille, we meet two picky eaters who love food: Remy the rat and Anton Ego. Remy does not want to eat the garbage his family mindlessly consumes to stay alive. But he loves food. He loves cooking. He is innately able to see and hear tastes. This causes him to savor every bite, to imagine what it would be like to combine certain flavors. He longs to be a chef. Through a series of zany adventures with his human friend and frontman, Alfredo Linguini, Remy ends up cooking for Anton Ego, one of the greatest culinary critics of his world. A great culinary critic must love food. A critic has to understand food, study it, be able to ride the nuances of flavor and texture, to be passionate about the subject. Passion. Love. There is a scene where Alfredo Linguini is doing a press conference and Ego comes to challenge him. In front of all the reporters, Ego announces that he will visit Alfredo's—and Remy's—restaurant and write a review. Ego also insults Alfredo's intelligence and skill level, to which Alfredo replies “And you are thin for someone who likes food”. Being a witty wordsmith, Ego is quick to retort “I don't like food, I love it. And if I don't love it, I don't swallow.” Ego is the epitome of a food lover and a picky eater, he loves what he eats because he only eats what he loves. If you love something, really love it, what happens? You learn about it. You expand your experience. You try new styles, new techniques. You strive for excellence. This is not to say that to transcend fad diets we have to go to culinary school or starve ourselves until we get a dish right. Rather, it is to say that if you love a food, you will enjoy eating it more than a food that you do not. We are taught that if someone serves you food, it is polite to finish it, and this is true. When your prospective in-laws invite you over you are more likely to make a good impression by eating what they serve than by leaving your Brussel sprouts untouched. However, in the majority of situations, we have a lot of control over what we are served. When we are eating at home, we control what is in the kitchen, what is made that evening, and how much of it ends up on our plates. When we go out to eat, we choose a restaurant, and what to order. We should, of course, be aware of the dark side of pickiness. Just because you have found a food you love does not mean that new foods should be avoided. Any food that catches your attention should be tried. Note that I said “food”, not “ingredient”. I used to hate Brussel sprouts, but I had only eaten them one way. Recently, I played around with ways of cooking them and now I have found that I love Brussel sprouts...just not when they are boiled to death. There is no reason an adult should eat anything they do not like more than once. If we are looking for any given nutrient, there are plenty of foods that have it. If we need to watch our budget there are ways to stretch a dollar and still make delicious food. And healthy food does not have to taste bad. Spices and herbs have next to no calories and can make any dish magnificent. So be picky, be passionate, expand your palate, fill your plate. Love your food and it will love you back.

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