When you’re older, it’s easy to justify picky eating. You’ve made it this far eating the foods you like. There’s no need to try new things. You know what you like, and that’s more than enough. If this describes you, there’s no shame in that. But there’s an entire world of foods out there that you’re potentially missing out on. If you’re an older picky eater, there’s plenty of good reasons why you should be looking to expand your culinary tastes.

Why You Should Try New Foods

Find Your New Favorite Dish

As you can tell from our Diet section, not only do we think food can be a healthy part of your life, but it can also thoroughly enrich your life. By limiting yourself to only a small portion of all the foods in the world, you’ll never know what you’re missing. We’re not going to say that you’ll love everything you try, but your new favorite food could be out there, and you’re missing it! Truly, the hardest step to take when starting a culinary exploration is the first one. Once you begin discovering new foods that you like, it becomes easier to say yes to others!

Expand Your Cooking

If you love to cook like we do, being a picky eater really hamstrings your passion. Limiting yourself to only a small set of ingredients is like a painter only using primary colors. They can still get the job done, but the outcome may not reach its full potential. The same goes for food. If you’re only working with a few ingredients, you’ll only have so many outcomes. The more foods you try, the more options you have. We’ve already written about a few excellent seasonal ingredients you should try that you may have otherwise overlooked. Just keep exploring and keep learning new ways you can use new foods in your own cooking!

Eat Healthier

We’re not saying that if you’re a picky eater, you automatically eat unhealthily, but comfort foods (the foods picky eaters tend to stick to) tend to be on the unhealthy side of the spectrum. Don’t get us wrong — we love comfort food. But, if you’re trying to lose weight or eat healthier, this type of food isn’t usually going to be an ally. By trying more foods, especially more healthy fruits and vegetables, you’ll be unlocking an entire new region of foods. Just look at all those healthy seasonal ingredients we discussed in the previous section. That’s only a taste of what’s out there that may improve your diet and your health! For example, check out these superfoods:

This doesn’t mean you have to entirely abandon the foods you love, either. In fact, we have an entire series based around ways to make your favorite comfort foods healthier.

Show Off to Loved Ones

Cooking is a certainly a skill. It’s one that anybody can pick up, but like most skills, there are varying levels to it. And, like other skills, you can use it to show off to your loved ones! Only with cooking, you’re loved ones will love it when you show off. Why? Because they get to eat the delicious outcome, of course! If you’re only eating a core sampling of foods, the wow factor will eventually wear off, even if what you’re making is really impressive. That’s why cultivating an experimental or adventurous attitude toward food is a great way to look like a culinary magician to your friends and family. Check out our other entries in the Dishes to Impress Your Friends series to learn how to make things like homemade lobster ravioli! Don’t be afraid to stray from the path or to follow your instincts. It’s a great way to learn!

Learn About Other Cultures

Food is a cornerstone to cultures around the world. There’s a lot of history there — hundreds of years of family meals shared around a table. We enjoy certain foods during specific holidays or for different events, all with their own histories and traditions. For example, would you ever think to drink eggnog during the summer? A great way to get a feel for another culture, especially while traveling, is to eat their traditional foods. In your travels, you can learn more about the daily lives of those people than if you simply see the landmarks. Food is one of the great connectors of the world, so connect with the people you’re visiting and get out of your comfort zone!

How to Open Yourself to Trying New Foods

There are a few different ways you can go about pushing yourself to try new foods. Which one works for you really depends on your own personality. We’ll break them down into four general strategies and methods: the “yes” method, the incremental method, the substitution method, and the deep-end method.

The “Yes” Method

This method for beating picky eating is more an attitude adjustment about food. Simply put, change your gut reaction about trying something new from “no” to “yes.” This can be tough at first, especially if you try a few things that you don’t like, but it gets easier over time. As you begin to try more foods that you like, you’ll begin to find trends in food you like and those you don’t. Eventually, you’ll realize that when you see a food you haven’t tried before, you won’t need to tell yourself “yes, I’m trying that,” because your first thought will already be that. This method is more effective for people who aren’t the pickiest of eaters, but simply want to expand their culinary range.

The Incremental Method

If you’re a pickier eater, you may want to try the incremental method, since you won’t push yourself as hard to try new things. Instead, slowly try new ones. The speed at which you do this is up to you and doesn’t need to be constant. If you’re a very picky eater, try one new dish a month, and as you find yourself liking more, expand it to one a week, and so on. Just like any bad habit, this becomes a strategy to incrementally work your way out of picky eating.

The Substitution Method

For the pickiest of eaters, we suggest trying the substitution method to work your way into more experimental eating. You’ve likely tried this before if you’ve worked with some of our recipes. Specifically, the Getting Creative with Comfort Food and Healthy Hacks for Your Favorite Snacks series teach you ways to substitute classic ingredients in some of your favorite dishes and snacks with healthier alternatives. This way, you’re trying something new, but in a way that’s similar to something you’ve had and liked in the past. In a sense, this is dipping your toe into the new food pool before jumping in. This can be used in concert with the incremental method. Each month, focus on a new food, and the first time you try it, substitute it into something you already enjoy like pizza, pancakes, or mac and cheese. It may be slower progress, but it’s a great way to curb any fear of a new ingredient.

The Go-Big Method

Okay, so this final method takes the most courage of all the other strategies. If the substitution method is like dipping your toe in the water, this is diving right into the deep-end. Find the food that scares you the most and just try it. Whether that’s scrapple, Brussels sprouts, or head cheese, just try it. Why? Because once you conquer your biggest food fear, everything else in comparison is a piece of cake (though not literally a piece of cake). Spaghetti squash isn’t so scary after you’ve tried pickled cow tongue. Just be sure to get your fear food from an expert cook with that ingredient to give yourself the best of actually enjoying it. You don’t want to accidentally give yourself food poisoning by eating an ingredient that wasn’t properly prepared.

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Ultimately, there’s no singular correct method, since everyone is different. You don’t even need to exclusively follow one. In fact, we think it’s probably best if you do a combination of all of them. Try a food that scares you while incrementally trying new foods by substituting them into dishes you like and by developing a more adventurous attitude. Now that you know how and why you should try new foods, there’s nothing stopping you. Bon appétit and bonne chance!