My husband and I have completely opposite tastes. He loves meat and starchy carbs. He could live off of steak and potatoes, hamburgers and fries, and shepherds pie (hold the veggies!). When we got married I wouldn't be surprised if he went weeks without eating anything green!
My favourite foods are stir fries loaded with veggies and topped with interesting ethnic sauces. I also love raw salads, curries, and anything with tons of flavour. I am not a big meat eater, I could easily be a vegetarian and I wouldn't feel like I was missing out.
I am telling you all of this to let you know that if you live with someone whose tastes are different from yours, you don't need to cook more than one meal. My husband won't eat everything that I eat, but his tastes have hugely expanded. He has learned to enjoy vegetables, he actually loves tofu, and he regularly requests different noodle bowls and salads. I make sure I still cook "meat and potato" dinners on the regular too.
How did his tastes change so dramatically? It didn't happen overnight.
Here are a five tips to help unadventurous eaters try new foods
1. Listen and ask questions to figure out why your picky eater doesn't like particular foods. For example, Josh can't stand onions. From asking questions, I have determined that it isn't the flavour of onions he doesn't like, but the texture and the smell. I can still include onions in a recipe as long as they are cut small enough that he doesn't notice the texture. It also helps to cut down the amount so the meal doesn't smell like onion.
2. Slowly introduce picky eaters to new foods.
Let's use curry as an example. Josh didn't like spicy or ethnic foods. He loves peanuts, coconut rice and coconut in general. I made a mild curry, with potatoes, chicken, coconut milk, peanuts, and coconut rice. I purposefully didn't include any vegetables except for potatoes. My husband loved it! He talked about how good it was for weeks afterwards. Now I can make it much less mild as he is accustomed to the taste. I can even add some finely chopped onion, and vegetables without any complaints.
3. Prepare new foods in the most delicious way possible.
I mentioned above that my husband now loves tofu. He wasn't crazy about the idea of vegetarian meals when I started making them. I first made tofu by coating it in cornstarch, and salt and pepper, and frying it in a good amount of oil. So good! Perfectly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Once Josh got used to eating it this way, I started preparing it in other ways and he always comments on how much he enjoys having tofu with a meal.
4. Respect your picky eaters' dislikes.
We all have foods we don't enjoy. Understand that your picky eater isn't going to like everything. Forcing them to eat certain foods isn't going to make them enjoyable. The rule in our house is that you don't have to eat everything, but you do have to try it. It works well for us. Often at meal time my daughter will declare that she doesn't like something before even tasting it. We will tell her "that's okay if you don't like it, but you still have to try it". Often times, a few minutes into the meal I will glance over and see that she has eaten every bite. Taking a gentle approach helps avoid fights at the table and takes the pressure off picky eaters. If it's something you know your unadventurous eater won't enjoy, have some back-up foods for them just in case. For example, if you are making pasta and you know one of your children doesn't like it, serve it with a salad and garlic bread. This way you know they will still have something to eat.
5. Don't try to cater 100% of the time to your picky eaters dislikes.
You can't always cook something that everyone likes. That is okay. Picky eaters can learn to eat around the things they don't like, or just eat the parts of the meal that they enjoy. It is hard to enjoy cooking when you are constantly trying to please everyone at your table. Ask everyone to be mindful that you cooked the meal for them and use their manners. If they don't want to eat something that is okay. I promise you, no one is going to starve from just one meal. Be consistent and soon they will be trying new foods without complaint!
I would love to hear from you. Do you have any picky eaters in your family, or do their tastes differ from your own? What are some things you do to help unadventurous eaters enjoy new foods?