10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Be a Picky Eater

yuck face Here is a bit of conventional wisdom: Each of us is an expert on what we like and picky eaters are not at fault for their fussy attitude. If I hate sushi, I haven’t made a mistake or committed a crime. I can’t help it; I like what I like.

But that bit of conventional wisdom is wrong. Here are ten reasons why you shouldn’t be a picky eater.

1. We are not experts on what we like. Our tastes change constantly and in surprising, unpredictable ways. Remember hating asparagus as a kid or never liking sardines until having them grilled on the beach in Sicily? We often dislike something because our experience with it is limited or because its presentation was unflattering.

2. Picky eaters are well on their way to a life of blandness and tedium unless they compensate in some other way. The world of flavor is large and diverse and promises a different experience each day. Life is just more interesting when you eat widely.

3. Omnivores have ready access and the motivation to learn about the tastes, habits, and ways of life of other cultures. Food is a window into other cultures, one that is often just down the street. Picky eaters sacrifice this opportunity,

4. Curiosity about food can stimulate your desire to travel.

5. Omnivores are open-minded about food and being open-minded is a good habit to develop in general because you discover more value in the world. Being open-minded about food can help develop that habit in other areas of life.

6. Picky eaters experience less pleasure, are less curious and will have less self-knowledge than omnivores unless these deficiencies can be made up for in some other way.

7. Picky eaters are dogmatic and inflexible about food. It is in general a bad idea to approach any aspect of life by emulating Professor Umbrage on a bad day.

8. Picky eaters harm themselves because they don’t develop their capacities for sensation to the fullest. We are designed to get pleasure from diverse foods.  Picky eating is like being willfully color-blind.

9. Picky eaters inconvenience others and are often disrespectful and thankless since they cannot fully endorse a gift of good food when served something they don’t like.

10. Picky eaters miss out on shared experiences they would otherwise enjoy.

Of course, some people are off the hook for refusing to try some foods. Vegetarians and vegans have moral objections to eating certain foods that are worthy of rerspect, and these objections would have to be weighed against the virtues of being omnivorous. People with health issues cannot be expected to sacrifice their health. And if you think of food as fuel only and get no pleasure from it, then you lack the motivation for food adventures.

Everybody else should stop whining and eat.

3 comments

  1. What this article ignores is that not everyone knows they have a condition that affects their eating, especially as a child. A child may not be able to verbalize that eating bread gives them a stomachache, or if they do they might not be believed. And yet, they could still have undiagnosed celiac disease.
    As for each point, well:
    1. Have you ever eaten dog poop? If not, how do you know you won’t like it? What if it was expertly prepared and presented? It’s quite possible to know, before trying something, that you won’t like it. Most of a food’s taste is actually smell, so if something smells bad to you, you probably won’t like eating it.
    2. Eating something disgusting isn’t “interesting”, it’s unpleasant. If you get bored easily, go ahead and try something new. But don’t judge others for not eating it.
    3. I’ve learnt far more about Japanese culture from watching anime and taking a Japanese language class than I would learn from eating sushi. You don’t really learn about a culture by superficially imitating what they do. You learn about it by seeing how they think, and that cannot be taught through food.
    4. So many things can stimulate a desire to travel. If I want to eat sushi, my university sells some. I don’t need to go to Japan for that. I’d like to go to Japan to see the culture and the wildlife, not just to eat their food.
    5. Open-mindedness about food has nothing to do with being open-minded about anything else. I’m a very picky eater. I’m also someone who has tried to learn a large number of different languages, has changed several of my beliefs in response to scientific evidence, is very creative and loves learning about people who are different from me. Whereas I’ve met many people who pressure me to be less picky because they are too close-minded to accept that I don’t like something they like.
    6. Food is a minor part of most people’s lives. It’s laughably easy to fill the rest of your life with pleasure, curiosity and opportunities to learn about yourself. Plus, eating something disgusting isn’t pleasurable, and if it looked or smelled unappetizing before you ate it then it’s not really a big revelation either. And if you really want to learn about yourself, don’t try a new food – go to counseling instead. I’ve learnt a ton about myself from getting counseling.
    7. Inflexibility about food has nothing to do with being inflexible in any other area. Professor Umbrage was evil because her inflexibility led her to harm innocent children. No one is harmed if I politely decline a meal in favor of something I prefer.
    8. I don’t get pleasure from diverse foods. I have more taste buds than most people and my brain processes sensory cues differently. Besides, most people don’t take pleasure in noticing the sparkly floor of the bus or the way light moves through a prism. And yet they don’t seem to suffer from missing out on something I find very pleasurable.
    9. Personally, I think it’s more disrespectful to act like “you must eat this or I’ll throw a tantrum” than it is to say “I appreciate the offer, but no.” As for inconveniencing others, if asked, I’ll tell the person what food I like. If I wasn’t asked, I’ve probably brought something for myself, or I might eat some dishes but not others. If someone puts forth a lot of effort to make something without even discussing it with me, then they chose to inconvenience themselves. I’m no more obligated to eat their food than I am to pay a Squeegee kid.
    10. Again, eating something that tastes horrible is not enjoyable. And if my only opportunity for shared experiences with someone is by eating the same food as them, our relationship is pretty superficial indeed. I’d rather go somewhere interesting with them or learn something new with them, while eating whatever works for me.
    It’s only necessary to eat in order to fuel your body. All other benefits of food can be gotten from non-food experiences too. So why should we all seek out adventure in exactly the same way? That sounds pretty close-minded to me.

  2. You do realise people don’t “choose” to be a picky eater right? It’s an emotional and at points, anxiety issue. forcing picky eaters to change to your standards is like forcing autistic people to “stop acting out” at sensory issues.
    We’re not dishonering your ancestors when we say we don’t like a certain texture, calm down Karen.

  3. Of course there may be special circumstances for being a picky eater (as acknowledged at the end of the article), however some picky eaters were simply raised to be non-adventurous about food (i.e., it’s a learned behavior). This article simply points out the various pleasures that you can receive from foods if you are able to approach food with an open mind. I used to hate celery (probably because I did not grow up eating it). I didn’t like the smell, texture, or taste. I kept trying it every time I was offered. By the third or fourth try, I started to like it. Today, it is one of my favorite snacks (and I’m glad I gave it a fair chance). My mom did not like sushi. She kept trying it and today she loves it. I love sushi (and indeed would like to visit Japan to further experience their cusine, as well as their culture).

    This may not work for you, and that is ok, but, for some picky eaters, a change in mindset could lead to a pleasurable outcome.

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