Being a picky eater is usually normal for most children. Hiding vegetables at the dinner table or feeding undesired sides to the dog are common strategies children might use. As an adult, being a picky eater can become more of a burden in both personal and professional situations.

Foods can vary in taste, smell, color, texture, shape and ripeness. The way people perceive these differences plays a major role in their picky eating habits. I’ve considered myself a picky eater since I was a little kid and although I still steer clear of many foods, I have branched out quite a lot since I was younger.

A study conducted by psychologist and director of the Duke Center for Eating Disorders Nancy Zucker discovered a number of reasons why picky eaters are the way they are. For most people, most foods they eat can be correlated with a memory. If a person experienced something traumatizing when eating a certain food, their perception of that food can be affected negatively or positively.

When I was in middle school, my father made me eat potato salad, which I absolutely can’t stand now. I remember telling him how much I didn’t want it, but he has always been pushing me to try new foods. I tried a forkful and spit it out in the sink. Now every time I think about potato salad I think of that memory and because of that, I’ll probably never eat that food again, plus it was disgusting.

People who know what foods they like often get uncomfortable in situations where they are forced to try new things. Some people even suffer from anxiety when it comes to business lunches or things where their eating is on display. It might seem silly to most people, but it can be embarrassing when you order something others might consider boring because you don’t like all the extra toppings or sides. It’s just another thing to worry about.

Other people may have heightened sensitivity when it comes to certain tastes and smells too. In a research study conducted to focus on the role of the senses in food preferences, it was discovered that, depending on your genetics, food can smell pleasant or unpleasant to an individual. What one person thinks is the best meal ever, another could find repulsive. It all depends on the individual and their personal preferences.

For example, many people dislike tomatoes because of the watery consistency and seeds that fall out when cut open. Some people dislike avocados because of its smooth and mushy texture. Most of the time, the body needs to adjust to a certain food before it can be enjoyed. Beer is a great example of this. I don’t know many people who say they have loved beer from the first sip. It’s something that grows on you and your taste buds get used to.

Don’t try to push picky eaters out of their comfort zones because chances are, they’ll just get uncomfortable and embarrassed. Saying things like, “Come on, just try it” probably won’t be enough convincing for someone. The best thing picky eaters can do is try to cook new things by themselves. Cooking something by yourself gives you all the power to make something you know you’ll like. Look up variations of a basic recipe you’ve been using for a while and try to change it up. Small steps can lead to a more diverse plate at every meal.

Email Laura Schmidt at opinions@cardinalpointsonline.com

<a href="http://cardinalpointsonline.com/byline/laura-schmidt/" rel="tag">Laura Schmidt</a>