Taste Psychology: Learning To Love Foods You Don’t Like

by | Sep 10, 2012
Roasted Beets With Fresh Mint and Chevre (click for recipe)

Roasted Beets With Fresh Mint and Chevre (click for recipe)

Chances are there are foods you love now that you hated as a kid. But how many foods do you still avoid just because you think you don’t like them?

Young palates struggle with things like mustard, onions and asparagus, and instead prefer more bland, less intense flavors. But as adults we sometimes cling to these preferences without ever stopping to question the value or meaning of our opinions.

But in reality, what joy is there in being a picky eater?

While it’s true that taste is subjective, I’ve never heard a convincing argument that it’s better to dislike a food than to like one. It is certainly more fun to like things, and it is often far more convenient. Just try getting a serious chef to make a signature dish without onions. It isn’t easy.

But is it possible to learn to like a food if you don’t like the taste?

It turns out that most of the time we decide what we like before we bother to experience it, and this prejudice clouds our perception of what we actually encounter. This effect of perception bias has been demonstrated repeatedly in psychology experiments where food color and taste have been manipulated. To see this for yourself, use food coloring to alter the appearance of several bowls of lemon Jell-O and have your friends guess what flavors they are tasting. Very few will say they taste lemon unless the color is still yellow.

The psychology of taste is further complicated by our natural aversion to things that are new or different from what we are expecting. Foods with unique textures such as mushrooms and okra often fall victim to this bias. In these cases the unfamiliarity and strangeness of the texture makes us slightly uncomfortable, and we interpret this feeling as a personal dislike. However, this reaction reflects the food’s uniqueness rather than its true character.

Our tendency to dislike and often hate things that extend beyond our perceptual comfort zones is explored in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. He argues that we make snap judgments about everything we encounter based on prior experience. And while this ability can sometimes help us make wise decisions, it can also explain why pilot testing can’t predict the success of new concept T.V. shows like Seinfeld.

In other words, sometimes our first impressions are wrong.

Knowing about this bias can help you overcome aversions to foods you think you don’t like, and even learn to love them. The first step is deciding that there is value in enjoying a food you currently do not enjoy. I’m not saying you should develop an appreciation for frozen pasta, but most fresh, natural whole foods are worth rediscovering for both taste and culture.

The second step is dedicating yourself to keep trying the rejected food until you find it prepared in a way you like. This is not as bad as it sounds, since there is a good chance that the reason you do not like a food in the first place is because what you were served as a child was either canned, frozen or of industrial (low) quality. Since peaches and plums taste completely different when you get them at the farmers market, doesn’t it stand to reason that the same is true for green beans, broccoli and beets? Also, with each venture your taste will become more acclimated to the flavor and your aversion will dissipate.

Fine dining represents another great opportunity to explore foods you haven’t enjoyed in the past. I was finally won over on brussels sprouts after a spectacular meal in San Francisco, and now consider them one of my favorite autumn ingredients.

Even if a certain food doesn’t end up on your favorites list, learning to at least enjoy it in a casual way will enrich your life and help you develop an appreciation for new and unique experiences. The Chinese culture pays particular reverence to textures in food, and this attitude allows them to enjoy a far more diverse and interesting range of ingredients than any Western culture.

The key word here is “enjoy.” Eating vegetables is undeniably healthy, but the best reason to eat broccoli is that you absolutely love it.

What foods do you hate? Are you ready to get over it?

Originally published October 5, 2009.

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100 Responses to “Taste Psychology: Learning To Love Foods You Don’t Like”

  1. Rob Hueniken says:

    Great article, Darya! As a fellow cook I am often surprised (and disappointed) by people’s aversion to trying other foods. Sometimes they say they don’t like a particular ingredient, and don’t realize that ,like you with Brussels sprouts, this might be a recipe that really tastes good!

    I think that at the heart of this might be the very basic and strong nature of taste and texture. Trying a new dish is very visceral – much more I think than seeing a new sweater on a person, and not quite as strong as smelling a perfume because with eating we are actually putting the food into us.

    Thanks for the excellent article. I like how you pull in various references and give explanations.

    Your ProBlogger buddy,

    Rob

    • Darya Pino says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Rob. Love your fortune cookie post!

    • sararzz says:

      sorry but i dont agree, yes there is food we think we dont like without even tasting it. but in my case its different, i dislike most foods, and no matter how many times or ways i eat it, i always dislike it, i still eat it, but i use water to shove it down my throat, like swallowing a pill. i also dont like how you acted in this article as if liking or not liking food is a choice, you think i want to be like this???? I CANT CONTROL what i like or not!!

      • Castsista says:

        I’m with you sararzz; there is nothing worse than force feeding yourself foods you dislike. I have tried fish many different ways and it still tastes awful to me.

  2. Geosomin says:

    Very true!
    I’ve found that as I expand and try new thngs, a lot of food I thought I disliked I do, when it’s made “right” so I’ve stopped turning away things until I try them first…my diet has really expanded to include a lot more things.

  3. I couldn’t get through one serving of Bertolli pasta. But brussells sprouts I used to hate and I got over it just two years ago, trying them with a new head and recipe.

  4. I *loved* Blink. Outliers is also a great book by Gladwell that you should read if you haven’t. I totally worship that man.

    You’re right about the childhood connection. I hated onions as a kid and can’t imagine not having onions in the house now. (But I will say, I still hate red onions and will pick them out of sandwiches and salads.)

    One of my friends makes her own baby food with the contents of her CSA box. Her son has eaten something like 30 different fruits and veggies and he’s not even 2 yet! I really applaud her for teaching him to be a very un-picky eater LONG before he reaches the age where most kids start to turn up their nose at veggies.

    • Darya Pino says:

      E, you should ask Allie below how she got over her onion aversion ;) Actually to be honest, I still struggle with raw onions. Not so much for the taste as for the after effects.

  5. Tiffany says:

    Lately, I’ve been working on learning to like mushrooms. Growing up I only encountered the slimy, canned version. Fish is another food I’ve learned to like as an adult.

  6. Allie says:

    Great article! Really interesting to ponder….

    I always thought I was a very good eater as a child since my three favorite vegetables were, in this order, spinach, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. My parents had it so easy! But now that I stop and think about it, it’s amazing how many foods I thought I didn’t like have recently become favorites because I started with 1.) high quality ingredients (sardines), 2.) bought fresh from the farmers market (dates), or 3.) just got over my fear to try something I always thought I disliked (raw onions – my sandwiches and salads had no idea what they were missing!).

    One thing I still struggle with is sushi, although that’s less of an ingredient than a style of cooking. On my recent trip to Hawaii I tried poke, which is marinated raw fish cubes, and it was really good! The flavor was amazing although I still struggled with the texture. I figure that means I just need to keep trying it and the texture aversion may eventually go away.

  7. Janet says:

    Great article! My sister, an urban gardener, convinced herself to start liking chard because she had so much of it.

    I adore brussels sprouts, but had never actually tried them until last year. I like almost all vegetables, but there are a few that have yet to win me over, like broccoli rabe and green peppers. Guess it might be time to give those another shot! Any great recipes for these veggies?

  8. Connie (Ariel Manx) says:

    There are really very few foods that I just hate, but three of them are healthy ones – raspberries, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts. Raspberries I will never get past; they were the last thing I ate before I got hit a horrible case of stomach flu when I was maybe 4 years old. I’m closing in on 32 now and still cannot eat them, the memory even now is far too strong. Asparagus and Brussels sprouts I have tried every way you could possibly cook them (even sauted with a little pancetta fat!) and still can’t stand either of them. I LOVE cabbage and other veggies like that, but those poor little stems and sprouts just can’t win me over. But I figure I like enough other fruits and veggies that my health won’t suffer for the lack of those three in my diet.

    A healthy food I wish I liked was hummus – I do like the taste but have an aversion to the texture.

    The food I actually hate the most is a good one to hate – southern style fried chicken. I love chicken, but it must be skinless, boneless, white meat, and preferably not deep-fried.

  9. dragonfly says:

    I love Brussel sprouts. Steamed with a bit of garlic.

  10. Jeffrey Steingarten has a great bit on learning to love foods he formerly hated in the Man Who Ate Everything (although in his case it wasn’t brussels sprouts and beets, it was kimchi, anchovies and Greek food). I think with most vegetables in particular people have a prejudice because they’ve never tried something that they are “supposed” to hate or they tried it once and it was terrible. Like parsnips. Parsnips are unbelievably delicious, but I think people think of them as a scary vegetable. Experiment with different preparations or combination.

    I do, however, reserve my right to continue disliking cucumbers. I have a very short list of foods I dislike (cucumbers and kidneys, which taste like a bridge in Central Park) and I feel like I’m entitled.

  11. Recently, I decided to revisit my relationship with Cilantro. Repulsed by it because it reminded me of too much tequila during a Cabo vacation long ago. I’m breaking the association, and starting to enjoy cilantro in certain dishes. Baby steps :)

    • Darya Pino says:

      Nice! For foods where the aversion is specific like that you could always try them in other cuisines. Cilantro is great in Vietnamese food!

      • Allie says:

        Good idea! I did just that…I used to dislike cilantro in Mexican food (probably from a bad salsa experience), but when I discovered it on Vietnamese sandwiches, I loved it! Then, like magic, when I went back to Mexican food, I liked it there too.

  12. Sandra says:

    When I was younger I loathed poached and hard boiled eggs. I now adore poached eggs with toast on over a salad but hard boiled eggs are still not my bag. I think it is a texture thing… I also love brussel sprouts roasted with bacon and lemon. So good.
    I think I am willing to eat many things, but not able to cook them myself… I don’t think I will ever, ever cook menudo- but I’ve tried it.

  13. Sarah says:

    A great post! I have a husband who used to be a VERY picky eater as a child, and whose tastes expanded tremendously as he became an adult (couldn’t have married him, otherwise!). I struggle with our daughter, who until 2, ate absolutely anything and everything. Since then, she’s scorned everything from former favorites to anything new and remotely exotic (this includes almost all veggies and most fruits). I used to think it was all nurture, but with a mother who’s a whole foods freak and avid cook, and a father who’s a relatively adventurous eater . . . it’s nature. I keep at it! I keep putting things in front of her and hoping that she’ll start getting curious again, one day . . . . fingers crossed.

    • Darya Pino says:

      You just described one of the many reasons I’m terrified of having children. I can’t imagine fighting over food. Good luck and let me know if it gets better!

    • Sandra says:

      Our son did that for a few weeks when he was that age- it was so annoying. So we decided that we would offer only one thing when he chose not to eat with us: plain edamame. He got tired of that quickly and soon got back to eating with us. Hope you find something that works for you.

  14. waywardjam says:

    Thanks for the tips. My hangup has always been with bell peppers and fennel. I’ve been doing better with bell peppers; I tried exactly what you recommended. I ordered them at a high-end restaurant in an appetizer of roasted red bell peppers a couple times and don’t find them as offensive. I’m still working on green bell peppers.

    I’m not sure when I’ll be attacking the fennel problem, but I’m going to take it one hated food at at time!

  15. Rosa says:

    This is so true for me! I hated kidney beans in my salad! The other day, though, my husband was eating a bowl full of warm kidney beans. He made it look so delicious that I decided to eat some myself, and to my surprise, I had some more! I actually now enjoy eating kidney beans!

    I’ll definitely continue reading your site for more tips on staying and eating healthy! Thanks for everything!!

  16. So true! I’ve had so many instances in which friends or clients have looked at the ingredients I’m planning to use and immediately say, I hate eggplant or I don’t like beans of any kind. Then they try the dish and they discover they love it, especially when it’s made simply. They taste and love the vegetable itself. It seems that if you have an experience with food cooked badly or have a parent or friend you admire growing up say that they don’t like something then you internalize that thought. Good thing to remember when hanging around little ones : )

  17. I have never met a fruit or vegetable I can’t eat. Even if I’m not crazy about something–like okra or black-eyed peas–I can eat it to be polite. But organ meats and undercooked meats I cannot do! Not even to be polite. Not gonna happen!

  18. Alice says:

    I think some of us struggle with the fact that we were forced to eat overcooked, bland, mushy vegetables when we were kids, and those memories have stuck with us for too long. My hubby couldn’t stand broccoli for years because his only experience was the way his mom boiled it (back in the 70’s) and cooked it until it became absolute mush. As I’ve overhauled our family menus in the past few years and introduced broccoli to him in many delicious forms, now he loves it! Who knew?!

  19. julie says:

    My mom is a super-picky eater, and I’ve lost most of her pickiness. There are some things I really hate (mustard, sour cream, lamb, pork that’s not bacon), but some I can eat when mixed with other stuff. My dad was laughing yesterday as he told me about a party that my mother attended where there was NOTHING that she would eat. She ate a tuna sandwich before she went. This from the woman who hated yogurt until the doctor told her to eat it due to being on antibiotics, and she’s eaten it every day since (granted, it’s the disgusting non-fat, extra HFCS sweeter than ice cream stuff). She is difficult and annoying, but her kids and grandkids don’t do that, fortunately. We humor her, sometimes get mad.

  20. Lisa says:

    I didn’t like most veggies as a child but became adventurous later in life and I was determined that my kids would not be picky eaters and they are not! They love trying new foods and have fallen in love with kale, using your recipe! I think part of the key is to let them be involved. We grow vegetables and have fruit trees and they are always excited to eat what we grow! If you can’t grow your own, take them to the farmer’s market and let them help! Also don’t act like they aren’t supposed to like something! My kids love escargot and eggplant!

  21. Stephen Wise says:

    I’m all about psychology & acquiring a taste for everything in life that at one time was out of one’s comfort zone.

    I went all out this past two years (when a whole-foods style place opened in our area) with random veggies/shrooms. Last year I made myself try the most slimy / unusual types of sushi until I loved it. Uni (sea-urchin) & Tobi (fish eggs) layered on rice have that texture I knew I hate, but I made myself eat it over and over until I liked it. Not sure why I did this, but it was a small victory, none-the-less!

  22. Keshav acharya says:

    I’m very choosy about vegetables.i think it’s all about psychology and prejudice of taste of food.i remember when i was in grade 2 i used to eat lady’s finger .one of my friend told me lady’s finger is just like mucus and he hate it. Then i also avoid eating lady’s finger and till now i don’t eat it.i just dislike it.Next event also.once brinjal was my best vegetable but later it become one which i dislike as my friends also dislike brinjal. i’m 22 year old medical student and i know there is nothing wrong in eating those vegetables from physiological aspects.now i’m going to change the habit.

  23. C-A says:

    I try to explain food psychology (in my own non-doctor terms of course) to anyone who will listen, so I LOVE this post and blog, Darya.

    I am an extremely picky eater turned foodie so naturally I want to save all of the other picky eaters out there from their dull and bland fate. Nothing excites me more than good eating buddies willing to embark upon an adventure with me.

    Good luck out there, Fellow Eaters! Try, try again!

    • Darya Pino says:

      I’d love to talk to you more about your story. Any interest in writing a guest post? (p.s. the email you used didn’t work, so I couldn’t email you directly)

      • C-A says:

        I’d love to do a guest post. I accidently added an extra ‘e’ in my email address when I typed it, but now it’s correct.

        Hit me up! :)

      • Jennifer says:

        C-A,
        Would love your story and advice. I am EXTREMELY picky. There is not a vegetable that I like. I will eat a few canned only green beans with salt and corn, but I can’t say I like either. I want to teach myself to like vegetables but could use a success story about now!!

      • C-A says:

        Jennifer, I think determination is all you need to start to like veggies.

        I think the hardest part of learning to like fresh veggies is that the flavors have a lot more personality than canned.

        Your tastebuds right now are sleepy commuters clutching their morning commuter cup of coffee on a crowded bus. The last thing they want is something draped in bright colors dancing in front of them and singing loud, happy songs. The flavors of fresh food can be offensive initially.

        So be patient with your grumpy, sleepy tastebuds. They will come out of their fog but it’s going to take time and a lot of faith and determination that they can wake up.

        Maybe a good place to start is to figure out what about fresh veggies is so offensive to your mouth. Is it texture or flavor? If you can figure out what the path of least resistance is and try that first you might have more success. Good luck! :)

  24. Crystal says:

    Hi Darya! I’m a fairly new subscriber & am thoroughly enjoying the webisodes. Such great information! I’ve struggled with IBS ever since I was a child & am trying to upgrade my eating habits. One thing I haven’t figured out how to eat is most fish. I can pan fry tilapia, eat some sushi & Ahi tuna, but havent tolerated most other types. I havent braved canned fish other than occassional tuna, but still not a big fan of the smell. How do i develop a taste for more fish in my diet? I mostly prefer beef. Any advice? I’m getting married in 7 days & we are on a mission to revamp our eating habits before we start a family. Thank you so much for this awesome site!

    • Darya Pino says:

      So is the issue the taste or the IBS? If it’s taste, different types and cooking methods will probably help. I can talk to you more about this if you need suggestions. If it’s the IBS then you’ll probably like the live show about probiotics that I’ll be posting next week :)

      • Crystal says:

        Thanks for the quick response! It’s definitely the taste & maybe the texture that is the issue for me. How do you prepare/add sardines etc to your daily meals?

        I actually just finished watching the Probiotics show. :) Great info I’ll definitely give it a go!

    • Darya Pino says:

      I do sardines straight from the can, but if you don’t like the taste of fish that’s probably not the best place to start.

      I recommend starting with very clean tasting fish with more plump texture (rather than flakey), so it is more like chicken. I also recommend choosing strong seasonings and marinades, so that there are other flavors to distract you from just the fish taste. Some of the best flavors for fish are from the Mediterranean, like Spanish and Italian preparations. They emphasize strong flavors like garlic, onion, herbs, tomato, saffron, etc. Seafood pairs beautifully with these flavors.

      Mexican food is another great place to start. Fish goes beautifully with tomato, lime, cilantro, onion, just lightly grilled. In my experience, fish with bad testure (pasty, unpleasant) when it is over-cooked. Light cooking is key, and be sure to start with very high-quality fish. Grilled fish also has an excellent flavor, the smokiness adds a lot. A quick marinade before hand with olive oil, garlic, lemon, salt and pepper can be wonderful. Also try Jamaican flavors, jerk spices, etc.

      • Crystal says:

        Great tips & suggestions, Darya! I’ll definietly give those a try. Do you have any recommendations of types of fish that would be cleaner, plumper varieties? I really appreciate all of your time. Thank you for the hard work you do & thank you for sharing it with us!

    • Darya Pino says:

      Sorry, I totally meant to include that. Cod is a great choice, as is halibut. In season, wild caught salmon can also be this way, but avoid the farmed or Atlantic varieties (these are actually dyed pink, how gross is that?!?!). Ocean trout is delicious too. Yellowtail, mahi mahi. If you can get your hands on some butter fish (walu at sushi restaurants), it’s seriously one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Also don’t forget about shellfish like shrimp, clams, scallops, crab, mussels, etc. These can be ok when farmed, but again overcooking is always what ruins them.

      Once you get to that day when you find you actually enjoy and look forward to these gateway fish, then start to branch out to the others.

  25. Sarah C says:

    What foods don’t I like? A lot, unfortunately most fruits and vegetables. I found this article tonight when I was trying to find help eating a strawberry, grape, and cherry. I am determined to try them, tonight. I hope it doesn’t take all night for me to try them! :) Thanks for the encouragement!

  26. Lou Doench says:

    Pickles… I think I have overcome 90% of my childhood food aversions, but anything with pickle brine anywhere near it still turns my stomach. Weirdly, there are other pickled things that I like, but the way kosher dills and such stain everything they touch… ewww

  27. Michael says:

    Great article! I have been following these steps intuitively for a long time, even have a mini post I did about this long ago in yahoo groups. My biggest “conquest” was oysters on the half shell. Now it is hard for me to believe at one time I did not like them since putting away 3 dozen as an appetizer is not uncommon for me :-)

  28. marilee says:

    If you can teach me how to love ginger root, that would be revolutionary. =) I can’t stand it unless it’s realllly cooked down to nothing and unrecognizable (like in curry).

  29. Erin says:

    I was a horrifically picky eater from a picky family and as a child and into my early twenties I refused to try pretty much anything. I’d only eat plain cheeseburgers, plain pizza, pasta but only if the sauce didn’t have meat. Ugh…what a waste. Then I started cooking and low and behold I really liked and even LOVED things my younger self and family insisted were “gross” such as: peppers, avocados, Brussels sprouts, sushi, salmon, onions, mushrooms, jalapenos, etc etc etc — this list is endless. People really are doing themselves a serious disservice if they don’t at least try new foods once more post childhood. I can’t imagine eating now like I used to eat then. It makes me seriously feel weepy when I think about all of the great food I missed out on.

  30. Dena says:

    Thanks for this article Darya! I grew up with a mom that HATED onions, and it’s taken me a really long time to like them, because of her aversion. I found what helped me the most was ordering foods with the fruits/veggies that I didn’t like still in the food, and then picking it out if I really didn’t like it, but the flavor was still there, to kind of ease into that taste profile. My fiance and I fight about this often, because I am picker than him, which also helps expand my food profile, so we can eat meals together. I think in general going out to eat or cooking with friends who eat everything is a good way to explore too, because then you don’t feel you have to come up with on your own how to prepare and cook it.

  31. Liz says:

    Thanks for another good post Darya! So funny, when I was reading this, the only thing I could think about was my husband — over the past few years I’ve helped changed his eating habits from soda and candy to healthful. While he’s still not a big fan of some foods (like mushrooms), I keep making them and trying new recipes in hopes that one day, he just might change his mind :)

  32. Cooper says:

    Darya,
    Great attitude! When ever I’m in a new city I always try to find something new that I haven’t tried before. I was recently at Oyamel in Washington DC. There I was about to order everything in my comfort zone, but with the recommendation of my friend I branched out a bit. He told me that Jose Andreas specialty was vegetables, so i decided to try some of his recipes. All were really good but the part where I branched out was trying the Chapulines.
    “The legendary Oaxacan specialty of
    sautéed grasshoppers, shallots,
    tequila and guacamole”
    This was definitely a texture/visual that took some mental preparation. Needless to say, I survived, however the dish was a bit too salty for my liking. That and the texture, even though thoroughly macerated, I could still tell what was on my palette. I’m just proud to say that I tried my best at something new.

    On a bit of a side note, I recently read somewhere (and I hope it wasn’t on here :-D) that what mothers eat during their pregnancy tends to influence likes and dislikes of certain flavors, potentially long term.
    “Food preferences are largely cultural. Yet studies have shown that women can pass on flavor preferences to their children, both in utero and through breast milk. These preferences condition a child toward certain foods and perhaps once served an evolutionary purpose.”

    Via http://www.divinecaroline.com/22103/73457-mom-s-diet-affects-baby-s-tastes#ixzz1YcRw3jSq

    Thats just a random search I googled for reference, however I’m sure there is more out there that could be much more credible.

  33. Katherine says:

    I was quite a picky eater as a child. My mom is a good cook and she cooked our meals mostly from scratch everyday. I just had very specific tastes I guess. My brother and sister weren’t as picky. Now I will eat almost anything. My mom made her own pasta sauce and I wouldn’t touch it, preferring canned sauce! I guess one thing that was lacking in her cuisine was variety. She mostly cooked the same vegetables all the time. I only started to really experimenting with squash, beets, sweet potato, wild mushrooms, etc. Now I know better and I’ve been a convert for a long time. I think from my teenage years, I started exploring foods more. Now there isn’t really anything I wouldn’t eat but there are a few things I don’t like, eggplant being one of them. I’ve tried it several times and it just doesn’t do it for me.

  34. Sam says:

    I grew up hating practically all condiments. I would get stares of horror whenever I insisted on eating hot dogs and hamburgers plain… apparently it’s un-American or something.

    Recently I gave mustard another whirl, and my mind. was. Blown.

    Based on how WRONG I was about poor poor mustard, I keep giving other things a try that have long been in the “yuck” column. Ketchup is still out but things like kale, bell peppers, and even tomatoes (depending on texture & preparation) are very much in.

    Great post!

    • Antonia says:

      Sam: you should try organic ketchup if you haven’t already; it tends to have more of a vinegar flavor and be less sweet. I don’t mind regular ketchup, but I found that I loved ketchup when it wasn’t so bogged down with sugary ingredients.

  35. Me says:

    Man… I hate everything and did not get much out of this article. Keep trying foods you dislike the taste of? Try preparing foods you dislike the taste of differently? I was hoping to find some good advice not already mentioned by every mother in the world. Maybe taking steps toward a flavor or texture would be good advice? Maybe acclimating your taste buds by starting with very small portions working your way to larger? Maybe eating foods with a clothes-pin on your nose would even offer something a bit more! I would say this article is quite bland.

  36. Cherryl says:

    An interesting article, but it assumes a lot, for instance that people decide not to like certain foods in advance or that they are “picky eaters”. I think this attitude says more about the prejudices of the author than about the origins of food preferences. It doesn’t take into account the existence of “super tasters” who find the chemicals in certain foods extremely unpalatable or for those who sometimes find certain types of foods physiologically offensive to eat.

    From a very young age I would gag and vomit when forced to eat any type of legumes, especially those cooked improperly in their own water that had not been strained off several times. It turns out that I was having a genuine allergic reaction to the toxins that legumes carry and like many other people I was more sensitive to those toxins that the rest of the world.

    Before I got to the gagging and vomiting stage I stated a preference that “I don’t like peas”, and that I didn’t like beans, baked beans, black eyed peas, etc. That should have been enough. Nobody should feel burdened by an overactive missionary drive to ensure that my failure to embrace the joys of legumes at the dinner table should be ridiculed or beaten out of me. No adult should have to face being questioned about their food preferences by anyone. It is rude to question people.

    Just accept that we are all different. There are many reasons why others don’t like onions, spicy food, peas, or purple lemon jello. I am a very adventurous eater. I sprout and eat legumes now, because it converts the toxins so they are edible–seeds contain toxins to protect themselves from predatory molds, insects, and rodents, after all! I cook Indian cuisine, and Thai, Vietnamese, Native American-Mexican, and experiment with many other cuisines. And I question everything I ever learned about modern cooking that came out of the European Dark Ages because it is basically all wrong. If a food preparation technique doesn’t have two thousand years of history to back it up, somewhere somebody messed up.

  37. Betharoo says:

    I’ve decided to start liking cilantro, and all types of peppers–especially bell peppers. I’ve hated both things since childhood because of their flavors. It really makes restaurant ordering easier, for one, and now I’m really starting to enjoy the flavors and variety that these foods add to otherwise plain dishes!

  38. Camilo says:

    I am a 12 year old boy trying to find how to like other foods.My mom always told me that as a baby growing up i ate even rocks.(My mom is cuban)Now from since i started my elementary school years i only eat stake,ground beef,salad,and rice.I also eat like once in a month canned foods that bring preservatives.I read maybe preservatives have something to do with this.As i was reading i saw that maybe i should keep trying the foods i dont likeuntil i like them?I have been doing that for a long time and i just dont like simple foods like CHICKEN.I will only eat chicken from KFC and maybe just maybe canned foods but i wont eat my mothers chicken.I find it impossible for you to help me because this is a me problem but maybe some advice will work.Thanks I fear i will die of being bored of eating the same foods every day.

    • Darya Pino says:

      A lot of people feel this way when they are young. The good news is your tastes will change as you get older, so it is worth continuing to try. KFC is really really bad for you, but there may be chicken or other foods you like if someone who isn’t your mom cooks them. Just keep trying new things.

  39. Rebecca says:

    Great article. I’ve been searching for a way to enjoy fruits and vegetables more than I do. Right now all I really eat are the starchy, not-so-good-for-you vegetables. There’s something about the texture of most fruits and veggies that I seem unable to get through, though I’m trying. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

  40. Kittygomah says:

    I know its almost impossible to overcome it.I saw something disguisting while eating an egg when I was 5 years old and since then Im literally sick when I try to eat an egg.Not that I want to but my body reacts like that.It doesnt depend from my will.

  41. Marcos Galindo says:

    Hello,
    My name is Marcos and i have a real problem with learning how to eat new food. I dont know if its like a phobea of trying something new but i feel like i need help i recognize that i have a serious problem not eating things that could help me even for my health. I dislike many things and havent found a way to even try it without saying no right away. If anyone can help Me it would be really appreciated.

  42. Peach says:

    Any advice on how to teach myself to like potatoes. I absolutely despise them (any kind, fries, chips, etc..) but as I am a vegetarian my mom says they are a “necessary part of my diet”. Bleh in my opinion, but I don’t really have much choice! Any advice would be fantabulous!

    • Darya Pino says:

      Of all the foods that aren’t a necessary part of your diet, potatoes are high on the list. If you don’t like them it’s probably a blessing, honestly. How do you feel about yams or sweet potatoes, those are healthier anyway.

  43. Isabelle says:

    If anyone has any insight to this I’d be grateful for some help. I’m 20 years old, and maybe I’m just crazy but there are a whole variety of foods I’ve just never eaten, like fruits,vegetables,(with the exceptions of potatoes, corn, and bananas) berries, and eggs. I don’t know why I’ve never eaten them, all of my family does all of the time, but I’ve always shied away from them as long as I can remember. A couple of years ago I realized this was ridiculous, they look alright, they smell fine, there is absolutely no reason I should dislike them, and even less that I should never try them. So I started with the egg, cooked it all sorts of ways and most of them looked very appetizing. I couldn’t get beyond a couple of bites without gagging. Lately I’ve been going through all of the different fruits and they’re all the same, I can’t STAND any of the textures, especially the way they feel as I swallow. They don’t even taste like real food to me, its like grabbing some plants out of the yard and trying to make them go down. I’m not going to give up trying because I really don’t want to die of malnutrition or anything but the more I think about it the weirder it seems, how is it that these things only taste inedible to me? Is there some way to at least make them tolerable even if I never get to really liking it?

    • Darya Pino says:

      Hi Isabelle,

      My guess is that it’s the unfamiliarity that is making you queasy. My advice is to stick with it, and try not to judge your experience but be more zen about it and just view it as a learning experience every time you try something new (e.g. in your mind instead of thinking, “gross, slimy!” think, “fruits seem to be colder and wetter than other foods, how interesting.”). Also be sure to get good foods (e.g. since strawberries are out of season right now I’d avoid them until summer). Over time the familiarity should kick in and before you know it you’ll be perfectly comfortable with the new things.

  44. Duncan says:

    I’ve been trying to acclimatize my palate to cheese on the orders of my nutritionist brother. I’ve been having a little piece of very mild camembert every day for the best part of a month now and it still tastes absolutely vial. I have to wash my mouth out with water immediately after swallowing. Any advice on a better way?

  45. It's Me says:

    Thanks for posting the link to CA’s story! I am so picky and now have a 9.5 month old. I NEED to start eating more fruits and veggies to not only set the example, but to get healthier for myself!! I’m hoping it’ll even help with migraines… Right now I eat corn and no other veggies. Fruit I do ok with, but could improve a little more. This article was helpful and encouraging!! Thank you!

    • Darya Pino says:

      Awesome. Having the right attitude is the hardest part. Keep at it and you can work to expand your palate.

    • C-A says:

      It’s Me, I had a conversation with my brother-in-law recently about how we both used to get headaches when we were kids. Now that I’m into adulthood, my headaches have turned into migraines.

      The good news for me is that a good diet, exercise and hydration strongly curb the frequency of my migraines. As I noticed that trend, exercising and eating well have become cravings. That’s not a joke.

      I’ve managed to cut out almost all processed food and this is where my brother-in-law and I made the connection that maybe all of those headaches that we had as kids came from our steady diet of processed food with barely any fresh. We both are migraine-prone and have made huge changes in our diet in the last five years.

      When I do eat processed food – because it still happens for sure – I notice a big difference in how I feel while eating and after I eat. The difference alone has been enough to motivate me towards a healthier life with less migraines and less aches and pains. Veggies are key for me.

      Best of luck. Don’t give up. A good place to start on veggies is Darya’s roasted cauliflower recipe.

      http://summertomato.com/roasted-curried-cauliflower-to-die-for/

      I make this all the time and even the most stubborn of veggie-haters in my life get excited about it. It’s pretty freaking easy too.

      • Jen Emmons says:

        Thanks so much for posting Darya’s recipe for the cauliflower. I tried it and it was great! First ever vegetable that I liked! Plain and raw is however, still nasty in my opinion. Not sure how I am ever going to get to the point of liking raw vegetables. To me, they have no flavor. As far as texture, I would think I would like them as most are crunchy and I love crunchy stuff, but not veggies… Also just wanted to thank you for responding. Some bloggers don’t and it is nice that you do!

  46. emily m says:

    kinda i am a very picky eater all i eat is meat almost any fruit but pinapple and bannas
    the only veggie i eat is corn and i wonnna want to eat veggies but i cant cause i throu up so easy and i juge before i even try it and it would be helpfull if i could have so tips to help me cause my mom only cooks thinks tht i have eaten before

  47. Julia says:

    There are a huge number of techniques for helping children learn to like the taste of healthy food. (For some of them, see my blog “Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food http://smartparentprogram.blogspot.com/ ). Although there is probably unfortunately a critical period in infancy and early childhood for liking the foods of your culture, adults can also learn to change their tastes as well. Overweight junk food eaters who decide to lose weight often find that they have learned new “eating habits” (or, better said, “taste habits”) and they love the taste of fresh, healthy food.

    Great article!

  48. Ryan says:

    Yes, I am ready to get over it. I’ve been trying many veggies that I used to not like, but fortunately my palette has grown more accepting of fresh veggies. Food prosperity! Thanks for the article.

  49. Grace says:

    I grew up eating loads of fast food, candies, and a whole lot of processed garbage. I never liked vegetables, I never did like fruits. But recently, I started reading up on nutrition and started eating ONLY real food. I lost weight and managed to keep it off without starving. Now, not only do I find processed food disgusting, I find myself craving only whole foods! It’s amazing!

  50. Becky says:

    I absolutely deteste most food. The only meats that can pass my mouth is chicken or salmon (because it’s not a fishy fish) I don’t like anything with. Too strong of a flavour. I don’t mind broccoli or carrots but I can’t say they’re one of my favourites. I’m a definite chocoholic, but even with chocolate I can be picky. I don’t like White or dark or anything with crunchy bits or chewy. Again just plain. I love cheese (Cheddar only) I hate bananas too. Ever since I can remember if been very fussy, when I was young I used to eat pork and beef but I can never remember liking it, it was onto when I realised I could say no to eating these things that I stopped. My dad would always push me to eat things we both knew I didn’t like, sometimes it would end up in a crying/screaming match over fish fingers! I don’t think you should ever force anyone to eat something they don’t want, or you might turn out like me. I’m in my early 20s and struggle to eat 3 meals a day, or sometimes even just 1 meal. I’d love to be hypnotised into enjoying more food, because I can get myself in a right state about not liking much. But nothing has ever helped.

  51. Caroline says:

    Hi. I found this by googling how to eat foods I don’t like. I have always been a ‘fussy eater’ – drove my mother mad! I have found though that mostly its either the texture I don’t like, as you mentioned, or the smell. I loathe even the smell of peaches, celery and peppers. I have tried eating peaches a few years ago, to see if I could re educate my tongue, but no, still vile smell and that horrible stringy texture. But what I have found is, that if I’m ready to try something new, and no one is trying to force me, I am far more likely to be accepting of a new food. When I was on holiday in America many years ago, I thought, I must try foods here that aren’t available in England (it was MANY years ago!). I tried avocado, asparagus, iceberg lettuce and cinnamon rolls. Love cinnamon and the lettuce (although, it doesn’t seem to have the faintly nutty flavour now as it did then), hated avocado and asparagus. And it was also a lesson for me, that if I’m ready and receptive, I am far more likely to take to new foods than if someone tries to bully me into it. (it has been done)

  52. Sara says:

    I hated goat cheese the first time I tried it, but everyone in my friend group loved to order goat cheese appetizers. Not wanting to be the naysayer, I tried it every time. Eventually I learned to tollerate it, and recently I ordered a wrap with goat cheese in it and actually really LIKED it. Now I will buy it just for myself! It IS certianly more fun to like things. :)

  53. Sparky says:

    It’s not psychological, it’s physical. Certain genetic markers in people are either on or off for myriad reasons. They affect everything from taste to smell to how we respond to textures as well. It’s why some people love broccoli and other people hate it. In seafood it comes down to the oils and fats. People that hate seafood have a certain genetic marker that’s switched on which allows the to taste breakdown of said oils which have a real displeasing taste. It carries over to certain oils like canola as well, and several other things. Did you know that almost 25% of all people can’t smell truffles? There’s all kinds of weird stats out there like that. Point being if you hate seafood it’s not your fault, and there is no way you will ever learn to like it either.

  54. Brian says:

    It’s not all psychological, as the poster commented above. When babies transition from liquids to solids foods, or trying out new foods, a gag reflex will be triggered. This is a protective measure, for 1. To prevent choking and 2.To prevent ingestion of poisonous material(this is why many children are finicky eaters and prefer a narrow list of foods). This reflex can linger into adulthood. For example, if I am eating a food and suddenly I feel an unexpected texture, I will gag immediately. Sometimes, though not as often, if I get an unexpected flavor/smell in the food I have been eating I will gag as well. Tough, overly chewy food will eventually cause me to gag if I chew it long enough (because of the choking hazard). The position of our nose and the relation of smell to taste helps us ferret out potential poison/foods that may have gone bad. Some people have more serious food aversions than others, and there are places where one can receive therapy (from a team of occupational therapists/speech therapists and nutritionists) to help mitigate that.

    -Brian
    Speech-Language Pathologist

    • Michelle says:

      Brian, can you be more specific on the therapy(ies)? My son and I both hate fruits and veggies and will not try. Texture and mental block. Please help!

  55. Nicole says:

    I am glad I came across this article. I have something I am hoping people can help with. I am a terribly picky eater (but I love fruit) and I think I have selective eating disorder. I want to eat better, but for me, the prospect of trying some new food– veggies in particular–triggers extreme panic and anxiety in me to the extent that I avoid social activities where there is food. It’s panic to the degree that it is like a serious phobia…just like people who hav fears of heights or flying. It is a great source of embarrassment to me, and therapy hasn’t really helped. I think I want to change, but am not sure how to start. I don’t know if there is any advice that people can help me get past the initial panic so I am open to trying something?

  56. Talia says:

    I am a fairly picky eater, but I was much worse when I was younger. When I moved in with my grandmother at age 9, I was immediately told I was allowed 3 foods that I wouldn’t eat. Of course, I wound up with much more than that, but the rule meant I had to try a number of foods. Another rule was I couldn’t try a food just once and then refuse it. I had to try it at least 3 times. I found out that I liked a lot of different foods I had thought I hated. By the time I was 15 I was doing most of the cooking for my family, just because they preferred my food. Now, a university student, I spend more money on food than most of my friends, but since it’s mostly fresh food and higher quality ingredients, I think it’s worth it. I’m also learning to like even more foods, not because of my budget, but because I want to. It’s working, and I think this article will help. Thanks!

  57. Amy says:

    I’m trying to learn to like shrimp and mushrooms. I recently conquered mussels, which by the way are DELICIOUS. I’m trying to work my way through shellfish in general- most of it is texture rather than taste. I like the taste of most things (except peanut butter, but I’m not budging on that one!)

    Shrimp and shrooms are my biggest barriers. I try, I do, but shrimp just has such a weird texture. I like cream of mushroom soup in casseroles and stuff, and they smell great when cooked, so I figure I could like those too, texture be damned. Any tips on how a newbie with texture issues could ease into shrooms and shrimp?

  58. Your friendly neighborhood tomato says:

    I am ALWAYS open to trying to new things. Textures don’t usually faze me (I can’t recall a texture that prevented me from eating something). I base foods I like or dislike solely on the taste of the food. Any food I have disliked as a child I have always given a second chance and have learned to love most of them. I used to hate refried beans, but now I don’t particularly like them, but I can eat them. I tried eating many of them on different occasions and in different dishes, and I’m just indifferent. It’s good enough for me.
    But I can’t get myself to like tomatoes or raspberries.
    I want to like both, but I can’t stand the taste of them. I try again and again, but it has never worked. I like products with them cooked in usually, but the raw ones won’t ever be good to me it seems. :/

  59. ALBERTO says:

    GO MEXICAN FOOD!

  60. Jeff says:

    Very interesting. I’ve recently been on a health kick, and I’ve added avocados to my diet. I have never previously eaten avocado, and as of a few days ago I began eating plain avocado with 1 of my meals daily. The first time I had to just force it down, but now I would say the taste is no longer ‘bad’. They’re certainly not yummy to me, but I’m interested to see if my enjoyment of them keeps increasing ( the same is happening with the bell pepper and fish I’ve added to my diet as well! )

  61. Cathy says:

    I agree with you on this, Darya. I used to think I hated both beets and brussels sprouts because I’d never had them prepared well. I now love both things, especially beets. A fresh beet tastes nothing like a canned beet. I’m now trying to change my mind about hard boiled eggs.

    That said, I can’t warm up to salmon, no matter how many times I’ve tried it. I think there will probably always be things that aren’t for me, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be open minded and keep trying and retrying them.

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