Today, I had a salad for lunch. That doesn't sound very exciting, granted, but for me it's a massive triumph! For as long as I can remember, I've been a very fussy eater. When I was younger, I would eat barely any vegetables, no fruit and definitely no salad. I wouldn't eat red meat, lamb or pork and I spent my university years living on Super Noodles, despite still living at home with my parents. (I would eat them before they got home from work – they did try and force me to eat vegetables instead, as they should have done! But I was a sneakster.)
I'm not sure when it started, as I used to eat everything when I was a littl'un, apparently. But somewhere along the line, I put my foot down and from that point onwards, nothing green or healthy would pass my lips. I did try new things, but something about fruit and vegetables made me over-think chewing and swallowing, to the point where I could do neither.
Eventually, in my early twenties, I got fed up of being unhealthy. I've never really been overweight, but I've always had a little belly pouch that I've never been able to get rid of, and I'm always tired. I started to hide vegetables in my meals to try and cover the taste, and one by one I managed to build up to a sizeable list of green things that I would eat. I tried to do the same with fruit, but it didn't work. Something about the taste and texture still makes me spit them out. However, as I could whizz them up and drink them as smoothies, I considered it a job done (for now)!
Salad was the final frontier, and I never thought I'd be able to eat it. For years I've been looking at recipes and healthy-eating meal plans and wishing I liked half of the ingredients so that I could actually, finally, be healthy and get some nutrients inside me. I've finally managed it, at the ripe old age of 26, and here are some of the tricks and tips I used to get there:
Cook it yourself
Sometimes, you'll think you don't like something because you've only been served it in a way that isn't particularly appetising. Take over-boiled veg, for example. If your parents only served up sloppy greens, try cooking them yourself in a more appealing way. Pan fried asparagus is delicious, and crunchy stir fried veg is much nicer than soggy carrots. Plus, you'll know exactly what's gone into the meal – no surprises.
Smother it in cheese
One of the only ways I've managed to eat salad is to mask it with things that I do like, like cheese, balsamic vinegar and meat. People always suggested this to me and I refused to believe them, halfheartedly tried, failed and gave up. However, a week in France with my boyfriends parents and lots of shared buffet-style meals meant that I could add a tiny bit of salad to my plate, eat one leaf/chunk of tomato with a bit of something else and barely notice the taste. I gradually upped the amount of salad on my fork until I was eating mostly salad with only a tiny bit of cheese. I came home, et voila: most of my lunches these days are salads! After all of those years, it only took one week to sort it out.
Hand in hand with the above tip: just keep trying. If you can only manage a small piece of whatever it is you're trying to learn to like, hidden under a mound of cheese, then just keep at it with that small piece. You'll eventually get used to the taste and be able to manage a little bit more.
Turn off the pressure
If I say to someone "I don't like this, I'm going to try it now!" and they're watching me do it, it's inevitable I won't like it because I'll be thinking about it too much. The way that I've found works best is to just have a little of the offending item on your plate while you're home alone, try it at your own pace and don't over-think it. Just put it in your mouth, chew, swallow, move on to the next thing. If you think too much, you'll remember everything you hate about it and you'll get a psychological block that won't have anything to do with what the food actually tastes like.
Try different varieties
If you've tried a gala apple and didn't like it, it doesn't mean you wouldn't like a Braeburn. Most foods have more than one variety, so don't discount a food after trying only one – the others might be infinitely more delicious!
I'm going to be following these tips so that I can finally eat whole fruit. Fingers crossed!
Do you have any great tips for fussy eaters?