On the Subject of Picky Eaters


Last week I was all set to explain the many and varied ways picky eaters were among my top pet peeves and some creative ways to circumvent the pouty faces and upturned noses. Then I found something that made me change my stance.

More than one way to look at it.

There are lots of ways to be a picky eater. Having allergies, vegetarianism or being vegan count, as are some religious constraints. Being on a diet could be considered being a picky eater. None of these were the sort of thing I was thinking about, though, when I was forming the earlier version of this blog post.

Nor was I thinking about cases like one close friend who has, as she describes it, “texture issues.” Texture issues are apparently way more common than I knew and, according to PickyEatingAdults.com can often go hand in hand with anxiety disorders, OCD and other conditions. From what I’ve read in the responses to an article in Psychology Today, it seems many in this group are unhappy with their restricted diets and wish it were as easy to change as we omnivores suggest it should be.

Not all picky eaters have a medical reason for their behavior. Perhaps my peeve lies more with the unadventurous. Case in point: my 2nd (now ex-) husband who turned up his nose at dinner one night saying he was 40 years old and if he hadn’t tried it or liked it by now, he wasn’t going to bother.

Attitude is Everything

It’s natural for a child to go through a choosy stage. We usually expect adults, though, to have largely outgrown this behavior. Especially in a guest-at-dinner situation, a person who pulls faces and grumbles about there being nothing they can eat gets very little sympathy from me whether I am a fellow guest or the hostess. A diner who, instead, works with her hostess to ensure that everyone is accommodated, however, earns serious gold stars and is someone who I would bend over backwards to satisfy at future events.

As the Hostess

It’s certainly not necessary or expected for you to play short order cook at your next dinner party, but some polite inquiries and careful planning may make dinner a happier affair for all considered.

  • Always ask new guests if they have any allergies you should be aware of. Most folks will take this opportunity to tell you about other serious food issues, as well.
  • Plan your menu in advance so if questions arise, you have the answers available.
  • Buffets generally offer more choices, giving choosy eaters a chance to select what works best for them.
  • Leave sauces and dressings on the side to be passed around and added at the guests’ discretion.
  • Consider modular foods like a create-your-own pasta station or sauce add-ins.

As the Guest

Even the most accomplished hostess is seldom omniscient about her guests’ likes and dislikes. It is the guest’s job, therefore, to help without being pushy.

  • Ask politely about the menu when you are invited for a meal.
  • Offer to bring a dish, especially if your diet is severely restricted (like gluten-free or kosher).
  • Maybe eat a little something before a party so that you’re not left in the lurch by unappetizing options.
  • Excuse yourself and make an early exit if there really is nothing available to you and you find the fare triggers some distasteful reflex that would disrupt the rest of the guests.

Even though I’ve been an omnivore for most of my life, recent health matters require me to abstain from certain ingredients like tomato sauce. If I know a get-together is going to order out for pizza after the main business is settled, I’ll leave before then or eat before I get there. It may not always be the best option, but I’d much rather leave than make my hostess uncomfortable or make a big deal about what is, essentially, a private matter.

Agree? Disagree? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments, I’d love to hear what you think.

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