I was a really picky eater as a kid. I still think of myself as a picky eater, but I welcomed a lot more variety into my diet around my late teens. As a child I didn’t really think much about the cause of my picky eating. Now that I’m older, I see my childhood picky eating as having two main causes.
Some of the foods I avoided as a child were just foods I hadn’t tried before, and I was afraid of trying new foods. I think this was just a general anxiety issue. It was “safe” to eat foods that I knew I would like. Anything new had some chance of bothering me, so I was afraid to even try foods. I think this is why I was able to find a lot more foods in my late teens. I was in therapy to help with trauma and mental health issues. While we never directly talked about my eating, I think working on my trauma and mental health issues helped me to be less anxious in general. With less anxiety in my life in general, I became more open to trying new foods – and discovered that some I liked quite a bit!
Some of the foods I was finally willing to try in my late teens were tacos and pizza, and I actually love these foods! I just had never been able to get past my anxiety enough to try them when I was younger.
The other main cause was sensory related, and this is the one that I still struggle with, and most feel that I have to try to work around. I can’t force myself to eat foods that I have strong sensory aversions to, as it literally makes me gag if I try to force it, and this doesn’t help, as it creates negative associations with the foods. So I try to be open to trying foods, but I don’t force myself if I get strong bad feelings when trying to try a food.
I’ve come to realize that many picky eaters have sensory issues with food, and that often times it’s not recognized. People generally think of picky eating as just disliking the taste of foods. Or some parents even seem to assume that picky eating is misbehavior/defiance, particularly if a child will eat a food one time it’s cooked, but not the next. In the parents mind, “you ate this last week and loved it, there’s no reason you can’t now.”
The truth may be that the food was cooked differently this time, and is a different texture, resulting in the child reacting to it differently. I remember experiencing this as a kid, but I didn’t really understand it myself. I just knew it was ‘yucky’ this time and wasn’t ‘yucky’ last time.
My sensory aversions with food come from when I feel like foods are slimy or mushy. So, I thought I’d share some of the ways that I’m able to work around my slimy and mushy food aversions.
Sensory eating for people who dislike slimy or mushy foods
Overcook meats a little, to make them a bit more dry than others might prefer.
Overcook eggs a little, again, to dry them out more.
Slightly undercook pasta to keep it more firm. For one-dish meals that are intended to have the pasta soak up all the water, this means using less water.
Certain sizes and shapes of pasta stay firmer than others. I find rotini to be one of my favorites due to it staying firmer.
Add less milk to mashed potatoes to keep them thicker.
Buy diced fruit cups and drain the juice/water. Diced pears from fruit cups are less ‘slimy’ than canned pears. The same is true for many other fruits that come in cup forms.
Use divided plates to keep foods separate. This can help potentially “watery” foods from mixing with non-watery ones which can create a ‘slimy’ mixture. Something like ketchup or ketchup “juice” getting on my mashed potatoes as a child would make me unable to eat them.
Add less water or milk to oatmeal to keep it firmer.
Air fry or roast veggies rather than bake them.
Using less sauce or dressing on various foods from sandwiches to pizza to pasta can keep them from getting as soft or feeling as wet.
Toast breads and use less butter or other toppings that may make them soften.
Blend smoothies longer to ensure they are an even consistency.
Choose lower-fat cuts of meat to avoid moisture or “sliminess” from the fat. A bonus of this preference? I prefer cheap steak!
Cook foods in smaller pieces so they cook more thoroughly and evenly.
Crunchy food ideas for sensory eating
Raw carrots, celery, apples.
Tips for cooking for sensory eaters
Pay close attention to the temperature and time that you’re cooking foods for. While many people can estimate food done-ness, if you are sensitive to the texture of the foods cooking at a different temperature or for a different amount of time is likely to impact the texture. You want to know the exact temp and cook time that works for you for each food so that you can repeat the results.
Measure how much water or sauce you’re using in your recipes, so that once you get the right amount, you’ll be able to repeat it.
Air fryers can be a great way to crisp up foods and avoid mushiness or sliminess.
Cutting foods into smaller pieces prior to cooking often means they’ll cook more ‘dry’.
Keep in mind that brands can vary, so you may want to stick with buying the same brands and products for base ingredients in your recipes to avoid variations in the results.
If you’re a selective eater due to sensory or texture sensitivities, I’d love to hear your tips in the comments!
Hi there! I am Emily Evert, the owner of Emily Reviews. I am 28 and live in a small town in Michigan with my boyfriend Ryan and our two pugs. I have a large family and I adore my nieces and nephews. I love reading memoirs, and learning about child development and psychology. I love watching The Game of Thrones, Teen Mom, Sister Wives and Veep. I like listening to Jason Isbell, John Prine, and other alt-country or Americana music. I created Emily Reviews as a creative outlet to share my life and the products that I love with others.
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