Real Recipes for Picky Eaters

Every now and again, I come across a small collection of recipes that claim to be so good, even picky eaters will love them. The title is enough to pique my curiosity, which is quite possibly the articles’s only purpose.

Here’s one, just as an example.

The claims that the vegetables will never be detected is laughable. Broccoli Pesto Pasta is covered in green sh…tuff!! With all due respect to Good Housekeeping and their editors, I’m not sure who they had in mind for these dishes. There’s picky eating – the toddler who pushes his bowl of noodles away because he wants cake. And then there’s “picky” (read resistant) eating, known to many as selective eating disorder (SED), a condition that makes every meal a high anxiety event. Guys, it’s an eating disorder, not a visual impairment.

Before you can expect to get food like this into the mouth of a selective eater (who, by the way, isn’t putting on a practiced, attention-seeking act), you first have to convince them that this is food.

This collection has successfully failed that challenge.

Kris, a 23 year old with SED, finds these recipe collections insulting. “It’s really messed up to see articles like this. It does nothing more than publicly humiliate [adult picky eaters].” His opinion is common among those with SED. “Even using foods we like and adding the foods we don’t like or are afraid to try, still wouldn’t hide the texture or the taste. If you don’t like tomatoes, sticking it on a plain sandwich of chicken or turkey won’t hide the fact that it’s a tomato and you don’t like it.”

Recipe collections like this one example are all over the Internet and only illustrate how misunderstood SED is among an adventurous eating public. It is not the result of a lazy parent enabling their child’s picky eating. It has nothing to do with trying to gain control via food. It is not a phase. There are children who do grow out of it, sometimes before their tweens, some get adventurous with adolescent peer pressure. For many others, their limited childhood diet lasts for their entire lifetime.

Because there are no collections of recipes-for-the-picky-eater that selective eaters will actually eat, I have decided to compile my own collection. And here it is:

French Fries.

You can stop looking for the scroll bar and no, I didn’t get distracted by something shiny mid post. That’s the list. French fries. Across the pond, they call them “chips”.

In all fairness, SED permits a little more variety than a diet that consists solely of french fries, but finding items considered universally palatable to a large percentage of people with SED makes for a very short list. I could have added peanut butter, but the preference is brand specific, as would also be true for bread. French Fries are well and widely tolerated among selective eaters regardless of what continent they are from. There is no group of people anywhere who are more knowledgeable about the nuances of a deep fried potato.

TJ eats a lot of french fries, and by default, so do we as a family. Almost any fast food brand is acceptable, provided they are cooked properly and free of blemishes and burn marks. A fellow SED parent recommended the T-Fal ActiFry. What convinced me to investigate the purchase of our own was the product’s claim of preserving a familiar taste via a healthier method of cooking.

“Foods get the color and texture you expect… and have very little oil which allows the true taste of the ingredients to reveal themselves. ActiFry uses one tablespoon of oil or less to cook most meals. This means there’s no hot oil in your kitchen and no splatter as you cook your food.”

To sweeten the deal, the ActiFry was on sale this week, $60 off the regular $249.99 price tag. It may seem like an expensive alternative to fast food, but like I said, we eat a lot of french fries. The ActiFry, however, does more than just fries.

I brought the box home and showed it to TJ. “This is our new french fry making machine. What do you think?”

Both TJ and his sister ran over to inspect the pictures on the box and gasped in excitement.

“Turn it on, Mom!”

Peel potatoes and remove any blemishes.

Fortunately, I had half a 10-lb bag of red russet potatoes handy for the inaugural ActiFry experiment. The potatoes were cut into strips and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil (because that’s what was in the cupboard).

Cut into even strips and rinse in lightly salted water to remove excess starch. Pat dry with paper towel and distribute evenly in the ActiFry.

The ActiFry heated and spun the potatoes for 25 minutes. The finished fries were lightly dusted with sea salt.

Set the timer and turn the machine on. If you over estimate the time, just turn the machine off when the fries look ready.

I didn’t make just french fries. I had successfully created a plate of delicious, home-made, french fried bliss.

TJ is usually easily distracted away from eating, but not with a plate of these fries in front of him. He hoovered those fries down like a freshly rescued castaway, and when he came up for air, he spied his sister’s unattended, half-eaten plate of fries. He ate those too.

Ketchup is a recently reclaimed condiment.

I’ve never been able to convince TJ to eat a potato. Now I can’t keep a bag in the house. The cost of the machine will soon pay for itself with the elimination of far too many trips to the drive thru window. Even more rewarding than the savings of frequent take away fries, we have added a home cooked vegetable to the menu.


12 responses to “Real Recipes for Picky Eaters

  1. I cant stand the “hidden vegetable” gimmick BECAUSE IM AN ADULT AND I PREPARE MY OWN FOOD. I cant hide it from me shen i put it in there?! That being said, id love a recipe website where you type in ingredients you want, and another list of absolute no-nos and it gives you all the recipes that match your ingredient list.

  2. Looked at that goddamned list and found one thing I may consider eating, then I looked at the recipe and the number went down to zero.
    I completely agree on the French fries (I’m technically from over the pond, but we call them pommes frites), it’s the only fast food I eat, but I haven’t managed to make them myself. Ovenbaked is also good though. Most potato thingies, even raw, work as long as it’s only potato (and maybe butter). Same with baked potatoes, I won’t eat it if there’s anything else than butter on it. I generally don’t mind vegetables like tomatoes, sugar snaps, cauliflower, cucumber, etc, as long as they are raw and cold. Cook them and they will be left on the plate, that I guarantee.
    I like meat and fish and so on as long as it’s not ‘tainted’ by anything (three kinds of sauce are exceptions, all of them home made).
    So no, ‘hiding’ those vegetables aren’t going to make a difference at all, I’d just pick the entire thing apart and leave a pile of whatever I don’t eat on the plate.

  3. Those “Recipes for Picky Eaters” were obviously concocted and labeled as such by someone who doesn’t get it AT ALL. I went through the entire list and there wasn’t one that I would eat as prepared, There might be three or four that I would eat if I removed 80 percent or so of the ingredients. I’m in my early 50s and have dealt with this picky/SED thing since toddlerhood. Peppers? Cumin? Pesto? Shrimp? Get real, Good Housekeeping! Every time I see a list of recipes touted as being picky-eater friendly, I have to look at it out of morbid curiosity, and I’m usually rolling my eyes and shaking my head before too long. This collection has to take some sort of prize. And how can they claim they’re “sneaking” in vegetables that are plainly visible?! No matter, I suppose, as I wouldn’t trust these cooks any further than I could throw a copy of their magazine at them! I, too, am coming to believe that playing the “even your picky eater will love it” card is a cheap marketing trick.

  4. I can’t believe it! This sounds exactly like me. I want to cry. I have been told all my life by everyone from my dad to my husband that I just need to “grow up” and eat what’s put before me. I LOVE bread but when my husband and I were in Hawaii we went to a luau where the dinner rolls were made of taro. Taro is purple. I could not swallow the roll because my head kept telling me that bread should not be purple. I also suffer from the “texture” issue. I love fresh strawberries but they need to be whole. Once you cut them or add them to ice cream or in jelly/jam – I cannot touch them. I do not eat any vegetables except corn and canned green beans – and the green beans must be straight cut and not “French” style. I will eat beef, pork and chicken but absolutely no seafood. Pasta is ok but no veggies on it. I will eat potatoes in any form but rice has to be plain or vegetable/meat free (ie: pilaf is ok.) When I order a burger in a restaurant I specifically order it with nothing on it – no ketchup, no mayo and no lettuce/tomato or onion. If it comes to my table with even a spec of lettuce on it (say the cook forgot and the waitress tried to take it off before serving) I will cut the burger around the area with the lettuce and not eat that portion. I dread office luncheons! If I sit next to someone who is eating something I wouldn’t touch with a 30 foot pole, I gag and have to excuse myself to the bathroom to throw up.

    I have been told by my parents that this all started when I was 18 months old. I had a kidney infection which was extremely painful and I associated eating as the source of my pain. I am now a middle aged adult and to this day, I can tell myself I have to eat right, but when I put a “danger” food in my mouth I immediately start to choke, gag and throw up. People just don’t understand. It is so easy for them to criticize but they really do not understand the prison I live in.

  5. I am a picky eater and I am adult, for me it’s texture’s. For example, I will eat tomatoes, some of the time. They have to be cold, not have a lot of seeds and not have a funny smell. I will not eat cooked tomatoes.
    I don’t like mushy foods and I don’t like mushy foods with chunks in them. (homemade mashed potatoes.) I won’t eat veggies (canned green beans and corn on the cob are the exception).
    I will eat most meats, fish is not one of those meats.
    I need to lose weight and reduce my salt intake, do you how hard that is when your a picky eater?
    We gave up soda a few years ago, but I do a root beer, maybe once a month.
    We have pasta maybe once a month, bread is my downfall, but I only eat the skinny multi grain bread now and it’s usually at breakfast time.
    My husband will eat almost anything, so dinners are difficult and I don’t think he really understands.
    While I don’t think I have SED, I do get stressed about food and what to cook for dinner every night. I keep thinking to my self that if I enjoyed cooking, I wouldn’t be so picky. Or if I wasn’t so picky, I would enjoy cooking.

  6. You don’t know how this site has changed my life! I just stumbled upon it while trying to Google SED. My toddler daughter has it and I’ve been trying to get her help for 2 years now without fail. Her range of acceptable food: French Fries, Toasted Cheese
    Nobody takes me seriously and most people simply roll their eyes when I explain that she’s suffering from an eating disorder and not just picky eating. This site just helps me not to feel so alone in my struggle to find her help!

    • I am so glad you found the blog! 🙂 Welcome!! I hope you’ll read on and follow regularly. It is appalling to know that worldwide, parents are not being directed to the resources they need or getting the proper amount of support. You are not alone!

  7. I guess I am one of the few who won’t eat french fries. I would while very young, but then my parents tried to get me to eat potato by telling me it was what fries were made of. After that I associated fries and chips with potatoes.

    • Thank you for your comment. You bring up a good point. Although there is a general list of what most people with SED would find acceptable to eat, each individual has their own unique list of safe foods. It makes it that much harder to explain SED to those who eat “normally”.

  8. People don’t understand that selective eating is WAY different than a toddler who just doesn’t want to try a new food. To the selective eater, new food is so anxiety producing, they’d rather starve than try it. It’s not just they don’t “want” to try the food. That implies not eating the food is a choice, when in reality it is NOT a choice. I think most selective eaters wish they could eat anything put in front of them.

    • It is commonly said in selective/resistant eater circles that if they could eat normally, they would. But they can’t any more than an adventurous eater could eat sand or paint thinner.

      This idea that you can just hide miscellaneous vegetable in food is ludicrous. TJ finds everything, no matter how well puréed it is. And then the trust is gone and he won’t eat anything.

      Adding items to his menu is a slow process. We do it together, openly and honestly, on his terms. It’s the only way we’ve ever had any success.

    • I agree with that, my parents tried the hidden food method and all it resulted in was suspicion of future foods. If I suspect there is something in it then I start to taste it even if it is not there. I remember gagging up carrot cake I was told was ginger cake and I reluctantly tried.

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