We all know a picky eater or two. Maybe you have that one friend who refuses to step foot in a sushi restaurant even though she’s never tried it.
Or the one who turns her nose up at the mention of anything green.
Maybe you’re the picky eater, avoiding culinary adventures at all costs, because you’re convinced you’ll hate whatever new and gross-looking food is put on your plate.
But why is it that some people are picky eaters when others are willing to try pretty much anything that’s edible?
Turns out, there’s no single explanation for your picky eating habits, but rather, experts suggest a combo of genetics and environment are to blame.
Picky eaters are typically unwilling to try new foods, which can be the result of your DNA and your upbringing.
Marcia Pelchat, Ph.D., a researcher at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia who specializes in food preferences in humans says, “A group in Finland looked at what we call food neophobia, which literally means ‘fear of the new,’ and they found that there is some genetic basis for this.”
But neophobia can be greatly influenced by your surroundings, too. “If you have parents who don’t really like to try anything new, you will also be exposed to fewer new foods.”
People who are less adventurous may be more hesitant to try new foods.
Trying anything new, food included, requires you to step outside of your comfort zone.
If you’re not very adventurous, you may have a tough time with this.
“There is a thrill-seeking personality trait,’” Pelchat says. “It’s been shown, especially with spicy food, that there is some correlation
with [trying new foods] and thrill seeking,” she explains.
Most adult picky eaters start as child picky eaters.
“It’s normal for children to go through a picky stage when they’re toddlers
, maybe two or three years old, and that makes sense evolutionarily,” Pelchat says.
(When our primitive ancestors first tried new foods, they had to be cautious to avoid being poisoned.)
But as we get older, if we continue to avoid new foods, pickiness can persist.
For those who are simply picky, certain social situations can cause anxiety.
Like cocktail parties, with all those passed hors d’oeuvres full of mystery ingredients.
“Adult picky eaters have trouble going to business lunches or someone’s house for the weekend,” Pelchat adds.
“They’re often sort of embarrassed to admit that they eat like a child, so they will just say ‘I’m not very hungry, my stomach’s upset, I had a late lunch,’ ” she explains.
Your taste buds can change over time, but that requires taking a chance on new foods.
But to even have a shot at being less picky, you definitely have to be committed. “The most common reason for wanting to change is social,” Pelchat says.
Expanding your eating horizons can make everything from date night to a vacation easier and more enjoyable.