From The Nutritionist

Kate Williams, RDN
Nutrition Contributor:
Kate Williams, RDN

What to Do When an Adult Is the Picky Eater




Look back at foods you rejected as a child. Do you still turn your nose up at Brussels sprouts or fish? Maybe you didn’t like the aroma, texture or simply didn’t like trying new foods. Many people grow out of restrictive eating habits, but some don’t. According to the International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2018 Food & Health Survey, familiarity is a key driver in food purchasing decisions. I can remember reviewing clients’ food logs, with very limited variety and certain veggie-subgroups omitted– like the dark greens. As health professionals, we need to be attuned to food monotony as it can leave balanced nutrition behind. I turned to our culinary and insights experts to share simple ways to encourage new foods and flavors among picky adult eaters.


Assess the reasons behind the pickiness. What exactly makes your client reluctant to branch out when it comes to food? Is the issue related to texture, food combinations or maybe even convenience? Are they hypersensitive to flavors and aromas? What about their childhood food experiences? Do they lack confidence in the kitchen? These factors may impact how you approach your clients and encourage them to try new flavors and foods. Once you understand where the pickiness stems from, you can identify appropriate interventions to help them expand their food choices.

Start with a snack. According to What We Eat in America, NHANES 2015-16, 94% of Americans snack at least once a day and 77% having 2 or more snacks each day. Chances are your pickier clients snack and enjoy it! Snacking can be a way for selective eaters to explore new flavors in a familiar format and a smaller portion. Think about how many different plant-based snacks, new flavor and texture combinations fill the market. Find out your clients favorite go-to snacks and pair it with a new flavor or texture that is similar. Do they love potato chips? Suggest a roasted chickpea snack or veggie beet chip which have that craveable, crunchy texture. If your client likes vegetables like carrots but is unsure of ginger, they could try harvest carrot and ginger soup. Snacks are usually a smaller investment when it comes to time, cost and experimentation so encourage exploring here.

Change one thing at a time. New recipes with many unfamiliar ingredients and lengthy preparation can be overwhelming. Encourage clients to start small and try new ingredients in a familiar format. For example, have your clients share some of their favorite recipes and recommend one or two new-to-them ingredient swaps. Sheila Miller, Senior Manager, Campbell Consumer Test Kitchen, notes, “As consumer interest in foods like spiralized veggies and ancient grains grows, it makes sense to pair them with Prego® sauces and Swanson® broths and stocks so consumers can try new ingredients and trends with familiar flavors in professionally developed recipes." If you want to encourage more beans in the diet, try this Slow Cooker Chicken with White Beans & Spinach recipe, that has other common ingredients like chicken and pasta. Or instead of ground beef with rice try these stuffed peppers that feature a filling of quinoa and chicken. Most of us have had bacon on a baked potato, so if that is something your client enjoys, why not try Kale & Bacon Mashed Potatoes?

Share different prep methods. I never really liked cooked spinach and Chef Carrie Welt said I am not alone. She shared, “Vegetables with a lot of nutrient density like broccoli, spinach or Brussels sprouts have a long, slandered history of not being delicious. This comes from adults thinking that kids won’t like it, overcooking it, and making it stand on its own as a loathed part of the meal, but not part of the dish.” Here are some tips Chef Carrie Welt suggests to help make them more palatable – she notes that proper preparation is a must!

  • Heat reduces the natural bitterness of greens like broccoli rabe
  • Blanch veggies briefly to enhance the color and reduce bitterness
  • Boiling veggies too long leads to a mushy texture
  • Roasting adds savory notes from the browning, so don’t be afraid to crank up the oven to over 400οF
  • Wash or soak whole grains like quinoa to get rid of soapy or bitter notes
  • Cook whole grains in broths you know you enjoy

Keep trying. It may take many attempts at trying a single, new food and different preparation methods before your clients like it. Just like kids, the first-time adults try something, they may be unsure about it. Keep a positive attitude – it can take many attempts before a food makes the cut. Some clients may be more selective eaters than others, and that is ok. We just want to ensure they meet the recommended amounts and variety within the food groups. Personally, I felt this way with Brussels sprouts, which I still only like roasted. Some things just won’t stick, but others you’ll love over time, like asparagus or seafood for me!



Explore new foods and flavors,

Kate


Kate’s Bio

Kate received her bachelor's degree in dietetics from the University of Delaware and completed her dietetic internship at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. She has over ten years of experience in a variety of nutrition-related practice areas including clinical nutrition, weight management counseling, health and wellness and nutrition education. Kate has worked as a nutrition consultant to the Campbell Soup Company since 2005.


References

  1. https://foodinsight.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/2018-FHS-Report-FINAL.pdf Accessed May 2019.

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En Papillote Technique

1. Prepare the parchment paper
Get a large piece of parchment paper, approximately 2.5 times as large as a single portion of food. Cut the paper into a heart shape, lightly brushing one side with oil. This creates a slight barrier to water, preventing the paper from becoming soaked too quickly. Another option, though not as attractive, is to use tin foil instead of parchment paper.

2. Select the ingredients
This is a very quick-cooking approach, so it works best with tender proteins such as fish and shellfish. The accompanying ingredients, like julienned vegetables (matchstick size), must be small enough to cook at the same rate as the fish. In some cases the vegetables can be blanched, or quickly cooked in boiling water, to ensure proper doneness. Fresh herbs will go a long way in providing flavor.

3. Assemble the packet
Lay the oiled, heart-shaped paper on a baking tray, oiled side up. Season your vegetables with salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and half of the herbs. Toss them around for an even coat. Place enough for one portion on half of the paper. Bunch them up to create a bed for your fish, leaving about two inches between the food and the edge of the paper. Place the seasoned fish on the vegetables and sprinkle the remaining herbs. Add a splash of the liquid on top of the fish, just enough to add moisture.

4. Seal the packet
To seal, fold the heart over to enclose the fish and vegetables (so it resembles a teardrop). Starting at the top of the heart, fold about 1/4" of the edge toward the center. Fold over again to create a seal. Continue along the length of the parchment, folding each section twice. When you get to the point of the heart, twist and fold to finish the seal.

5. Bake your dinner
Bake the packet in a 425°F oven for 10-14 minutes, depending on the size of the fish. The packet will puff and brown while in the oven and as the steam builds. When cooked, remove from the oven and carefully place the packet on a plate. With a knife or scissors cut an "X" on the top and fold back the edges for a dramatic presentation and a delicious, healthy meal.

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Spicy Flounder and Clams with Summer Vegetables

Prep Time: Less than 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 10-14 minutes
Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup carrots, finely cut julienne
  • 1/3 cup sugar snap peas, cross cut thinly
  • 1/3 cup zucchini, yellow, finely cut julienne
  • 6 each cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 Tbsp. shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. parsley, fresh, minced
  • Dash salt
  • Dash black pepper
  • 6 oz. fillet, flounder (2 fillets, 3oz. each)
  • 2 Tbsp. Low Sodium Spicy Hot V8® 100% Vegetable juice
  • 3/4 lb. clams, in the shell

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Combine the carrots, sugar snap peas, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, shallot, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, half of the parsley, salt and pepper in a bowl. Toss well to combine.
  3. Lightly oil two large heart shaped pieces of parchment paper.
  4. With the parchment paper on a sheet tray, place half of the vegetable mixture in the center of one half of each heart leaving about a 2" border.
  5. Lightly season each fillet with salt and pepper. Fold or roll the fillet to create a uniform thickness and place on top of the vegetables.
  6. Top the fish with the remaining herbs and the Low Sodium Spicy Hot V8® 100% Vegetable juice.
  7. Place half of the clams around each portion of vegetables and fish.
  8. Fold the heart over to enclose the fish and vegetables so that it resembles a teardrop.
  9. Starting at the top of the heart, fold about 1/4" of the edge towards the center. Fold over again to create a seal.
  10. Continue with this method along the length of the parchment packet folding each section twice to make an attractive edge.
  11. When you get to the point of the heart twist and fold to finish the seal.
  12. Bake the packets for 10-14 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fish).
  13. Remove from the oven and serve by cutting an "X" in the top and folding back the edges.

Nutrition Information (per serving):

Calories 180, Total Fat 9g, Saturated Fat 1g, Monounsaturated Fat 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat 1g, Cholesterol 50mg, Sodium 450mg, Carbohydrate 10g, Fiber 2g, Sugar 4g, Protein 16g.