When you were young, maybe you were the pizza kid, the chicken nugget kid, the pizza bagel kid, the french fry kid or any number of designations given to children in food jags. A food jag is a rut, or habit, that an individual gets into where they limit their consumption of foods to a few select items. Hence, the kid that only eats cheese sticks despite the consistent begging of parents to just try something else.
While it can be frustrating to a parent when a child will only eat pop tarts, or bananas, fish sticks, or peanut butter (straight out of the jar) it is important to recognize that many adults are doing the same thing, just with a little broader scope.
As an adult, you’ve reached the point where your metabolism has slowed down, you have to work, you pay the bills, you buy the groceries and make the food, and life just doesn’t have the same fun factor. You don’t have the ability to ride your bike to the store with your friends and not worry about your responsibilities at home, or to watch Saturday morning cartoons without the weight of small minions jumping on you, to ignore your homework, stay out late and sleep in, or eat whatever you want without 20 years of experience influencing whether that food was a “good choice” or not. Life is different as an adult.
All of this is to say that food has lost its luster to many adults. It is no longer fun or exciting. Instead, food has become a curse that has to be dealt with multiple times daily. It is now just one more task on top of all of your other pressing responsibilities.
To get out of the downer side of this conversation, why not change it? Why not get excited about food again rather than dreading it. Why not try a new fruit, a new recipe, a new meal or in a different way?
As adults, there are finite resources available. Whether that be limited mental capacity leading you just to try what you know you like, or limited financial abilities that encourages you to eat what you know you like so you’re not throwing money away. The deciding factor could also be that you were raised in the clean plate club, where you are not done until your plate is clean, and as a result you don’t want to put yourself in a situation that would force you to eat something you don’t like.
But there are ways around these barriers that will encourage fun with food and exploration of new tastes. Whether it’s a blind meal, or a random purchase, or a food snobbery event, why not bring some of that child hood back?
First, you could budget in another $3–5 to your weekly grocery budget and try a new food.
Second, while watching cooking/baking shows, write down which dishes you want to try to make and then actually make them. Don’t just lust after it or trust their smug grins after taking a spoonful of risotto, try it yourself.
Third, have a “Chopped” Night where the “chef’s” are given random food items that they have come up with a meal for.
Finally, try out an Olympic Style Eating Events. Have those participating in dinner have rating cards with the numbers 1 through 10 to rank the foods they are eating. Then ask what they like or don’t like about the items.
On top of these simple tips, you may want to take into account how your home food environment is set up. Without a doubt, some of the loss of fun around food comes from the increase in responsibility that is tied to adulthood. Allowing others to take some of that responsibility can relieve stress from you. For instance, setting the table, cleaning the kitchen, starting the dishwasher, or even cooking dinner. If you are able to allow someone else to take on a few of those roles it can become easier to create opportunities to enjoy the experience rather than see the long list of to-do’s.
Remember that food can be fun. Adults often forget about new foods. With finances, preparation, and other responsibilities you want to go with what you know you will like or items that you know your kids will eat. And you can do that, just give yourself the right to explore, test, experiment and enjoy the foods in front of you.
Another list of ways to incorporate foods without breaking the bank:
New Grains — Replace rice with quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, farro, cauliflower rice, millet, sorghum, barley, freekeh, etc.
New Fruits — Taste test new berries, star fruit, jack fruit, kiwi, figs, prunes, different varieties of citrus (navel/Cara cara/pomello/grapefruit/tangelo) or apples (gala/pink lady/honeycrisp/cortland/empire/rome/etc.). Remember, when testing buy individual apples rather than committing to a bag.
New Vegetables — Try out pencil asparagus, bok choy, and various types of greens (arugula/kale/spinach/romaine/butterhead/rodicchio/mesclun/watercress/etc.)
Herbs and Spices — Hold off on the salt and pepper. With countless combinations available, try the smell test prior to committing to it in a dish.