Help a picky eater fix his diet

So my goal every winter has been to fix my diet and so far have been unsuccessful. To keep the back story short, I was basically brought up on chicken McNugget happy meals and never grew out of it. Raced bmx and mtb’s from age 7-16, was pretty sedentary through my 20’s and my weight crept up to around 220lbs in my early 30’s (I’m around 5’5”). Got back into bikes about 5 years ago and pretty quickly dropped down and leveled off around 175lbs with a beer belly that won’t disappear. My diet might have improved a little but still not what I would call healthy by any means.

Now when I say I’m picky, it’s bad. Real bad. If you look up selective eating disorder that seems to describe me pretty good from what I’ve seen. I stick to the most basic, plain, bland things I can find. Anything with weird spices or seasonings I can’t stand to be around or even smell. I’m a plain cheeseburger or pepperoni pizza kind of guy.

My “healthy” go-to meal for dinner is 3 or 4 scrambled eggs with a piece of avocado toast and a piece of peanut butter toast. I eat fast food more often than I care to mention and cereal is my weak point. Potatoes are good with me, even sweet potatoes. The only veggies I can stomach are carrots, celery, kale, asparagus and avocados. But they have to be plain. I can do broccoli sparingly in a kale and whey protein smoothie. The smell of steamed or cooked veggies makes me gag. I’m pretty good when it comes to fruit but working 10hrs a day it’s hard to make it to the grocery often to keep up on the fresh foods.

Despite all this I do pretty good racing bikes somehow and have a decent ftp (3.75 w/kg). I just feel like if I can fix this I’ll really be flying lol.

So not really sure what I’m asking or looking for here but I thought maybe this would be a start to get going in the right direction. Maybe there’s someone on here who’s been through something similar. Or perhaps suggestions of bland, healthy, easy to make foods I could try, I don’t know lol

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I am pretty much in the same boat as you! I am also a very selective eater and prefer the similar food choices as you mentioned. I also hate vegetables as it made me puke ever since I was a kid. I do still eat eggs and fruits like apples and bananas though.

I am currently 19 y/o leading a relatively healthy lifestyle but during the first 13 years of my life I kept craving on potato chips and McDonald’s. I wasn’t overweight or obese but at the same time I was a couch potato. I started getting serious after I was 14 by swimming, lifting weights, running and cycling. I pretty much enjoy riding, lifting weights and a bit of running and I peaked at 4.2w/kg this fall. I am currently in my off season focusing on lifting weights(I hate squats btw so I only do bench press and bicep curls lol) and will start working on my base late January.

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So are you looking to eat healthy or are you looking to broaden your horizons?

Although there are overlaps, they are nonetheless two different objectives.

You can eat plain burgers that are reasonably healthy. Big difference between 95% lean and 75% lean patties…

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Overall I just want to eat healthier. I have no problem eating the same thing everyday if it’s something I can stomach. My main hangup is not having a lot of time to meal prep stuff for lunches and there are always bad choices readily available at home and work.

Simple tastes actually makes things much easier when it comes to meal prep.

Baby steps. Start with one meal prep session per week and hopefully make enough to last three meals, e.g. one dinner and two lunches.

Choose ingredients that minimize prep time. e.g. the little gold/red potatoes (skin-on) in lieu of Russets.

When a processed ingredient is available, choose a less-processed ingredient instead. Brown rice/bread/pasta vs white.

Choose lean meat in lieu of fatty/marbled.

Garlic salt is your friend.

Consider getting an Instant Pot and a Sous Vide.

Your goal isn’t to become the next Gordon Ramsey, nor is it to become Chef Boyardee. When making pasta sauce, I’ll split the difference and mix a jar of premade red sauce with an equal volume of fresh ingredients.

For the last 3 years I’ve eaten the same breakfast
Toasted everything bagel + half avocado + pinch of salt + sriracha sauce.

For the last year I’ve also started eating the same lunch
Quick oats + almond milk + 2 bananas + blueberries + 1tbsp peanut butter + pinch of cinnemon

Dinner is the only thing that varies but it’s a mix of
Sweet potatoes, spinach, beans, rice, pasta, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, different spices etc

I quit soda or diet soda. I only drink water. I cut all the junk food. RARELY I eat like a square of chocolate per day. I used to drink 2-3 liters of diet coke and eat chips for lunch until 5 years ago in my 30’s. It takes a month tops to adopt a routine and good habits. Stick with it.

You don’t need a crazy complicated system. Plain foods can be delicious and nutritious as long as you select nutrition dense ones. I’ve eaten SO MUCH fast food in my life. Similar (enoughy) you at 5’7" I was 208lbs before this whole bike thing.

I have no wisdom for you on how to break bad habits other than what worked for me. If you LOVE cycling like I do and wanna get better at it, make it your focus. Realize eating habits are AT LEAST as important as training. The above simple diet helped me drop another 12lbs after I dropped down to 154lbs in the beginning with just riding a lot. And before anybody complains what I listed above doesn’t have enough variety, I track ALL nutritions, vitamins, amino acids, everything that’s important to health and fitness. Above mix of stuff I eat usually ends up getting me 100% of everything my body needs.

Best of luck man. If I did it, you can too cause believe me I’ve been there. Keep it simple and follow through.

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Having read your post, I am not quite sure what kind of advice you actually want. Such a restrictive diet is not just unhealthy, it robs you of one of life’s greatest pleasures. If you are really suspecting you have an eating disorder, you should contact a professional. It is great that you have recognized this as a problem. When you are young, your body can tolerate much more of this abuse, but as you get older, you will feel it.

In any case, since you have expressed the desire to go beyond your current diet, one central theme should be to diversify the foods you eat. A simple step is to introduce foods, especially vegetables, that you currently don’t eat into your diet. Take a dish and add a side of e. g. steamed vegetables with some salt and butter to them. I’d try to severely cut back fast food. If, say, you eat fast food three times a week, cut that back to once a week. If you are in a pizza joint, get a pizza with an “unusual” topping.

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To be honest, I don’t think you’re eating the wrong things, but I think it might be likely that you’re eating them in the wrong proportions or prepared wrong. For example, plain potatoes and kale (plus some protein) make a pretty good meal, but the portion of kale should be about the same size or bigger than the portion of potatoes. And the potatoes should be boiled, not chopped up and fried…

Plain food without too many conditments or spices is likely more healthy than the opposite (its the salt and fat in the sauces that isn’t good for you).

Carrots and celery make good snacks for work, along with fruit.

I have a feeling you’re being too harsh on yourself with the list of veg you eat. What about tomatoes? Or peppers? If you eat kale, what about spinach, or the tons of other types of cabbage? Maybe you can expand a bit without straying too far from what you know.

Maybe start by making a food diary for 1-2 weeks, write down everything you eat (or track it in myfitnesspal or similar). That might already give you a good idea what you need to change about your diet.

There’s also a book that geta recommended a lot round here, “The endurance diet”, which is worth reading.

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Thanks everyone!

Believe me, my wife has been trying this for years. That’s actually where the small list of veggies I eat came from. If there’s something foreign on my plate that grosses me out it can ruin the meal for me.

I feel like I’ve tried to eliminate most of the crap before but kind of rebound back into fast food mode if that makes sense. I’ll start to feel like crap, performance will start to suffer and then I’ll start binging a little.

I joke with my friends that my body has adapted to run best on chicken nuggets, and sometimes it almost feels like it’s true.

Another tough scenario is post race when you’ve worked up an appetite and the only thing around is fast food. That usually ends bad for me.

Like I said, I don’t know what I’m looking for here, this almost feels like more of a confession. Maybe I’m just looking for some accountability or something. Keep the ideas coming if you have any!

You really sound like an extreme case. Since you write that you have already recognized that your eating habits have detrimental effects on you and your health, perhaps you should consider therapy. No shame in that.

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If the presence of vegetables can make you gag you may have a deeper issue regarding food. To break some lifelong habits and tendencies can be tough, but worth it!

However, steaming veggies makes them into the most bland mushy food ever. Try roasting them in the oven with a little salt, pepper, and olive oil. They get kinda cripsy and (I think) delicious. Steamed brussel sprouts from grandmas house were so gross as a kid but now roasted brussel sprouts with a sweet chili sauce?? amazing. :smiley:

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Have you tried veggie burgers? I get a stack of those from Costco and my semi-picky eater (formerly very picky eater) son likes them. Pair with whole a grain bun and it’s better than other eating options.

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Dude. I like fast food too. My only suggestion here is to give yourself a chance to say no to fast food every once in awhile. Sounds like you know you’ll do it, but it’s not like you can’t plan for your cravings. Example. post race - you KNOW you’re gonna be hungry, prep something else instead? game plan. You’re racing and training - that means you have some level of grit. Transfer that to food.

Also - maybe make up some games or challenges for food for yourself. It makes it fun and less stressful and less like a chore. Not sure about you, but it’s like racing/riding - your goals and interests will shift over time to keep things fresh, interesting, challenging. Maybe do that with food as well?

That and you’re missing out on a ton of tasty food too! :stuck_out_tongue:

Those are my thoughts. Good Luck!

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Good point. Texture is definitely a big thing with me, especially if it’s something new for me. If I get a steak, it’s well done. The drier and crispier the better. Yes I’m the guy that dips steak in ketchup :joy:

This is good stuff, thanks!

There’s something wrong here, and you’re not alone.

Plenty of people say this to me, and think it’s ok. At least you know it’s not :slightly_smiling_face:

I guess you want to move to a position where you’re consuming what you need, not what appeals. For me this is how I change my diet, recognise what I need and eat that. if that means steamed cabbage and lentils, so be it. I want a functioning body more than I want a happy meal.

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It sounds like some of you don’t know how to steam vegetables. They should be al dente, not mushy. Many vegetables take on a foul taste and smell when cooked too much. I chop up broccoli crowns into the individual stalks and then steam for 3-4 minutes. They will turn bright green and are done. If you keep cooking them the bright green color goes away, they turn dark and will be horrible tasting. Roasting vegetables is great too, as mentioned above.

RMS138, you are making the right steps forward at a young age. My first advice is to try and recognize that you are probably addicted to fast food / processed food. The combination of sugar, salt, and fat is addicting IMO. Burgers dipped in ketchup and pizza are exactly that perfect combination. If you give it all up, in about 2-3 weeks the cravings will subside.

Make changes one small step at a time. Learn to cook a new dish or new vegetable and add it to your repertoire. Try eating some whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, steel cut oats). Add some legumes - home made beans, lentils, etc. Start making various salads. Nuts and seeds make great snacks and toppings - stay away from roasted and salted though.

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@RMS138 You might find something of interest or use here:

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/blog/infographics

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Do you have a habitual or addictive personality? Does change make you uncomfortable?

The mention of therapy above sounds like a good one. If you cannot change then someone to help you is totally ok. You are looking at changing perceptions and habits (whether real or in your head - do these veggies really taste bad? can the texture do you any harm?).

There is evidence that fast food is physically addictive - and because everyone loves an article: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2235907/ sure this is about sugar but you get the idea.

The alternative that works for me is the challenge. I know most of my limitations are self set and if I think they exist they will be realised. If therefore I set myself a challenge to get something done I can usually do it. Maybe not at first try but eventually.

If there is one more tough 8 min interval do you turn off the trainer or go for it? When you have done the interval do you feel like you have achieved? (you have btw, you broke a perception).

Put that into contract of a taste and texture you do not love being in your mouth for a few seconds - the taste hardly exists post swallowing, and you can mix it or follow it with something you do like the taste of. The texture lasts even less time, we have teeth that are pretty good at making most things into a paste.

If this all sounds horrific then think why you can do the 8 min interval and not simply eat something? That might open the mind up to contextualising the issue. Think about what you don’t like and why it matters. Think about what it really means and how important it is to you.

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I was another picky eater as you described and 2 things broke me out of the habit. My girlfriend(now wife) and learning to cook more things so as to be entertaining to her. I tried my first steak at 22 when she wanted me to make one for her(got instructions from my dad over the phone) and since it was something I made I felt I needed to try it. I can sort of trace my branching out to that moment but it was a slow transition. There are still things I don’t eat but at least I try them now where in the past I wouldn’t even bother. 15 years later my parents still remark how I used to eat nothing and now I cook steaks, scallops, bbq and whatever else. Still not a huge fan of indian food, it’s a spice/smell thing.

No need to wake up tomorrow and say “now I will eat everything” but make a slow transition sticking with recipes for things you know and either adding a new ingredient that looks interesting or finding a recipe that slightly pushes your boundaries. But a slow transition will make this a bit less jarring and no need to overthink it.

I must highly recommend the good old cooking show “Good Eats” with Alton Brown. Watching that show with his approach really got me thinking “that sounds pretty good” and “I can make that.” The shows are all over the internet at this point so check those out even if you don’t intend to cook what he’s making.

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