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Picky Eaters and Travel

aussiegirl

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  • Added on: June 16th, 2010
My boyfriend is a picky eater. He's been to psychologists for it as a teenager. However, he wants to travel. How well do you think this'll go?

He won't eat from anything that looks too unclean. He won't eat 'strange meats' such as duck, goat, etc, anything but chicken breast out of a chicken, he'll eat mince meat (ground beef for you Americans) and sausages, and seafood is right out. I tried to get him to eat a tiny bite of prawn at Christmas and he almost threw up. He will eat pastas and rice and almost all vegetables, but the 'looks too unclean' factor could be a problem. :( I'll eat off reasonable looking street stalls.

He'll be mainly fine in Europe and Northern America, but I know he'd love to go to other places too (and I wonder how he'd go in places like Poland or Russia, two places he wants to go to).

What would be some survival tips? Perhaps from vegetarians?

Do we just hope we can buy ingredients and make our own food somewhere?
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Cantera

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  • Added on: June 16th, 2010
I won't lie to you - he's going to have a hard time.

If you rent self-catering vacation apartments, you can at least make your own food. But other cultures eat parts of animals we don't - he might get grossed out even in a supermarket meat aisle. And farmers' markets feature foods just picked or dug up out of the earth, and it's still got the dirt on it. (I'm not sure if "natural" dirt is a part of his issue.)

Maybe if he saw a lot of pictures beforehand, it may help? Here's what I'm thinking - do your research for places you'd like to eat at. Then go online and try to find pictures of the places - whether from their own websites or from Flickr or blogs. Anything you can find. If he can maybe look at the places, he can prepare himself and see that they look alright, as opposed to entering a place at that moment and "looking for" uncleanliness? Or, maybe on Yelp or Travel Advisor, you can find where people make a comment about how clean the place is?

Pictures of individual traditional dishes may be good as well - you get a lot of mystery meat stews sometimes, and maybe seeing that that's the way the dish is SUPPOSED to look may alleviate his anxiety?

Newer, trendier vegetarian or all-organic places may be a good go-to where you can find them.

If all else fails, maybe a little bit of reverse psychology will work? "Well, we can't go to those places, because you won't eat anything there. Oh well, your loss." Tough love, I know.

And all that being said, who knows? Maybe being thrust into a situation where it's eat or starve, he will overcome his psychological issues about food.

Fairly certain this is no help at all, but just throwing some ideas out there.

LisaLu

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  • Added on: June 16th, 2010
"And all that being said, who knows? Maybe being thrust into a situation where it's eat or starve, he will overcome his psychological issues about food."

I tried this in 2005 (eat or starve) when I went to Poland, Prague, Slovakia, Austria & Hungary. I'm from the States, I'm a picky eater as well & unfortunately I went hungry most of the time. I tried to be a risk-taker and order foods that I didn't know & cross my fingers that I would like them . . . if I didn't like what I ordered, then I would just give the food to my friends, who pretty much ate anything.

Basically I did a lot of snacking on that trip & lost a lot of weight! I was gone for about a month & once I got back home my friends & family worried that I had lost too much weight. We did a lot of walking too, so I know that played into the dramatic weightloss, but there has to be a better solution.

Needless to say, I will be keeping my eye on this thread, because I would love to hear what others have to say.
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KathrynD

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  • Added on: June 16th, 2010
I drag my son all over the world and he somehow manages to survive even though he has very narrow eating habits. Basically all he'll eat are: rice, pasta with butter or oil (no sauce), plain meat, hamburger, hot dog, plain brocoli or carrots, bread, and fortunately pretty much every fruit. Oh of course, anything dessert seems to be ok to eat!

Japan was the hardest for him. The only local food he would eat was katsu, noodles, plain rice, and korean barbeque. It was limiting but he managed. I dragged him to sushi restaurants and he sat there eating plain rice while we feasted. Still, since it's urban enough to have western fast food, so sometimes if all he could eat was rice at dinner, we would take him to a McDonalds or Subway. The small towns were the toughest and so was breakfast. A "western breakfast" in Japan is still a bit too exotic for my boy.

My recommendation is to remember to bring multi-vitamins so that if they refuse to eat anything but plain rice, they won't go malnourished.

aussiegirl

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  • Added on: June 16th, 2010
He's got no problem with vegetables just dug up out of the earth. It's a texture thing he has problems with (I just remembered he also won't eat chunks of red meat, like... steak for example, or beef casserole), and you can wash vegetables. I'd be happy with self catering apartments but he wants to stay at hostels/in tents etc. I'm not going to tell him 'look, what the heck are you going to eat??' because he can discover that when he gets there, I don't want to put him off his dream. I'm just considering it myself, so maybe I can counteract some of it. Maybe I can be the one to shop for meat, or we can go vegetarian.
lol yeah maybe he WILL just get over them! I've got him eating meat at *all* in the 18 months I've known him, when I met him he was almost vegetarian. Now he'll eat the chicken, mincemeat, that sort of thing. But he does things like, I ate prawns, or I tried goat at a market, then he wouldn't kiss me. lol. *sigh*. It's going to be hilarious to travel, because I'm nervous about getting lost (too nervous) and paranoid about silly things most people dont care about because of my anxiety, and he'll be all freaking out over food, yet we still want to go to all sorts of foreign places. I believe that he'll be able to find plenty of food in Western Europe. Eastern Europe and Asia... especially out away from the main tourist drag, ... yeah. it's gonna be a lot harder.

He's got sensory issues with certain meats, and the cleanliness thing isn't from some sort of OCD but because he's afraid of stomach aches. I can't help but think he might convince himself it *will* happen so it does.

Lisa, did you order things 'blind' off a Polish/Slovakian etc menu? Or could you try to guess the ingredients?

lol maybe we could both lose a lot of weight, that'd be awesome.

Vitamins is a good idea.
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LisaLu

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  • Added on: June 16th, 2010
It was a combo of blind ordering and guessing. I went with a bigger group my first time overseas: 2 teachers & 9 students (including myself). One of those teachers was pretty fluent in Polish, so I always relied on her, probably too much, to tell me what things were on the menu while we were in Poland. Once we started headed west into other countries I started blind ordering.

Looking back, I should have bought a phrase book or at least done some pre-trip research on how to say different meats, vegis, fruits & other basic foods in other languages. :? I would say that 9 times out of 10 I made a horrible choice, but if I found something I liked I made sure to remember it.

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Scritch

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  • Added on: June 17th, 2010
I have a hilariously narrow diet: no fruits and vegetables. In Mexico I got by fine, which surprised me at first, but I did try to expand my horizons. Unfortunately, I mistook the word for "potato" for another word ("pata"), which ended up being diced pig foot. I couldn't take more than a few bites. Like you said, live and learn.

In preparation for my next trip, I'm trying to build up a tolerance for more fruits and vegetables, but I also have major problems with texture. Biting through the membrane/skin of a fruit like an orange or crunchy vegetables really bothers me (I tried cactus in Mexico and the only reason I swallowed was to avoid offending the restaurant owner). I do love juice, however. I've gotten over hot dogs/sausages when no other options are available, and I can finally eat fried chicken (the skin used to gross me out) and baked potatoes, including the skin.

I don't know if I'm as bad as your boyfriend, or maybe just picky in a different way, but I definitely feel like my expectation of food being gross contributes heavily to my "gut" reactions when I actually attempt to eat it, similar to his being afraid of a stomach ache.

I know it sounds silly that I consider my getting over sausages and fried chicken to be a victory, but it takes little steps. And people misunderstand that some foods I simply don't like, like onions (or uncooked carrots). I can eat them, I'm not going to melt if I chew on one, but I prefer not to, and I consider people "sneaking" them into my food to be like sliding bacon into a vegetarian's breakfast. Rude.

So I figure I'll take advice similar to Cantera's, and gradually try new foods over the next year (or re-try other foods I've already convinced myself that I don't like). But that's something I want to do on my own, and I think your boyfriend probably has to be in the same mindset. Your own choice, and your own pace. A lot of resistance to my eating new foods has to do with how obnoxious people are about my diet. Especially since I find it difficult to take health advice seriously from alcoholic chain-smoking vegetarians.

Worst case scenario you might be able to find one food from every region you'll be traveling that is readily available and he can get by on. I've eaten my share of bread, plain pasta and rice when necessary, or made grocery store sandwiches.

There's more to travel than food, even if that is an amazing part. And those other benefits convince you to take the next step, and at that point the other commentors are right, when you're traveling and your only other option is to go hungry, you'll try new things, even if you don't always like them. Because unlike when you're in familiar surroundings, you really don't know when you'll have the opportunity to eat again. A completely empty stomach is a terrible feeling, worse than almost any stomach ache I've ever had. A few years ago I would never have eaten street food/vendor food, and now I love it (thanks lady cooking on a grocery cart in Mexico City, with the delicious blue flour whatsits).

The way I figure now, street food is usually well cooked, which kills most of the worst bacteria/germs/whatever, and I've eaten it often enough that I've realized I get sick more often eating in a restaurant where they undercook the food or you can't see the people preparing it. Hell, fast food restaurants are pretty clean (depending on the chain), or at least look clean, and that's a 50/50 chance I'll want to vomit later. So now I just consider the possibility of stomach aches to be just that, a possibility. I carry around digestion aids and figure it's like having a headache the day after a loud concert, the cost of doing business. I'm not going to miss Mardi Gras because I'm afraid of being hungover on Ash Wednesday.

busman7

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  • Added on: June 17th, 2010
Think he had just better stay in OZ where they don't even know what mincemeat is because it sure isn't hamburger! :(
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aussiegirl

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  • Added on: June 17th, 2010
Thanks Scritch! You sound similar to my boyfriend (though he loves fruits and vegetables, it's meats he has issues with). I totally get you on the 'people not taking it seriously' thing. My family tend to complain about having to make food that matches up with what he can eat... I argue back how is it different to my brother's girlfriend who is vegetarian? Brother argues back 'yes but she just doesn't eat meat!' ... soooooo what? You have more choices for meat with my boyfriend at least! Even if he won't eat fish. Sigh. I can't deny that I am worried about trips away and food though. So. I'm glad you had a decent experience even if it wasn't the best. Maybe he can live on rice/sauce, pasta/sauce, and vegetables.
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halfnine

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  • Added on: June 18th, 2010
It's definitely going to be tough for him. But, he'll live. Worst case, he'll survive off soft drinks and candy bars/biscuits which exist most everywhere.

Landire

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  • Added on: June 18th, 2010
When my husband and I went to Rome for our honeymoon we gave little consideration to what we would eat. My husband doesn't eat pasta (because of the texture) and I don't eat anything based on tomato. We quickly found that most traditional Italian places just weren't an option for us. He wouldn't eat the pasta and I wouldn't eat the pizza. Instead we hunted down our two favorites, Mexican and Chinese. Yes, our options were limited because of this and we ended up eating at McDonalds and Burger King a lot. But it was a fantastic experience. Everywhere we went we ran into locals. While all the tourists were trying to get the authentic Italian experience we ate with locals, and I think had a more authentic experience. So while being a picky eater can make things a little more difficult I wouldn't worry about it too much. It just means you will have to look a little harder and be willing to fall back on some things you know are safe.
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hjo202

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  • Added on: September 11th, 2010
I am a very picky eater as well. I only eat chicken breast or beef. No seafood of any kind. I made it through Japan just fine. I was anxious the first day we were there but once we found a grocery store I was fine. We cooked most of our meals in our hostel. We ate some meals at McDonalds, Udon shops (plain noodles), and I just did a lot of snacking (ice cream bars mostly).

Now we are in China and I am finding it a bit harder. I think the ramen noodle cups are going to be helpful. I am already losing weight and expecting to lose much more in the next 3 months.

I think the best solution is to find a grocery store or convenience store to find snacks, bread, peanut butter, etc that you can always have with you.
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  • Added on: September 11th, 2010
Poland and Russia would be good places to start. The food there is seriously good! (excellent bread, cheese, sausage, fruits, cakes, pierogi......) When we lived there twenty years ago we ate horsemeat, but didn't even see it on our recent visit!
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luckyone

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  • Added on: September 13th, 2010
im guessing your tactics would vary depending on what part of the world you are in. in alot of places it may be easier to go vegetarian to avoid unwanted foods - i can always find one thing on the menu. other more western places there may be more meats he can cope with eating. i agree with taking multivitamins... the diet may be restricted at times but at least he can get nutrients in some way. are you planning on doing a big trip straight up or can you start with a small trip eg a couple of weeks to asia? that way its cheap, and you can both see how he goes?

MrPlow42

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  • Added on: January 13th, 2011
aussiegirl wrote:My boyfriend is a picky eater. He's been to psychologists for it as a teenager.

Was his 'condition' treated as a phobia? Phobia treatment has by far the highest success rate of all psychological condtions.

Will he have a problem traveling with food issues: Absolutely.
Will you have a problem traveling with him: Depends on how much you let his issues disrupt your travel.

When I've been in relationships with women who had some rigid rules about what they wouldn't eat I learned to give them two choices: you pick the place or don't say one freaking word about the place I pick. By the way, you don't get to pick all the time, so learn to find things on a menu you can eat. While traveling, use your own time to buy things off shelves that keep you from starving. I think people with food issues are recreating their homelife. I'm not going to be their parent. YMMV.



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