10 Messy Foods You're Eating the Wrong Way

woman eating watermelonPhoto by: Getty ImagesBy Tracy Saelinger

While we don't recommend ordering any of these foods during a romantic dinner or business lunch, there are graceful ways to enjoy the most notoriously sloppy eats. "The key to eating messy foods is to take small bites," says Mike Lininger, editor of EtiquetteScholar.com and author of Essential Etiquette Fundamentals. Also, "don't be in a rush." Here's exactly how to approach 10 of the messiest dishes.


1. Buffalo Wings
Yes, you can eat these gracefully, sauce and all, says Sandy Muskopf Hyde, president of the Etiquette School of Ohio and a native of Buffalo, NY, birthplace of the famous wings. To minimize mess, go for drumsticks: Hold the ends with the thumb and index finger (or first two fingers) of both hands, and eat the drumstick clean. The two-boned, flat chicken wing is a different story, she says. Pick the wing up by the ends with the thumb and index finger (or first two fingers) of both hands. Locate the end with the larger bone sticking out. Use your fingers to pull the cartilage off from this end and discard it. Locate the smaller bone, twist it loose with your fingers and pull it from the wing. Do the same with the larger bone. "You may now eat your boneless chicken wing," Muskopf Hyde says.

Related: Discover 50 surprising foods under 100 calories.

2. Chili-Cheese Fries
Unlike sturdy nachos, fries aren't great at supporting gobs of cheese and chili, but no need to panic if someone gets a loaded order for the group-just remember these tips from Lininger. Grab, if you can, the dry end of a fry, he says. With a subtle flick of your wrist, remove the excess chili. Of course, using a knife and fork to cut the fries into bite-size pieces is the best way to control mess, he adds.

3. Sloppy Joes
The word sloppy is right in the name, but Maralee McKee, founder of the Manners Mentor, Inc., and author of Manners That Matter for Moms: The Essential Book of Life Skills for Your Kids, has a trick to make these sandwiches neater. When assembling them, scoop the meat into the center of the bun, leaving about a ½-inch empty rim around the outside of the bread, she says. As you eat the sandwich, the meat that would normally fall out simply spreads out to cover the empty part of the bun. If someone else makes your Sloppy Joe, use a fork to eat whatever meat falls on your plate, and whatever you do, don't apologize if your sandwich falls apart. "It draws more attention to it," McKee says.

4. Burritos
Attempt eating one with your hands only if the burrito's a manageable size, Lininger says. If it's wrapped in foil, keep the wrapping over as much of the burrito as possible while eating it. This keeps it together. If it's large, cut it in half or in quarters before eating. Use a fork for any filling that falls on your plate. In a sit-down-dinner situation where knives, forks and plates are available, cut the burrito into bite-size pieces with its seam underneath the rest of it and touching the plate, Lininger says.

Related: Try these easy exercise drills to slim down fast.

5. Corn-on-the-Cob
Our instinct is to butter the entire corn-on-the-cob before eating, but hold off, Muskopf Hyde warns. First, hold the corn or corn skewers firmly by the ends with two hands. Then, butter and eat only a few rows at a time to avoid a drippy mess. Eat from left to right-don't eat a ring around the corn, she says, or else you may get kernels and butter on your cheek as you turn it. Wipe your mouth with your napkin after setting the corn cob down; then, butter the next few rows and repeat the process.

6. Spinach
To keep spinach from getting stuck in your teeth, add a little fat, says Heather George, professional food writer and author of the blog SoForkingGood.com. When we chew spinach, the oxalic acid in the leaves form crystals, which stick to our teeth-and are also responsible for that chalky, gritty film, she explains. Minimize both problems by sautéing it in a little olive oil or melted butter. Cooking in it, as opposed to adding it after, better coats your mouth and prevents the oxalic acid crystals from sticking around, she says.

7. Candy Apples
These treats are a challenge for even the most proper eaters. The secret: Turn the stick sideways (like corn-on-the-cob) as opposed to eating the apple upright, McKee says. "This makes it easier to break through the sugar shell, which is thickest at the top of the apple," she says. Also, if you know you're going to a carnival, pack a few floss picks in a zippered plastic bag, she suggests, and excuse yourself post-apple to floss in the restroom. As for avoiding getting red dye on your skin and clothes, there's only one piece of advice: "Save the treat until you're home and then cut the apple into slices with a sharp knife," says McKee.

Related: Check out 10 unexpected foods to avoid before having sex.

8. Powdered doughnuts
Instead of ordering a boring plain doughnut, eat the powdered kind in public with these tips: First, place the doughnut on a plate or napkin and tear it into two pieces without lifting it (that causes the powdered sugar to drift through the air-and onto your clothes), McKee says. Next, tear one of the halves into two pieces, again while keeping the doughnut on the plate or napkin. Pick up the first piece with your thumb and index finger and enjoy. "Although it's hard to resist licking the sugar off your fingers, use your napkin-unless no one's looking!" says McKee.

9. Watermelon
At a casual picnic, eat it with your hands. Take small bites to avoid having juice run down your chin, Lininger says, and keep a napkin handy. At more formal affairs, use a fork's tines to flick seeds away and push them to the side of your plate. Then, use the edge of the fork to cut bite-size watermelon pieces. No utensils? Don't worry if you encounter seeds. "The general rule for removing unwanted food from your mouth is to have it leave the same way it entered," Lininger says. So if you're eating watermelon with your hands and get a seed, remove it from your mouth using your thumb and forefinger; then, place it on a napkin.

10. S'mores
Traditionally a campfire dessert, Muskopf Hyde says she's noticed s'mores being introduced at less casual events, like weddings and showers. If you find yourself in such a situation, heat your marshmallow to medium rather than well-done. "It's warm enough to soften the chocolate, but won't ooze out between the graham crackers," she says, Use only one marshmallow per s'more, go light on the chocolate, keeping it inside the cracker edges, and then hold the s'more firmly with both hands. Support the bottom cracker with your thumbs as you would an overstuffed sandwich, and take small bites over a plate or napkin. If you're having s'mores at a formal event, Muskopf Hyde says, consider serving them in a more manageable form-such as in this s'mores ice cream pie.

You Might Also Like:
6 Stomach-Friendly Foods
8 Calming Foods That Ease Stress
8 Everyday Foods That Can Improve Your Sex Life