Eating should be a simple thing — open mouth, insert food, chew, swallow — but somehow this basic necessity of life comes with its own set of subtle complexities. Many manufactured foods are designed for maximum ease of eating; these are the products of food scientists who are tasked with translating hard-to-eat or messy foods into tidy, quickly consumable, everlasting ones (sticky pastries become Pop-Tarts, sloppy sandwiches become Hot Pockets), but there's a world of food out there that remains hard to eat.

Is there actually a right or wrong way to eat these foods? Not really; it's all subjective, of course; but the following suggestions may be neater, result in less waste, and/or simply work more smoothly when it comes to the mechanics of biting and chewing the things we eat.

1. Apples

half-eaten apple

Photo: JoeLodge/flickr

Every one knows how to eat an apple. You wash it, hold it by the core using your fingers, and commence chomping. But as it turns out, there’s a better way — one that eliminates all waste, which by some accounts adds up to 15 to 30 percent of the fruit. Prepare to be wowed, see the how-to here: Amazing way to eat an apple makes core disappear.

2. Candy apples

tray of candy apples

Photo: ariane_hunter/flickr

Whether coated in a red sugary shell or drenched in gooey caramel, it would seem there is neither a graceful nor tidy way to eat a candy apple. You hold it by the stick and try your best, but inevitably the tips of the nose and chin become sullied with sugar. However, by disregarding the advice above for fresh apples, you can avoid the sticky predicament. By simply turning the stick sideways and eating the apple a la corn on the cob — the traditional orientation in which you would eat an apple — much of the mess is mitigated.

3. Tic Tacs

Is there a wrong way to eat a Tic Tac? No. But there are several ways to remove them from the Tic Tac package, and most of the methods involve noisy shaking and deliver more than one at a time. Whether or not the packaging designers planned this, we don’t know, but as the video above displays, the Tic Tac box can mimic an ersatz Pez dispenser and present the eater with a single mint, without shaking and pouring.

4. Cupcakes

2 cupcakes

Photo: AdrianNunez/Shutterstock

We know how you’re going to eat a cupcake. If you’re like most people, you will take one of two approaches. You will either peel down the paper liner and attack it with your mouth as wide open as possible, resulting in a sore jaw and a flourish of frosting festooned across your upper lip and nose. Or, you will eat the frosting first and then precede with the cake. But there’s a way in which you can have your cupcake and eat it too, so to speak. Twist (or slice) the cupcake into two disks, flip the top upside down and place it, frosting-side down, back on the bottom half. The result? A sandwich-like cupcake that gives you cake and frosting in the same bite, minus frosting up the nose.

5. Chicken wings

There may be no neat way to eat a chicken wing; a generally messy endeavor that would have sent any proper Victorian into a tizzy. But there is a way to get the most out of one; rather than gnawing about the thing like a caveman and leaving much meat behind, the slip-out-the-bone method results in a nice, easy-to-dip winglet with little meat wasted.

6. Apples and peanut butter

apples with peanut butter in the middle

Photo: Melissa Breyer

Any apples-and-peanut-butter eater knows what happens in this situation: spread peanut butter on wedge-shaped slice of apple, watch peanut butter slide off into lap. The better way to do it is to core the apple, pack it with peanut butter, then slice into rings. Bonus tip: this also works wonderfully with semi-soft cheese or a good stinky blue.

7. Pomegranates

It’s possible that you’ve never eaten a pomegranate before, or if you have the mess and labor were too much to persuade you to do so again. But it doesn’t have to be that way. One popular method is to plunge the two halves of the pomegranate into a bowl of water and gently nudge the seeds from the membrane; the seeds float and it is pretty simple. But the tapping method demonstrated above is even simpler and more genius.

8. Ketchup and fries

Ketchup in a small cup

Photo: stevendepolo/flickr

The tragedy of take-out fries is that they are accompanied by small ketchup packets that are squirted onto them; for people who don’t like their fries to become irrevocably soggy by swimming in ketchup, this is a problem. Or, was a problem. If you are a dipper with nowhere to dunk, just open the packet completely on one side and the packet becomes a small dipping cup. Alternatively, if your ketchup comes in a small paper cup that is too small for exuberant dippers, you can unfold the pleats and the cup will flatten into a small paper plate with a dollop of ketchup ready for service.

9. Fage Greek yogurt

Fage Greek yogurt

It was nice of Fage to give us separate fruit instead of having it linger in a soupy mess at the bottom of the yogurt like the other fruit-at-the-bottom brands; it was even nicer that they designed the packaging so that all an eater needs to do is flip up the side cup and let the fruit slide on in.

10. Sushi

Okay, so maybe this advice on how not to end up with a soy-sauce dish full of a disintegrated spicy mess is given by an American, but he is a “sushi concierge,” after all. That’s got to count for something, right? At the very least, you'll learn that rice-wasabi-soy-sauce soup is not the objective.

Related stories on MNN:

10 foods most people eat the wrong way
From Tic Tacs to cupcakes, a little ingenuity goes a long way.