I haven’t always eaten this way.
What do all of those foods have in common? Well, I had no idea what they were for most of my life and would have refused to try any of them 10 years ago, but they have become staples in my diet.
I grew up enjoying the typical foods that many of us loved as kids – Kraft Mac & Cheese, Beefaroni, Spaghettios, Rice-a-Roni, Doritos (Cool Ranch, anyone?), Cheetos, Little Debbie cakes, Gushers, Fruit Roll-ups, Funyuns, Bugles, chicken fingers (BK > McDonald’s), hot dogs, yogurt, and, who can forget, pizza?
Pizza Hut had it down – read lots of books, get free pizza. Well, I read a lot of books as a kid…so, I ate lots of pan pizza. Mmmm. The Book-It Program was my friend.
As a general rule, I avoided unfamiliar foods and was very picky.
To put it simply, I didn’t eat salads, soups, sandwiches (ok, except grilled cheese), seafood, sauces, or “weird” vegetables like eggplant, cabbage, or asparagus. Which left me with…well, the list above….and buttered egg noodles (with parmesan cheese, of course!). I did like certain cooked veggies, and I’ve always loved fruit…and plain chicken. Other than that, I didn’t exactly have a ton of variety in my diet.
I hit a turning point in 2004, my junior year of college, when I decided to study abroad in Granada, Spain.
What gave me the most anxiety about going abroad?
Not the travel, being away from home for 4 months, or fitting in with my host family…it was the food. I was terrified of trying new food.
I read a book called Spain Is Different before leaving, and one of the things the author said was it was rude to reject food, even if you didn’t think you would like it. You HAD to at least try it and then say, “It’s not my favorite.”
Oh no. Bad news for the picky eater.
One night at dinner, my host mom, Matilde, put a dish in front of me. It looked kind of like thicker fried potato or squash slices, but I knew it wasn’t. I asked her what it was, and she told me, but speaking very little Spanish, I had no idea what she said.
I hesitantly but bravely tried it…I had never tasted the flavors before, but I LIKED it. I was excited about my revelation but still curious about what I had just consumed.
After dinner, I went to my room and consulted my Spanish dictionary to find out what I had just eaten…I looked up “berenjena.” Shock overcame me as I read the definition…eggplant. Eggplant?! But I HATED eggplant…didn’t I?
That was a turning point in my picky eating tendency.
As I opened myself up to trying new foods, I realized I had written off so many that were actually delicious. While in Spain, I was introduced to lentils, fish, calamari, and other tasty food and am now a huge fan.
I’m really into lentils right now and just made this rich, hearty and yummy lentil chili last week (SO good!). Lentils are an awesome protein, fiber, vitamin and mineral source. They fill me up more than almost any other food…AND they are super cheap!
The transition to an unprocessed, unrefined whole food way of eating takes time and happens gradually. But we have to be willing to at least TRY new things – to open ourselves up to the possibility that we might actually like them.
If I had continued believing guacamole had mayonnaise in it (seriously, I believed this until about 3 years ago…until I saw someone actually make it), then I never would have grown to LOVE it (and avocados!) as much as I do today. I had to be willing to let go of my longstanding beliefs.
So, what’s your eggplant?
The next time you go to the grocery store, commit to picking out ONE healthy food (maybe a fruit, veggie, bean, nut, seed or grain?) that you have never tried before or have been hesitant to try.
A friend just messaged me the other day and said, “I bought some kale today. What do I do with it? Lol.” Well, my friend, you’ve come to the right place!
Feel free to post below in the comment section and let me know if you try something new. I would love to hear from you!