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How does a limited diet result in a limited mind?

Animated food at a table

Growing up, I had a somewhat limited take on food. I didn't venture out and try new things. I was thrilled with what my Grandma cooked, spaghetti with American cheese, grilled cheese, roll & cheese, hamburgers with canned corn, Bennihanna (birthday treats), and so on. I didn't care to try anything new until I learned more about different foods' benefits.

While studying to get my degree in Nutrition & Exercise Science, I started to learn about how foods interact with each other and how nutrients can be absorbed. I learned that frozen vegetables may hold more nutrition than those transported via plane, truck, or train. I learned that when you have a matcha tea latte with milk, the bioavailability reduces and the good nutrients are reduced. I also learned how to track my food and see what I'm nutrients I'm lacking, living in Southside Jamaica Queens, NY, I wasn't in a food desert but the easiest foods to get were Popeye's Chicken and McDonald’s. After doing 24-hour recalls, 7-day, and 30-day tracking, I saw that I wasn't getting enough calories throughout the day and my plenty of vitamins were suboptimal. I had my blood work done and my doctor shared that I was pre-diabetic, I knew that changes had to be made but I liked what I liked, I didn't need to venture out and try new things but if I wanted to compete in college and have a life long journey of running, things needed to change.

I hate to admit it but health scares played a factor in changing my eating habits but it opened up my eyes to what's possible. I started eating more of my Aunt's cooking vs my Grandma's comfort food. I tried stir-fry, pesto sauce and pastas, different types of fish outside of shrimp, and even trying new sauces at Benihanni, (hello garlic butter). I saw that I not only started to gain muscle but my taste pallet started to enhance. I enjoyed green smoothies and was able to tolerate bitter foods, I began experimenting and trying my recipes, and in the end, this led me to be curious for what other flavors are out there.

As this curiosity started to expand, I noticed that I started to go out more on self-dates, I started to explore more in the city to find new restaurants which eventually led to me meeting more people and soon trying new activities. These adventures eventually led to me trying new activities outside of running, I started to mountain bike, I started to trail run, and I even began kayaking....all in New York City! As I became older, I learned that New York City has so much to give one person but what about the rest of the world? We are known for pizza and bagels, eventually, I started to question what other cities are known for. What about other countries?

I went on my first international trip to Peru, and found that the delicacy there is to eat guinea pigs, I was itching to try it! My group of friends searched high and low but in the meantime, I'll try alpaca and fell in love with this type of meat. I came across lucuma which instantly became my favorite fruit and when we finally found a restaurant selling "high-quality cooked guinea pig" I was suffering from altitude sickness...I didn't even think about eating it!

Since Peru, I've had street food in Thailand, Kebabs in Israel, Al-Pastor in Mexico, Olla De Carna in Costa Rica, Curry Goat in Jamaica, Hakata Ramen in Japan, and so many more dishes. When I'm not traveling, I sit at home, look at recipes on how to replicate my favorite dishes I've had abroad then plan what foods I'll have on my next trip.

Having variety in your food expands your mind to what's possible for you in the world. It's easy to stay safe and comfortable but you don't know what can happen when you try that Pad Thai or those cricket legs, you don't know if you will run into your life partner in that restaurant in Madrid or if you find your dream job just by enhancing your favorite dishes.

Life is fun and unique so why not try new things? Well if you are allergic to foods, I don't recommend trying everything but why not learn about new recipes across the world that don't cook with your allergens? Then learn about their culture.

Below I have a list of my favorite websites to get recipes from and I encourage you to try a recipe from there. Have fun and add the variety you've always wanted

And to get really fun, just close your eyes and pick a place on a map.

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