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It’s a New Year, So Try Something New!

Posted by Whitney Ajie -


There are probably at least a handful of things in the grocery store or in a recipe book that look unfamiliar to you, whether or not it's a certain ingredient or the whole dish. For instance, have you tried hummus? Quinoa? Avocado? Persimmon? Couscous? Brown rice? Jicama? Leeks? Tofu? Pasta carbonara? The list could go on and on.

Let 2015 be the year that you try something new, be it a new food or new recipe. Expanding the 'palate,' or your sense of taste, is something that we nutritionists encourage everyone to do because healthy food comes in a variety of flavors and textures, some of which may be unfamiliar and unpleasant at first. More exposure to different food items (especially from a young age!) makes trying new things and finding new foods and flavors that you enjoy much easier, for kids and adults.

When I'm teaching nutrition to students and community members of all ages, I tell them the same thing: you can't hate a food until you've tried it every way possible. You never know when a certain cooking technique or a certain sauce is going to change something you disliked into something delightful!

Dr. Paul Rozin, a cultural psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, says that constant exposure to certain foods and tastes can change our preference for them, what's called a "hedonic reversal." Learning to enjoy spicy food, healthy food, or bitter foods like Brussel sprouts, kale, or spinach, is a process of trial (trial, trial, trial) and error, until eventually the error becomes enjoyment. Part of that trial process is trying foods prepared in different ways so that your palate and your mind stay open.

So, what do you say? Are you ready to try something new this year?

Wishing you the best of health,

Whitney Ajie

Extension Educator, Illinois Nutrition Education Program


Quinoa & Black Bean Salad

Source: University of Illinois Extension - Let's Eat for Health, Illinois!

Never had quinoa? Quinoa is a nutrition-packed edible seed that is cooked similar to rice, has a light and fluffy texture, and is virtually tasteless unless you add ingredients or spices to add flavor. It is low in saturated fat, high in fiber, and a good source of protein.


1/2 cup quinoa, dry
1 1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp cumin
2 tsp dried cilantro or parsley
2 scallions/green onions, minced
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained, rinsed
2 cups tomato, chopped
2 medium bell peppers, chopped
2 green chili peppers, minced
Black pepper, to taste1/2 cup quinoa, dry
1 1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil


  1. Cook quinoa according to package directions. Cool for 15 minutes.
  2. While quinoa is cooling, mix oil, lime juice, cumin and onions in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Combine chopped vegetables with the black beans in a large bowl and set aside.
  4. Once quinoa is cool, combine all ingredients and mix well. Cover and chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.
  5. Refrigerate leftovers.

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