The Power of Novelty and Play

By Dr. Greg Quinn, founder of MedChefs

Recently, I was inspired by a story which both filled me with delight and got me thinking about the power of novelty and play.

My patient, an 80-year-old man, committed to slowing down the progression of his kidney disease by adopting a plant-based diet. While he understood the science of how this dietary change would improve his health, it still felt like a very big life change. I asked who did the cooking in his house and he sheepishly admitted he could barely make oatmeal. His beloved wife of 60 years did all the cooking. I suggested he become her sous-chef and help her with the meal preparations. He raised his eyebrows and agreed. A month later he reported back. They were having wonderful time together in the kitchen!  They were trying new dishes. She liked directing him through the recipes, and he had great pride in his perfectly sliced vegetables. Their relationship was energized by their new food adventure! 

That willingness to take on a new experience is powerful.

Young children approach their play with a sense of awe and curiosity. Playing hide and go-seek, building a fort in a field of wildflowers, riding a bike with abandon—are the ingredients of a joyful childhood. However, all too often the seeking of novelty and play are lost in adulthood. We gravitate to structure, repetition, and safety. There are many reasons contributing to this adoption of a contracted lifestyle, but fear of the unknown is what emerges as we age… perhaps it’s fear of failure. This applies to many aspects of life, but I often see this in our approach to food.

Food is one of the great pleasures of life.

It is something we all share. Yet, often as adults our culinary preferences contract into a narrow range of food we consider acceptable. We become fearful of trying or just don’t have time for the unknown. As a result, there’s not much variety in the diet. Combine that with societal forces that encourage convenience food filled with fat, salt and sugar and the result is an explosion of high blood pressure, strokes, heart/kidney/liver disease and certain cancers. These are the diet-related diseases. To change this, we must adopt a newfound sense of novelty and play as it relates to our food choices. Break free of the mundane, unchanging dietary habits. Embrace a sense of curiosity and discovery.

There are over 20,000 edible fruits and vegetables but most Americans limit the variety to less that 20. 

If we think of food with a sense of adventure, there is an endless potential of joy and pleasures awaiting.  The variety found in the plant kingdom combined with different cultural cuisines and spices bring to the table a newfound excitement to every meal… every bite. Embrace that child spirit. Stretch into novel experiences. Yes, you may not like some new flavors. That’s just one bite. For every new flavor you dislike there will be hundreds of delightful new discoveries. 

With this new mindset of bringing novelty and play to our food choices, new meals become exciting opportunities while our body begins the healing process of reversing the diet-related diseases.