Some people are creatures of habit when it comes to food, and others would probably be happy to taste something new every night. I fall somewhere in between. I have a curious palate but, like, many, I also have my staples.

Variety, in my opinion, can help people stick to their health goals by keeping things interesting. I feel that patients should be encouraged and empowered to try new things.One thing that’s frustrated me at times about working with residents in a clinical setting: You can’t tell people to buy a new kind of fruit or vegetable every week when they have zero control over what over-or-under-ripe piece of produce lands on their tray.

I think this really helped me appreciate the opportunity I had to be exposed to new flavors and regional specialties while traveling.

Of course, for people who go nuts when they encounter a buffet, portion sizes are important. When I was in Italy (I talk about it like it was a long time ago!), I was pleasantly surprised at how portions were conducive to cravings for “just a little taste” of something. I especially appreciated the fact that even in the smallest gelato size, you could still get two flavors. We also had a lot of group dinners, where you could take as much or as little of each course as you wanted. To be fair, we also did a lot, a lot of walking (though sight-seeing in Rome hardly feels like exercise), so we needed those wine and pasta calories a bit more than we would if we had been sitting in a classroom all day!

I tried a lot of things I’d never had before. Some favorites were ribolitta (a bread and vegetable soup), pappa al pomodoro (another Tuscan bread soup—with tomatoes), soft pecorino cheese, buffalo yogurt, panzanela (bread and tomato salad), and fresh anchovies. I feel like I’ve come back to the States with a deeper appreciation for quality and freshness.

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