Chris Aman

I'll admit it: I'm a food nut. I love trying new things, especially ethnic cuisine. I encourage my friends to get out and try new things, too, but they always seem to get fixated on the fact that they don't recognize every single ingredient in something and refuse to try anything new or unfamiliar. Whenever we go out for a girl's night dinner, it's always the same, boring place with the same, boring menu. "Safe" food just seems so dull! Do you have any advice on how I can encourage them to expand their palates a little? Food is very important to me, and I want to be able to share it with them.

Before you push too hard, one thing to understand is that the fear of trying new things, food included, is a valid fear for many people. When it comes to opening our minds to a new thing or a new way of thinking it can be very frightening because it is unfamiliar. Unfamiliarity often causes the "danger" alarms to sound.

If you're dining out with friends, offer them a bite of something from your dish. Let them know what it is and the ingredients, as well as why it appeals to you. If they're not crazy about it, they can take a breath and just swallow it; it's not going to hurt them. At worst they'll have an unpleasant sensation for a minute. Describing how you first heard about this dish and what it is you like about it will often put them at ease.

Some people are content with what they like and don't want to take a chance on trying something new, not necessarily because they're afraid they won't like it, but because they don't want to miss out on what they know they like. You need to respect what your friends are willing to try and not push too hard.

We're often unable to anticipate the good things that do occur as a result of our trying something new; sometimes we just need to dive in -- and I'm talking more than just new foods here!

1. Trying something new requires courage. Imagine the things that you would try if you sat back, summoned up courage and overcame some of the fears you have learned to live with. Amazing things could be accomplished!

2. Trying something new opens the way to an anything is possible attitude. Imagine discovering a love for something you had no idea would capture your imagination.

3. Trying something new prevents boredom. Continually challenge yourself in some way.

4. Trying something new leads to growth. Growth requires we take new action first, whether it's adopting a new attitude or a new way of thinking.

If all else fails, there are enough social media sites out there these days, start your own "foodie" group. There is no law against having several groups of friends! Think outside the box -- maybe you could even get various restaurants involved in your "foodie" group adventure! Happy eating!

Chris Aman, MBA, MSN, APRN, NP-C, is the co-owner of Inspired Life Wellness Clinic, where she is a psychiatric provider for teens and adults. She and her husband, Jason, have six children and live in Bismarck. They enjoy outdoor activities in the summer and hibernating in the winter.