— -- Forget ramen and Doritos, one college student is spending 30 days supplementing his usual college diet with an unusual ingredient: bugs.
Brantley-Rios, 21, said he has been so successful he even got his mom on board.
"My mom had some chocolate covered crickets and stuff like that," he added. "She’s been great about it."
Brantley-Rios said the results of his cooking experiments have been mainly positive, although he admits he had to overcome his own "ick" factor when he tried his first bug-filled meal.
"I had a little bit of trouble with the mealworms; they were still squirming around," he said of preparing his first dish of a mealworm omelet.
But after properly cooking and seasoning the worms, Brantley-Rios was surprised by the results.
"It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It was nutty, a little buttery and kind of reminded me of popcorn," he said.
While waxworm sushi and mealworm omelets earned rave reviews, not every dish was a winner. A dinner made of silkworm pupae, or “caterpillars transitioning into silk moths,” left a “bad aftertaste," Brantley-Rios said.
But Brantley-Rios’ goal is to show people that anyone, even a broke college student, can incorporate insects into their diet.
“There are also over a thousand edible insects with unique flavors and an infinite number of ways to prepare them,” he writes on his website. “Why not try something new?”
He also pointed out that insects can be produced more efficiently and in an environmentally friendly manner, compared with other meats.
Experts say that eating creepy-crawly insects is nothing new and that they are common ingredient in certain cultures where they provide key protein and vitamins.
“Much of the rest of the world, Asia, Africa, South America and Australia certainly… it’s an important part of their diet,” said Audrey Maretzki, a Pennsylvania State University emeritus professor of food science and nutrition. “They’re high in protein and high in calories. They’ve got other trace minerals. It makes them a desirable part of the diet.”
Jason Dombroskie, collection manager at the Cornell University Insect Selection and the coordinator for the insect diagnostic lab, said he hopes projects like “30 Days of Bugs” will encourage people to be more adventurous in their dining.
“I hope it’s a shift. I’m seeing it's more and more acceptable for people to try it,” Dombroksie said of eating insects.
With 10 days left on this "30 day" challenge, Brantley-Rios is ramping up on the exotic ingredients for his final bug-filled meals.
"I just ordered some tarantulas today and cockroaches just came in the mail, and scorpions are a little bit expensive," he said, though noting he might treat himself to the venomous arthropods for his final meal.