For many people, the idea of healthy eating doesn't sound too appealing because it conjures up images of plain steamed vegetables or a bowl of bland quinoa. However, the reality is that healthy eating can be quite delicious, especially if you're armed with the right advice on how to make your healthy food more exciting. Spending time making your meals tastier and more unique can actually leave you more inspired to eat healthy.
"Many people set out to eat healthy and become frustrated when they feel deprived and uninspired by their food," says Amy Swartz, RD of meal delivery company Munchery. "Focusing so much energy on counting calories and the foods you shouldn't eat can feel overly restricting. Shifting the focus away from diets and calorie counting towards an overall healthy lifestyle and healthy eating choices gives you the flexibility to try new things, enjoy foods in moderation, and ultimately make healthy eating a permanent lifestyle change."
As daunting as it may initially sound, it can be helpful to have a variety of ways to spice up your food ready in the back of your mind at all times. If you want some inspiring ways to switch up your food, consider these 11 tips for making your healthy food less boring.
1. Eat What You Like
Eating healthy doesn't mean you force feed yourself kale and tofu just because someone else said it was good for you. "Healthy eating is never boring if you eat what you like, so do just that," says Beth Rosen, MS, RD, CDN over email. "Listen to your internal cues about what foods really satisfy your hunger." If you're craving junk food, just find a way to make healthier substitutions to your favorite meals.
2. Add Some Color
"Garden salads can become a bore when they contain the same vegetables," says Rosen. "Change the color of this standby salad by starting with radicchio or red leaf lettuce and adding yellow tomatoes, orange peppers, purple carrots, and sliced strawberries." More color equals more nutrients.
3. Choose Seasonal Produce
"By choosing seasonal produce, you're getting the freshest and most flavorful fruits and vegetables," says Swartz. "Focusing on seasonal produce will also help encourage experimenting with new fruits and vegetables."
4. Experiment With Bowls
"There is a huge trend in eating out of bowls recently," says Swartz. "Grain bowls, smoothie bowls, etc. These bowls focus on vegetables, whole grains, and protein ingredients combined with flavorful sauces that make eating healthy exciting."
5. Add Small Amounts Of Flavorful Ingredients
Eating healthy means balance, so if there is an ingredient you like that would make your dish taste better, add it in — just use a small amount. "Using a small amount of bacon to flavor a soup or a sprinkling of soft cheese on a salad can go a long way," says Swartz. "Adding small amounts of these flavorful ingredients helps to develop the flavor of the dish without making it an unhealthy choice. "
6. Find New Recipes Online
"If you are tired of the same old chicken dinner night after night, try a new recipe using cool websites like Yummly or Pinterest," says Rosen. "Explore flavors from other cultures, use a slow cooker to simmer a scrumptious stew, or mix up a new marinade and head out to the grill."
7. Add Some Texture
"Sometimes all we need is a change in texture to make the mundane more merry," says Rosen. "For example, make your morning meal crunchy by adding sunflower or pumpkin seeds to yogurt or oatmeal. It will not only add flavor, but essential fatty acids as well." Other healthy sources of crunch include chia seeds, hemp seeds, or nuts.
8. Experiment With Herbs And Spices
If you like the same foods, you can reinvent them with additional herbs and spices. "Fresh herbs are usually added towards the end of cooking, and can add a beautiful final touch to any dish, elevating the flavor without adding extra calories, fat, or salt," says Rebecca Lewis, in-house RD for HelloFresh, over email. "Turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger are the triple threat — all of which help with inflammation. They are great additions to your morning smoothies, are lovely as spice rubs, and give a savory flavor to broth based soups."
9. Use Citrus
Lemons, limes, and oranges not only provide a lot of flavor, but they are a good source of nutrients as well. "The oils in the skin of these fruits are aromatic and get our mouth watering," says Lewis. "There is actually more flavor in the zest than in the juice of the fruit — and this pop of flavor will brighten any dish. I love adding lime zest to my eggs in the morning, lemon zest to any fish recipe, and orange zest in baked goods."
10. Don't Be Afraid To Be Weird
Whether it's a new unusual superfood, a less common vegetable, or an addition such as nutritional yeast, add some new ingredients to your meals that may sound scary, but actually could be full of flavor as well as vitamins and minerals.
11. Allow Yourself That Treat
"Let yourself enjoy a treat, without guilt," says Swartz. "Learning to incorporate treats into a healthy diet can go a long way in developing the balance for a life-long healthy lifestyle." In fact, research from Cornell University shows that enjoying just a small bite of a desired food is as enjoyable as eating the whole thing, so if allowing yourself to eat a bite of ice cream after dinner will make up for the plainness of your salad, you should go for it.
The more time you spend preparing healthy food, the more comfortable you'll become experimenting with new foods, and the less boring healthy eating will seem.
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