Spoiler alert: I don’t actually believe that healthy food is boring. I’ve gotten to a point in life where, on an average day, I actually crave foods that nourish and energize me—not those that leave me sluggish, bloated or feeling guilty.
However! This is not because I’m some kind of special case. There was no Food Fairy that hit me on the head with a magic wand and erased all of my french fry cravings. It’s taken years (yeeeeeeears, guys) to get to this point, and even now, I’ve been known to let loose on a mountain of chips + guacamole, or to top off a late night with a stack of diner pancakes. Being all about balance, I’m confident in my ability to get back on board with smoothies and steamed veggies the next day.
If you’re still working toward that balance, though, it can be annoyingly easy to get stuck in a food rut—to feel bored or limited by the healthy options available, when your taste buds are far more accustomed to heavy doses of added sugars, salts and fats.
When your healthy food routine leaves you more frustrated than full, it’s time to get creative. Here are four ways to bust food boredom without caving to a Big Mac or a pint of ice cream.
START EXPERIMENTING WITH SAUCES
Snooze-worthy as this may sound, I eat pretty much the same lunch every day: a massive bowl of steamed veggies, topped with a generous portion of edamame (it’s the highest-protein bean for a pretty low caloric value). And after about a week, I would totally hate this routine—if it weren’t for sauces.
Sauces, guys, are the saving grace of simple eating. A slather of quality sauce turns a ho-hum bowl of veggies into a satiating midday staple. I frequently use seasonings and dressings intended for meat, like buffalo or barbecue sauce, or add some oomph with a healthy-fat base (think coconut milk or avocado). I’ll happily attest to the deliciousness of this Massaman curry sauce, and can’t wait to test out this cashew-less vegan queso and turkey-free gravy in the coming months.
SWITCH FROM RECIPES TO FORMULAS
Recipes are great—they allow cooks of any level create something spectacular, even if the only “cooking” you’ve ever done is burn a few Pop Tarts. However, when you’re still getting used to cooking at home, it’s easy to start reusing the same recipes over and over. And as this happens, it’s also easy to get sick of them—who wouldn’t?—and rebel, likely by way of the nearest takeout joint. This is where formulas come in.
Using a formula allows you to mix and match ingredients depending on your taste, on what’s in season, and on what you haven’t already eaten for three weeks straight. This is the second factor that prevents me from giving up on that veggies + beans lunch; I can make it radically different from week to week, or I can keep enjoying the same thing if I happen upon a combo that I’m crazy about.
GET YOUR VEGGIES FROM SOMEWHERE BESIDES SALAD
As much of a veggie lover as I am, finding an inspiring salad is a rare feat. I mean, when there are so many other options—like Thai eggplant stir-fry, taco soup or mushroom + tempeh gumbo—I’d happily gobble up a bowl full of something healthy, filling and flavorful, rather than force down raw kale with a small squeeze of lemon.
There are octillion ways to pack produce into your diet; if you’re chopping up the same ol’ head of romaine and munching on raw carrot sticks day in and day out, it’s no wonder you’re getting bored. What it’s really time to do is…
FOLLOW SOMEONE WHO INSPIRES YOU
The internet is amazing for so many reasons, and one of them is the limitless number of recipes + connections to fellow food-obsessed individuals it supplies. I’m in no way a kitchen visionary; I’ve just copied the greats long enough to figure out the kinds of recipes that work for my lifestyle. Check out the creations of Laura, Carrie, or Annie to get your own creative juices/drool glands flowing. And if you’re relatively new to rockin’ it in the kitchen, my Kitchen Hacks board on Pinterest might help.
What am I missing? How do you battle food boredom? What other questions do you have about making healthy eating a habit—rather than a chore?