No matter how much you might love to eat healthy food, if you don't get enough variety you can easily start to fall into the "just another salad eugh!" rut! I want to share some of my favorite ways to keep your meals feeling and tasting fresh, new and fun, to ensure you don’t get bored of your fresh, healthy meals.
1. Change the way you cut
Do you find that every salad you make and every baked sweet potato you cook finds you standing at your chopping board cutting your veggies into the same shapes and sizes and then throwing them together in the same way? It is very easy to do this as it’s just what we know!
Here’s a great tip to make your salads, dipping veggies, and cooked veg way more exciting: shake up the way you cut! If you always chop your veg into small cubes, try sticks, grating and shaving, or food process your veggies into a grain-like texture. Spiralize your zucchini, carrot, beetroot or sweet potato into “pasta” and either eat with a fresh veggie sauce or dip or toss into a salad with your other veg.
Think of all the different salads out there: baby greens, coleslaw, potato salad, salsa, creamy salads, chopped, and then re-create some of these textures and styles with your extra healthy salad. You can even get more inventive by adding cooked vegetables into your raw veggie salads and chopping each and every ingredient into different shapes and textures. Just take a look at some of the ways I put my salads together!
Even when it comes to cooked vegetables, I love mixing up the way I cut my veggies to create a different experience. For example, sweet potato I cut into fries, wedges, rounds or bake whole. I also eat it raw in rounds, spiralize it, grate it into salads and put it through the food processor for a grainy texture. Getting the picture?
2. Dressings, sauces and dips
This has to be one of my favourite ways to keep things interesting and absolutely mouth watering!
Add a fresh tasting dip, sauce or dressing to a vegetable based meal and you can transform the meal completely! In fact, I would say that mastering a variety of dressings, sauces and dips is one of the best ways to stay on path with a healthy lifestyle.
They can be poured over salads, smothered over piping hot cooked veggies, eaten on their own as a snack or a soup, enjoyed with crudités and whole grain crackers, add bulk to any veggie meal, and make the same salad base taste completely different every time.
I also love dressings, sauces and dips as they keep your meals extra tasty and satisfying when you are visiting friends or family. If you can take a couple of delicious dips and dressings with you for your healthy fare, you are much less likely to feel deprived while others stuff down roast pork and cream cake. In fact, I recommend you take plenty of extra as I find that everyone wants to eat my dips, dressings and sauces much more than their own unhealthy options!
3. Try new foods and mix up your ingredients
One of the best ways to add variety and interest to your meals is to experiment with ingredients you haven’t used before. I find this particularly fun with fresh produce.
There are so many varieties of fresh fruit and vegetables out there, it just depends on what you have available in your area. Try going to different markets, grocery stores, gourmet stores and ethnic markets to find produce that you haven’t created or cooked with before. Asian markets are particularly abundant with exotic fruits and vegetables and you could try a new ingredient every week for months. Do an online search of the fruit or vegetable to find out how you might work with it, or just have a stab in the dark as to how to use it. When ingredients are fresh and used in simple dishes, it becomes hard to completely mess them up!
This tip doesn’t just apply to produce, although that is my favourite way to apply it. You can also try new dried spices, dried herbs, cold pressed oils, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, or raw foods such as superfoods and powders.
Keep your eyes open to see what is around and allow your senses and creativity to guide your purchases. Even if you are on a tight budget, you could likely afford to try one new ingredient per week, although I do recommend avoiding raw food specialty items and superfoods and sticking more to fresh produce, nuts, seeds, grains and dried herbs and spices to experiment with if this is the case.
4. Eat seasonally
Not only is eating seasonally better for your health and the planet, but it also means that for the four seasons of the year, you are exposed to and using different ingredients. This really helps to keep things interesting and gives you months to work with particular foods and flavours, and then look forward to a total makeover for your taste buds in the coming season. You can easily find out what’s in season in your area with a quick search online or by asking local farmers or at fresh produce markets. This is also a great way to keep costs down as seasonal local foods typically don’t have the extra costs involved in importing and unsustainable farming practices.
5. Herbs, spice and all things nice!
Adding a different fresh herb or spice to an old recipe can completely change a meal, as does just adding fresh herbs in the first place. A basic mixed greens salad or chopped salad will taste entirely different and far more exotic with some fresh basil, mint, coriander, dill, parsley and so on. Don’t be scared to try a new herb. The same goes for new spices. Spice blends in particular can be an easy and great new addition to your culinary repertoire. Don’t be afraid of using spices that you might associate with dessert such as cinnamon in your salads also. A pinch or a hint of something unexpected can really change a dish.
6. Borrow or buy a new recipe book
There are so many wonderful books out there with fabulous recipes that you can draw inspiration from. They don’t just have to be raw food recipe books either, although they are very helpful and inspirational. You can also pick up your old tattered cookbooks from the days of traditional home cooking and get plenty of new ideas for how to combine ingredients or spruce up your current recipes. My two eBooks have over 120 delicious raw and cooked whole food recipes that can help to get you out of your rut.
7. Host a do-it-together dinner party or a pot luck
Get a bunch of friends, family or colleagues over to create some delicious meals together. You could ask everyone to bring a healthy and/or raw ingredient they want to work with, or a recipe they want to re-create as healthy as possible. Putting your minds together will serve to bring that much more creativity and ingenuity to the table (pun intended!)
Alternatively, you could organise a pot luck and have everyone bring a healthy raw food dish so that you can sample some different recipes and get new ideas from their creations.
8. Keep it simple
If you always create salads and meals with the same 20 ingredients, you are likely going to come bored of these same combination day after day. However, if you focus on fresh, simple meals of a smaller number of ingredients, such as a basil, spinach, cherry tomato and avocado salad with a delicious lemon juice and mustard seed dressing, you will then have 16 other ingredients you typically use to create into meals the following days. Limiting your ingredients in a meal means that over a period of days, even using the same ingredients you always have, you are less likely to become bored with the same flavours.
9. Visit local farms, healthy cafes and restaurants, or got to a pot-luck for new ideas
Take a trip to local farms selling fresh produce and products, or go for lunch or dinner at a cafe or restaurant serving fresh, healthy food. There’s nothing like scanning a menu of mouth watering new options, and enjoying the creativity of a professional chef to get you thinking about what you would like to create for yourself at home. You can re-create meals exactly or pull the idea of specific ingredients or combination of flavours out from your meal and use them in your own kitchen. Likewise with pot lucks. Although the people bringing the food may not be chefs, they will still have fresh ideas you can incorporate. Most pot lucks will willingly share recipes also.
10. Grow your own produce
There’s nothing like the labor of love involved in growing your own produce to keep you interested in and appreciating your fresh meals. Not only does food you grow yourself seem more tasty and fun to eat because you planted it yourself and watched it grow, but it also gives you a potentially endless variety of fresh plants to flavour and mix up your meals.
11. Give yourself the challenge of creating a fancy and delicious healthy meal for family or friends
If you have to please a number of different palettes, probably many who don’t have a healthy diet like you, you will really have to think outside the box and be creative. You can create beautiful recipes that will not only please your family, but they will also re-inspire you to have some fun in the kitchen.
12. Challenge yourself
Promise yourself that for one day you are not going to use any of the same ingredients as you used the day before. This will get you thinking and getting creative!
13. Jump online!
The internet has a wealth of websites, blogs and other resources to give you new inspiration, recipes and ideas to make the most of. Check out my recipes here to get you started.
Now that should be enough to get you started in the kitchen!