It’s so easy to get stuck in a food rut, especially during those busy seasons in life—like a hectic few weeks at work or an extra-busy sports season. We get stuck on auto pilot and end up preparing the same go-to meals over and over.
While it’s wonderful to have a few easy meals you can rely on in a pinch, it can get old if you have the same meals too often. And that lack of excitement about what’s on your plate often leads you to the temptation of eating out more or reaching for sweets or other unhealthy snacks to bring more pleasure back to eating—which can be a problem if you’re trying to manage your weight or eat healthier.
Here are five suggestions to help you get excited about your meals again, while still keeping them simple and healthy.
1. Find alternate ways to prepare your go-to meals—in particular, look to different ethnic cuisines for interesting takes on your recipes. If spaghetti with meat sauce is in your repertoire, try linguine with spicy shrimp sauce instead. Not feeling that leftover chicken? Turn it into something new, like a tostada. Sometimes simply swapping a few ingredients within a go-to recipe can give you a whole new flavor and make your meals interesting again. Same with sides: If you’re always steaming broccoli or brown rice, experiment with other healthy veggies or whole grains such as millet or quinoa instead.
2. Repurpose leftovers from dinner into lunch the next day to vary your midday meal. Plan ahead and prepare extra food in the evening for the next day’s (or week’s) lunchbox. A dinner of grilled steak and veggies can become a lunchtime salad. A pasta supper easily transforms into a chilled pasta salad a day later. Combine leftover cooked chicken with fresh pico de gallo, made with chopped tomato, onion and cilantro, to make chicken tacos.
3. Plan ahead. I know—it can be hard, at first, to work this into your weekly routine, but you (and your health) are worth it. And once you get in the habit of planning ahead, you’ll see that effort on the front end really pays off. Pick a day when you have more time, usually on the weekend, and plan out your week’s menu. Then hit the grocery store to stock up on all the ingredients. A couple of hours of planning on Sunday will be a lifesaver on those nights when you come home too tired to not only come up with a dinner plan, but also to shop for and prepare it.
4. Try something new. Walk down a new aisle at the grocery store, buy a veggie you’ve never tried before or hit the farmers market. If you see something that looks interesting, buy it. When you’re home, do a recipe search of that vegetable or ingredient. You’re bound to find something a little out-of-the-ordinary that sounds delicious!
5. Get inspiration. Research new recipes in cooking magazines or online. Or email your friends to ask for their go-to dishes. Try cooking one new recipe per week. Before you know it, you’ll have a tons of new dishes added to your repertoire!
For more inspirations, check out the recipe section on my website where I’m adding delicious, new menu ideas regularly.
What are your favorite foods? I’d love to hear what tickles your taste buds!