By Trinity Perkins
Eating healthy might seem easier said than done if you’re a really picky eater. It’s even more challenging if you don’t know how to spruce up the handful of foods you actually like. Before you give up and reach for junk food, make a list of your favorite healthy foods.
No matter how short that list may be, the following 8 tips can help you transform those foods into delicious meals. Once you start experimenting to make healthy eating work for you, you’ll be surprised at how much your palate changes, too!
1. Try different cooking techniques: Maybe you don’t like certain lean proteins because they’re dry or tasteless after they’re cooked? Different cooking techniques can enhance the flavors and keep meats tender, which is a big help if you plan to reheat them. If you use a counter-top grill, try keeping the top open so the meat won’t dry out. Sometimes shredded chicken is more appealing than baked chicken and a cozy crockpot meal is a nice change from cooking with a conventional oven. Are your vegetables soggy or bland? Sauté or bake them in a little oil instead of steaming or microwaving them. Baked broccoli, cauliflower and kale are my favorites.
2. Experiment with seasonings: Experiment with herbs and spices, make your own marinades or try low-sodium brands to enhance the flavor of any dish. Have you tried using savory flavors on traditionally sweet dishes? For example, try cayenne seasoning on diced pineapple with chopped chicken over veggies. Or make your quinoa sweet by seasoning it with honey and cinnamon for a protein-packed breakfast. The right seasonings can make those plant-based dishes that much more appealing to a carnivore.
Here are some more great ideas for food and spice pairings:
- Beef with cayenne, curry, dill, mustard seed, oregano, paprika
- Poultry with allspice, bay leaf, ginger, dill, sage, thyme
- Fish with parsley, tarragon, marjoram, chives, dill, basil
- Fruit topped or mixed with allspice, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, mint, pepper
- Rice and grains with cumin, saffron, chives, curry
3. Hide veggies in meat dishes: Even if you like a variety of veggies, mixing them with other foods can enhance their texture and taste. Mix grated zucchini, carrots or broccoli into soups, casseroles, baked goods and burger patties. Try chopped veggies in pasta sauce or zucchini and carrot muffins.
4. Make smoothies or juice blends: If you want to try a certain food because you know it’s healthy but you don’t particularly like it, try blending it in a smoothie. You’ll hardly taste the spinach or avocado when it’s blended with your favorite fruits. Smoothies and juices are also convenient and nutrient-dense way to boost your fiber, vitamin and mineral intake every day. Finally, this is also a great way to cut back on food waste: Don’t throw out those overripe fruits—blend them!
5. Be a creature of habit: Balanced nutrition is important, but that doesn’t mean you have to eat something different at every meal. Remember that list you made earlier? Pick three to four foods from each nutrient group—protein, complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables—and mix and match them. Healthy eating is less of a chore when you eat more of the foods you like, and gradually cut back on the not-so-healthy choices.
6. Let the grocery store do all the work: Many grocery stores have a variety of pre-packaged healthy foods like vegetable medleys. Some stores go as far as packaging entire healthy meals. Buy the pre-packaged blends or use them for ideas on making your own dishes. Before you spend a bunch of money on foods you might not like (and to save you some time from experimenting with recipes), let the grocery store do all the work.
7. Make healthy additions to the foods you already like: So much of the conversation about healthy eating is about what to cut out or avoid. How can you make healthy additions to the foods you already like? Try adding fruit to your cereal, mixing blueberries in your pancakes or shredding veggies over your rice. Or infuse your water with fresh fruit if you don’t like it plain.
Keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to experiment with cooking techniques, seasonings and food combinations. You’ll be surprised at just how many healthy foods you actually do like when you make healthy eating work for you.
Trinity Perkins, a HealthyWomen #BeHealthiHer Ambassador, is a well-rounded fitness enthusiast and nature lover! She builds activity into every day by walking her dog, taking midday stretch breaks, lifting weights and having random dance sessions between work emails. She’s a full-time Certified Personal Fitness Trainer, Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist and Wellness Blogger. Her training programs, events, blog and nutrition resources help inspire women to reach their fitness goals with a whole-body approach. Her clientele ranges from competitive athletes to beginners but one thing holds true – she’s an advocate of strength training for women and includes free weights in every workout. Trinity is currently completing a 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher training program as the next evolution of her fitness training career.