A common New Year goal is to start "eating healthy". That's easier said than done for those of us who don't enjoy the usual healthy foods or are simply picky eaters. Whether you have the palate of a toddler or are bored to tears by healthy food, a few simple tricks can help you start eating better.
Healthy food doesn't have to make you feel deprived, and it can be really inexpensive as well as easy to prepare. To make eating healthy a lasting habit, start with small, simple changes and try new ways of thinking about eating. Here are a few tips.
Mix What You Like With New Healthy Foods
One trick most parents of fussy eaters have used is hiding vegetables in other foods. (It doesn't always work; I still can't get over finding white fish mixed in with my rice when I was a kid). You can try a more sophisticated version of this approach by pairing foods you love with ones you want to start incorporating into your diet more: Photo by Matt Scott.
- Kale is a powerful superfood; make it palatable by pairing it with bacon or other salted meats.
- Okay, everything's better with bacon. Moderate amounts of cheese can also transform a dish.
- One study recently showed that topping a burger with an avocado can decrease the inflammatory effects of the red meat.
- Combining broccoli with mustard not only makes the vegetable taste better, it can boost its nutritional value.
- Spreading out vegetables in a dish of pasta or grains can make the taste less offensive. Also, instead of going with the typical tomato sauce, try a pesto or other healthy sauce.
- As discussed when we wrote about eating healthily even if you hate cooking, a smoothie can not only be quick but also nutritionally complete. You might not even taste the spinach when combined with fruits and other ingredients.
- Some people don't like healthy foods because they seem bland. To solve that problem, first buy better-quality foods (the fresher the better). Then go ahead and spice up that dish with your favourite flavours. Besides salt and pepper, consider other meal enhancers such as chilli sauce, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, salsa, teriyaki sauce, peanut butter or garlic. Appreciating food like a food snob by fully breathing in the dish could also help you taste its nuances.
Try Different Food Preparations
Until a few years ago, I was convinced I hated eggs. Now eggs are among my favourite things. The reason? I discovered there's a world beyond scrambled eggs and omelettes, which were the only way I'd eaten eggs when I was younger. Photo by James Jordan.
- Roasted cauliflower or broccoli (instead of steamed/boiled) is a revelation. Seriously, try it if you haven't yet.
- Instead of canned vegetables (mushy asparagus, yuck), try fresh or frozen.
- You might not like certain types of seafood (the oiliness of salmon, for example, or the brininess of oysters), but there are many others you can try, such as the more mild white fishes.
- Kale chips are surprisingly similar-tasting to other, less nutritious chips. (Even my daughter, who lives on chicken nuggets, eats them.)
- Some people swear a juicer has transformed their relationship with vegetables, including ones they've previously hated. You can make fresh juice with a food processor too.
- If vegetables taste too intense to you, try the baby versions (such as baby carrots.
Eat More of the Healthy Foods You Do Like
You don't have to force yourself to learn to love kale or any other nutritious food. Healthier eating might just mean increasing the portion of the healthy foods you do like. In something like shepherd's pie, for example, make the vegetables a bigger proportion of the dish and the meat and carbs a lower one. The Kitchn suggests doubling the vegetables in any recipe for an easy way to start eating healthier (especially for vegetable-heavy dishes, it shouldn't affect the flavour or your enjoyment of the meals). Photo by epSos.de. If you want to eat less meat without giving it up completely, try meatless Monday or just one meatless lunch a week, which can challenge your creativity in a good way (you can use the Meatless Monday website for inspiration).
As with forming all kinds of good habits, you're more likely to stay successful in your new healthy eating mindset if you start out gradually or commit to a short time first.
Maybe just upgrading your packed lunch will seep into the other meals and snacks of the day. If your mouth catches fire as soon as a hot Thai dish arrives at the table, you can build up your spice tolerance to gradually solve that problem. Treating healthy foods like samples is another strategy to enjoy more foods and continue enjoying them.
Make the Meal Experience More Enjoyable
Up the experience of the meal — by having a dinner party with friends (it helps if they eat healthily too), going to a great restaurant, or cooking with the freshest ingredients — and as you become more mindful of the food you eat, you might find yourself expanding your palate to include more of nature's good stuff. Photo by gwaar.
Finally, keep trying without being too hard on yourself, whether you've got a limited palate or the only thing that looks good to you is steak and potatoes. Ditching a dysfunctional diet for a healthier one takes work, but it's well worth it.