1. Banish the Boring Breakfast
Breakfast is often the one meal that is very routine and regimented. Many people eat the exact same foods every single day for breakfast. While that may work for some, it might drive others to feel frustrated and bored with the usual healthy morning staples. Instead of your typical first-meal fare, switch up your usual routine and eat something less conventional. Fire up your taste buds with some healthy ethnic food. Enjoy a fiber-filled stir-fry or vegetable salad, instead of the blah egg-white omelet. Have lunch or dinner dishes in the morning.
2. Spruce Up Your Salads
Salads are a health-food staple, but the same salad can lose its appeal if you don't get creative with the ingredients. For your base, incorporate a variety of different lettuces and greens each time. Use different veggies for each salad, with an array of textures and colors, and give unusual veggies, such as jicama or marinated artichokes, a whirl. Try a range of delicious proteins, such as grilled fish or chicken, marinated tofu, edamame, lentils or beans. For a healthy crunch, toss in homemade whole-grain croutons, roasted nuts, seeds or soynuts. Lastly, don't rely on bottled dressings to jazz up your salads -- make your own dressings from scratch instead! Just mix an oil (canola, olive, grapeseed, etc.) with a vinegar or other acid (such as Dijon mustard), add your favorite herbs and spices, and shake it up in a screw-top jar just before serving. Refrigerate any leftover dressing.
3. Explore New Restaurants
Many restaurants are now expanding their menus and developing new dishes for those diners looking for healthier options. Visit a new eatery and try something out of the ordinary. Of course, to ensure you stick to your healthy eating plan, explore the restaurant's menu online first (if they have one) and select a healthy option ahead of time, or ask your server what lighter menu items are available.
4. Select Unique Spices & Seasonings
Herbs and spices add a ton of flavor without adding fat, salt and sugar. You probably have your go-to spices and herbs, but don't be afraid to think outside the typical spice rack. There is a plethora of exotic and lesser-known spices and seasonings that can delight your palate and get you excited about healthy eating again. Next time you're grocery shopping, pick out a new, usual spice or seasoning and do a little experimenting in your kitchen. Curry powder, ginger, turmeric, anise, cardamom, dried chipotle peppers, garam masala, harissa seasoning and dried savory leaves are just a few to try.
5. Dine Al Fresco
Take in some scenery while you take in some bites of tasty food. Go old school and pack a picnic basket and take a stroll to your local park. Pack a lunch and go sightseeing. Even just preparing dinner at home and then eating out on your deck or patio can make a meal more fun. Enjoying a bit of nature -- the fresh air, the beautiful foliage around you, the sounds of birds chirping -- will bring you extra joy during your meal.
6. Try a New Lean Protein
We know that lean proteins are an important part of a healthy diet. However, nobody wants to eat grilled chicken at every meal. Explore new, less-common lean proteins, such as rabbit, ostrich, bison, wild boar, venison, elk, wild boar or goat. These are low in fat, supply ample hunger-squashing protein, and each have a unique flavor.
7. Pick Peculiar Produce
Each week, challenge yourself to try one new fruit or vegetable. Pick up something new at the grocery store and explore the unknown. Your taste buds might thank you.
Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered, Licensed Dietitian and freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO. Kari is passionate about nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and is committed to helping people lead healthy lives. She completed a yearlong dietetic internship at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, where she worked with a multitude of clients and patients with complicated diagnoses. She planned, marketed, and implemented nutrition education programs and cooking demonstrations for the general public as well as for special populations, including patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, and school-aged children.