Whoever started the pervasive myth that a healthy diet is boring must not have been following one. Or maybe they started the fallacy decades ago, when a healthy diet was misunderstood—you know, during the non-fat-is-best 1990s and its early iteration of bland rice cakes (gag).
Healthful eating is the same as non-healthful eating as far as breadth of choice. The only difference is picking good-for-you foods instead of bad-for-you foods. If you love you, there’s no reason to pick the latter. Here’s how to keep your taste buds excited.
How to Eat Healthy Without Getting Bored
1. Explore unknown (to you) ingredients.
Lots of healthful and interesting foods you’ve never tried exist. In one week, last week in fact, I learned there were such things as black soybeans and green chickpeas (also black, brown and red chickpeas, aka garbanzo beans). Even a friend who has incorporated lots of beans in dishes as a vegan since 2006, including stints as a vegan chef for famous folks, wasn’t in the know on black soybeans when I queried her. There’s no guarantee you’ll like all the new healthful foods you try, but you’re guaranteed to be entertained as you explore them.
2. Try new recipes.
The internet abounds with interesting and healthful recipes. Go on an adventure exploring them at foodie websites, healthy-food retailers, magazine websites, Instagram. Or get really specific: Take inventory of your kitchen then enter your on-hand ingredients online, along with “recipe.” Plenty of recipe developers with websites tailored to exactly the kind of search you’re doing will be thrilled you found them and reward you with a plan for fun eats.
3. Buy some cookbooks.
Cookbook recipes are a lot easier to navigate than online recipes, and you don’t have to worry about splashing anything on them. If you live near a used bookstore, visit. You are very likely to find good cookbooks for just a few bucks, an extra perk. You also can shop online, of course, for new or used cookbooks and find good deals, but that’s not nearly as fun as leafing through the pages live. If you don’t want to commit, try your local library. To get started, look for Moosewood Cookbooks, which offer easy, tasty, healthy recipes.
4. Get creative.
Upgrade a normal recipe. Here’s a terrific example from my own kitchen, a riff on a standard chocolate chip cookie recipe in Hershey’s Homemade (which does not offer healthful recipes, as you might have guessed). Makes nine cookies: 2 tbsp butter, 4 tbsp canola oil, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 egg, 1 tbsp milk, 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour, 1/4 cup corn flour, 3 tsp ground flaxseeds, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt. Mix the butter, oil and sugar first, and then add the remaining wet ingredients. Mix the dry ingredients, and add them to the wet ingredients. Throw in dried cranberries and chopped nuts (pecans and brazil nuts are great). Stick the dough in the fridge for a couple hours, then drop spoonfuls on a baking sheet and bake at 375 for 7-10 minutes. Delicious! You could continually change this recipe: Maybe you add rolled oats instead of flaxseeds, or you add an oats-flaxseed combo. Or you replace 1/4 cup of your pastry flour with straight whole wheat flour. Maybe you switch your nuts and berries to walnuts and dried cherries. Or throw in some chocolate chips. So many choices and so fun to witness the results!
5. Eat with others.
Host a potluck and ask everyone to bring a healthful dish. You’ll be surprised by what you’ll learn from others, even if it’s that their version of healthful is different from yours. Have a debate about it while you eat, and then use that as fodder (pun intended) for your next meal. If you’re not keen on hosting or cooking, meet friends at restaurants you know offer healthful options, and experiment together.
6. Hit up a hot bar.
You’ll find hot bars and salad bars at many healthy grocery stores. Take advantage! Someone else has done the prepping and cooking, giving you an effortless opportunity to dine on new dishes, which sometimes change day-to-day.
Mitra Malek writes and edits wellness content.