One of the most common goals many of us have (beginning of the new year or not) 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 taste palate of a toddler or are bored to tears by health food, a few simple tricks could help get started eating better.
Health food doesn’t have to make you feel deprived, and it can be really inexpensive as well as easy and quick to whip up. To make eating healthy a lasting habit, start with small, simple changes and try new ways of thinking about eating. Start with small, but simple changes.
Mix What You Like with New Healthy Foods
One trick most parents of fussy eaters have tried is hiding veggies in other, usually sweet foods (a trick that doesn’t always work, though. 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:
- Kale is one of those powerful superfoods that you might even like if you pair it with bacon or sausage.
- 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 might not only make the vegetable taste better, it could boost its nutritional value.
- Spreading out veggies in a dish of pasta or grains can make the taste of them less offensive. Also, instead of going with the typical tomato sauce, try a pesto or other healthy sauce.
- As mentioned when we talked about eating healthy 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, which is why we like farmer’s markets and CSAs).
Try Different Food Preparations or Versions
- 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. Frozen vegetables are sometimes even better than fresh ones.
- 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, including tilapia.
- Kale chips are surprisingly similar-tasting to other, less nutritious chips. (Even my daughter, who lives on chicken nuggets, eats them.)
- Sometimes the brand matters. Campbell’s butternut squash soup tastes completely different than the one from Amy’s Kitchen.
- 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 veggies taste too intense to you, try the baby versions (e.g., baby carrots), whose flavors haven’t intensified yet.
Eat More of the Healthy Foods You Do Like (and Decrease Less Healthy Ones)
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 stews and foods like shepherd’s pie, for example, make the veggies a bigger ratio 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 flavor or your enjoyment of the meals).
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.
Another trick is to simply minimize the meat portion by skewering it, serving it on the bone, stewing it, and so on.
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.
Finally, avoid too much pressure on yourself if the only thing that looks good for you is steak and potatoes. Small steps pave the road to success in any start. You can do it sooner or later!