Have you been feeling burnt out by the meals you usually make or have you lost the connection you used to feel with your meals? Switching things up in the kitchen can help provide variety in your diet and prevent repetitive meals, boosting your health and happiness at the same time.
Here are some tips and tricks to keep mealtime interesting and tasty!
Focus on the side dishes
One way to refresh your meal options is to look outside of the usual foods you eat. For example, if you often gravitate towards green beans with your meal, consider incorporating sweet potatoes or carrots instead.
Why does it matter? Different fruits and vegetables provide different vitamins and minerals, and eating a varied diet ensures that you get all of your necessary vitamins and minerals. For example, sweet potatoes and carrots provide vitamin A, while cabbage contains folate, vitamin K, magnesium and potassium, and citrus fruits and bell peppers provide vitamin C.
Spice it up
Another way to add variety to your diet is to use different herbs and spices during food preparation. For example, if you have a lot of one vegetable on hand, you could season the vegetable two ways to prevent getting tired of the same flavors.
Maybe you season half your batch of yellow squash with cumin, chili powder and oregano to have on the side with tacos. You could then season the other half of the squash with garlic, black pepper and lemon juice to have with pasta. The same concept could be used with proteins and grains as well.
You might be surprised how big a difference these small changes can make.
Welcome all the food groups
It is also important to consume a diet that varies in different sources of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Think about breakfast cereals: cereal may be fortified with many healthy vitamins and minerals, but it’s carbohydrate-heavy and often lacking protein and fat.
Having variety in the diet has been shown to decrease the risk of metabolic syndrome. Incorporating different food groups such as grains, vegetables, legumes, nuts, fruits and dairy products has been shown to prevent dyslipidemia and hypertension. The Mediterranean diet, which incorporates a similar variety, has also been associated with decreased risk of coronary heart disease.
Explore different cultures and cuisines
Different cultures have different food staples included in their eating patterns that can contribute different nutrients to your diet. Exploring foods from other cultures can also be very fun!
You can explore new restaurants and support small businesses when you want to try a new recipe from a different culture, or try your hand at a traditional dish at home.
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Mexican cuisine: The traditional Mexican diet is rich in legumes in the form of beans, plant-based proteins, vegetables such as squash, chayote, nopales, tomatoes, tomatillos, maize, chiles, avocados and onions. There are also many fruits that provide vitamin C, antioxidants, and fiber such as guava, jicama, prickly pear and mango.
- Japanese cuisine: The Japanese diet is rich in several nutrients. Traditional Japanese meals can include seafood, rice, miso, ginger, soy sauce and a variety of teas. The consumption of fish can provide fatty acids such as EPA, DHA and omega 3, which are beneficial to your health. Soybean-based products such as fermented miso and tofu have also been shown to reduce blood pressure and glucose levels. The small portion sizes and incorporation of rice into meals can also aid in satiety and overall enjoyment of the meal.
- Indian cuisine: Traditional Indian food includes a variety of legumes, rice, lentils, lean meats and whole grains. The meals are widely vegetarian and are usually high in fiber and low in saturated fats, and incorporate a wide variety of healthy spices and herbs such as turmeric, garlic and black cumin.
- Greek/Mediterranean cuisine: The Mediterranean diet, which is loosely based on traditional Greek food, is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases. Greek food can include dishes with hummus, Melitzanosalata which includes eggplant and is rich in fiber, grape leaves (dolmas) which are rich in vitamin K and A, and lentils which are rich in zinc, folate, molybdenum and manganese.
Exploring new cultures and cuisines can be nutritionally beneficial to your health and also beneficial for your own relationship with food. Eating a variety of foods can introduce you to new vitamins and nutrients that are outside of your normal routine and necessary for optimal health. A well-rounded diet can allow for maximum health benefits with balanced intake of macro and micronutrients.
Experiencing new foods with friends can also create positive memories and shared experiences which can be emotionally beneficial and form stronger social connections with loved ones and friends. Learning about new cultures and cuisines gives you a greater appreciation for the diversity of the world and allows for better understanding of our neighbors around us.
All in all, eating a diverse diet rich in a variety of cultural cuisines is an easy, fun way to improve your well-being.
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This article was written by dietetic interns Kinsley Cantrell, Alma Celis, Katie Greer and Kristin Fogt.