In a “Food Rut?” Then Change-Up!!

Photo of Shem-shem Pablo

By Liz Scala

Have you ever been in a “food rut?”  You eat the same thing every single day for lunch; salad, sandwich, and a piece of fruit.  You love this lunch.  It is easy to make, quick to prepare, and simple to bring to work.  It can be stored safely in a jam-packed staff refrigerator.  By bringing your meal you are less tempted to buy fast food or eat something unhealthy.  So you make the healthy choice and, most of the time, really do enjoy a salad and a sandwich.  You’ve tried to change it up by adding various alternatives each week; greens, spinach, cucumbers, carrots, kale, broccoli, onions, peppers, tomatoes, herbs, nuts, seeds, berries, even chicken and/or a hardboiled egg for protein.  It sounds delicious, right!?  It can get dull pretty quickly when you pack the same lunch every day for over six months; to the point where you dread eating lunch, avoid it, and are enticed to purchase unhealthy items! 

This did happen to me and I reflected on what I was experiencing.  Here is what I realized:

  • A routine offers comfort
  • Bringing lunch decreases the chance of buying unhealthy
  • It is easy to make salad at the start of the week and then portion it out for each day
  • Uncertainty of alternative and easy options
  • Fear of unfamiliar and unknown food choices
  • Laziness
  • Salads are a good way to get multiple vegetables in a day

Instead of continuing to eat the same thing and being irritated with myself for doing so; I have taken action.  I was traveling home from New Jersey one weekend and passed a farm stand I always go by.  At first I kept on driving, but something in my heart and deep in my gut made me take a sharp, out-of-control U-turn!  I bought new vegetables I have never cooked before.  I made a plan to have each one on a separate night for dinner.  I started with spaghetti squash; it was amazing!  I proved to myself I could try something new and had great success with it.  By cooking a new vegetable for dinner and consequently enjoying it; I am confident I can create new and exciting food options; even at lunch.  I also emailed a friend who is an amazing chef.  He asked if I ever make bean salads or soups; that with the changing seasons these are appropriate to prepare (and easy to make).  I hadn’t thought of bean recipes or soup dishes and am excited at the possibilities he and I will share.

Now that I am aware of my problem I’ve taken some steps to change it.  I admitted to myself that I was indeed in a “food rut” and needed a change.  I decided to act on the knowledge about nutrition I already possess as a way to stifle my fears about unknown foods.  I asked for help and am open to new recipe possibilities that will come my way. 

Instead of waiting around in your “food rut” feeling bored, frustrated, and tired of your foods; take action:

  • Realize you know more than you think: You know about healthy food options; therefore you are ahead of the game.  Take pride in that.
  • Tap into established support/resources: Ask for recipes from friends or find something easy to make online.  It’s as simple as typing into a search engine “spaghetti squash recipes” and finding a recipe you’d like to try.
  • Pull from past successes: Think back to a time when you made a new dish for a party or event.  Remember all the compliments you received.  You can do it again!
  • Follow your instinct:  If your gut is telling you to try something new; go for it!  Our bodies know what they need in terms of food.
  • Be creative: Take a cooking class.  Go to a workshop.  Find food networking groups, online forums, or blogs that discuss food. 
  • Have a plan:  Get 2-3 new items and have a well-thought out plan for what you are going to do with each of them.  Mark your daily calendar with new menus to increase your likelihood of success.
  • Try again: It is o.k. if you try a new recipe and overcook something the first time.  If something is not done just the way you’d like; be ready to experiment a second time.  Realize you may not like every new food you try.

Editor’s Note: Liz Scala writes about Health and Wellness twice a month for AMSDaily. You can visit her blog at Living Sublime Wellness to read more on these topics.