According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, one of the keys to National Nutrition Month this year is to "Practice cooking more at home and experiment with healthier ingredients."
We've talked a lot about cooking at home over the years. In fact, here are our 5 top articles on the topic...
- Healthy Kitchen Makeover
- 25 Ingredients, 15 Meals
- 10 Must-Have Tools for the Home Kitchen
- 5 Dinner Options for Everyone
- Make a Healthful Plate at Home
Now I'd like to shift gears and address the second part of that advice: ways to experiment with healthier ingredients.
Tip #1: Try One New Thing at a Time
Although it's tempting to try a whole slew of new and healthful ingredients while the goal is fresh and your motivation is strong, it's wiser to start with one new thing at a time.
Don't go crazy with dishes that incorporate a million new-to-you ingredients. With that many new flavors, it's hard to know whether you'll like the finished product. Plus, if you don't like the dish, then it's harder to isolate what it was that you didn't like, since there are so many competing variables.
Furthermore, early success leads to more sustainable habits over the long term. If instead of starting slowly, you try an ambitious dish with a ton of new flavors and it falls flat on its face, that failure could be discouraging -- maybe even discouraging enough to stop you from continuing to pursue this goal.
Plus, trying a whole bunch of new foods at once can get expensive.
Instead, pick a new-to-you ingredient that sounds similar to something you already like. Find a few different ways to incorporate it into your eating pattern for the week and, if at the end of the week you don't like it, move on to a new and different healthful food.
And that brings us to the second tip...
Tip #2: Try a New Twist on an Old Favorite
This tip peps up your meal routine and introduces a new ingredient at the same time. To follow it, take something that you already know you like and change one thing about it to add your new food. For example...
- Love Caesar salad? Try it with shredded and massaged kale instead of lettuce!
- Devoted to tinned tuna? Try replacing it once or twice with canned salmon for another great source of omega-3s.
- Adore spaghetti with meat sauce? Replace half the beef with lentils -- they're loaded with fiber and nutrients!
Food blogs are great sources of inspiration for this kind of approach to new and healthful foods, and you can also let your imagination run wild.
Tip #3: Ask Around
You don't have to do all the work by yourself. There are lots of people that can inspire and inform your approach to experimenting with healthful ingredients.
For example, talk with the folks who work at your local grocery store, farm stand, or farmers' market. They usually know a lot about the healthful ingredients you're considering and they might even be able to steer you in the right direction. Simply tell them what you like and see if they can point you toward something new and healthful.
A registered dietitian is another great resource. These people know their way around healthful eating and sustainable strategies. You might as well learn from everything they have to offer!
And there you have it, three tips for experimenting with healthful ingredients. Start today!
Here are a few of the most popular resources for Nutrition Month -- which ones will make your life easier?
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.