While most of us eat the same few foods day in and day out, there are literally hundreds of thousands of foods that we are missing out on.
Eating a wide variety of foods provides many benefits, including more nutrition and combatting boredom. It’s easy to get in a routine, especially with foods that you really like, but branching out can be less expensive, healthier, and much more interesting.
If you’re thinking about adding foods to your diet, but don’t know where to start, the following tips will help you. Before you know it, you’ll wonder why you ate the same breakfast everyday.
Walk Around Your Grocery Store
The first place to start is where you get most of your food: Your supermarket. You probably shop the way most people do, in that you go down the same aisles and visit the sections you already know.
When you have some time, stroll through the grocery store and look at the various products out there. Focus on the produce section, meat and seafood counters, and bulk foods like grains. You may be surprised to see fruits you’ve never had, fish you’ve always wanted to try or several varieties of rice and beans you’ve never thought of trying. These foods all have their own nutritional benefits, as well as unique flavors and textures you might really enjoy.
One note: Trying new foods is important, but avoid the processed food aisles. A different flavor of Pop Tarts or sugary cereal isn’t exactly what your goal should be when branching out.
Visit Your Local Farmer’s Market
Your farmer’s market may have produce that is grown locally and seasonally that you won’t find in your grocery store. This is because supermarkets tend to carry only what they think they can sell without going bad.
Local, seasonal produce is infinitely better in terms of nutrition and flavor, so if you’re looking to try something for the first time, this is where you want to get it. Not sure how something should be eaten or prepared? Don’t be afraid to ask. Most farmers are more than happy to tell you how to cook something, and may even offer you a sample.
Remember that All Rice is Not The Same
Most foods have many varieties, especially plants like rice, beans, and grains. There are hundreds of thousands of types of rice, and while you won’t find them all at your grocery store, you will probably find more than just the plain white you’re used to. The same goes for beans, olives, and even pasta.
Try Smoothies to Sneak in Nutrition
It can be difficult to eat a large variety of food in one day, but many nutrition experts say you should eat as wide a variety as possible. One way to do that is to make a smoothie and put as many different things as you can think of in it. Several fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and herbs can all go into one glass, and in some cases you won’t even taste it. This makes it easy to eat and enjoy foods you may otherwise not be able to (like spinach!)
Try brown rice instead of white the next time you make a stir fry, or use quinoa in your hot cereal instead of oats. Sweet potatoes make excellent substitutes for white potatoes, and kale can be used interchangeably with spinach. These are easy to make substitutes that can add nutrition and variety without being scary.
Travel the World
You don’t have to literally travel the world to eat International cuisine, but eating ethnic food you’ve never had before can be a game changer when trying to eat a variety of foods. Not sure what you’ll like? Think about what your favorites are right now. Love Italian food? Try Greek or Lebanese for many of the same flavor profiles, but in different dishes. Love spicy food? Instead of Mexican, try Indian for something different. Up for something totally new? Try Ethiopian or Vietnamese.
By trying food from a variety of cultures, you may discover ingredients that you like that you can use in other ways even if you don’t particularly enjoy the specific cuisine.
Vow to Try at Least One New Food a Week
Wanting to try new foods is different than actually doing it. Without making it a habit, it’s easy to get back in the routine of eating the same lunch everyday.
Instead, make an effort to try at least one new food that you haven’t tried every week. It can be something as simple as a different type of rice, or as complex as an ethnic dish that just sounds good to you. By continually trying new foods, you’ll slowly build up a list of new things that you really love, so when boredom hits, you won’t rely on your standard spaghetti and meatballs.
Learn to Cook
One of the biggest challenges in trying new foods is not knowing what to do with something. This is an easy fix, however; it just takes knowing some cooking basics. Once you know how to use your knives, sauté, steam, and bake, you can do the same thing with a variety of foods. For example, instead of roasting carrots with your pot roast, you can use the same exact technique with other vegetables like turnips or beets.
You can learn the basics by simply taking a class at your local community center, reading cooking magazines, or visiting one of many popular cooking websites to get tricks and tutorials for basic techniques.
Involve the Whole Family
Kids can be picky, but if you make it fun to shop for new foods, cook them, and then eat them together, it can be a great way to get picky eaters to be more adventurous. Let them pick a new food at the grocery store, or a restaurant you’ve never tried.
Try Something New When Dining Out
Next time you go to a restaurant, even if it’s your favorite, try something you’ve never had. This is a great way to try something prepared correctly so that you can decide if you really like it or not.
Realize That You Won’t Like Everything
Unless you don’t care much for the foods you eat, chances are you are going to eat some foods you don’t like now and then, but don’t let this discourage you from trying new things. Remember, there are so many foods out there that you will never be able to try them all, but you can make it a habit to try as many new things as possible. If you happen upon something you don’t care for, you don’t have to eat it again, but if you find a few favorites, you’ll be glad you tried new things once in awhile.
Eating a variety of foods has a lot of benefits, including getting rid of boredom and raising the bar nutritionally. You don’t have to go far to expand your palate; even your local grocery store has hundreds of foods that you’ve never tried before. Even something as simple as trying a new type of fruit or pasta can be an eye opening experience, and finding foods you like will encourage you to continue trying more. You won’t like everything, but you’ll be surprised at the foods you may actually really love.