Banish Food Boredom

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Banish Food Boredom

Ditch those boring salads, smoothies, and bowls and learn to build something more delicious and perhaps a bit more nutritious for your next meal or snack. Try these strategies to overcome meal and snack boredom — make the ordinary extraordinary and keep those taste buds tingling!

My diabetes educator and I discussed incorporating more vegetables into my eating plan. As a result, all I’ve been making for lunch are salads, and I’m getting bored. Do you have any suggestions?

Congratulations on making it a goal to increase your vegetable intake. Higher produce consumption is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer and is a great way to increase the vitamins, minerals, and fiber in your diet. Needless to say, though, lunchtime boredom is to be expected if you are making the same salad every day to increase your veggie intake. There are a variety of strategies for making better salads. For one thing, many of us default to common ingredients, which results in monotonous meals and boring bowls. Never eat another dull salad again by following these simple steps.

Tips for creating a better bowl

1. Mix up the base.

Are you grabbing the same bag of spring mix or romaine lettuce every grocery trip? Mixing up the base for your salads is a great way to incorporate a variety of different green vegetables or even to try something new. Consider swapping standard staples for options like purple or savoy cabbage, endive, escarole, arugula, watercress, kale, broccoli slaw mixes, or even iceberg lettuce (because sometimes that crisp, cool crunch might be what you crave).

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2. Balance with protein and healthy fats.

Protein is such an important component of a salad, especially if you plan to make it a meal instead of a side dish. Protein and healthy fats play a critical role in helping us feel satiated, or full and satisfied. Protein and fat sources paired with carbohydrates can also help with slowing down digestion and improving after-meal blood glucose levels. The key is keeping an interesting supply of protein and fat options on hand to add to your salads. A few of my favorites include rotisserie chicken, tuna salad, hardboiled or pickled eggs, firm tofu, beans, avocado, and roasted nuts.

3. Add on craveable carbohydrates.

In my opinion, carbohydrates are key for taking an ordinary salad and making it extraordinary. Salads are a great vehicle for incorporating small portions of grains, pastas, crusty homemade breads, beans, and even fruits. Slice leftover baguette into cubes and make homemade croutons or add slices of seasonal fruit to enhance the flavor and texture of your bowl. Leftovers from meals can be incorporated into salads in new ways, like in the Teriyaki Chicken Salad recipe below. The possibilities are endless!

4. Boost with add-ons.

Salad add-ons can make a big difference in both the flavor and texture of your meal. My favorite add-ons include seeds such as pumpkin and sunflower, dried fruits, and sauces and dressings. Infused oils and vinaigrettes can serve as a simple and healthy way to enhance the flavor of your bowl without the need for a more labor-intensive homemade salad dressing.

Three simple salads to try at your next meal

Here are three of my favorite salad combinations. Try one for your next meal or use them as inspiration for your own custom salad creation.

1. Teriyaki Chicken Salad

Inspired by a salad I picked up at a grocery store on a road trip, this can easily be put together at home with leftover cold teriyaki chicken and rice noodles. Don’t forget to try adding a delicious peanut dressing or sauce, which really pulls all the flavors together.

Base: Kale, purple cabbage, shredded carrots
Protein: 3 ounces teriyaki chicken or tofu
Carbohydrate: 1/4 cup rice noodles
Add-ons: Peanut dressing, sesame seeds

2. Seasonal Spring Produce Salad

This salad combines two of my favorite mid-Atlantic spring staples, strawberries and asparagus. I like to roast or steam extra asparagus at meals and then use the leftovers to make this dish.

Base: Spinach and arugula mix, asparagus
Protein: Hardboiled eggs or roasted chicken
Carbohydrate: Strawberries, roasted chickpeas
Add-ons: Roasted almonds

3. Tropical Chef’s Salad

If you enjoy the combination of salty and sweet, you’ll love this salad. The best part is that you can customize it with your favorite sweet fruits and salty cheeses and meats.

Base: Romaine, broccoli slaw
Protein: 2-3 ounces ham and turkey, 1 ounce sharp cheddar or Swiss cheese
Carbohydrate: 1/2 cup mix of pineapple, strawberries, and Mandarin orange slices
Add-ons: Cubed or sliced avocado, pistachios

I used to love drinking smoothies for breakfast and snacks, but I was just diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Do I have to give up my smoothies?

The answer really depends on a lot of different factors, including your treatment regimen. Generally speaking, it is always possible to figure out a way to incorporate beloved foods into a healthy eating plan that allows for good diabetes management. It is important to understand how different foods and beverages impact your blood glucose levels and to choose to incorporate them in a way that works well for both your taste buds and your diabetes management. Liquids are digested more quickly than whole foods, so you might see a quicker rise in after-meal blood glucose levels with something like a smoothie, but various factors come into play, including whether other foods are eaten at the same time. Your diabetes educator can help you determine if smoothies are a reasonable choice for your meal plan and, if so, advise you on the best way to incorporate them. After all, eating and diabetes care should be personalized to your lifestyle.

Here are some general tips to consider when you’re thinking about blending your next smoothie.

1. Modify the liquid base.

Choosing a low-carbohydrate liquid base for your smoothie can help lower the total carbohydrate content. For example, instead of using juice, consider blending with unsweetened coconut water, unsweetened almond milk, or even water.

2. Add vegetables.

Instead of just adding fruits, consider blending a few of your favorite lower-carbohydrate vegetables into the mix. Frozen riced cauliflower, zucchini, spinach, and kale are great options — get creative and try different items until you find your favorite combination.

3. Focus on fat and protein.

Healthy fats and protein can really help to create a nutritionally balanced smoothie that will help you stay satisfied longer. It’s easy to add an unsweetened protein powder, but other food options could include chunks of frozen avocado, 1-2 tablespoons of nut and seed butters (blend well), or silken tofu.

4. Remember that portion size matters.

The size of the smoothie matters when it comes to the total impact on your after-meal blood glucose levels. Pouring a smaller portion of your favorite smoothie might be the right choice for you. Leftover smoothie doesn’t have to be wasted but can instead be frozen in ice cube trays. The next time you want a quick smoothie, simply pop out the cubes and blend with water.

Want to learn more about eating well? Read “Strategies for Healthy Eating,” “Improving Your Recipes: One Step at a Time,” and “Easy Ways to Eat Better.”

Alison Massey, MS, RDN, LDN, CDCES

Alison Massey, MS, RDN, LDN, CDCES

Alison Massey, MS, RDN, LDN, CDCES on social media

A Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist with over a decade of experience in various community and clinical settings, Massey is currently owner of Flourish Nutrition Therapy & Wellness, a private practice focusing on providing nutrition and diabetes education. Working with the media is Massey’s favorite way to share her wealth of nutrition and diabetes knowledge with the general public and she is often featured in various Maryland media outlets. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition Science from the Pennsylvania State University and Master of Science in Health Promotion from the University of Delaware.

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