Take a step out of your comfort zone by selecting an international cuisine from a part of the world you haven’t had much exposure to.
Having an arsenal of reliable go-to meals like grilled chicken over kale or a yummy veggie stir-fry keeps maintaining a healthy diet easier. However, if you have the same meals going in your rotation, then boredom may strike, making you more likely to succumb to your pepperoni pizza cravings. But before you press “confirm order” on your favorite food delivery app, here are six better ways to spice it up in the kitchen, according to Wesley McWhorter, RD, a trained chef and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Try a new supermarket
It makes sense that you’re always cooking the same meals if you’re always purchasing the same groceries from the same supermarket. To add some excitement to your meals, try visiting an unfamiliar supermarket and go hunting for new ingredients.
“When I worked as a private chef, there was a Korean market nearby with a huge produce section,” says McWhorter. It was there that he first came across one of his now favorite veggies: kohlrabi—a bulbous plant related to cauliflower and cabbage that offers all the health benefits of cruciferous vegetables.
Farmers’ markets are also great to check out because they often carry heirloom varieties of fruits and veggies that aren’t available at regular grocery stores.
Explore international flavors
A lot of people tend to stick to the flavors that correspond with their own families and cultures. Take a step out of your comfort zone by selecting an international cuisine from a part of the world you haven’t had much exposure to. McWhorter recommends trying Indian and Moroccan cuisines for their marvelous use of spices.
If you feel a bit intimidated by trying out unfamiliar cuisines, then there are several cooking classes available online that you can sign up for. Alternatively, a quick YouTube search will likely bring up tutorials by passionate home cooks from around the world as well.
Sign up for a CSA
Community-supported agriculture (CSA) program subscriptions are gaining in popularity and it’s not hard to understand why. Sign up before the growing season and receive a box of fresh produce every week from a local farm. The contents of your weekly box are a surprise and vary from week to week, depending on what’s seasonal.
McWhorter likens the experience to competitive cooking shows like Chopped because you open the box and at times will have to figure out how to cook unfamiliar ingredients before they spoil. CSA box subscriptions are a great way to discover new ingredients and learn new recipes and are almost a guarantee that you’ll be protected from any cooking ruts.
Mix up your greens
Kale and spinach are a couple of the most popular leafy greens out there, but there are plenty of other green vegetables out there. “I don’t even like kale,” McWhorter says. “I really prefer collard greens, but there’s also Swiss chard, mustard greens, dandelion greens, broccoli rabe, and more.”
Dust off your library card
Most libraries will have an entire cooking section that’s full up of books and magazines dedicated to cooking. Using your free time to visit your local library to browse through recipes is a fantastic way to reignite excitement and inspiration for cooking.
Try a meal kit
If you feel like you’re truly out of ideas, then there’s no shame in ordering a few meal kits. A lot of brands are nutrition-focused and offer plenty of fresh ideas. “I was sent one as a gift, and I liked how different it was from what I usually cook. It’s a great way to get ideas,” says McWhorter. Plus, you get to skip shopping altogether as everything you need comes in the kit.