So you’re standing in the grocery aisle or in front of your refrigerator and nothing sounds good. Perhaps your kitchen is even fully stocked and still nothing is jumping out at you. You may only frequent the typical aisles in the store to pick up the usual items and you’re feeling uninspired. You then get stuck in the habit of routinely eating the same foods (either due to convenience or rigidity) but you know you want out of this merry-go-round. If you are feeling ready and/or willing to start incorporating more variety or your Registered Dietitian is suggesting it, what do you do? First of all, let’s be curious versus judgmental about why you’re struggling to shake the routine. It’s normal to become habituated to foods you’re having more often and it can be challenging to take the time to consider new meal or snack ideas when food stresses you out. Sometimes our enthusiasm or interest level in foods just naturally waxes and wanes, and being rigid with food choices can certainly bring about a lack of diversity in food choices. So how do we navigate this? Here are some tips:
1. Lateral changes. I use this term frequently with clients. Say you’re feeling totally fine with plain hummus, but all of a sudden you’re bored of it. Why not make a lateral change to a different flavor of hummus? You know you like hummus, you know you can eat it without fear – so break with some of that rigidity and buy a new flavor. Fun fact from a hummus fan herself – Aldi has been releasing a ton of unique new flavors of hummus lately! Dill pickle, caramelized onion, garlic dill, green curry, sweet chili, taco, black bean AND chipotle. Check out the Aldi Finds section of their website here to look at release dates and information specific to your local store. I’ve also been enjoying the buffalo ranch one from Ithaca Hummus, a tabbouleh style version from Trader Joe’s, and a lemon dill option from Wegmans! YUMMUS.
2. Utilize common/favorite ingredients in new ways. At this point this post is becoming a love letter to hummus, but I’m just trying to keep with an easy to use example. So again, say you always eat hummus with raw veggies. But boom again, you’re bored of this snack. You could totally reinvent the wheel here with a new snack or simply mix it up a little more. How about pita chips and hummus? A bagel with hummus? A pita stuffed with hummus and cucumber? Or this recipe, which may sound strange, but is actually really good: hummus crusted chicken.
3. Similar to the first tip regarding the newly released hummus flavors at Aldi, utilize limited edition or seasonal flavors of items you enjoy. I notice with holidays and season changes, many different items such as yogurt and bread come up with some really fun flavor combinations! Knowing they are only available for a certain amount of time can increase your excitement for these foods and help to get you out of a rut. Think: pumpkin flavored yogurt, peppermint mochas, and watermelon salads. Pro tip: if you dig one of these flavors let your dietitian know, she will be able to help you find a recipe to make these items even out of season.
4. Shop at different stores. Mixing up where you shop can help to put some excitement back into the experience and the experience of eating (granted, keeping in mind accessibility and affordability of this for you and your household – I know it is a privilege to be able to shop at different places if you please). Stores like Aldi, Wegmans, Trader Joe’s, and Target have many of their own brand name items that you won’t find anywhere else. Stores like Walmart, Tops, and Price Rite may have more name brand items, but perhaps with different options/flavors than you see at your typical grocery store. You can also utilize farmer’s markets, local shops, and ethnic markets for new to you and unique items.
5. Above all else, if you’re really struggling with your food choices feeling stagnant, rely on strategies to ensure you can stay nourished throughout the day. If you’re using a traditional meal plan, utilize this to help you with decisions and normalize that not every eating experience will be 100% enjoyable or perfect. If you’ve stepped away from a more structured meal plan, know that you can always use it again if this is the best way to honor your hunger and take care of yourself. Additionally, let your treatment team (especially your dietitian) know about these feelings so that they can give you some personalized suggestions. There’s no shame in eating feeling harder or less exciting, but you can’t be supported best if your team isn’t aware of what’s going on.
You tell us! How do you get yourself unstuck from a food rut?