Eating healthily doesn’t mean restricting your choices to a salad. You can still eat your favorite meals even on a diet! In our modern world, we throw the word “healthy” around so often that the meaning is lost to us.
Everything is healthy, organic, locally sourced, and pesticide-free, right? Well, the food industry is a little more complex than that.
Most “healthy” foods are labeled that way because they are low calorie, but if you only eat that product you won’t be enjoying a healthy meal.
Before we can make food fun, we first need to explain what “healthy” actually means. To help us on this quest, we have recently acquired thefoodee.com, and are overjoyed to see readers from the site joining in with our community.
Welcome food lovers!
What Is A Healthy Diet?
A healthy diet is hard to define as there are millions of foods that we can eat healthily, and thousands of body types that need different nutrition.
The easy answer is “a healthy diet means eating fewer calories than you use”. But how can you figure out the calories you use in a day, or how many exist on your plate?
Websites and fitness companies can offer estimations, but they aren’t accurate. Running for an hour will need more calories for one person than it would for another.
Some people reading this may think “oh you’re being pedantic, it just means eating less bad food when you aren’t exercising”. However, calories don’t just exist in “bad foods”.
Take an apple as an example. Apples are considered healthy, but they contain 52 calories.
And what is “bad food”. If you eat too many grapes, you’ll develop digestion problems even though they are a fruit. And if you don’t eat fat, your body won’t develop the insulation layer it needs to protect your organs.
If you spent all day eating apples, you may think your diet is healthy, but according to the easy answer, you will still be digesting too many calories despite not getting enough nutrition.
This leads us to our next point – Nutrition.
As humans, we need to eat certain food types to ensure our body has the fuel it needs to function properly. We need vitamins from fruits, fibers from vegetables, fat from dairy products, protein from meat, and starch from whole grains.
Luckily, advancements in technology allow those with restrictive diets to still digest all the nutrients they need without eating food that could harm them or their philosophies.
To eat healthfully throughout a lifestyle, you need to eat enough starch and protein to power you through the day.
The majority of your meals should be vegetable based to gain the fibers and vitamins you need, and although you need sugar to create glucose, it shouldn’t dominate your diet.
If you live an inactive life, you can reduce your protein and starch intact, as you won’t need as much power. If you live an active lifestyle, increase your protein and starch intake.
So what should your meal portions look like?
Most or even half of your plate should contain vegetables. A quarter should contain protein, and the last quarter should contain starchy foods. Throughout the day eating fruit as snacks can help you ingest a healthy amount of sugar.
Now you know the structure of your meals, it’s time to make them fun. No one wants to see a mound of carrots on their plate with unseasoned chicken and a single potato. You can still make healthy food fun, colorful, and filled with variety.
Figuring Out What Matters To You?
Just like “healthy”, “fun” will mean something different to everyone. We cannot simply list a bunch of recipes, because the collection will be tailored to our ideas of interesting plates.
If spending hours creating, stirring, and chopping doesn’t seem like a relaxing endeavor, then we might put you off before you get started.
So before we can suggest fun meals, you need to figure out what matters to you.
Easy To Cook Meals
When you first start dieting, the worst mistake you can make is putting up barriers. You might pick up a healthy recipe book, open up the pages and realize that half of the book uses a tool you don’t own.
Blenders, slow cookers, mandoline, etc. Although these recipes might be simple, if you don’t already own the equipment, then you’ll be put off before you even start.
To get past this, you want to learn a bunch of easy recipes first.
Recipes that take 10 minutes to cook from start to finish, contain easy-to-find ingredients, and don’t leave you with a ton of washing up.
Use these ideas to help you gather a small collection of easy-to-make recipes:
If you’re completely new to cooking, you should make everything as easy as possible. Some people are put off by the preparation side of cooking.
They want to eat healthy, but the idea of cutting carrots for 10 minutes is so off putting that they’ll reach for cereal instead.
To get past that hiccup, by pre-chopped veg. It isn’t cheating and it isn’t a waste. Pre-prepared food is designed to make cooking easier.
Many people will buy whole vegetables and leave them to rot away in their refrigerator, as they desire to cook waivers.
If that sounds like you, remember that using a bag of chopped veg is less wasteful than allowing whole broccoli to grow moldy in your cupboards.
Do what you can to remove the obstacles in your way. Hate chopping? Buy pre-chopped veg. Don’t like touching meat? Buy pre-chopped chicken. Need to cook fast otherwise you lose interest? Buy pre-made sauces.
Change your kitchen habits to allow yourself to cook more. As your knowledge and familiarity grow, you might find a new love for the zen state of cooking, or your feelings might stay the same.
Either way, you’ll have created a space that encourages you to cook.
Some people only want to eat the same meals every day. Others get bored of repetitive foods. It doesn’t matter which side of the coin you fall on, as long as you recognize how you feel.
We suggested learning 3 to 5 simple and fast meals, but most people need a larger rotation. To get the balance between structured and carefree meals, you should consider how much variation you need.
For most people, 2 or 3 meals in the week should be unique. The other 4 or 5 can be familiar. This pattern allows you to explore new food and stay interested in eating healthily, without demanding too much of your time or mental capacity.
So where do you get the variation from? There are four methods we suggest. First, buy a cookbook, and create new meals by turning the page. You can cook in order of the book, or flick through until something seems interesting.
Our second suggestion is to browse through our website until something catches your eye.
Thirdly, you can look through your cupboards and see what’s left over from the week before. Type one ingredient into our search bar, and find recipes that help you use that food while creating something new.
Our fourth suggestion should help those with restricted tastes. If you only enjoy a small palette of food, you should use our search bar for that ingredient.
You can go through them one by one, or pick at random.
Lastly, you should be prepared for days of low effort. It’s in these draining times that we can’t be bothered to cook something healthy.
Instead of reaching for your takeaway service, you should grab simple ingredients from the cupboard, whack them onto the stove, and cook something easy and ready in 5 minutes.
Even better, pull out leftovers from the freezer, so last night’s healthy meal can be tonight’s quick treat.
So far we have talked about how to keep your healthy diet going. Including variation and ensuring your finding the job easy isn’t exactly “fun”.
A fun meal should grab your attention. When you eat at a restaurant, everyone is secretly watching other people’s food as it arrives at their table. We judge their choices and sometimes regret our own.
It isn’t just the smell making us hungry and envious, it’s the visual too.
At home, you can recreate that intensity, by focusing on the look of your meal. Healthy foods are almost always colorful, as they contain naturally bright ingredients through vegetables. Tomatoes, carrots, sweetcorn, and peppers.
Adding these vegetables to your meals will brighten your plate and excite your senses, ready for your delicious meal.
Changing the colors between meals will make your weekly food seem dramatically different and fresh even if they contain largely the same ingredients.
If you keep eating stir fry, then the bright colors will soon feel boring despite their rainbow aesthetic. Variety will help prevent boredom.
Although variety is the key to keeping healthy food fun, there is no point in cooking meals you know you don’t like.
Your taste buds change every seven years, so don’t bother trying tuna again if you know it will put you off your meal.
Instead, you should try to incorporate your favorite flavors. Mix them up so you don’t eat the same meal type every evening, but when your creativity runs low use these flavors as an anchor to help you create something you know you’ll enjoy.
For example, making your own pizza is healthier than grabbing a takeout. You can recreate the pizza flavors later on in the week by cooking pasta with cheese, a tin of chopped tomatoes, and pepperoni.
This can help your weekly food feel unique without straying away from your favorite flavors.
Being on a healthy diet doesn’t mean avoiding snacks. Sometimes we need a boost to help us get to dinner, especially when our day becomes unexpectedly busy. So what can you snack on?
The easy answer is fruit. Hard fruits such as apples and oranges are a great choice, as they won’t get damaged in your bag, and you can either peel away the skin or rub off any dirt before chowing down.
They are already pre-sized, so you know exactly how much you can eat, and they travel well.
If you work from home or want a quick snack before rushing off, you can eat grapes or bananas for the same boosting effect.
However, if you’ve had too much fruit today, or simply want something with a bit more crunch, there are other options.
You can make peanut butter rice krispie cakes for a low-calorie burst of sweetness and a satisfying crunch, buy or make muesli bars for a filling bite between meals, or even snack on pure protein for a healthy and flavor-filled nibble.
Snacks shouldn’t be shunned or avoided. If you try to push them away, you may end up binging them later. Instead, listen to your body and figure out if you’re bored, thirsty, or actually hungry before taking a bite.
If you need something sweet, pick up the fruit. If you need something crunchy, head for a cereal bar. And if you need more energy, grab a protein snack. A pre-cooked chicken breast, cut into small chunks could be the perfect snack for your day.
You don’t need to reach for chocolate or chips just because they are the go-to options. Instead figure out what you’ll need, and pick a healthy alternative.
Creating A Schedule vs Following Your Hunger
So far we have talked about scheduling your food – having x amount of unique meals to keep your healthy diet interesting, and x amount of simple meals so you don’t feel overwhelmed with the process.
Although this can be a fun way to explore new meals and expand your skills, not everyone can eat in a structured format.
In times like these you need to follow your hunger. If you’ve planned all 7 meals in the week, but find yourself uninspired when looking at your list, allow yourself to follow your hunger instead.
What are you craving? What excites you?
Listening to your body will help you avoid going back to old habits and reaching for your phone or the cereal box. If you’re hungry for beef, change your schedule and create something beef-related.
Desperate for something cheesy? That’s not a problem, you can still eat cheese and be healthy. Remember it’s all about moderation and balance.
As you build your cupboards up with simple and easy meals, consider your cravings too. Keep pre-cut chicken in the freezer, ready for when the hunger emerges.
Keeping healthy food fun is easy as long as you prepare for the harder times. Make this process easy for yourself by keeping healthy and fun meals in the freezer.
If you find your schedules too rigid, change your pattern. You should always have an easy meal in your cupboard or freezer ready to go, that way even the laziest version of you can still reach for a healthy solution.
Creating, learning, and adapting are the most exciting parts of cooking, however, some people won’t find this aspect intriguing. If this sounds like you, you might be scratching your head wondering when the “fun” part will start.
Well, here it is. You can make your food fun by creating themes. Make your own McDonald’s takeout, by copying their menu and recreating it as a healthy alternative. Here are some examples:
- McChicken Burger? How about Keto Chicken Breast in a bun?
- Big Mac? How about these Whole30 Hamburgers?
- Chicken McNuggets? Try these Whole30 Ground Chicken Recipes.
You don’t need a favorite takeout to follow this idea. Maybe you and some friends are about to binge your favorite show together? You can make meals based on that experience. Take Stranger Things as an example.
That TV show is set in the 80s, you can eat 80s-inspired meals:
These are just a few examples. You can even tie in your food with the meals eaten in the show!
Use ideas like this to make yourself interested in your meals. Mixing your current interests and obsessions with your food planning will make you more excited about your dinner, and help make your healthy plate fun.
To stay on your diet, you need to find it fun and interesting. It doesn’t matter if you’re following the keto diet, paleo diet, or learning to balance your nutrition, you cannot continue with your new goal unless you have the drive to carry on.
Fun is one of the most powerful forces in our minds. If you find something fun, you are more likely to stick to that project. Use our advice to learn what you find fun about food, and how to implement that into your cooking schedule.