Yes, Healthy Food Can Be Fun. The Proof Is in the (Chia Seed) Pudding!

fun and healthy foods

It can be easy to find the motivation you need to eat more healthfully. Even small dietary changes can benefit your heart health and help protect your brain. You may also feel more alert and energetic.

In addition, eliminating certain foods from your diet and adding others can reduce inflammation, along with lowering your risk of developing some types of cancer and chronic diseases.

These are just a few of the many reasons to embrace better eating habits. The problem for many people who want to improve their diet is following through on their good intentions. If this sounds familiar, it may help to rethink healthy eating before you try adjusting your diet.

With August being National Wellness Month (and with all the fresh produce that’s available this time of year), we thought it would be an especially appropriate time to offer suggestions for how to make eating healthy fun.

Expand Your Horizons With New Adventures In Eating

If you’re tired of eating the same foods over and over, introduce your palate to some exciting, different options.

An easy way to do this is explore local restaurants beyond the typical Italian, Mexican, Chinese and Greek eateries — not that there’s anything wrong with those. The idea, though, is to search out new dining experiences and healthy, fun meals. Once you start looking, you may discover places you weren’t even aware existed. Is there an Ethiopian restaurant near you? How about one that serves Moroccan or Peruvian food?

If you’re not quite ready to delve into that much of an adventure, you might find delicious new dishes to try at restaurants you already frequent, such as quinoa or acai bowls, and hot or cold wraps chock full of healthy ingredients like black beans or lentils, greens and other vegetables.

Before you venture out, you might want to see if the restaurants you’re planning to visit have a menu posted on their website. That way, you can familiarize yourself with what’s in some of the dishes and be ready to order a healthy selection. If you like being more spontaneous, you can always ask your server for recommendations.

To make it more festive, invite friends or family members to join in on your culinary adventures. It’ll be an opportunity to spend quality time together — and you can share the food you order.

If you enjoy cooking, you might venture into an ethnic grocery store or wander through the aisles that feature ethnic foods in your supermarket. If you’re so inclined, you might look for recipes online before you go, or perhaps even invest in a few ethnic cookbooks.

Dress Up Your Salads With New Tastes and Textures

When you say “salad,” some people think of the standard side salad: lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes and maybe some carrots and croutons. But there’s no reason to stick with something so basic — you can be as creative as you want.

For instance, you can make your salad a protein powerhouse by adding a combination of beans, grains, lentils, nuts and seeds. Give it some eye appeal and extra nutritional value with seasonal vegetables (or fruits) from your local farmers market. Try heirloom tomatoes and roasted corn, asparagus, Brussels sprouts and butternut squash.

If you eat a lot of green salads, switch out the base to keep your taste buds interested; look for newer super blends containing bok choy, chard and arugula along with the usual kale, spinach and leaf lettuces. For a refreshing summer salad, toss some melon or mixed fresh berries into your greens and maybe add some goat cheese, red onion and/or olives. For a unique side dish, ditch the greens (or go with baby butter or Bibb lettuce) and enjoy an avocado and mango salad.

Marinated and pickled foods can perk up salads as well. Add some crunch with diced jicama, toasted ramen noodles or a sprinkling of crispy chow mein noodles.

Switching out your go-to dressing for something new and intriguing is another way to perk up your palate. There are dozens of dressings in the grocery aisle — or better yet, make your own.

Not a Salad Connoisseur? Have a Go at Bowl-ing

Not everyone loves salads, and even die-hard fans most likely won’t want to eat a salad every day, despite their versatility. You can get just as creative with a Buddha bowl, grain bowl or goddess bowl.

You’ll find a wide variety of recipes and cookbooks for these and other bowls, including poke bowls. Some are served hot, whereas others are best served cold. Some are vegan or vegetarian. Others feature salmon or other types of fish. The possibilities are almost endless, and you can experiment by adding an assortment of scrumptious seasonal vegetables.

Try New Techniques for Prepping and Cooking

Chopping, slicing and dicing fruits and vegetables for a salad, stir fry or meal in a bowl can be tedious if you do it by hand, but a food processor, chopper, julienne peeler or mandoline slicer can make short work of it.

Have you ever used a spiralizer to make zucchini noodles or zoodles? These handy devices are also great for other fruits and vegetables, including sweet potatoes, apples, cabbage, yellow squash, bell peppers, onions and cucumbers. With a spiralizer, making a variety of fun, healthy food has never been easier — or faster!

Speaking of making healthy food faster, an air fryer can make a big difference in your diet if you like to cook. French fries, buffalo wings, chicken tenders and other finger foods are fun things to eat, and preparing them in an air fryer instead of deep frying makes them considerably healthier for your heart. You can even make brownies, baked potatoes and garlic bread in an air fryer — not to mention fabulous and flavorful roasted vegetables.

Convert Classic Recipes by Swapping Out Sugar and Unhealthy Fats

We all have food we remember fondly from our childhood. Back then, there was more emphasis on how good something tasted rather than on how good it was for us.

Just because we know more now about the dietary benefits and harms of the food we eat doesn’t mean we have to give up all of those not-so-healthy foods we used to love (and maybe still do). Fortunately, many recipes can be converted to make them more healthful.

One example is to substitute Greek yogurt or unsweetened applesauce for butter or oil in baked goods. The taste and texture may be different when you make substitutions, and not all recipes are good candidates for conversion, but it’s worth looking online to see what you can find.

Turn Your Daily Diet Upside Down

Breakfast is the meal most likely to become overly routine. It’s easy, but boring, to eat the same thing morning after morning. After a while, even changing up what you put in your oatmeal or how you cook your eggs may not be enough to banish the breakfast blahs.

So why not break with tradition when it comes to breakfast? The first meal of the day offers another opportunity to think outside of the cereal box. Instead of an omelet, try oven baked tostadas or tacos with refried beans, cheese, lettuce, diced tomatoes, onions and avocado slices or guacamole.

As another option, there’s no reason to save that veggie wrap made with hummus, greens, tomato, cucumber, onion and roasted red pepper for your midday meal. And that thin crust pizza with the veggie toppings and low-fat cheese? It tastes just as good in the morning as it does for dinner. A rice bowl instead of a bowl of cereal? Why not?

If you have a sweet tooth, you may be tempted to indulge it with pastries or doughnuts — even though you know they’re not the healthiest way to start the day. How about having a healthy dessert for breakfast, such as chia seed pudding? Even the most basic recipe for chia seed pudding is a nutritional powerhouse. Give it a boost by adding blueberries, walnuts, coconut and cacao. As a bonus, chia seed pudding is simple to make and keep on hand in the fridge or freezer.

Fun, Healthy Dining Is an Everyday Experience at Heron’s Key

Residents here will tell you, the culinary selections on the menu at our Syren’s Grille restaurant are nothing short of superb. Our chef relies on fresh, locally sourced ingredients for tantalizing entrées and sides. And, being able to break bread with good friends and neighbors makes mealtime even more delightful.

While you’re here on our website, you can download a sample menu and learn more about the many other ways the Heron’s Key lifestyle encourages better health — and plenty of fun!

Featured Image: Jake Johnson Pictures, 2021