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5 Tips to Break Out of a Pandemic Food Rut

It is so easy to fall into a food rut, especially during a pandemic. Are your go-to meals feeling overplayed? Are your kids no longer asking what’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner?

Sounds like you may be in bit of a rut – a pandemic food rut.

“A food rut can mean a lot of different things and look different for everyone, but given this year, it’s especially normal,” said Lauren Turilli, a registered dietitian at Banner Health. “It’s understandable to be a bit stressed about food during a time like this."

You may be making the same dishes repeatedly because it’s easy, you’re pressed for time or you’ve simply lost the creative juices. A food rut can take many forms—especially these days. Here are a few signs you may be in a bit of a pandemic food rut:

  1. You’re not excited about your meals or snacks.
  2. You don’t enjoy cooking.
  3. Your grocery list has few to no changes each time.
  4. You’re surviving mostly on take-out or drive thru.
  5. You are stuck on only “diet safe” food.

If you identify with any of these, chances are you might be in a food rut. The good news is that it’s pretty easy to break out of it. No, you don’t have to go to culinary school or purchase expensive gadgets, such as a spiralizer—that is, unless you want to! It’s actually quite simple. Turilli shared these five tips for breaking out of your food rut.

Problem #1: Are you totally over your regular go-to meals?
Resolution: Try one new recipe each week.

Do you follow any tasty chefs or food bloggers? Pick a recipe you’ve been eyeing (or salivating over) but haven’t tried, or one that is simple and requires very little ingredients. If you’ve lost that loving feeling for cooking, grab a partner, child or roommate and involve them in the cooking process.

Problem #2: Does the thought of cooking and getting meals on the table each night make you cringe or break out in a cold sweat?
Resolution: Boost your cooking confidence.

First, think about what things you really enjoy eating: Do you love sandwiches? Are tacos your jam? Breakfast for dinner? Think about how you can spin the things you love into healthier meal options. Next, settle on three or five things you like and find simple recipes online. Then, get comfortable with the basics. Once you’ve mastered fundamental techniques like sautéing chicken breasts, then you can move on to trying different sauces or add-ins to add some zest and prevent meal boredom. Lastly, accept that cooking may not be your thing, but it won’t be an excuse for you to not eat healthy. If you master the basics, you will gain confidence and may remain more committed to yourself.

Problem #3: Are you on autopilot in the grocery store or is your grocery pick-up order the same every time?
Resolution: Switch things up.

Check out another local grocer, even it’s the same branch but a different location. Engaging with a different store you aren’t familiar with will force you to look at food more closely. You may just discover things you might have otherwise dismissed.

Why not test your taste buds with a game of food roulette? Once a week, pick an unfamiliar fruit or vegetable you have no idea what to do with. Then go home and explore fun ways to cook them up. Who knows, you might find your new favorite food!

Problem #4: Are you eating out more just to avoid problems 1, 2 and 3?
Resolution: Try a meal delivery system.

It’s definitely important to support local restaurants during the pandemic, but it’s not healthy to depend on them for every meal. Why not take a small step and try a meal delivery system? You can look for heathier options and start small with cooking that takes half the time, because all the shopping and portioning are done for you. It may even spark meal ideas and inspire you to create your own. Here’s a quick guide on meal delivery services to help you get started.

Problem #5: Are you eating the same things every day because you know the calorie count and are trying to stay on a weight loss journey?
Resolution: Let the season inspire your meals.

Why not spice up your healthy meals with seasonal fruits and veggies? Adding in variety and changing up your “safe-diet” foods doesn’t have to throw you off track. Seasonal fruits and veggies are a great way to get different nutrients while keeping things interesting in the kitchen.

Still stuck?

“Remember, above all else, we’re all doing the best we can each day,” Turilli said. “Feeling guilt, shame and/or anger toward our food choices and/or bodies does absolutely nothing except cause de-motivation, which is actually counter-productive. If things aren’t exactly the way you want them to be, remind yourself that is okay! Sometimes our mental health is more important than having the ‘perfect’ diet.”

We’ve all been in a rut at some point – whether it’s with food, with work or with life. “No matter where you are, it’s important to take a step back and reflect on everything you’ve learned and done this year for yourself and your family,” Turilli said. It’s during these times that we just need to step back, reflect, tweak and even zhoosh things up. There can actually be some fun and beauty in doing so—we just have to open our eyes (and palates) to the possibilities.

For more nutrition information, visit bannerhealth.com. Here’s to spicing things up once again. 

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COVID-19 Nutrition Wellness

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