Lisa Delaney is one of the rare souls who know what it’s like to be an “after.” This journalist and author of Secrets of a Former Fat Girl shed 70 pounds—and six dress sizes–and has kept it off for 20 years. She answers your questions here each week.
DEAR FORMER FAT GIRL: I am sick, sick, SICK of trying to put together healthy, tasty meals for my family every night. We try to eat at home as often as possible to save money and eat more healthfully—although my husband and kids would be happy to get takeout more often. Over the years, I’ve come up with some go-to diet recipes that are pretty easy to put together and that we all like, but I’m just SICK of them! Any suggestions?—Patty
DEAR PATTY: Correct me if I’m wrong here, but it sounds like you are SICK of the same-old-same-old. Or am I reading too much into your note? (Kidding.) I totally get what you’re saying. I’ve been-there-done-that too. While it’s a great idea from both a health and convenience standpoint to have a set of diet recipes to rotate through, that strategy can backfire on you if you don’t do things to keep it fresh. Here’s what I do to keep my meals from getting mundane.
Get Pin-spired. All it takes is a few new ideas to hit the diet recipe refresh button. Take a little time out—an hour or two—to do some research, either by looking through cookbooks or food magazines, or visiting websites (ahem, like ours—click here to browse our diet recipes or food blogs. Pinterest, too, is a great site to get inspired by—it’s like a bulletin board where you can share/see photos of all kinds of beautiful stuff, including food. Check out our food board of dinner healthy dinner ideas here.
Try a new side. One of the easiest ways to spice things up is to focus on side dishes to serve with simply grilled chicken or fish. A creative grain dish to sub for potatoes or a new kind of salad will elevate the whole meal. This salad made with high-protein quinoa and fresh figs from Relish.com would be the perfect addition to a weeknight dinner—and you could pack the leftovers for lunch the next day.
Take a field trip. As luck would have it, it’s summer—and the farmers markets are full of inspiration. And the freshest produce needs the least preparation. Visit the market and force yourself to buy something out-of-the-box, even if you don’t know quite what to do with it. Ask the folks at the farmstand how they prepare whatever it is you’ve chosen—typically, all most veggies need are a quick sauté in olive oil, or roasting with olive oil, salt and pepper. You may not even have to cook them at all!
Get the kids (and dad) involved. Make your farmers market trip a family affair to get everyone excited about dinner again. Let the kids—and your spouse—choose something new to prepare, and then let them help. Try designating one weeknight a week as a “kids choice” dinner, and have them plan the meal, make the shopping list, and help prepare. Or declare a Mom’s night off and have Dad be captain of the kitchen for one night a week (with a no-takeout rule!).
Dial back your expectations. This may be health heresy, but if the only way you’re going to get a break is to order up pizza or Chinese once in a while, do it! Don’t feel like you have to play chief-cook-and-bottle-washer all the time, or that your world will fall apart if the kids have sandwiches or breakfast-for-dinner once in a while.
Anticipate future ruts. Your enthusiasm for cooking is bound to fluctuate. Try to head off future culinary ruts by planning to revisit your routine every couple of months (syncing with the change of season, perhaps). Happy cooking!