Escape the Cooking Rut: How to Not Get Bored with Healthy FoodMost advice for consistent nutrition revolves around planning, but planning also means cooking at home. And, it can be hard to keep cooking exciting, week in and week out. Cooking ruts happen to the best of us, but coach Nikki Burman is here to help. In this companion to the recent podcast episode (see below), she covers proactive ways to deal with a cooking rut that can help save you from nutrition plateaus before they start.
Escape the Cooking Rut: How to Not Get Bored with Healthy Food
By: Nikki Burman
Nikki is Barbell Logic’s Director of Client Experience and an Exclusive & Nutrition Coach. She is a master at genuinely connecting with her clients, learning what it takes to drive a person to make incredible changes and going above and beyond to support them. She specializes in working with women pre-and postnatal, those in the military, and people wanting to lose or gain weight. Nikki also has a knack for competitive lifters, coaching many through state, regional, and national meets, and multiple clients have set powerlifting state records. Get coaching from Nikki.
We know how important consistent nutrition is to our health goals, but why is it so hard? Most advice for consistent nutrition revolves around planning, but planning also means cooking at home. And, it can be hard to keep cooking exciting, week in and week out. Cooking ruts happen to the best of us, similar to how our enthusiasm for training can come in waves. We have known remedies for when you get into a training funk: you might change up your workouts or revisit your goals. New exercises, new gear, or renewed focus can help overcome training speedbumps. And similar strategies can work in the kitchen, too. Below, I cover some proactive ways to deal with a cooking rut and help save you from nutrition plateaus brought on by boredom.
Before I do, there is one essential aspect of learning to enjoy cooking: Don’t give up. Try new recipes or different cooking methods. I may look like I know what I’m doing, but that’s only because it is a large part of my profession. I am 100% a “fake it til you make it” kind of cook. You will learn along the way, which might make you enjoy it more!
It Starts with Shopping
To begin, set yourself up for success, and schedule your grocery shopping. Make your grocery list ahead of time. I love using an app where I can store recipes and click “add to grocery list” to make the planning piece easier, such as FamilyWall. Sometimes figuring out what to cook can feel like more work. More details on how to choose a recipe later.
Variety is the Spice of Life…and Works Pretty Well for Food
Find something NEW to make and maybe even a new kitchen appliance to bring some excitement. (Not that you need to go out and buy a new appliance every time a rut happens. Or can I…? “NO”). Find a recipe that you will be excited about eating. Not the plain “chicken and rice” combo. That is super hard to maintain because…ew and boring. Meals that taste better don’t necessarily take a ton of extra time. If you are not going to enjoy it, you might as well not bother.
You could also try cooking food you have previously enjoyed in a NEW way. This can be huge for my picky eaters; you never know until you try it! I have a client I challenged to try a new veggie or a new way of cooking it every couple of weeks since veggies aren’t her favorite. Venturing out and finding something new can be exciting if you end up liking it, which opens the door to new possibilities. You could also sign up for a cooking class to learn a new skill or watch a cooking video on YouTube. Cooking classes can make excellent date nights!
Turn It into Family Fun
I understand this one isn’t feasible for everyone, but if it’s possible, involve the whole family! Many people struggle with cooking (specifically with meal prep) because it can take time away from family time. Give everyone a job. This not only involves everyone, but many hands make light work, and it may cut down the overall time you spend in the kitchen. Even the toddlers! There are kid-friendly knives, or they may enjoy sprinkling on seasoning. I can’t recommend enough checking out a Toddler Kitchen Tower. The more involved the kids are in the process, the more likely they will want to eat what you are cooking, including the green leafy stuff. This means family time while doing something healthy for everyone. WIN-WIN! And hey, if you are by yourself, turn up the music and dance around the kitchen like it’s nobody’s business!
Prepare… And Prepare Backups
When it comes to your overall health and fitness goals, something is motivating about having a healthy meal prepped that you look forward to eating. You are more likely to stay on track.
Training and nutrition feed off of each other (no pun intended), and cooking has become my steppingstone to training consistency. I am more likely to move my training around to make time to cook. If I don’t have food made, I feel uneasy, and mentally, I do not want to train. Once this becomes a part of your lifestyle, it is tough to be okay with not having food made. You feel better. You train better. You look better.
Whether cooking for the whole family or just for yourself, I highly recommend doubling (or tripling) the recipe and freezing anything you won’t finish in the next few days. These backup meals can help keep the momentum going when life happens. It is incredible how easy it is to throw in the towel when your nutrition gets derailed even the slightest bit. Be one step ahead of those curveballs to help keep your goals on track.
I hear from clients a lot: “How do I decide what to cook?” A quick recap on the three main macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. When deciding on a recipe, always start with a protein, no matter your goals. Start by googling a protein or a cooking method that you want to use (such as a slow cooker, air fryer, or pressure cooker). When looking at the recipe, see how much time it will take to prep and cook. Make sure it fits into your busy lifestyle and is something you are comfortable with making. (I am all for the easy recipes!) If needed, add a colorful veggie on the side. The recipe most likely includes your carbs and fat, but you can add or modify these based on your performance or composition goals. You probably won’t need to add extra fat—protein tends to have what you need, and the cooking process usually involves cooking oil.
As you try to gain some momentum in this area, I recommend finding a casserole that combines the protein and veggies in one. This way, you aren’t trying to juggle more than one thing at a time.
Making casseroles has led to a common question: “But how do I track the casserole?”
Honestly, most of my clients don’t track macros. I don’t track (I haven’t in years). It feels fantastic to free yourself from tracking everything, allowing yourself to enjoy the process, make cooking fun and not stress about every little detail. I am not anti-tracking, but there is a time and place. 90% of my clients don’t need to do it. If tracking works for you, awesome, keep at it, but it’s not for everyone! I find that tracking macros leads to making the protein, carbs, and fat individually to make tracking easier. I would much rather see pictures of my clients’ plates that show their lovely home-cooked meals with lots of colors and have them enjoy the process from beginning to end.
It All Comes Down to Consistency
Success thrives off of planning. Have a plan and be one step ahead. When ruts start to make their way in, revisit your WHY so that you keep your emotions involved. When I make a new recipe, and my family loves it, there is something super fulfilling to me. It fills my Mommy heart! Find what is important to you. And make sure you save the winners. Add them to your recipe list to pull back up as a repeat. It will be even easier to make the second time. But remember, not everything is going to turn out amazing. It happens. Shake it off, and don’t let it discourage you. Depending on your lifestyle, find ways that can help make cooking fun for you: involve the family or turn up the music. Try a new food or a new cooking method; it can help spark some newfound excitement. Here’s to cooking more yummy, colorful, protein-filled meals!