If you’ve followed any of the fad diets that have come and gone over the past decade, whether it was low-carb or slow-carb, you’ve probably already discovered that restrictive diets tend to take the fun right out of eating.
What’s more, previous research has shown that about 95% of people who lose weight by dieting will gain it back within one or two years when they inevitably fall off the wagon and resume their usual eating habits.
So what’s the solution? A recent study carried out at Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab found that simply eating more adventurously could be one way to lose weight and become more health conscious without following a strict diet.
Of the 502 women surveyed, the more adventurous eaters (you may know them as “foodies”) who had indulged in unusual foods such as quinoa, kimchi, eel, oysters and beef tongue were found to weigh less than their more cautious counterparts.
The self-proclaimed foodies also rated their diet as healthier and considered themselves to be more physically active and concerned with the healthfulness of their food.
If you’re not an adventurous eater by nature, though, here are a few tips to help you start introducing new foods into your diet in a gradual and fun way.
- Try one new food each week
You probably won’t like everything you try, but making an effort to expose yourself to a new type of food each week will help you develop your palate, and in the process, you’ll probably also discover a few new favorites to add to your culinary repertoire.
If you’re not sure how to go about it, get out a map and start eating your way around the world by finding a food or dish that you’re unfamiliar with from each country. You could be tucking into spicy Malaysian chicken satay one week and sampling classic French mussels in a white wine broth the next.
- Shop in new places
Running into your friendly neighborhood supermarket and grabbing familiar items to make familiar dishes might be convenient, but by restricting your shopping to the local supermarket you’re missing out on a host of new and interesting ingredients.
Farmer’s markets, fish markets, Indian spice shops, ethnic grocery stores and other specialty shops are all great places to find new ingredients to experiment with, so try to get out of your comfort zone when shopping for food.
- Invest in one or two good cookbooks
Being a foodie is more about experimenting in your own kitchen than eating out in fancy restaurants every day, so you’ll want to invest in a few cookbooks that will help you learn basic cooking techniques like roasting, searing and grilling, but also allow you experiment with new flavors and ingredients.
Of course, you could always just look recipes up online, but there’s nothing like a physical printed cookbook to inspire you to get in the kitchen. A couple of good beginner books include “Essentials of Cooking” by James Peterson or “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman, while home chefs familiar with the basics might enjoy a book like “Eat Your Way Around the World” by Jamie Aramini.
- Get the right tools for the job
Another great way to get excited about your food and meal prep is to invest in a few essentials like a kitchen scale, pasta roller, chef’s knife and sharpener, pestle and mortar, instant-read thermometer and a couple of good quality pots and pans that can be used for roasting, baking, frying, deep frying, sautéing, steaming and everything in-between.
You don’t have to buy everything all at once, but adding a new item to your kitchen collection each month will open up a whole new world of exciting recipes you didn’t even know existed, from homemade ravioli stuffed with ricotta and sundried tomatoes to creamy baba ganoush.
- Host more dinner parties
In the Cornell study, one of the big differences that set the adventurous eaters apart from the more traditional ones was that they were more likely to have friends over for dinner. It makes sense, because once you get excited about cooking with new ingredients and flavors, you’ll want to share your newfound passion with your friends and loved ones.
Start slowly by inviting one or two friends over at a time so you’ll have a chance to figure out what works best when cooking for other people.
Marianne Stenger is a writer and blogger with Open Colleges, one of Australia’s leading online education providers. She covers career development, workplace productivity and self-improvement. You can connect with her on Twitter and Google+, or find her latest articles here.