Venturing Out of Your Culinary Comfort Zone

By Claire Chiu RD
Venturing Out of Your Culinary Comfort Zone

We are extremely fortunate to live in a country with such vibrant cultural and culinary scene. New food trends spring up year round to surprise and satisfy our evolving taste buds. If you ever feel stuck in the same old meal routine, these creative ideas will not only freshen up your meal prep but provide a nutritional boost! As Julia Child once said, “you don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces, just good food from fresh ingredients.”

Fruits & Vegetables

–  Eat seasonal produce for best flavors and nutrient density
–  Eat a rainbow: compounds in colorful produce represent antioxidants that help to protect 
your heart and prevent certain cancers
–  Summer favorites: strawberry, rhubarb, melons, peaches, rainbow chard, etc.
–  Fermented vegetables: enjoy the benefits of probiotics while eating your veggies: kimchi and sauerkraut

Healthy Protein 

–  Veggie burgers (Hilary’s)
–  Plant-based protein: pulses (beans, peas, lentils), nuts and seeds
–  Soy products: contrary to popular belief, phytoestrogen (found in plants) in soy does not increase your risk of breast or prostate cancer nor does it have any feminizing effects.
–  Lean meat (bison) and fish (barramundi)
–  Jackfruit: with meaty texture and high fiber content, it replaces the meat in your dish


– Sprouted bread: the sprouting process preserves more nutrients and allows them to be easily digested and absorbed by the body. Build a perfect toast with avocado, yogurt, nut butter, hummus, or cottage cheese as a base and toppings of your choice for healthy eats anytime of the day! (avo toast image)
–  Gluten-free grains: teff, quinoa (protein powerhouse), amaranth (a perfect alternative to 
cream of wheat)
–  Kamut: an ancient wheat with sweet nutty-buttery taste and firm texture. It boasts more protein, vitamins and minerals than modern wheat. Add cooked kamut to salads, soups, yogurt, smoothie and main dish.
–  Savory oatmeal: cook oatmeal as usual then top with egg scramble, grilled meat or fish.
–  Make your own popcorn: microwave corn kernels, coat with olive oil spray then sprinkle either savory (garlic salt, dried herbs or seasoning) or sweet (vanilla sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice) flavors.

Fats & Oils 

–  The latest recommendations from the U.S. Dietary Guidelines emphasize on healthy fats to promote a healthy heart and body weight.
–  Omega-3 and Omega-6: fatty fish such as salmon, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna as well as plant-based food such as flaxseed, chia seed and walnuts.
–  Additional sources: avocado, olive oil and nuts


– move over Greek yogurt, you’ve got competition in the dairy aisle!

–  Bulgarian yogurt (Trimona), Icelandic yogurt (Siggi’s), Asian yogurt (Tarte)
–  Functional smoothie: try pea protein and add a dash of turmeric and ginger for anti-in- flammatory benefits

New & Noteworthy 

–  Non-dairy beverage: veggie milk, macadamia milk
–  Tea salad dressing: add brewed tea to your dressing to enhance savory and sweet flavors in your dish
–  Dairy-free creamer such as almond, coconut and soy


Claire is a Registered Dietitian with a diverse clinical experience in neonatal, pediatric and adult nutrition.  Her current role as the Health Promotion Dietitian at the air force base allows her to apply clinical knowledge to help the active duty population to prevent chronic illnesses.  She is passionate about pediatric nutrition, plant-powered eating and communicating science-based nutrition information to the public.  Claire is a member of the Kids Eat Right Campaign helping to end child obesity and marketing co-chair for the Colorado Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  Having lived in Southern California for over 15 years, she recently moved to the equally sunny state of Colorado.