Reading labels, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, not eating out, you name it — we’re always being bombarded by healthy-eating advice and that can be difficult to navigate. Making the same decisions every day can feel monotonous, so being creative in the kitchen can help shake things up and keep you on track.

In a joint study from the University of Chicago and Ohio State University, published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, researchers asked participants to consume “boring” foods (for example, water) in a new way. The results showed people rated their eating experiences happier and more enjoyable when mixing up how they typically eat.

To achieve the same joyful outcomes, try incorporating these inventive tips — all provided by registered dietitians — into your eating and meal preparation routine:

“Choosing a theme for my meals helps guide the spices and ingredients I choose to cook with while making meals more interesting and fun. Most of the themes I go for are ethnic inspired: Asian, Italian, Mexican, etc. Focusing on key flavors that go with each theme and trying to make them stand out is more fun than whipping up something random, bland or repetitive.”
— Ysabel Montemayor, lead RD at Fresh n’ Lean

“You don’t have to be tied down to your protein powder. Some high-protein foods to include in your post-workout shake include Greek or Icelandic yogurt (17 grams of protein per serving), peanut or almond butter (4 grams of protein per serving), oats (4 grams of protein per 1/2 cup), cooked quinoa (4 grams of protein per 1/2 cup) or kale (3 grams of protein per one cup).”
— Kristen DeLuca, RDN, CDN

“In an ice cube tray, pour lemon juice and your favorite fruit, such as fresh blueberries or strawberries, in each cube. Freeze, then toss in your water bottle. As it melts throughout the day, you will have a refreshing treat.”
— Kylene Bogden, RDN, CEO of FWDfuel Nutrition Consulting

“Make more of frozen meals by adding cut veggies, cooked whole-grain starch and/or cut lean protein. This leaves the bulk of the prepping to someone else while boosting the nutritional quality or overall portion of the meal.”
— Alexa McDonald Moriarty, RDN, certified specialist in sports dietetics and owner of Expert Nutrition & Wellness

“Although this might be tricky at first, it can also be a fun, hands-on learning experience. The Instant Pot, slow cookers, pressure cookers and air fryers help simplify and/or speed up the cooking process, especially for more tedious meals. Plus, cleanup is generally pretty simple and easy.”
— Montemayor

“Sometimes I am not in the mood to meal prep. So I make myself get into the kitchen for at least one hour and turn on my favorite (but not too distracting) Netflix show while I prep. If I’m in the mood to continue prepping/cooking when the hour is up, I continue. If not, the dent I made in that hour still goes a long way during a busy week.”
— McDonald Moriarty

“Make your own “cream.” Roast your favorite root vegetable (parsnip, potato, etc.) until soft. Sauté your favorite veggies/protein in a little olive oil, spices, garlic and onion. Blend them with the roasted root vegetable and you have a delicious “cream” soup. This can be made in minutes and works wonders for endurance athletes who want a hearty meal that supports performance without the gut issues.”
— Bogden

“Fill your salt shaker with pepper and your pepper shaker with salt. Because saltshakers have more holes, this simple switch naturally reduces the sodium in your diet.”
— Julie Upton, MS, RD, co-founder of Appetite for Health