As National Nutrition Month continues, we’re sharing more tips to improve your eating habits and overall health. In the last post, we shared tips about how to best plan your weekly meals so that you stay on track. This week, we’re diving into the joy of variation in your diet, and all the inspiring new flavors and experiences that are just waiting to be discovered when you shake up your plate.
Variety in your diet is a great way to try new foods and experience a wide range of flavors, textures, and cultures while also improving your overall health and preventing chronic disease. Keeping healthy ingredients on hand, practicing food safety, sharing meals with others, and reducing food waste are all ideas to keep in mind when putting this into practice.
Eat the Rainbow
Have you ever heard the phrase Eat the Rainbow? This idea refers to eating a variety of differently colored foods – specifically fruits & vegetables – every single day. The bright and beautiful colors of fruits and vegetables come from plant pigments called flavonoids. Flavonoids have proven beneficial effects on the body, such as promoting antioxidant activity, lowering LDL or “bad” cholesterol, and acting as anti-inflammatory agents.1 Not only can eating the rainbow help slow the effects of aging & prevent inflammation – which plays a role in many diseases – the nutrients in fruits and vegetables also help prevent cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and other chronic diseases.2 They also contain lots of fiber, which can improve both cardiovascular and gut health. Plus, they’re delicious! Buying in-season, bulk, canned, or frozen produce can work for any palate and be economical choices for your budget.
Although salads are delicious, they’re not the only choice when looking to eat more fruits and vegetables. Add berries to yogurt, oatmeal, pancakes, or cereal in the morning. Try making stuffed peppers, burrito bowls, or tossing roasted veggies into rice or pasta. Reach for snacks like carrots & hummus or an apple & peanut butter. Don’t forget nuts – they contain healthy fats & protein to provide consistent energy throughout your day.
Creativity in Your Kitchen
When it comes to cooking, be adventurous. Trying new things is key for keeping meals – and your life – exciting. Trying recipes or foods from other cultures can be a great way to learn while also expanding your palate. Trying new things can also mean modifying old recipes! For example, try using olive oil instead of butter and adding a variety of spices to flavor your food. Spices like cinnamon, garlic powder, turmeric, parsley, basil, and many others provide delicious taste and health benefits at the same time. There are many ways to incorporate lean protein, produce, and whole grains into your diet, but it doesn’t have to look the same for everyone.
Reduce Food Waste
Reducing food waste is great for the environment and even better for your wallet. Planning ahead and only buying ingredients you know you’ll use is one way to achieve this. Cutting and prepping produce ahead of time (i.e. chopping up veggies for the week) can also help prevent spoilage and waste. Composting and recycling allow for new growth & new products from old materials.
Customizing your diet to suit your needs and preferences is one of the best ways to achieve optimal health. Planning ahead, cooking with family and friends, trying new things, and reducing waste can all make varying your diet healthy & fun.
References 1. Frankel E.N. (1997) Nutritional Benefits of Flavonoids. In: Ohigashi H., Osawa T., Terao J., Watanabe S., Yoshikawa T. (eds) Food Factors for Cancer Prevention. Springer, Tokyo. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-4-431-67017-9_121
2. Yousuf B, Gul K, Wani AA, Singh P. Health Benefits of Anthocyanins and Their Encapsulation for Potential Use in Food Systems: A Review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2016 Oct 2;56(13):2223-30. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2013.805316. PMID: 25745811.