Healthy eating: Think VARIETY

Variety – definition: a different form or kind within a general group

Variety is the spice of life. It is also the basis of healthy eating. Healthy eating is about balance – that is, eating foods from different food groups, each of which provides important nutrients that perform specific functions within the body (see my last blog post). When developing a healthier diet, the next step is to eat a variety of foods from within each food group.

I love food and I thank all that is good in the world that we have such a huge range of delicious foods available to us. Within each food group there are so many choices of food for us to enjoy and, happily, to benefit from health wise.

For example, many of us may have heard that we should eat 5-or-more fruits and vegetables everyday. However, 5 of any one thing doesn’t count! So don’t eat 5 of your favourite fruit, or drink 5 glasses of your favourite juice and think that you are sorted…because you are not.

We generally benefit from 2-3 fruits/2-3 vegetables each day (combine to make a total of at least 5).  Servings of fresh fruit and vegetables should be about 80g, or a handful.The 5 also refers to 5 different fruits and vegetables and, ideally, 5 differently coloured fruits and vegetables. For example, a small juice (150ml) and baked beans (yes, baked beans are one of your 5-a-day) for breakfast, tomatoes on your sandwich or in your salad at lunch, a piece of fruit for your afternoon snack and some green vegetables with your evening meal. Such a variety of fruits and vegetables provide us us with many, many vitamins and minerals, as well as fibre for good digestion.

The same variety is available within all the food groups and our health will benefit from including different foods in our diets:

CARBOHYDRATES – bread, pasta, rice, polenta, quinoa, oats, cous cous, noodles, potatoes  (potatoes do not counts as one of your 5-a-day)

PROTEIN foods – meat, seafood, eggs, beans, nuts, tofu

DAIRY – milk, yoghurt, cheese and alternatives (eg: soy milk)

When you think about the range of foods available within each food group and all meals that could be made from these foods, there is surely something for everyone, with all of our different tastes and needs.

To add variety to my diet each week I have embraced:

MEATFREE Monday – all meals are free of meat and/or meat products

WHEATFREE Wednesday – all meals are wheat-free, so I might have fruit and yoghurt for breakfast, rice for lunch and a baked potato for my evening meal

FISHY Friday – one meal will include fish – my favourites are sardines on toast, smoked salmon sandwich or baked trout

Variety makes life interesting and a varied diet does the same. Working towards a more varied diet is as simple as trying a new food or flavour every week, regardless of the variety already in your diet. This could be as simple as trying a different fruit juice or a different sandwich for lunch.

When you think of healthy eating, think variety, and think of all of the additional goodness you will be eating. Your body will thank you.

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2 responses

  1. I tried to do just this yesterday when planning my meals. I was happy that my dinner consisted of eggplant, asparagus, potatoes and sausage, instead of just sausage and potatoes! I need to work on variety with my fruits though. I love strawberries and bananas, but need to branch out!

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