Focus on Variety

Focus on Variety

Focus on Variety

In honor of National Nutrition Month®, let’s talk about variety in our food choices. Every food we choose has a different nutrient profile and, therefore, can benefit our bodies in different ways. For instance, strawberries, which are an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber, can help protect our hearts, bones, and immune systems and promote gut health. Walnuts, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, selenium, and phytosterols, may increase the level of serotonin in our brains (improving our mood and sleep!), protect against cardiovascular disease, and support our immune systems.

 

By including a variety of foods in your meals and snacks, you can increase the type and number of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, protein, fatty acids, and more, that work in your body to promote high-functioning organ systems and protect against disease. Your brain, heart, muscles, eyes, kidneys, liver, gut, skin, and blood cells depend on you to provide all essential nutrients in appropriate amounts.

Rather than focus on vitamin and mineral supplementation, try to include at least three food groups at every meal and at least two food groups at every snack. The main food groups to focus on include the following:

  • Produce: Fruits and vegetables
    • TIP: Try to eat at least 5 half-cup (one-cup for raw leafy greens) servings each day. Raw, cooked, frozen, canned, and dried fruits and vegetables are included!
  • Protein: Meat, poultry, fish, legumes (beans, nuts/seeds, nut butter, lentils), tofu, milk, cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese
    • TIP: Try to eat about 30 grams (4 oz) of protein at each meal, and 5-15 grams at each snack. Your body utilizes protein for essential functions (e.g. muscle repair and cellular communication) best when spread throughout the day.
  • Grains/Starches: Brown rice, quinoa, pasta, cereals, oats, bulgur, millet, tortillas, bread, popcorn, sweet potatoes, white/red potatoes, corn, peas, and winter squash
    • TIP: Try to make at least half of your grains whole-grain for extra fiber, B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate), and minerals (iron, magnesium, and selenium).

 

Another way to increase variety is to focus on one specific food group and trying new foods within that group. To achieve this, you can try to increase the variety of fruits or vegetables that you eat, or maybe there’s a grain that you’ve been wanting to try, like quinoa or bulgur.

 

The options are endless for adding variety to your meals, and it can make a big difference in your health and meal satisfaction!


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Collette Sinnott, RD, CPT

Hi there! I am a registered dietitian & certified personal trainer with a love of cooking and the outdoors! I created this blog to share my nutrition and fitness expertise and promote healthy lifestyles focused on disease prevention. I advocate for variety in food choices without restriction and encourage others to eat mostly nutrient-dense foods while including enjoyable foods. I am also passionate about fitness and recognize the benefit in moving a little each day!

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