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5 Tips for Adding Variety to your Diet

It’s easy to stick to what you know when you’re choosing foods to buy and prepare – especially when you’re extra busy and there isn’t time to figure out what to do or how to cook with new kinds of foods.

Having go-to foods that you know how to make is great, but it’s also fun to be adventurous and try new things. By adding variety to our diets, we add to our potential to get a variety of nutrients, phytochemicals and antioxidants and we increase the chance for those nutrients, phytochemicals and antioxidants to work together in different ways to bring us even greater health benefits. A study by Harvard School of Public Health1 showed that our risk of all-cause mortality decreases as the number of healthy foods in our diets increases, as well as the variety of healthy foods we choose in our diets increases. Takeaway point: We can’t just rely on kale.

Often, people are looking to get away from their food patterns but don’t know where to start. Today we’ll go over some tips for adding more variety in our diets from produce, whole grains and protein sources to help get out of that rut and find some fun new food pairings!

5 tips

1. Look for Superfoods

We love “superfood” trends – not because they’re the only foods you should rely on, but because they often suggest at least one or two foods you’re unfamiliar with that have great health properties. Check out superfood lists and trends, and use new foods to get creative – while still incorporating a wide variety of other nutritious foods!

2. Eat Seasonally

In Alberta, seasonal produce through the winter can be a bit limiting. However, as spring, summer and fall come around, there are plenty of delicious options for fruits and vegetables that are fresh and low-cost, since they’re in-season. We’ve put together a guide to produce that’s locally seasonal in Alberta during spring and summer! Some things that aren’t on this list may also be seasonal in areas close to Alberta like British Columbia, so keep your eye out for those too.

Guide to Spring & Summer Alberta Produce!

3. Go To the Farmer’s Market

Farmer’s markets are an awesome place to explore new types of foods (often seasonal!) and find something new to try. You have direct access to the food producers as well – these are great people to ask for suggestions when you’re trying a new food! You may also find that foods at the Farmer’s market are fresher and taste even better than what you’re buying at the grocery store, which is a great way to get introduced to something you’ve never tried or enjoy an old favourite!

4. Be Vague on your Grocery List

Instead of having a strict idea of which fruits, vegetables, proteins, grains and other foods, make your grocery list with an idea of how many different kinds of each think you’d like to buy. For example, if you want 8 kind of vegetables and you use 6 on a regular basis, write in “2 other vegetables” on your list. You could even write something like “try a new grain”. This will help you look around in the produce section for different types of vegetables, ones you’ve been meaning to try or have forgotten about including recently!

5. Use New Foods in Familiar Ways

One of the easiest switches to “ease in” to a new food is to swap it with something you already know how to use. Trying a new root vegetable? Use it where you normally use potatoes or sweet potatoes in a recipe. Trying a new grain? Use it in place of rice at recipes and meals. Experimenting with a protein source? Make it like you would normally prepare chicken. By doing this, you are sticking to familiar recipes which takes the effort out of finding a brand new recipe for one ingredient. This also helps get an idea of the flavouring of the new food, and will help you brainstorm with what else you can try it with!

Some suggestions to get you started:

 

eggplant-73907_960_720

Japanese Eggplant: celery-318168_960_720Swap with zucchini

Celery Root: Swap with potatoes, sweet potatoes, and other root vegetables

 

 

 

 

 

Farro

Farro  circleSwap with quinoa, rice, and other commonly used grains

Natural Almond Butter: Swap with natural peanut butter

photo: The Little Red House flickr cc, cropped

 

 

 

What new foods have you tried lately? What are you hoping to try soon? 

 

Written by Lauren Knipping, MSc RD

1Int. J. Epidemiol. (2002) 31 (4):847-854.doi: 10.1093/ije/31.4.847

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We’re a team of devoted dietitians who embrace the science behind healthy eating, and the crucial role your own body chemistry plays. When you need to know what eating well means to you, we’ll provide the what, why and how.

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