One Simple Tip for a Varied Diet

Prostock-Studio/ iStock / Getty Images Plus
Prostock-Studio/ iStock / Getty Images Plus

To be healthy, you don’t have to eat plain chicken with steamed broccoli and unseasoned brown rice every day for dinner. (Actually, you don’t have to do that ever … unless you like it, of course.)

Instead, add variety to your meals by switching up the fruits and vegetables you choose each week.

Eating fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors ensures you get all of the nutrients you need, plus phytonutrients: carotenoids, flavonoids, resveratrol and anthocyanins, among others. There aren’t daily requirements of these nutrients, but adding them to your diet can offer health benefits beyond basic nutrition. There’s not enough time or space here to discuss the benefits of each phytonutrient, but if you incorporate a variety of colors into your diet, you’ll rest assured that you’re getting the benefits.

A Rainbow of Produce

When it comes to fruits and vegetables, add variety by shopping and eating the rainbow. Each time you go to the store, pick up at least one different fruit or vegetable to represent each color of the rainbow. Here’s a list to get you started.

Cherries, Cranberries, Grapefruit, Radishes, Radicchio, Red Apples, Red Grapes, Red Onions, Red Peppers, Pomegranate, Raspberries, Rhubarb, Strawberries, Tomatoes, Watermelon

Butternut Squash, Carrots, Cantaloupe, Nectarines, Orange Bell Peppers, Orange Tomatoes, Oranges, Papaya, Peaches, Persimmons, Pumpkin, Sweet Potatoes, Tangerines, Tangelos

Apricots, Golden Apples, Lemons, Mango, Pineapple, Yellow Squash, Yellow Corn, Yellow Bell Peppers

Artichoke, Arugula, Asparagus, Avocado, Basil, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Celery, Cilantro, Collards, Cucumber, Chayote Squash, Endive, Fennel, Green Apples, Green Beans, Green Grapes, Green Herbs, Green Onions, Green Peppers, Green Tomatoes, Honeydew, Kale, Kiwi, Leeks, Limes, Okra, Parsley, Peas, Spinach, Snap Peas, Watercress, Zucchini

Blue and Purple
Blackberries, Blueberries, Black Currants, Eggplant, Purple Grapes, Purple Cabbage, Purple Carrots, Purple Potatoes, Plums, Raisins

White and Brown
Banana, Cauliflower, Garlic, Ginger, Dates, Jicama, Mushrooms, Onions, Parsnips, Pears, Potatoes, Shallots, Turnips, White Corn

Even More Variety

When it comes to every other food group, simply switch it up each week.

Switch up your proteins. For instance, if you ate eggs for breakfast this week, try Greek yogurt next week. Have grilled chicken in your salad today and try smoked salmon tomorrow. Did you have a lean steak for dinner? Try grilled pork sirloin. Do you typically eat meat or poultry at every meal? Try a meatless option such as beans, tempeh or tofu.

Vary those grains, too. Oatmeal for breakfast this week, whole-grain toast with eggs next week. Brown rice today; quinoa tomorrow. Whole-wheat pasta for dinner; farro with lunch.

You get the point. Switch it up. Try something new. You may discover your next favorite food that you didn’t even know existed!

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Jamila René Lepore
Jamila René Lepore, MS, RDN, is a Florida-based registered dietitian nutritionist and food scientist with a passion for food, nutrition and overall wellness. Read her blog, No Nonsense Nutritionist, and connect with her on Twitter and Pinterest.