Should You Eat a Less Varied Diet?

A variety of fresh foods — greens, Brussels sprouts, avocado, apple, broccoli and grains — grouped together on a gray background
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“Eat a varied diet” is a fairly standard piece of advice. The idea is that by eating a greater variety of foods, you’ll be more likely to check off all the nutritional boxes. But a new report suggests that the enormous amount of variety in our diet may be leading us astray.

When we have lots of different foods on our plates (or on a buffet line), we tend to eat more. You’ve no doubt experienced this countless times. After eating a bowl of chili, we might feel no desire to continue eating … until a piece of cheesecake appears. Suddenly, we have a little more room.

But we can use this effect to our advantage, by limiting the variety of snacks and sweets that we keep around and increasing the variety of fresh vegetables, for example.

Just for fun, why not take an inventory of what’s in your house right now? How many different types of crackers, salted nuts, chips or other snack foods are on hand? How many different kinds cookies, cereal, muffins, granola bars, ice cream, chocolate or other sweet treats? How many types of bread, rolls, tortillas and other starchy foods?

Now open up that crisper drawer. How many different kinds of vegetables and fruits are in there, ready to eat? How many different sources of lean protein?

How does the variety (or lack thereof) of various categories of food correlate to your consumption patterns? 

If you want to cut down on snacking, try keeping fewer snack foods around. If you want to eat more vegetables, surround yourself with more different kinds of produce.

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Monica Reinagel
Monica Reinagel MS, LDN, is a writer, speaker, culinary nutritionist and creator of the Nutrition Diva podcast. She blogs at NutritionOverEasy.com. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.