By Liz Riesen, RD
Do you ever get into a rut when it comes to your food? This is a common issue I come across in my nutrition practice and it is an easy trap to fall into. You find a few meals and snacks you enjoy that are easy to fit into your day, so you continue to eat them. But what happens when you get bored of them?
You can feel stuck or overwhelmed trying to start over again with a whole new menu, but this doesn’t have to be a continuous cycle. I’m going to help you take a new approach to building colorful and vibrant meals that are based on rotating ingredients so you don’t get tired of the same foods!
Building colorful and vibrant meals doesn’t only provide a pretty plate. It also means a wider assortment of nutrients. Did you know that the colors of your foods indicate the different antioxidants and nutrients present in your food?
- Red Foods - contain antioxidants that help lower blood pressure, reduce tumor growth and risk of some cancers, lower cholesterol, and support joint tissue. Think tomatoes, apples, watermelon, red pepper, and beets.
- Orange and Yellow Foods - contain antioxidants that support eye health, promote collagen production, fight harmful free radicals, and help prevent heart disease. Think sweet potatoes, carrots, lemons, oranges, pineapples, and pumpkin.
- Green Foods - contain chlorophyll and other antioxidants and minerals that inhibit harmful effects of cancer causing chemicals (carcinogens) and promote healthy blood and lymphatic flow. Think of all your leafy greens, avocados, leeks, peas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage.
- Purple and Blue Foods - have some of the most powerful antioxidants helping to reduce disease risk of cancer, heart disease, and memory loss. Think blueberries, eggplant, purple cabbage, purple potatoes, plums, grapes, and blackberries.
- White Foods - yes, even white foods have antioxidants! These nutrients are especially helpful in supporting our immune health and hormone balance. Think onions, garlic, cauliflower, parsnips, potatoes, and mushrooms.
This is why eating a wide variety of colors can help provide the greatest health benefit to you and your body. So how can you make eating a wide variety of foods realistic and easy to maintain? It starts with understanding that you don’t have to eat all of these colors every day.
Continue to rotate and make sure that you are changing up the types of fruits and vegetables you get from the grocery store each week. This doesn’t mean you can’t get the same fruits and vegetables week to week, but challenge yourself to buy at least 2 different vegetables and fruits each week.
- Smoothies - Simply switch up the fruits (and even veggies) in your smoothie each week.
- Salads - Top these leafy greens with a variety of raw or cooked veggies. My favorite salad topping is roasted vegetables that I prep ahead of the week and can throw on salads, in a wrap, and have as a snack.
- Bowls - These are such an easy way to make healthy and balanced meals in minutes by preparing your grain, veggie, protein, and dressing ahead of time. See the recipe below for building a bowl.
- Snacking - Cutting up a couple types of veggies to have raw as a snack throughout your week can help bring variety into your day. Some of my favorite raw veggies are carrots, celery, bell pepper, radishes, mini cucumbers, and jicama.
We don’t have control over much in this crazy, beautiful life – but we have our faith and we also have a choice over what foods we eat. Make the most out of God’s gift of food and remember how blessed you are to have options! Challenge yourself to eat a variety of foods and colors in your diet!
If you’re interested in learning more about food and nutrients there are plenty of avenues to check out. You can work with a registered dietitian nutritionist to learn how to incorporate a healthy, balanced diet. You can also look for a local cooking class in your area to learn more techniques and recipes to try. Another great option for either getting started in the kitchen or adding new recipes to your arsenal are the meal delivery kits like Hello Fresh or Green Chef.
Life is meant to be lived and food is meant to be enjoyed, so challenge yourself to try new foods and recipes and always keep your plate colorful. Or in other words, “Eat the Rainbow!”
Build Your Own Healthy Bowl
If you’re making this bowl in advance, make sure to layer ingredients below in the order they are listed so that your greens don’t get soggy. You can prepare a grain, protein, and your veggies in advance of your week so you can throw this bowl together in a few minutes, or you can use this recipe as a way to use up what you have in the fridge!
- Sauce: salsa, guacamole, hot sauce, mustard, soy sauce, marinara sauce, your favorite dressing
- 1 cup Protein: egg, chicken, tuna, salmon, ground turkey, lean beef, shrimp, tofu, black beans, chickpeas, lentils, shelled edamame
- ½ - 1 cup Grain or Starch: quinoa, rice, sweet potato, white potato, millet, wild rice
- 1-2 cups Veggies: whatever veggies you have on hand – raw, cooked, or combination. See the lists of colorful foods above to incorporate a variety of colors into your bowl.
- 1-2 cups Greens: mixed lettuce, spinach, baby kale, shredded cabbage, shredded Brussels sprouts
Originally published in Gritty Faith Volume 15. Written by Liz Riesen, RD.