Varied diet: 7 tips
Almost everyone knows that a varied diet is important if you want to stay healthy. We already say it regularly on this blog! Yet in practice, we see that many people hardly vary in their diet. The same breakfast and the same lunch every day, and almost the same evening meals every week. That is not surprising, because thinking about food every day can be difficult. But a varied diet is easier than you think!
Why a varied diet?
Variety in your diet is often mentioned as the key to a healthy diet. But why actually? There are two very important reasons for a varied diet.
All the nutrients you need
Healthy eating is a bit more complicated than just proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Yes, it is important that you get those so-called macronutrients in the right amounts. But it is also essential to get enough vitamins and minerals. And the same goes for all kinds of other nutrients – think phytonutrients and other trace elements.
We don’t even know exactly why many of these substances are so healthy. But what we do see is that people who get enough of them feel a lot better physically.
There is no one food that contains all these different substances. Even all those so-called panacea – wheatgrass, goji berries, and similar ‘superfoods’ – provide at most a slightly higher proportion of the group than other products.
So how do you make sure you still get everything you need? Exactly: vary! The more different foods you eat, the more you will enjoy all of their own unique benefits. Including those substances of which we don’t even know exactly how healthy they are.
Healthy intestinal flora
In addition, there is a second reason to keep eating varied. For that, we have to take a look at your digestion, and specifically at a part that few people know about: your intestinal flora.
Millions of bacteria live in your intestines. There are so many that they weigh an average of one to one and a half kilos on average! These bacteria are essential for the processing of your food, but they also affect the rest of your body. Your intestinal flora secretes substances that can affect your immune system, hormone balance, and even your brain.
Now that bacterial population in your body is made up of countless different species, all competing for survival. Different bacteria thrive on different foods. This means that if you eat very unilaterally, even a fairly unilateral group of intestinal flora will survive in your intestines. With consequences for the rest of your health: bacteria that may play an important role in other physical processes will disappear.
Tips for a varied diet
Well, every reason not to follow the same menu every day, so. Nevertheless, varied food proves to be a difficult challenge for many people! Do you have to come up with a different breakfast every day? And something new for lunch? And a creative evening meal, even when you come from work tired and cranky?
Fortunately, none of that is necessary for anything. Varied food is best-done step by step. Don’t try to do everything differently from one day to the next, because that won’t make you calmer either! Instead, introduce new products and recipes in your diet step by step, so that your menu becomes more versatile.
The following tips will help you easily find new inspiration.
1. Learn five breakfast and lunch dishes
Breakfast and lunch are difficult for many people when it comes to variety. Where we still alternate at dinner, we really don’t feel like making things difficult in the morning. So, just bring the usual sandwiches to work again…
To vary more, you can do the thinking in advance. Make a list of five different breakfasts and lunches that you can make quickly (or the day before). They don’t have to be extremely different, but try to vary a little more than just the toppings you use!
A few suggestions for a healthy breakfast:
- Oatmeal with different fruits and nuts (or overnight oats, for those who have little time in the morning!)
- Yogurt with different fruits and nuts
- A smoothie or shake with fruit and/or vegetables
- An egg (boiled, baked, or as an omelet)
- Your trusted sandwiches, with healthy toppings such as lean protein, hummus, nut paste or vegetables
And for a healthy lunch you can think of, for example:
- Soup with bread (boil a large pan full once and freeze the soup per portion!)
- A quick salad
- Leftovers from dinner the day before
- Again the usual noodles, but with extra healthy toppings
Again, there is no need to use them all! But choose, for example, two items from the list and look up some different recipes for them. That will undoubtedly provide a lot of inspiration.
2. Prepare your snacks
Many people forget snacks when thinking about their diet. The result: when they get hungry, they really have no choice but to pull out a packet of cookies. And that while you can also get so much good out of snacks!
So while you’re planning anyway, think about snacks for a few minutes. What do you usually feel like when you’re hungry – sweet or savory? Can you think of a healthier option than half a bar of chocolate?
- Fresh or dried fruit
- Homemade banana bread (you can also freeze per slice)
- Raw vegetables with a healthy dip
- Mozzarella balls with tomatoes
Or browse through the snacks in our recipe database! These recipes are all ready in five minutes, and you have a wide choice of surprising sweet and savory options.
Do you have a list of favorite ideas? Then you just have to make sure you always have a few different snacks at hand, so that you can always vary!
3. Vary with familiar meals
No doubt you have a handful of meals that you can prepare without thinking. There is a good chance that they are often on the menu. So why not try to vary those easy recipes?
Variety doesn’t necessarily mean you have to eat something completely different, just don’t stick to one type of food. By adjusting one or a few ingredients from your recipe, you often go a long way. For example:
- Try replacing pasta with lentil pasta or spelled pasta
- Replace rice with couscous, bulgur, quinoa, or another grain
- Alternate with proteins: also try fish, tofu, or legumes
- Use different vegetables than usual
This way you get completely different nutrients, without having to think about it for a long time!
4. Save new recipes
Also a practical tip: make sure you have a place where you store new recipes that you like. Create a folder in your browser, or put a physical folder in the kitchen where you can keep clippings.
Do you have more time or feel like cooking for an evening? Then all you have to do is scroll through your stack and pick something you crave! That prevents uninspired browsing through cookbooks until you end up with the standard pasta with tomato sauce again.
5. One new meal per week
To ‘force’ yourself to eat a varied diet, you can choose to eat one new meal per week as standard. For example, do that on the weekend, so that you have time to dive into the kitchen. Do you like the food? Then you can add it to your assortment for weekdays – after all, you now know how to cook this quickly!
No inspiration for something new for a while? With two or three great cookbooks you can often go for years! Or take a look online: there are thousands of blogs that put delicious new recipes online every week.
6. Think of theme days
Do you frequently accidentally eat pasta four times in a week? To avoid such scenes, it can work well to come up with these days. That often helps a lot with the inspiration for dinner!
For example, choose one day a week where you eat standard Italian – that pasta can go well there. But also think of a day Asian, a day vegetarian, a daily fish, a day potatoes-vegetable-meat, a day legumes, a day eating from the oven … Or also handy: a leftovers day where you get rid of the leftovers from the past week.
Organize your theme days in such a way that you will automatically alternate. Then varied food throughout the week immediately becomes a lot easier!
7. Make a schedule!
Finally, the easiest way to eat a varied diet is to make a plan. For example, sit down for it at the weekend and work out what you will put on the table in the coming days. Make sure to alternate with carbohydrates, proteins, vegetables, and fruit. And immediately schedule that new recipe you wanted to try this week!
Making a weekly menu may sound like a lot of work, but in practice, it is often not so bad. Especially if you already have a list of good breakfasts and lunches at hand, or if you have thought out these days. Then you immediately have a good guideline to stick to.