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Nutritional Variety

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Variety is an important pillar of nutrition, along with adequacy and balance.

Variety can be defined as “The state of being different or diverse, the absence of uniformity or sameness”. -Oxford Languages 

This concept is beneficial to apply in nutrition because there is such a large quantity of nutrients and food components that are essential and beneficial to our health. More specifically, there are >30 essential nutrients (like protein, vitamin D, and iron), and 100s of beneficial food components (like lycopene, a type of phytochemical). When we incorporate a variety of foods into our regular dietary intake, we expand and diversify the types of things that our body can benefit from. 

This directly contradicts trendy diet plans, as many of them rely on the elimination of foods or entire food groups to achieve weight loss and health. When we put limits on the types of foods we consume, we end up eating the same nutrients every day and missing out on the same nutrients every day. Thus limiting the potential benefit of food in our lives. 

Our busy schedules can also limit the variety we allow in our diets, as food becomes an inconvenience taking up valuable time in our day instead of an intentional method of self-care. 

Ideally, variety would translate to regularly eating many different types of foods from each of the 5 MyPlate food groups (grains, protein, dairy, fruits, and vegetables). Practically, improving variety can be accomplished by committing to take small steps in diversifying your diet each week. This may look like revisiting foods you enjoy but forget to purchase regularly, purchasing 1 new food to try in each grocery run, or practicing different recipes and cooking methods with the foods you already like.  

Written by: Courtney Anderson, MS, RD, LD, CLC

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