Can Dietary Diversity Make You Fat?
Dietary diversity, or eating a wide variety of foods, is recommended to ensure consumption of all the different nutrients we need for good health. Somewhat unexpected then, is the finding that those who have the most variety in their food intake are at risk for obesity. Interesting! How should you modify what you eat keeping this research in mind? First, let’s think about how this plays out day to day in your home.
Are you a creature of habit? Most of us are creatures of habit when it comes to eating. We have some standard go to items that we typically eat for each meal. You might start your day with the same bowl of cereal at home or a muffin from the local coffee shop. Lunch also tends to be standard. Do you eat a sandwich and chips each day for lunch? A salad? And how about your dinner? At my house, we typically have fish and veggies for dinner on the weekends and early in the week. As the week progresses and the groceries I bought over the weekend are depleted, we switch to vegetarian meals that don’t include fresh fish. We rarely have chicken or red meat, typically only if we go out to a restaurant or if someone serves it at a party. Turns out we aren’t that interesting when it comes to food diversity. Who knew it would work in our favor when it comes to weight management?
As a doctor, mother and wife, I am always striving to make healthy and tasty meals available for my family, but its not always easy when racing to run to the grocery store or make dinner after a busy day at work. Here are some nutritional hints that work for us:
- Don’t have food in the house that will tempt you. If you have a variety of options for meals and snacks, you’ll naturally gravitate towards those that taste best. Presented with chips, ice cream, cookies or apples as snack options, which do you think you’ll choose? Hey, you’re only human! Keep the junk food out of your house. If apples, bananas, or grapes are your only snack options, you’ll choose something healthy. No good will come from having junk food variety at home.
- If you want to eat healthy breakfasts, limit yourself to a few options. We typically have GrapeNut, making 1/2 the bowl cereal and 1/2 fruit (berries or bananas), served with fat free milk. During the winter months, we have steel cut oats. One big batch made on a Sunday can be used all week, some in the fridge and some frozen. We top it with nuts and dried fruit plus a bit of milk. I also keep a box of Cheerios handy for a change of pace, as well as fruit in case breakfast is on the run. An apple is my go to breakfast when eating on the way to work. If one isn’t enough, have two!
- For lunch, see if you can get a taste for spinach salad. Load it up with unlimited vegetables. If you want a bit of variety, top it with corn or beans. Use balsamic vinaigrette dressing, just a little bit. If you want to have a sandwich, eat the salad first and an open faced sandwich after the salad. Your sandwich can include avocado as a condiment. Its creamy nature makes it a good replacement for mayonnaise. Have whole grain bread on the bottom, a slice or two of lean turkey, onion, tomato, avocado and top it with a big lettuce leaf. Avoid fast food lunches whatever you do!
- Mid to late afternoon snacks should be fruit or crudites (raw veggies such as carrots, cucumbers, celery, radishes, etc.). A small baggie of unsalted, unsweetened nuts is an alternative.
- Dinner should include at least 1/2 a plate of vegetables. Veggies, veggies, veggies. I promise your weight will benefit from heavy consumption of fresh vegetables. Just don’t top them with butter, bacon or cheese! A small amount of whole grain bread, pasta or brown rice to fill 1/4 of your plate and a small amount of protein can take up the remaining 1/4. Make it vegetarian protein (beans?) or if you must have meat, try fish on the grill with a little store bought spice rub.
To keep your weight where it should be, have some standard healthy options available for every meal and snack! When you introduce variety, stick to variety in the color of your produce. Have dark green, red, orange and yellow vegetables if you are looking to break out of a dietary rut.
Thanks for listening and I wish you the best of health!
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