Top Reasons for Variety in Your Diet

March 13, 2014 Dietary Considerations

You don't have to be familiar with the movie "Groundhog Day" to know that new and exciting experiences make life more interesting. And you don't have to be a card-carrying "foodie" to know that variety really is the spice of life.

Anyone who has to eat — so, everyone? — benefits from a vibrant day of foods in every size, shape and color. Adventures in cooking make every day more interesting, and adventures in eating absolutely add another layer of depth and richness to your day-to-day life.

In this excitement-seeking spirit of adventure, I offer to you my favorite reasons for injecting your diet with variety (and some delicious tips on how to make it happen).

Every food holds a different value. That is to say, each food possesses its own nutritional virtues and affects our bodies in its own unique way. Broadly and very simply speaking, carbs create energy, proteins build muscle, fats power the brain and fiber aids digestion.

Adventures in eating absolutely add another layer of depth and richness to your day-to-day life.

Eating a thoughtful collage of foods is a delicious way to work toward a well-oiled machine of a body. Getting the essential vitamins and minerals you need to be nourished and flourish is effortless when you make a point of enjoying variety in each meal.

You have a reason to dig deep. Don't settle for your go-to dishes. Drill down to learn more about the variety in each food group.

In addition to standard oranges, sample blood oranges, clementine oranges and mandarin oranges. Toss together your favorite iceberg salad, and then pepper in leaves of arugula, radicchio and watercress. Spread your sandwich with peanut butter, but be sure to incorporate a teaspoon of almond or cashew butter now and then. Grill or sauté chicken breasts early in the week, and then get your protein fix from black bean burgers and salmon filets later in the week. Play with the many grains of rice, shapes of pasta and cuts of oats. For example, you can make this kid-friendly dish with wagon-wheel pasta.

And, for the love of flavor, go crazy with foods like quinoa that straddle several different food groups. Make a point to seek out new versions of your old favorites; you absolutely will be delighted by what you find beneath the obvious.

It's just so exciting! Really. Once you catch the fever around interesting foods, you may find yourself wanting to skip down the aisles of the grocery. Shopping is no longer a chore but an opportunity to unearth flavorful surprises. In fact, your neighborhood chain might not be able to contain your enthusiasm after a while. Before long, you'll be setting aside Saturday mornings (like I do) to cruise your local circuit of farmers markets. A monotonous diet is not only no fun to shop for, it is downright boring to eat.

You'll be a better cook. Here's the added bonus of all this interesting and exciting variety in your diet: It will make you a better cook! Every time you bring home a can of field peas, a head of romaine or a bushel of tomatoes, you will be required to flex your culinary muscle in a whole new way.

In order to eat a variety of foods, you will have to move outside of your comfort zone to prepare them. Whether it's the piece of equipment, knife skill or recipe you'll need to bring the new ingredient to life, you absolutely will advance your kitchen know-how.

All this excitement feeds on itself, you know. The more variety you experience, the more you will crave it. Before you know it, you'll be seeking out farmers markets and excuses to cook more often. Let the spicy life begin...