Nutritionists do not stop telling us that we should eat a varied diet if we want to stay healthy. But what does that mean? It is actually simpler than you think. You simply have to use our judgment.
Variety on the menu
Eating a varied diet is eating different food so our body can get all the vitamins and nutrients that it needs, thus avoiding possible nutritional deficiencies.
For instance, someone who eats everyday meals composed only of chicken and potatoes may have deficiencies, since chicken and potatoes do not contain all the nutrients that our body need.
Perhaps you love bread, but eating too much bread at the expense of other food could result in an excess of carbohydrates (sugars) in your body and cause deficiencies in vitamin C, for example.
Eating a varied diet with food groups
There is no one food that contains everything that we need. Carrots contain lots of vitamin A and beta-carotene, while broccoli contains lots of vitamin C and folate (Organic Food and Fitness: Daily Nutrition Tip: Broccoli). Thus, it is important to eat a variety of foods in each food group. Vegetables and Fruit, Grain Products, Milk and Alternatives, and Meat and Alternatives are the four main food groups of Canada’s Food Guide.
This guide recommends eating a certain number of servings in each group depending of your age and your sex. It may seem a lot to eat for you, but in fact it is easy to eat the recommended servings as they are small. For example, a serving of meat is like a card game and 125 ml of fruit juice represents one serving of fruit.
Making good choices
In each food group, there is a wide variety of foods that contain different nutrients. You simply have to eat different foods in each of these groups to stay healthy. In the Vegetable and Fruit group, you should eat more vegetables than fruit, and you should choose preferably dark-coloured fruit and vegetables (more nutrients).
It is also important to choose whole grain products for at least half of grain products servings you eat in a day. In terms of meat and alternatives, it is recommended to eat soy products, seeds and nuts, not just meat. You should choose low-fat dairy products. Candies and food that are not part of the four food groups should be eaten only occasionally.
In the end, eating a varied diet is simply eating different foods that belong to the four food groups, while ensuring to make healthy choices.