Eating varied is one of the key aspects to eating balanced, and also getting the right nutrients and vitamins.
I.e some foods are rich in certain vitamins or minerals, while others are rich in other vitamins and minerals. So by eating different foods within the same food group, you will be getting all the vitamins and minerals you need – hopefully!
The less variation you eat, the higher risk for nutrient deficiencies… though of course you could eat very varied while still eating few foods. So just because you don’t vary so much doesn’t mean you are at a risk for deficiencies.
Variation doesn’t have to be so hard either. Think about variation over time, i.e over a week or a month.
So one week you may eat just the same foods over and over, as that is what you have at home. If you are on a tight budget, it is unlikely that you will have a whole bunch of different vegetables to choose from. And the same goes for protein and carb sources… one week you may just eat potatoes or just pasta as your carb sources and have carrots as your vegetable source.
But the next week you may vary and buy sweet potato instead of white potato, or choose quinoa or brown rice instead of pasta. And you may choose broccolli or tomatoes instead of carrots.
And this applies to fruit, your fat source (one week maybe avocados or peanuts, another week you may eat walnuts or flax seeds) and protein source ex one week red lentils, another week green lentils. One week chickpeas, another week black beans.
Of course, things such as using frozen mixed vegetables or using premixed beans is a good way to vary your intake during the week/day. So that you don’t just eat one type of vegetable or one type of bean the whole week.
This isn’t just for the sake of nutrients and assuring that you get all the nutrients and vitamins you need, but also it can make food and eating more exciting if you eat different foods. You also get to experiment more!
Also the same goes for snacks… maybe one week you just eat oatmeal with banana for breakfast and snacks, the next week you make chia seed pudding with berries, another week you make toast or scrambled tofu. Or even just switching from oatmeal with banana to oatmeal with apple adds variation!
Variation doesn’t mean you have to eat 101 different foods each week, and it doesn’t have to be expensive either. Like i mentioned, think of varying your food over time or from week to week. Buy frozen fruit and vegetables is a great way to have a constant variation of fruit and vegetables on a daily and weekly basis.
But also personally i like to change my protein and carb source throughout the week.
Typically i just vary through the same 20 foods or so, but that is still a varaition and leads to me getting a wider range of nutrients and vitamins, compared to if i just ate tofu, potatoes and avocado 2 times a day for weeks on end.
The less variation you eat (ex. if you just eat the same 5-6 foods) the more likely you are to need supplements. Note: Supplements aren’t bad, but they are just that… supplements, and the key should be to get all your nutrients through food.
Also, it is ok to have certain meals or foods which you love and eat over and over. That is like me with potatoes and avocados.. i eat them on a weekly basis. But i try to vary other things and not *just* eat potatoes and avocado.
It is not about changing everything you eat from week to week, but maybe swapping one or two foods, or adding one or two different foods from the week before!