So earlier this week I talked about why it’s important to aim to eat a variety of different plant-foods. Research has shown that people that eat a variety of 30 different plant foods a week are proven to have a more diverse gut microbiota than those who eat 10 or less. Now 30 sounds like a lot! but I promise its easier than it sounds. Below, I have listed my top tips for reaching the magic number.
Different Colours Count
Did you know that different coloured veggies actually count as different plant foods?. By simple diversifying the colours of your food, you can up your intake. For example, add different coloured peppers to your dinner instead of just one, or have a red apple for a snack one day and a green one the next. They can be counted individually.
Swap for Whole-grains
Swapping your everyday food items for whole-grain versions is one of the easiest ways to get more plant foods into your diet. For example, instead of using white bread for your lunchtime sandwich, use a seeded wholegrain one instead. Another example is swapping the pasta in your bolognese to wholegrain or your white rice to brown.
Add Some Seeds
Seeds are another easy way to add some variety. They are very versatile and can be thrown into almost any dish or snack. I try to add a variety of seeds to my food throughout the week. I sprinkle them on my porridge, in my smoothies, salads, trail mix, granola, bread, sauces, stir fries, and lots more.
Beans, Beans, Beans
Tins of beans can be your best friend when trying to diversify your plant foods. They can be thrown into almost any dinner with very little preparation (just strain them). Also, you can easily mix and match them. Instead of just adding one type of bean to your dinner, add two. For example, add both black beans and kidney beans to a chilli, or better yet, add some mixed beans to a salad.
Switch it up
I know some people who have a banana every morning with their breakfast or carrots with their hummus for a snack every day. Instead of having the same plant food everyday try and vary it by having something different. For example, you could have a banana with your breakfast one morning and some strawberries the next and some blueberries the day after that. Or have a mixture of veg with your hummus rather than just one. Maybe try adding some cucumber, celery or even broccoli.
I’m not saying that you have to know every thing you’re going to eat before the week even starts. However, it is sometimes helpful to have a general idea of what you might eat for the week and make sure that you actually have them. You can also prep your breakfast or lunch the night before so you’re not rushing and can put some real thought into it.
Make It Yourself
One of the best ways to make sure you are including enough plant foods or even be able to add a few extra is to make your food yourself. Firstly, a lot of ready made foods, such as sandwiches or microwave meals are generally quite low in whole-foods and it can be hard to know how many you’re getting. Instead try and make your own lunches and dinners if possible. It doesn’t even have to be everyday but it can be very very effective in making sure you get a few extra plants in there.
Try New things…or Old
Sometimes we can be absolute creatures of habit. We tend to reach for the same foods all the time and we can be hesitant to try new ones. Often, we are resistant to retrying foods that we once had a bad experience with or that we didn’t like when we were a child. Its good to try something new or again if it’s been a while. Our tastes change over time and we can find different ways to enjoy foods. For example, I always hated Brussel sprouts because I was always served them boiled. However, over the past few years I’ve been roasting them with different herbs and spices and now they are one of my absolute favourite vegetables. As they say, ‘you won’t know unless you try’. We all have things that we don’t like and that’s ok but by trying we can open ourselves up to a whole new variety of foods.