You are probably familiar with the phrase, “Variety is the spice of life.” But when it comes to our nutrition, many of us avoid “spicing it up”. I am not talking about adding spices to your food (although it is a great idea), I am talking about including variety.
Take a moment to review your food choices over the past week. Do you eat the same thing for breakfast every morning? Does your daily salad consist of romaine lettuce, tomatoes, a slice of cucumber, and some shredded carrot?
If you are like most of my clients you are in a nutritional rut, eating the same foods day after day often prepared the same way. That’s why this month I am encouraging you to “eat the rainbow”.
What does it mean to “eat the rainbow”?
We all know we should be eating 2-3 servings of fruits and 3-4 servings of vegetables every day in order to meet the minimum requirements for a healthy diet. But, did you know that we should also be eating a variety of different colors of fruits and vegetables?
You probably know that fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and minerals we need to stay healthy, but they also contain phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are chemicals made by plants to protect them from diseases, insects, and other harmful agents. Fortunately, they can do the same for us! Phytonutrients can help prevent certain cancers, support the immune system, and fight inflammation, among other things. Different colors have their own unique set of phytonutrients. For example the phytonutrient, Lycopene, which has been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes, macular degeneration, and certain cancers, is what gives tomatoes, watermelon, and strawberries their red color. Fruits and vegetables generally fall into 5 color categories: green, red, orange/yellow, blue/purple, and white/brown. Over the next 5 weeks we will explore each color in more detail.
Why “eat the rainbow”?
There are several benefits to “eating the rainbow”, including:
- Improved nutrition– As I mentioned earlier, different colored fruits and vegetables have different types of phytonutrients which benefit our health.
- It’s easy– Just 1 serving of each color guarantees you get at least 5 servings of fruits/veggies which means you are effortlessly getting the minimum requirement for the vitamins, minerals, and fiber these foods contain.
- Prevents boredom– Let’s face it, eating the same foods over and over can get boring. Boredom can lead to skipping vegetables or replacing them with less healthy choices like, sugar laden juices. The “eating the rainbow” method encourages you to try different foods within the color group, for example trading your romaine lettuce for arugula or bok choy. Also, different cooking methods affect the availability of nutrients within a food, cooked spinach provides more nutrients than raw spinach.
- Supports the local economy– Another part of the eat the rainbow plan is to eat seasonally. This means buying fruits and vegetables when they are in season. Often the best place to do this is at your local farmers market.
- Can help you save money– It may seem like buying all of these different colors of fruits and vegetables can get expensive, however produce that is in season is often less expensive than an off season option. Think of the difference between buying blueberries in the summer versus in late winter. Also, filling up your diet with healthy fruit and vegetable options means you will be less hungry for expensive snacks. Think of the money you will save by taking an apple to work for mid afternoon snack time rather than dumping money into the vending machine for chips or a candy bar.
It is important to remember that “eating the rainbow” is not a diet, but rather a handy tool to help ensure you consume a variety of fruits and vegetables. It helps ensure you get plenty of important nutrients without getting bored or having to think too much about what to eat.
Next week’s post will explore the the nutrients and types of foods found in the GREEN category. Until then, here is a game you can play to see how well you, “eat the rainbow.” The game works great with kids, but many of my adult clientsenjoy it as well.
Eat The Rainbow Game
What you need:
- A picture of a rainbow
- A magic marker or sharpie
- A box of gold stars or small stickers
How to play:
- Print out your picture of the rainbow.
- Use a marker or sharpie to divide the rainbow into seven sections and label 1 section for each day of the week.
- For each serving of a color group you eat, place a gold star/sticker on the corresponding color.
- Repeat the process every day for a week.
- At the end of the week, review your results. How did you do? Did you get at least 5 servings of fruit and veggies each day? Were you lacking in any particular color group? Do you avoid one color all together?
- Challenge yourself to improve your eat the rainbow performance the next week.
Have fun, be adventurous, and until next time, have a happy healthy day!
If you want to learn more simple and effective nutritional habits, join my online nutritional coaching program that starts September, 9th. Learn more at: https://procoach.app/wellnessphx