Five reasons why it’s important to eat the rainbow and fill your plate with a variety of different foods, all year long.
If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed I use #EatTheRainbow quite frequently. Truth is, I feel very passionately about eating the rainbow and no, I’m not talking about those fruit-flavored candies that rhyme with shmittles.
While this topic is certainly not rocket science nor a phrase I came up with on my own, after chatting with my beautiful friend Ali it dawned on me that perhaps not everyone realizes the specific reasons why it’s important to eat a brightly colored diet so I decided to share my thoughts on the subject.
Eating the rainbow is one of the most fundamental rules of proper nutrition that I try to practice on a daily basis. This playful mantra inspires me to eat a variety of foods in a multitude of colors, every single day, every day of the year.
For whatever reasons, I’ve noticed that a lot of people eat a fairly monochromatic diet. In other words, they eat the same 5-10 fruits and vegetables again and again. Perhaps they grew up eating steamed green beans every night at dinner or they simply can’t imagine breakfast without a banana.
While I love bananas and green beans (and eat them both frequently!) I also love Swiss chard, eggplant and cauliflower. Beyond that, in order to achieve optimal health it’s important to avoid monochromatic grocery shopping — the type of shopping you could do with your eyes closed because you tend to shop from the same 20% of the grocery store, 80% of the time.
But why? Why shouldn’t I continue to eat a red delicious apple with my turkey sandwich every day for lunch? Here’s why:
1. Maximized Nutrition: Every shade of the rainbow in the produce section represents a different health benefit. For example, red foods like tomatoes, watermelon and red peppers contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant which protects the skin and can prevent heart disease among other things. Orange foods like sweet potatoes and butternut squash contain potassium and folic acid. The list goes on but the message stays the same: the more variety of color on your plate, the more health benefits your body will reap.
2. Avoid Boredom: One of the many reasons I love farmers market season is because I get inspired and excited to try new foods. This yearning to try new fruits or learn how to prepare different vegetables is what keeps me excited and motivated about healthy eating. If I was eating the same bunch of grapes with lunch and boiled broccoli with dinner it would be boring and I would have a harder time sticking with my long term goals.
3. Save Money: Look, I love raspberries just as much as the next gal but depending on the time of year it may be more cost effective to feed my family pomegranate or cranberries. Shopping seasonally is not only an easy way to ensure that you’re eating a wide variety of colors all year long but it will also help you save on your food budget.
4. Improved Taste: Another benefit of seasonal eating, aside from saving money, is the fact that you’re guaranteed to eat produce picked at their height of freshness. Don’t be afraid to use your nose and look for the ripest, best smelling items you can find. That may mean leaving your romaine-salad-comfort-zone and trying baby kale or spinach instead. And that’s ok.
5. Less Risk: With a constant stream of alarming news reports and non-stop food recalls, trying to pick out the best foods to feed your family can be downright stressful. Dirty dozen, pesticides, cross-contamination, GMOs… the list goes on. While I’m not a food scientist or a Registered Dietitian, I can tell you this: moderation in all things is not only good for your waistline but it limits risk. In other words, eating the rainbow naturally reduces your risk because you are enjoying a diverse diet and not eating the same foods day in and day out.
Your fork is waiting.