Sumary of Food variety is important for our health – but the definition of a ‘balanced diet’ is often murky:
- In the UK for example, the NHS Eatwell Guide divides foods into food groups (starchy carbohydrates, fruit and veg, dairy or dairy alternatives, proteins, and fats)..
- To get a “balanced diet”, the guide advises people to aim to eat a certain amount of food from each food group..
- by dietary guidelines can often be confusing and too simplistic – and vastly different from what the general public may define as variety..
- Research has shown that in addition to having variety as part of the whole diet, we can measure variety within meals (for example, having multiple courses, or foods from different food groups on our plate) as well as across meals (such as having different foods for lunch each day)..
- Importantly, research has also found that variety can refer to foods that differ in their characteristics (such as their appearance, flavour, texture or smell), as well as the nutrients found in them..
- It also means that single foods and dishes with mixed ingredients (such as pizzas or sandwiches) can have variety..
- At the moment, UK dietary guidelines rely on people using their own discretion to achieve an overall balance of different foods in their diet..
- For example, they were shown supermarket aisles displaying different food brands, meals that consisted of multiple foods from different food groups, and mixed dishes and foods that contained different flavours, colours, and textures – such as salads with a mix of vegetables, or pizzas with different toppings..
- Though participants often identified and discussed different types of variety, they tended to only define variety as eating foods from different food groups as part of the whole diet, a definition that is consistent with the use of variety in dietary guidelines..
- ifong/ Shutterstock Thinking about variety within meals is important, because research shows that people eat more when meals and foods differ in appearance, taste and texture within the same dish….