Getting variety right

I’ve lost count of how many people have asked me in the last week how to increase the variety in their diet. So many in fact that I’m tempted to answer with “Buy different foods.” While this may seem like the obvious answer, it’s not a very helpful one. If I’d told the one lady to suddenly start cooking with ingredients not found in her local supermarket, she would have walked out. And I’m pretty sure the one guy had no idea what fresh ginger looks like, let alone knowing what on earth to do with it if he ever found it!

Variety is important in our diets because it increases our chances of getting all the good nutrients we need. It also brings more flavour into our diets. So the more you can vary your intake the better, but it doesn’t have to be expensive or done all in one go.

A fun way to experience new tastes and flavours without necessarily having to buy anything is to spend a morning at a food market. Be brave and try everything. Believe me, there will be plenty to eat and you will not leave hungry. And who knows, you may just develop a love for cumin-roasted aubergine dip or seared tuna burgers.

Choose one new seasonal ingredient a week and see how you can bring that into your regular meals. For example, nectarines can be eaten as is, added to fruit salad, blended into a puree for desserts, grilled on the braai as a side to your chops and potatoes, or finely diced and added to a rocket and feta salad.

If you’re always eating bread, try wholewheat, seed loaf, raison loaf, sourdough or rye. You can also swop the slices for something like a pita, a wrap or a bun. Other carbs that can be interchanged are pasta, couscous, pearled wheat/barley, rice, noodles, potatoes, sweet potatoes and the list goes on and on. It’s just a case of choosing a different one each time and seeing whether you like it or not.

A big obstacle to having a variety if you’re not cooking for a family is the quantity of the food you buy. No one wants to buy 6 pita breads for themselves and then have to eat one every day! So wrap the remaining ones up tightly and freeze them until you’re ready for another delicious pita combo. The same can be done for other foods you might buy or make – if you’ve bought 1kg of chicken thighs, marinate them all then freeze the ones you won’t be using that day. Later in the week when you want some chicken again, it’s all there already!

Often all it takes is some inspiration – look at cookbooks, magazines, and food websites. They’re all bursting with delicious recipes and photos. If something catches your eye or makes your mouth water, give it a go!

And a very simple one, which many people tend to forget: buy different fruit and vegetables! How many of us get stuck buying baby marrows and diced butternut? The great thing with veg is that they don’t all require their own specific cooking methods. Steaming, roasting, sautéing or grilling works for most of them.

And if you eat out a lot, opt for a different restaurant or different dish. You might just find a new favourite, and you’ll never know until you try. And if you’re always going for the burger and chips option as a take-away, now is as good a time as any to try something a little fresher and healthier, which you’ll find at any Kauai store.


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