How to add variety to your diet

The Australian Dietary Guidelines highlights the importance of eating a wide variety of nutritious foods. The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating groups similar types of foods together in five different groups. The foods in each group have similar nutrients and are often used the same way in cooking. To make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need, it’s important to eat enough from all the five groups.

However, within each food group, foods will vary in the amount of nutrients they provide. So it’s also important to eat a large range of different foods even within the one food group.

We often get used to eating just the foods we like, that are familiar and that we find easy to buy and prepare.

Here are a few easy ideas to help you expand your meals and snacks and to experience a whole new world of tastes and textures. Your eating pleasure will increase and your tastebuds, health and body will thank you.

Eat with your eyes

Much of our eating pleasure comes from seeing food that looks beautiful. That’s one reason food themed magazines, cook books with photos and cooking TV shows are so popular.

Vegetables and fruit have a wide range of beautiful colours and textures. All we need to do is choose widely, prepare simply and arrange creatively, for quick and easy WOW! factor. Choose mostly from what’s in season and add highlights of what is less available and more expensive.

Vary one part of your meal at a time

  • Try different types of pastas, noodles, rices, polenta, barley, couscous or quinoa as a side dish at main meals
  • Mix wholegrain varieties with refined varieties, gradually increasing the wholegrain
  • Canned or cooked legumes, corn or sweet potato are an alternative side dish to white potato  
  • Keep changing your type of bread, roll, wrap, foccacia, turkish bread roll, for your sandwich
  • Cook tomatoes, mushrooms or spinach to go with a hot breakfast

Add an extra food group to a meal

Vegetables

  • Add finely chopped or grated coloured vegetables to main dishes. This will also reduce the kilojoules for people wanting to lose weight.
An image of a vegetable salad with bread to illustrate adding variety to a meal with an extra food group.

Look to other cultures for new food combinations using legumes

  • Add chickpeas to curries, middle eastern dishes and lamb casseroles and stews
  • Add red kidney beans to Mexican and Italian tomato based dishes
  • Serve tuna with cannelloni beans or butter beans
  • Serve steak on a white bean mash
  • Add tofu to stir fries
  • Add four bean mix to minestrone

Nuts and seeds

  • Garnish a salad, curry, pasta or stir fry with  toasted chopped nuts or seeds
  • Sprinkle chopped nuts on porridge, cereal or yogurt
  • If you are trying to lose weight, use only small amounts of nuts and seeds as they are high in nutrients but also high in kilojoules.

Use leftovers and freezing to eat from more food groups

  • Add frozen vegetables to leftovers for a quick, portable, lower kilojoule lunch
  • Add leftover salad to a sandwich for lunch
  • Make extra serves of a meal and freeze in portion sizes. Serve this reheated with frozen vegetables, when in a hurry.
  • Freeze wholegrain breads so a slice is always on hand

Stock up on long life and canned products so you never run out

  • Buy fruit canned without added sugars (especially pie pack varieties) and vegetables canned without salt (no added salt varieties).
  • Keep some long life fat reduced milk and skim milk powder in the cupboard