Diversity does a body good ... or ... I sure do love a farmer's market!
One of the best things you can do for yourself is also one of the most fun (well, I think so...). Eating a variety of foods, especially fruits and vegetables, encourages microbiome diversity and introduces a more expanded array of nutrients to your body.
Shoot for 30-40 different varieties of fruits and vegetables each week. Yes, you read that correctly. But remember that within a category (like dark leafy greens) you have a huge assortment of specific items that each come with their own assortment of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients (usually based on their color). So, there is lacinto kale, red kale, rainbow chard, beet greens, dandelion greens, collard greens, mustard greens (just to name a few) - each of these counts separately towards your goal.
And the best part is that often everything within a category can more or less be prepared the same way. So, any of the greens listed above can be used in your soup, or braised as a side dish, or prepared any way you like your spinach.
Why did I say that this is fun? I love going to the farmer's market (or even my local grocery) and seeing what they have to offer that I don't normally get, and then figuring out what to do with them. For example, today I got red popcorn, "cranberry" dried beans, purple radish, hedgehog and yellow chanterelle mushrooms, a foot-long red beet (maybe a cylindra beet - I forgot to clarify), an unknown variety of squash, and the prettiest bundles of a variety of greens.
What am I going to do with these? Well, popcorn is obvious (with lots of grass-fed butter!). The beans will be soaked and sprouted, and likely added to a soup. The radish will be sliced into salads and/or fermented. Mushrooms (cooked in butter with a bit of wine or vinegar) make an amazing topping for steak or pork chops. We're debating whether to try to roast the beet, which is bigger than all of our roasting skillets, or maybe this one will mostly be eaten raw. The squash will be roasted and likely eaten along with the mushrooms and protein. And the greens have already been cleaned off of the tough stems and are waiting to be used as needed.
Because we eat a version of these foods more or less every week, there is already a plan in place to process and prepare them, making it relatively easy to incorporate "new foods" into our go-to recipes. But these new varieties add some extra dimension to the flavors (mostly good, sometimes less so - you never know until you try).
One thing I recommend is to take a day each week to meal plan, shop, and prepare foods. While this might seem like a lot of time and effort, it saves you so much time throughout the week, while still allowing you to eat healthfully within life's time constraints. We might not map it out 100% (although, frankly, you'll be glad if you do), but having a general plan makes a huge difference.
Then, we take one day (usually Sunday) and get a good start on prep. We'll roast a whole chicken and eat that all week for lunches. At the same time, we roast sweet potatoes, (normal-sized) beets, squash, and potatoes that can be added into meals. We make a pot of rice to use throughout the week. I make a batch of bone broth using whatever bones are available - often these have some meat on them, which can be separated out and used for a meal or two. I clean the greens, as well as cut and wash a head or two of lettuce.
SIDENOTE: Cooking certain starchy foods like rice and potatoes, then refrigerating them overnight before eating them can increase their resistant starches. This means that more of them goes to feeding your gut bacteria (a good thing!) rather than increasing your blood sugar.
So, with a few hours of processing on the weekend, a large portion of your work for meals throughout the week is done! And if you take it even further and actually plan each meal ahead of time, then you don't hardly have to think about food at all. You know you're getting nutritious, home-cooked meals with minimal effort every single night.
Do you have favorite go-to meals that you could substitute new varieties of vegetables into? What are your meal planning strategies?
If you want more help with any of this, contact me!