By Elise Museles
There are lots of reasons to load up on deeply pigmented fruits and vegetables, but for me, the best reason is that it makes me happy. We feel invigorated and energized just looking at brightly colored meals—not to mention all the health benefits our bodies get from eating them.
Consider this the food version of tucking away your black winter sweaters and dull wool coats and pulling out your bright sundresses and fun tops: We all look better and shine brighter with a pop of color, even in our meals.
Here are my five favorite reasons to add more color to your plate:
1. Color > Carbs (or Calories)
Counting carbs, weighing food and tracking calories can be effective—but they’re surefire ways to suck the joy and fun out of meals. The act of measuring and counting reinforces the beliefs that health is hard, nutrition is complicated and nutritional experts know more about our bodies than we do. (They don’t. You can be your own nutritionist).
Healthy foods are colorful foods. Think about it: Black wild rice and brown rice are healthier than white rice; orange sweet potatoes are filled with more phytonutrients than white russets; dark green spinach is better for us than nearly-white iceberg lettuce; freshly spiralized green zucchini noodles are more nutritious than white fettuccini noodles. When you choose your foods based on color, making healthy choices is as easy as stocking your fridge with the vibrant colors of the rainbow.
Idea: Swap plain toast for toast with gorgeous (delicious!) green avocados and sliced red tomatoes.
2. Color Crowds Out Clutter
I don’t believe in deprivation (that’s why this blog is called Kale & Chocolate!) but the reality is, we have limited space on our plates and in our stomachs. When we add more color to our meals, there is less room for the not-so-healthy, colorless clutter.
Rather than telling yourself that you can never eat pasta again, what if you made yourself a big green salad and tossed your pasta with colorful grilled vegetables? You’d need a lot less pasta to feel satisfied, your plate would be filled with nutritious, colorful foods … and you’d still get to eat the pasta that you love.
Idea: Swap plain hummus and pita bread for an orange-hued spiced, roasted carrot hummus and a rainbow of chopped veggies.
3. More Color = More Micronutrients
I’m fascinated by the science of healthy eating; it’s one of the reasons I studied plant-based nutrition at Cornell. When we eat colorful foods, we consume more micronutrients (the vitamins and minerals that are vital to development, disease prevention and well-being).
If you want to make sure you’re getting sufficient micronutrients, but you’re not particularly interested in reading labels or researching which foods are high in which vitamins and minerals, simply add a variety of deeply pigmented produce to your plate. When you eat all the hues of the rainbow, you’re naturally eating a micronutrient-rich diet. It’s that easy.
Idea: Swap protein powder and milk for leafy greens and plant-based milk to make a beautiful green smoothie bowl with fun (and colorful) toppings.
4. Food Love is Self-Love
Think back to those two breakfasts I described above: the plain, beige oatmeal and the gorgeous, colorful and nutrient-dense PB&J Oats. Which meal felt most like love? Color brings warmth and comfort to the plate and you can be the person who shows yourself love by preparing beautiful, colorful meals.
Idea: Swap a plain rice and bean bowl for a delicious bowl filled with bright yellow turmeric cauliflower, leafy greens, juicy red tomatoes and, even darker red, dried cherries.
5. No Season is More Colorful Than Summer
As the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, more and more amazing foods appear at the farmers market: Spears of tender asparagus, creamy avocados, red beets, green broccoli and gorgeous strawberries are coming into season, depending on where you live. There is no better (or easier … or more delicious) time to add color to your meals.
Idea: Swap a plain, colorless Caesar salad for a vibrant and nutrient-dense superfood salad that is splattered with a variety of hues and textures.
Putting the colors of the rainbow on your plate is one of the simplest, prettiest ways to enrich and enliven your diet. To make it even easier for you, I’ll be giving away awesome, helpful tools and prizes all month long on Instagram. Follow me @kaleandchocolate and share your colorful creations with the hashtag #12tinychanges.
Originally published on Kale & Chocolate. Elise Museles is a board member at Environmental Working Group and a certified nutritionist.