I don’t know if this is “common” knowledge, but there is this general idea in Japan that one should consume 30 different kinds of food a day. This includes the rice that is eaten at almost every meal (that would count as “one kind” of food, even if eaten three times in one day) … so I have thought to myself, eating that much starch so frequently, how does anyone manage to get in the other 29 kinds of food in a day? To be honest, in our “Western” “world” of quick dinners and skipped breakfasts and lunches, getting that many different kinds of foods is next to impossible, if not impossible. If you eat pizza for dinner and grab fast food for lunch, you’re probably not getting more than 10-15 different kinds of foods a day. I challenge you to count all the foods you eat in a day and see where you fall in this “spectrum.” The general idea is that the more HEALTHY foods you eat, the easier it is to accumulate different kinds of foods than it is if you ate fast food / unhealthy foods. For example, if you swapped that pizza (I’ll be “gracious” and count that as maybe 4 foods – the crust, sauce, cheese, and a topping) for a salad (eating plain lettuce is not super A+ delicious, so you throw in carrots and tomatoes and cucumbers and olives and peppers plus other ingredients and even with just an oil and vinegar dressing) you come out with 9 foods – almost 2x as many as you get if you ate that pizza! – and usually you eat something WITH a salad for dinner, which increases the number of “foods.”
Even if we take what we might consider a “healthy” Western diet, it is still difficult to hit that 30+ “types” of food we “should” eat in a day – Breakfast – coffee (drinks count to the best of my knowledge – I am not Japanese!), a bowl of cereal, milk of some sort, and a banana = 4 foods. Lunch = sandwich of some kind (we’ll say tuna if you can stomach that, so there’s the tuna, mayo, celery, and whatever else you put in that, but I think that’s pretty common) + tea or juice or something to drink = 5 “foods.” Snack = an orange and some nuts = 2 foods. Dinner = Salad (lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, olives, salad dressing – we’ll go with just oil and vinegar and maybe oregano or something) and broiled/grilled salmon + drink = 9 foods. That’s 20 foods if I’m doing my maths correctly! However, if you swap out that (honestly) not-so-healthy breakfast for a smoothie (we’ll take mine, for example – spinach, kale, wild blueberries, cherries, almond or soy milk, greens powder, vegan protein powder, flaxseed oil, cocoa, 1/2 banana) and eat a small bowl of oatmeal with almonds and cinnamon with coffee to drink, you have changed your 4 food breakfast to a 14 food breakfast – and one that I 10000% promise you will make you feel better!
The idea is about variety over quantity – that is to say, it is much easier to make a smoothie with all kinds of fruits and veggies and to eat a really good salad with all kinds of veggies and healthy fats (throw on some tofu and avocado or toasted walnuts) and to easily reach that magical “30+” foods a day “recommendation” than it would be if you even tried to eat little bits of 30 different kinds of junk food (imagine eating a few chips, a few pretzels, a piece of pie, some ice cream, &c. – even in small amounts, it would be VERY difficult to physically eat that many kinds of junk foods in one day … unless you already have severe diet problems!).
The Japanese accomplish this much more easily than we tend to because their meals, although they do usually contain rice (and sometimes noodles), also include various types of pickled vegetables, small amounts of proteins (for breakfast, natto or salmon or egg, for example), almost always a salad of some kind, almost always miso soup (also can contain MANY ingredients! Just the dashi stock alone, at least my version of it, contains 3+ ingredients – then you add miso and tofu and scallions and possibly mushrooms or whatever you like and you’re already at 7 foods for just a small part of one meal!), &c. Bento box lunches or even onigiri are also excellent examples of how to get a lot of different kinds of foods in one meal. Again, the idea behind this is to consume many different kinds of healthy foods in small amounts – as I have said now many times, it is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to try to eat that many different kinds of foods in a day if you’re living on fast food or highly processed food (and no, you do not count all the ingredients in that sugary cereal as individual foods – cereal is ONE FOOD!). As a byproduct, you inevitably end up gaining a greater percentage of the micronutrients (and often macronutrients) you need just by way of having to consume so many different types of foods.
I have been thinking a lot about this topic lately because I am setting up my new kitchen (well, not “new,” but the most RECENT one …) and doing so I have found some of my MUST-HAVE Japanese cookbooks as well as cooking “gadgets” (a rice cooker, a pickle press, a George Foreman grill, &c.!) and I have also been thinking about how to start eating a better diet myself. Most “Westerners” have the problem of eating too much and eating junk food – I have a bit of a different problem in that I often forget to eat altogether (especially true with the steroids – yet another contradiction, as the steroids tend to make me lose my appetite altogether … and over the years of being on them, even tapering off, I have become accustomed to not eating nearly enough which can be just as unhealthy as eating poorly!). I have also been asked by many people in person and online for “diet” tips (not losing weight tips, just how to eat “better” tips!) and so I thought I would start to include some of those things in this blog.
I do plan on writing more of these kinds of posts. I also do want to talk about “macronutrient” planning; I believe that individuals really need to find what balance of carbs:fats:proteins works the best for them – it is NOT the same for everyone and these fixed “diets” that come in fads simply cannot work well for everyone long-term. I say this because an individual’s macronutrient “needs” or what ratio of macronutrients make an individual feel the best and the healthiest also change(s) over time. I will talk about this in greater detail in posts to come!
As always, thank you for taking the time to read this! I hope this was a helpful post not only for those of you who have chronic illness and struggle with eating like I do but for everyone in general to find a fairly simple way to have a “healthier” diet. Please feel free to comment if you know more about this topic than I do and if you have any other “tips” you would like to discuss! I hope you are all having a happy and healthy day wherever you are in the world! I think I’m going to go eat a blood orange (mmmm my favorite!)!
❤ Always, Beth