A Colorful, Nourishing Diet

January 22, 2014


A healthful diet is one that provides the perfect balance of calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat, and micronutrients along with the social and sensory pleasures of eating. If you add all of these together, you might say you are achieving ideal nutrition. Of course ideal nutrition is individualized, but using the overall recommendations from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to suit the majority of the population, I believe that the following foods are a good list to strive for. The more variety in your diet the better, and if you hit all of these in a day (or over the course of a few days) consider yourself well nourished!

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The Colorful Foundation Of A Nourishing Diet

A serving of legumes

beans, lentils, peas, peanuts, peanut butter (!)

A serving of cruciferous vegetables

broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, radish

A serving of lycopene-rich fruit or veggies (lycopene = a bright red carotene pigment)

tomato, red peppers, grapefruit, watermelon (yum!), papaya, red beans

A serving of carotenoid-rich fruit or vegetables (carotenoid = yellow to red pigments)

sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, plantain, apricots, spaghetti squash, cantaloupe

A serving of citrus

orange, clementine, grapefruit, tangerines, lemon

A serving of an anthocyanin-rich fruit or vegetables (anthocyanin = a red/blue/purple pigment and antioxidant)

strawberries, pomegranate, cherries, blueberries, blackberries, grapes, red cabbage, red wine (yeaaaaahhhh!!)

A serving of chlorophyll-rich vegetables

spinach, romaine, kale, broccoli, herbs, green beans, endive, sugar peas, collard greens

A serving of omega-3-rich fish

wild salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, tuna

A serving of nuts

walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans

A dose of probiotics

yogurt, Kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso

A serving of whole grains

oats, whole wheat, barley, brown rice

A handful of seeds

pumpkin, sunflower, chia, flax, quinoa

Reduced-fat or whole milk organic and/or grass-fed dairy products

milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream (!)

Pasture-raised and grass-fed meats, poultry, eggs, and pork. Local gets bonus points.

grass-fed beef and bison, organic/pastured chicken, organic/pastured/cage free eggs, pastured pork

Drink 64 ounces of water

water, water, water, water, tea, coffee : )

A glass of wine or a beer and a piece of dark chocolate

for your healthy enjoyment


What is most important is weekly balance, so if you have a lot of carotenoid-rich foods on Monday shoot for lots of greens on Tuesday. I rarely get everything in this list into 3 meals and 2 snacks, but some days I come really close!


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{ 79 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Marie January 22, 2014 at 10:08 am

This looks like a great list to keep on hand and check when making a shopping list/meal plan etc. If someone wants to lose weight would you stick to this list and perhaps cut on portions?


2 KathEats January 22, 2014 at 10:11 am

yes, along with sugar + alcohol


3 Trevi January 22, 2014 at 10:10 am

Hi Kath! Do you have a recipe for the last picture on this blog post? It looks amazing and I tried a few searches, but I’m not sure what I’m looking for. What is the grain? Is it barley? Quinoa? I can’t quite tell! Thanks for your help!! Trevi


4 KathEats January 22, 2014 at 10:11 am

Leftover chili nachos!! This is it: http://www.katheats.com/marriage-means-sharing


5 Trevi January 23, 2014 at 9:59 am

Wheatberry…that’s it!! Thanks so much.


6 Julie January 22, 2014 at 10:12 am

What about those of us that follow a vegetarian or vegan diet? This list seems to suggest that we are lacking in nutrition because we don’t consume grass fed/pasture raised meat, dairy, or omega 3 fish. I consume, for example, omega 3s via flax and chia seeds, cauliflower (37mg per cup), and hummus (300mg per cup). I would love to see a post from you on nutrition for non-meat eaters. The omnivore diet just doesn’t appeal to everyone and that’s not a deterrent to a complete and balanced diet.


7 KathEats January 22, 2014 at 10:20 am

Wellllll…the omega-3s from plants are not all that efficiently converted (only about 10%). I personally feel that every diet should include EPA and DHA for maximum nutrition. Perhaps from algae instead of fish or grass-fed meat, but that’s a lot harder to get. But that’s my opinion and you are entitled to yours : )


8 Julie January 22, 2014 at 10:37 am

Thank you for the reply. I had read that DHA and EPA must be synthesized from other omega 3s in a vegan diets (hence lower conversion), but it’s always helpful to get the perspective of a nutritionist. There is so much misinformation out there- about both omnivorous and plant based diets- I appreciate having resources like your blog to consult. Thank you


9 Mari January 22, 2014 at 10:48 am

Just one gal’s opinion — there are tons of vegetarian information sources for getting a well-rounded diet, but you can hardly expect Kath to cater to that here when she is not a vegetarian!

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a whole tab on vegetarian nutrition: http://www.eatright.org/Public/list.aspx?TaxID=6442452074


10 KathEats January 22, 2014 at 10:53 am

I’m not saying vegetarians/vegans can’t have a rounded diet – I was talking about EPA and DHA.

I’ve been doing some reading and it’s still a confusing topic. Most studies I just skimmed said ALA’s conversion was 5-10%. But this one says non-fish eaters might compensate with a greater conversion rate when EPA/DHA were not present: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20861171


11 Cathy January 22, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Kath you sound like my daughter. “Momm Don’t cut out red meat.” I agree with you on this subject. A body had to be well nourished. I was eating the same foods over & over.


12 Kimberly January 22, 2014 at 10:20 am

What is the dish in the first pic? It looks like mango in one bowl and iceberg lettuce with paprika on it in the other. Is that correct? The chili nachos also look interesting! I would never think to put wheatberries in chili!


13 KathEats January 22, 2014 at 10:23 am

It’s grilled cabbage with smoked paprika. Here’s the post: http://www.katheats.com/unexpected-turns


14 Alex @ Kenzie Life January 22, 2014 at 10:26 am

Love these posts, Kath! I’d say I come pretty close to eating a variety of food. I definitely don’t worry about my consumption of leafy greens since I go through a head of kale and a bag of spinach in 2 days easily. I think I could use more carotenoid-rich fruit and vegetables and lycopene-rich fruit and veggies though. And I’m also really trying to be better about my water consumption and stay hydrated throughout the day.


15 Ashley @ Hudson on the Potomac January 22, 2014 at 10:42 am

Great post!! I always try to “eat the rainbow” to make sure I’m getting a variety of nutrients! I could definitely do better on the fish and citrus aspects though.


16 Ali January 22, 2014 at 10:46 am

It’s so nice to get as many colors as you can into one dish! I love doing that and the food always looks more appetizing too:)


17 Natasha January 22, 2014 at 10:51 am

My mom has always told me to “eat the rainbow”!!!

I think that my favorite foods I tend you eat fall within a red or orange category, but I’m trying to work on getting more greens into my diet.

Great post and thanks for the info (I’m glad that my strawberry addiction can be further justified!)


18 Katie @ Peace Love & Oats January 22, 2014 at 10:54 am

Love this list! I try to buy different colored veggies as best I can, I think I end up with chlorophyll and carotenoid the most though. Question – do different colored bell peppers fit into different categories? For example if I had green, red and yellow peppers in one dish?


19 KathEats January 22, 2014 at 11:00 am

Yes – it’s based on their pigments


20 MaryJo January 22, 2014 at 11:01 am

What about heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil? The health benefits are numerous. I personally recommend Lucero Olive Oil, they are located in California.


21 KathEats January 22, 2014 at 11:02 am

Good one! I’d put that with the nuts + seeds


22 Jesse January 22, 2014 at 11:26 am

:) great list to keep in mind, especially this time of year when i tend to go all elastic waist pants and spend too much time indoors!



23 [email protected] January 22, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Very nice post, Kath!
This list is what I’m always shooting for as well. Sometimes, it’s really hard with the picky family members but I try to “sneak in” foods they don’t like much into the meals, like the veggie burgers that I just posted on my blog. Or using cashew cream instead of dairy cream for somebody who doesn’t like cashews.


24 Maryea {happy healthy mama} January 22, 2014 at 12:19 pm

I love how beautiful fresh, real food is. :)


25 Dana @ Conscious Kitchen Blog January 22, 2014 at 12:21 pm

This is such a fun list and a wonderful reminder to add variety to the diet. I think it would be a fun way to teach kids about eating a variety of healthy foods because they could keep track of all the colors they were eating (for most of the list anyway). Actually, that sounds fun for adults too. :)


26 Julie January 22, 2014 at 12:26 pm

I hesitate to buy organic/cage free eggs because I’ve heard they’re no healthier:
A chicken farmer I know said all chickens walk around and eat each other’s poop, so the cage free isn’t any better. Aside from the chicken’s happiness, do you think it is worth it to buy organic eggs?


27 KathEats January 22, 2014 at 12:55 pm

I don’t think that article is a great one. And that study didn’t take into account smaller nutrients – like omega-3s or folic acid.

Here’s a stat I learned on my tour of Polyface Farm a few years ago:

Polyface eggs came back as having over 1000 µg of folic acid
FDA eggs came back as having 47 µg of folic acid

This whole “grass fed is bad” thing that some of you have been bringing up is really new to me. I have never heard it before. I still think that going to a local farm is the best option. Also, you said “aside from the chicken’s happiness” – but that’s the main reason why I do buy local or organic products, so I can’t ignore that. But if you do want to ignore it, then I think as a food to eat regular eggs are totally fine.


28 Kimberly January 22, 2014 at 1:16 pm

I’ve never heard that grass fed is bad, just that a lot of people think that free-range or organic means that it’s better treatment for the animals when really it has nothing to do with that. “Free range” can mean that they are not in individual cages, but aren’t really given any more room than conventionality raised animals. And I think someone already brought up that “organic” animals can suffer because they aren’t given medications for illness/injury I think it’s great that you went on a tour of a local farm because then you really can see for yourself the conditions that the animals are kept in! I definitely think that is the best way to do it, but I understand that it is not possible for everyone to do this.


29 Ashley January 23, 2014 at 1:51 am

Kath- I don’t think anyone has actually said “Grass fed is bad” unless the last organic discussion devolved in some way. That said, you still seem to be associating organic with “chicken’s happiness” and from what I’ve heard from farm workers and inspectors, that just simply isn’t true. Maybe there’s a nutritional reason to buy organic? But a lot of people buy organic to make themselves feel better but in reality they aren’t benefiting the animal and they may not be benefiting themselves.

Question- I saw you put tea and coffee in your 64 ounces of water requirement. Most nutritionists and RDs I’ve known have said that any caffeinated tea or coffee count *Against* your water consumption, so if you have 1 cup of coffee, you need 9 cups/72 ounces water. Do you feel differently/has the consensus on that changed? I’d love to start counting my coffee as actual hydration.


30 KathEats January 23, 2014 at 7:05 am

I’ve always read it counts. But I don’t think you can have only coffee or tea. The caffeine doesn’t cancel out all 12 ounces of water in a mug of coffee so it’s still positively hydrating. Correct me if I’m wrong.


31 Erin January 28, 2014 at 9:16 pm

Just to chime in, you’re 100% correct Kath. I just took a Nutrition Throughout the Lifecycle class and caffeinated beverages definitely count towards daily water consumption. Alcohol, notsomuch though haha!


32 KathEats January 29, 2014 at 7:21 am

Oh good!


33 Susan January 26, 2014 at 10:54 am

I recently found out that I have been buying eggs (cage free, local), but some of these farms “de beck” their chickens. I’m horrified and hard to believe these things happen. We really need to know who we are buying from and check out everything we can. I don’t want to support any inhumane practices!

Love your blog – as usual. The list above is great info – Thank you!


34 Julie Kinnear January 22, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Great list, I think I’ll print it and pin onto my fridge to have this kind of a shortlist. And I’m looking forward to making myself some Leftover Chilli Nachos!


35 Allison January 22, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Love your blog, its a refreshing read! I was reading your weekend post about your Sunday meal prep….would you consider a post about your weekly shopping trip? What do you buy? Snacks to keep on hand? What is essential to prep for the week? I feel like I’m always buying the same things at the grocery store, cooking the same meals and reaching for the phone to order take out too often because I’m not prepared. Thanks!


36 KathEats January 22, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Here is a previous post I wrote about groceries. I’m probably due for another one since having a baby and starting Cook Smarts, so I’ll put that in the plan


37 Melissa January 22, 2014 at 2:23 pm

I’d love to read it!


38 Julie January 22, 2014 at 1:00 pm

I love this list – super helpful – and I love that you got so excited about red wine!


39 Lisa C. January 22, 2014 at 1:01 pm

I love this list- easy to follow and remember. Thanks Kath.


40 [email protected] January 22, 2014 at 1:12 pm

I love how the list if jst glanced over shows that eating a rainbow of foods (generally speaking) will provide a well rounded, nutritious diet! I always strive for the rainbow.


41 Laura January 22, 2014 at 1:25 pm

One of your best posts ever! (Perhaps I’m biased because I kept checking off the categories in my diet over the past day or so? A nice pat on the back :) Thanks for such an organized summary!


42 Sandi January 22, 2014 at 1:33 pm

Loving this!!! Where do you put avocados?


43 KathEats January 22, 2014 at 1:44 pm

It seems I am missing an avocado/olive oil category. They should be in there though!


44 Tessa January 22, 2014 at 1:52 pm


How do you feel about Paleo? I’m not sure if you have covered this topic or not. I am not strictly following a “no-dairy, no-grain” diet, but trying to eat more whole foods instead of processed. I am also lactose intolerant and have found that since I have cut out most of my dairy (Chobani fiend over here! :) and bread, I feel SO much better as far as my digestion and energy goes. Love to hear any input you could offer. Thanks for this helpful list!


45 KathEats January 22, 2014 at 7:14 pm

I have a post coming up about it, although it’s written by a nutrition friend of mine. I agree with her perspective wholeheartedly though. If you feel better without those things then by all means keep eating that way, but I see it as more restrictive for the average person. I hate to think of people wishing they could have this or that but they “can’t because of my diet.” But those who don’t mind or feel great – then by all means. But wait for the post next week : )


46 Jackie January 22, 2014 at 1:55 pm

Love this!


47 simple green moms January 22, 2014 at 1:59 pm

love this post =) its crazy how the more colorful fruits and veggies you start adding to your meals the more “junk foods” seem less and less attractive!


48 Elizabeth January 22, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Great list! When breaking it down like this you are able to see more clearly what we should be eating.


49 Kaila @healthyhelperblog! January 22, 2014 at 2:13 pm

Food is so beautiful! And I love that the healthiest foods have the most vibrant colors!


50 Melissa January 22, 2014 at 2:19 pm

WHO WOULD’VE THUNK IT!? This is EXACTLY what I’ve been looking for!! I’m back ‘on the wagon’ so to speak and struggling with what to get when we shop. This came right on time!

I’m super excited because I’ve got a group of awesome women at work who is right there with me, trying to be healthier and lose weight. We’re also doing cash incentivies (that always works!), and I’ve got a major goal in site – my baby brother’s wedding, in which his soon-to-be wife has asked me to be her maid of honor (touched isn’t the word!), so I’ve got some motivation!!


51 Tracy January 22, 2014 at 3:04 pm

With so many opinions about nutrition floating around the Internet and other places, I sometimes get caught up in the hysteria and think I should never eat this food or that food again, Vegan, Paleo, Weston-Price, Clean cuisine, on and on….

That’s why I like to visit your blog–for perspective (and beautiful pictures of food that make me want to get in my kitchen and cook)..

Eat real food that you prepare yourself, exercise, take a deep breath and have a glass of wine (or a craft beer). :)



52 Nikki January 22, 2014 at 3:05 pm

It appears that you are recommending just one serving of grains per day. I am a grain fanatic, but struggle with a mental battle over whether it is good to eat them often. I think my main worries are because they are such high calorie foods. I absolutely adore oatmeal, but have been greatly limiting myself of it and replacing it with vast quantities of kabocha squash – as in close to 4 cups per day… (I can’t go without the starches!!). What are your thoughts?


53 KathEats January 22, 2014 at 4:44 pm

A minimum of one serving but more are fine if your diet calls for them


54 Carla January 22, 2014 at 3:33 pm

Out of curiosity, how do herbs stack up against the other chlorophyll veggie items?


55 KathEats January 22, 2014 at 4:43 pm



56 Carla January 22, 2014 at 4:44 pm

Huh, that is so interesting! I’ve never really thought of herbs as worth anything more than an interesting flavor.. so cool to know that they’ve been doing work, all along!


57 KathEats January 22, 2014 at 7:13 pm

Yes – spices too!


58 Ashley January 23, 2014 at 1:55 am

You should check out Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks! I have “Jerusalem” but there’s also “Plenty” and one more I can’t remember the name of. He regularly uses herbs instead of lettuce in salad, so you get the nutritional benefits but way, way more flavor.


59 NIna February 2, 2014 at 11:19 am

Herbs are jam packed with nutrients – consider the bland flavor of spinach vs. the punch of fresh peppermint! Those are volatile oils and vitamins and minerals – herbs are incredibly valuable for both their culinary and medicinal uses!


60 Lauren @ Fun, Fit and Fabulous! January 22, 2014 at 4:58 pm

What a fantastic list. I love the idea of striving for nutritional balance through food consumption rather than just focusing on calories, fat, and protein. I will definitely be using this list to check my own nutrition in the future!


61 Sara January 22, 2014 at 5:29 pm

A very informative post.
Love the color-coordinated outline format.


62 Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat January 22, 2014 at 6:39 pm

Great post Kath! I think one of the easiest ways to ensure your meals contain as much colour as possible (natural colour that is, not the Skittles rainbow!) By doing as you’ve said and eating a variety of whole foods, I’d say you’re pretty much setting yourself up for a balanced diet. I stopped eating red meat when I was 13 and recently added it back in now that I’m 25 because I found out last year that I’m anemic. Although I’m still finding the taste a bit funny to get used to, I have to say that it’s been a crucial part (in addition to my liquid iron supplement) in overcoming the fatigue I was feeling in my running training and other workouts. I always go for antibiotic free, grass-fed beef, which I know can be pricey but I think that health-wise, it’s worth it. Your leftover nachos look gorgeous!


63 Grace January 22, 2014 at 7:13 pm

I really love that your definition of a healthful diet is one that “provides for the social and sensory pleasures of eating.” Well-said!


64 Jill January 22, 2014 at 7:45 pm

I love this! I found it very helpful and have printed it out for future reference!


65 Cameron Smith January 22, 2014 at 9:39 pm

Wow, love the post! I agree with everything you put on here – I’m realizing that I need a lot more diversity in my diet. While I’m usually eating real food approved stuff, I’m also realizing that I get in routines where I eat the same meals over and over again. Thanks for the reminder!


66 Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs January 22, 2014 at 10:05 pm

Great reference list!


67 Livi January 22, 2014 at 11:13 pm

This is such an amazing post! I am saving this for future reference!


68 Katherine January 23, 2014 at 8:14 am
69 Joan January 23, 2014 at 9:33 am

What a great, interesting and inspiring post. Thank you


70 Jennifer January 23, 2014 at 9:59 am

This is great, I am going to print it out as a reminder of how to build healthier (prettier) meals. Thank you!


71 Elaine January 23, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Love that yogurt fulfills both my dairy and probiotic needs!

Question: do you still buy Chobani? I heard Whole Foods is dropping them because of GMO’s. I love Chobani (pineapple is my fave), but not sure if I should switch to organic instead. Organic is so much pricier compared to when Chobani is on sale for $1 each.


72 KathEats January 23, 2014 at 2:24 pm

I don’t actually. I’ve been an Oikos Stonyfield fan for years


73 Claudia January 23, 2014 at 2:53 pm

Hi Kath. Would you rank tahini alongside the other nut butters in terms of nutritional value? Thanks.


74 KathEats January 23, 2014 at 3:13 pm

It’s a seed butter – made from sesame seeds. But it has its own host of nutrition benefits, so feel good eating it!


75 Catherine January 24, 2014 at 10:04 am

Hi Kath, Thanks for the great post! I have seen a lot of paleo recipes use lard as well as other foods high in saturated fat. I have researched the effects of this on one’s health, but am coming up with a ton of conflicting information. If you are familiar with this, I would love if you would express your opinion about this in your upcoming paleo post. Thanks so much!


76 KathEats January 24, 2014 at 2:50 pm

I always think real food (meat/butter/lard included) is better than processed. My recommendation is to use these foods sparingly.


77 Traci January 24, 2014 at 10:59 am

I like seeing it broken down like this. I like thinking about all the colors I’m getting in my diet. Taste the rainbow! Skittles got it right!…kind of.


78 Lindsay January 24, 2014 at 6:34 pm

Wow, I am missing a few of those on a daily basis. We are getting there, but I still am learning how to budget healthy food vs our own pocket budget. Luckily we are invested in making our family as healthy and fueled for our days as possible, but this list REALLY helps, thank you!


79 Kelly January 26, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Hi there! This is a really helpful post when thinking about meal planning for the week. It gives a nice structure. On that note, I have a 17-month old son – close to Mazen’s age. I would LOVE to see a similar post for feeding a toddler. My guess is there would be a lot of overlap, but I always seem to struggle to find a good weekly “meal plan” for a growing toddler. Even if you just highlight how you approach meal planning for Mazen – that would be great!


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