Dr. Alethea Fleming, ND

We all know that eating more fruits and vegetables is a good idea, but one thing that is often overlooked is the importance of variety. One large study in 20101 stated that variety more than quantity might be the key point when it comes to eating more produce. Of course, you can’t go wrong trying to eat more veggies AND more variety, but let’s focus on how to help shake up food ruts and try something new.

1. You’re too good at menu planning

Do you know what you are eating by the day of the week? Tuesdays don’t have to mean tacos, they could mean tilapia, tempeh or tortellini. Menu planning is a beautiful tool to help you plan and prepare healthy meals, save money by limiting impulse shopping and food waste, and frankly, keeping sane in a busy work week. However, if you find yourself eating the same thing over and over again you are doing yourself a disservice.

2. Auto-shopping

No, we’re not talking about cars. Auto-shopping is when you walk into the same grocery store that you always go to and get the same routine foods. Try going to a different store. Even a different branch of the same chain that you usually shop will have a slightly different layout and potentially some different items as most stores try and target their market very locally. Engaging with a store you are unfamiliar with forces you to look at the food more closely and you may find that you discover things you might otherwise miss.

3. You can’t remember the last time you tried a new vegetable

While shopping at a different store might entice you to broaden your horizons a simple and excellent recipe could make all the difference in getting new foods to your plate. Visit your public library and browse the cookbooks. Or head down flemingthe aisle and flip through the cooking magazines. If one sparks your interest (I like “Eating Well”) splurge the minor money for a subscription as you will get new ideas and inspiration every month or two. The most exciting way to ensure that you will try new fruits and veggies is to sign up for a farm box, more formally known as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). This is an idea that has been around for over 25 years formally and a lot longer on a small-scale basis. The concept is that your local farmer needs cash during winter when the active farming is quiet and you, the consumer, want fresh local fruit and veggies during the growing season. You pay a set amount up front (usually $400 – $600) and then during the summer/fall you get 20-25 weeks of a magical box that is full of fresh local produce, often organic, and usually with recipes to help you along. It’s really like opening a birthday present once per week.

4. You drink the same thing

Food ruts aren’t just for food. There are many wonderful new healthy beverages out there that you may not have yet tried. Do you avoid alcohol and miss having a “grown-up” beverage when going out socially? Try bitters and soda. Bitters have exploded far beyond angostura bitters used in traditional mixed drinks. All different flavors of citrus, mint, smoked herb, celery, and other marvelous unexpected flavors. Have you tried cold brewed coffee? You might love cold brewed cocoa. Coarsely ground cocoa nibs (either DIY, or purchased that way) make for a stunning, smooth cocoa punch. It also works well hot with a French press.

Be brave, mix it up and get some new foods into your life.

Fleming,-Alethea_resizedDr. Alethea Fleming, ND is a passionate advocate for naturopathic geriatric medicine. A 2007 Bastyr University graduate, she also earned a certificate in Gerontology from the University of Washington. Dr. Fleming is the owner and lead physician of the Vital Aging Clinic in Anacortes, Washington where she provides primary care to all adults as well as adjunctive geriatric care. Dr. Fleming is active in multiple community organizations as well as a member of WANP, AANP and OncANP. In her off hours, Dr. Fleming can be found hiking the beautiful trails of Fidalgo Island, spending time with her wonderful husband and son, or with her nose firmly in a good book.


  1. Buchner F, Beuno-de-Mesquita H, Ros M. et. Al., Variety of Fruit and Vegetable Consumption and the Risk of Lung Cancer in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. Published online August 31, 2010.
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