Thought for the Day: How Many Foods Do You Eat?

“The average person eats no more than about 30 foods on a regular basis.”

from the University of Washington Center for Obesity Research,

Quoted in Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, by Mary Roach

Shared with me by a friend.

Now I understand why, back when I was doing Monday menus and posting them, and reading other people’s menus, I was so shocked by how boring I thought most other people’s menus are (sorry, that may not be an attractive confession, but it is certainly a transparent one). And when my husband first worked at the grocery store he kept telling me that other people do not eat like we do (although we’ve been eating more like other people lately, relying far too often on frozen pizza, fish sticks, and frozen breaded shrimp- oh, look, more transparency, make it stop before I shame myself irretrievably).

Of course, it’s hard to know what exactly that means, ’30 foods.’ Β Does rice count as one food, or does it make a difference whether you have it in sushi, fried rice, plain rice as a side dish, spanish rice, rice pudding, rice as part of lentil rice tacos, rice as a quiche crust, or a salad?

Is spaghetti spaghetti whether you’ve had it as noodle fritters, fried with vegetables as a sustitute for yaki soba noodles, or tossed with day lilies, green onions and Asian seasonings for a cold salad on the Fourth of July?

If I eat almonds by the handful, in almond coconut pancakes, and as a salad topping, is that one food, or three?

And my smoothie- is that one food, or the sum of all its ingredients (yogurt, two greens, two fruits, tea, stevia, and lime juice, sometimes with chia seeds, sometimes with an 3rd fruit as well)

Sometimes I think scientists make these vague statements just to plague me. And then I remember the humbling thought that they neither know nor care who I am, which makes them only generally rather than personally annoying.

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  1. Lisa Beth W.
    Posted July 8, 2014 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Aaahh, yes, those in the ivory towers who neither know nor care what we plebians ponder. πŸ™‚

  2. Posted July 8, 2014 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    I think they give people lists of “foods” to check off, and some of the “foods” might be apples or corn or chicken, but some of them might also be as vague as “pizza.” It could just depend on who’s writing the questionnaires. Kind of like that shopping thing you posted about once, when your daughter was first married, and her husband asked her where the “food” was in the shopping cart, since she was buying just “ingredients.”

  3. Elise
    Posted July 8, 2014 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    If it were possible, I’d eat the same foods every day for the rest of my life. I don’t like to cook and I’m not really that into eating either. Where’s my soylent?!?

    • Grainne
      Posted July 10, 2014 at 4:46 am | Permalink

      They do sell Soylent (a food replacement) named after the movie! Can’t imagine it at all (and it’s expensive) but there’s powders to add so you can have “different” flavours. Bleugh! Just makes me think of slimfast or something similar.
      I did a quick count and we’re quite plain eaters (well I am and I do the cooking so…) but we far surpass the thirty mark if you count the variety of fruit and veg we eat across the year but it wouldn’t be over thirty on a short-term basis.
      Love all the chat about smoothies, you’ve reminded me to include them in our diet occasionally – I’ve found they’re a great way to get my son (2 1/2) to eat foods he doesn’t adore such as cauliflower and beetroot (steamed/cooked first) and he’s adored all his mama’s weird and wonderful combinations (so far).

      • Headmistress, zookeeper
        Posted July 10, 2014 at 9:32 am | Permalink

        What else do you include with cauliflower smoothies?

        • Grainne
          Posted July 10, 2014 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

          Only had one cauliflower adventure thus far (to use up all the stalks that my extended family don’t love having in the cauliflower cheese) but it was literally a what do I have in the fridge/house so… full-fat (is there any other kind) cherry yoghurt, banana and (full-fat) milk. I always tend toward sweet smoothies so I’d only ever incude one vegetable and if there is a veg component then I include a fruit yoghurt as a sweetener. Not terribly adventurous but then I’m really not πŸ™‚
          I thoroughly enjoy reading about all your kombucha variations but would not be in the least tempted to try it πŸ˜‰

  4. Teresa
    Posted July 8, 2014 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    I was also wondering what counted as a food. I suspect that if you don’t count spices, I eat fewer than 30 things on a regular basis. (Of course, what does “regular” mean?) I have food sensitivities that restrict what I *can* eat and budget sensitivities that restrict what I *will* eat. And I just don’t have a psychological need for a varied diet. I do get variety from playing with spices, but honestly, I think I could rotate two or three meals and be happy for ever. (But I just got married and I feel this silly pressure to cook something new every day.)

  5. Kris
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    We are definitely not in the 30 foods category- although I think the kids might prefer a little less variety. In fruits and vegetables alone, we eat (frequently, as in several times monthly) more than 30 kinds. Some of the kids would like just chicken patties, hotdogs, fries and mac and cheese-yuck!

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