Eating a nutritious diet is not always easy, especially for people trying to change old habits. Many people who commit to improving their diet focus on cutting out things that are not nutritious, but restrictive dieting can lead to disordered eating or eating disorders, like avoidant restrictive food intake disorder.

Instead of denying yourself all the foods you enjoy or are craving, try the "add don't restrict" approach to eating to feel more satisfied at every meal.

What Does "Add, Don't Restrict" Mean?

The main idea behind this nutrition approach is to stop dividing food into "good" and "bad" and instead reframe meals and snacks to increase their nutritional profile rather than decrease anything.

By no longer restricting foods, you can not only enjoy your meals but also learn a lot about nutrition and how to create healthful and satisfying meals that don't leave you craving the items you ultimately "cut out."

Woman adding nuts into morning oatmeal cereals porridge for making a healthy and nutritious breakfast at home. Person making healthy organic meal packed with fiber and nutrients


Sweeten Up Your Oatmeal

Whole grains like oatmeal contain many nutritious elements, including B vitamins, antioxidants, copper, zinc, and phytochemicals that may help with disease prevention. Studies show whole grains can help lower cholesterol, prevent blood clots, improve digestive health, and lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Your morning bowl of oatmeal is also an ideal way to add some sweet treats you have been craving. If you are in the mood for a cookie or a candy bar, break it into pieces and add it to your oatmeal with other nutritious ingredients like hemp seeds or fresh fruit. Not only do you get that delicious treat, but all that dietary fiber will keep you sated for a few hours.

oatmeal topped with fruit


Bulk Up Your Eggs

Eggs are full of high-quality protein and nutrients and have the added benefit of helping you feel fuller longer. These qualities are especially beneficial if you have eggs for breakfast. Studies show that people who had eggs for breakfast felt more satisfied and ate less later in the day, making them an excellent option for add don't restrict.

Try cutting up a few pieces of breakfast sausage or bacon and adding them to your next omelet, or choose something a little outside the box, like pepperoni or salami. You get the salty, fatty meat you want and all of the benefits of the eggs. Enjoy it on a slice of whole grain bread for an excellent carb-protein combo.

omlette loaded with veggies and meat


Do More with Fruits and Vegetables

Eating fruits and vegetables has many health benefits, like lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease and potentially protecting against COPD, cataracts, hypertension, and diverticulosis.

Produce is also a simple way to practice add don't restrict. Dip your cucumbers in full-fat ranch dressing, smear your favorite nut butter on celery sticks, or add whipped cream and chocolate drizzle to your next bowl of strawberries or bananas.

veggie dip on a plate surrounded by fresh vegetables


Bulk Up Your Beans

Beans are an excellent source of plant-based proteins, omega fatty acids, iron, vitamin B6, and folate. Research shows that beans can help manage blood sugar and insulin resistance and may have beneficial effects on triglyceride levels, cholesterol, body weight, and blood pressure.

If you usually have beans as a side dish, try adding bacon, sausage, or pork shoulder for a little extra fat and flavor. You can also try crushing up your favorite potato chips and sprinking them over the top for added crunch.

bean dish with sour cream


Get Creative with Fish Dishes

Fish is an essential part of a healthy diet. It's rich in omega fatty acids, high in protein, and low in saturated fats. Fish also has many health benefits, protecting against heart disease and possibly reducing the risk of Alzheimer's disease, depression, and stroke.

To make your fish dishes more satisfying, make coatings and crusts from your favorite chips, crackers, and other salty snacks. Crush them up and add them to some melted butter and your favorite shredded cheese, and bake until golden brown.

salmon crepe rolls with cream cheese


Make Your Yogurt Extra Special

Yogurt has many health benefits and is loaded with B vitamins, probiotics, protein, and calcium. Make your yogurt extra tasty by stirring in your favorite cookie, candy, sugar cereal, or graham crackers. Chia seeds or nuts will add even more benefits.

These sweet additions will help you feel more satisfied with your breakfast or snack, while the protein from the yogurt will help you feel full until it is time for your next meal.

yogurt parfait with crumbled cookie


Make a Snazzy Salad

Salads are one of the most versatile foods out there, which makes them a great starting point for add-don't-restrict. Begin with a big bowl of your favorite salad base, whether it's spinach, romaine lettuce, or even cucumbers.

Then, add whatever you have been craving: full-fat cheeses, cut-up chicken tenders, even some roasted potatoes or french fries. Top with your favorite dressing.

healthy salad with hard boiled egg and chicken slices


Add Tasty Sides

Next time you have a nutritious dinner featuring a juicy roasted chicken breast or a nice piece of salmon and steamed veggies, choose a side based on the snack you've been dreaming of.

Have a few french fries or onion rings for something salty and crunchy or embrace that umami goodness with a scoop of macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes topped with shredded cheddar cheese and crumbled bacon.

club sandwich with a side of french fries


Get More from a Baked Potato

Eating a baked potato (including the skin) has many health benefits, including substantial amounts of potassium, vitamin C, fiber, and protein. This nutritious base is also extremely versatile.

Top your potato with broccoli for extra nutrients, then drizzle on some nacho cheese and bacon crumbles for taste. Make a pizza-inspired baked potato by adding a bit of sauce, mozzarella, and pepperoni, or introduce some spice and crunch with a scoop of chili and some corn chips.

These examples show that, if you're struggling to make your diet more nutritious, the answer is to eat more nutritious foods, not to eliminate everything that's less nutritious. You're bound to discover that finding ways to enjoy the "boring" foods you usually avoid has plenty of physical and mental health benefits.

loaded potato topped with baked beans


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This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.