Nutrition by Addition: Why Adding to Your Diet is Better Than Taking Away

Most diets focus on restriction, from carbohydrates to sugar. But a new way of thinking among nutritionists suggests that the ultimate answer is to add, rather than take away.

Nutrition by Addition; the concept of “eating what you want, adding what you need”. This has become a popular phrase used primarily by dietitians when encouraging people to add nutritious foods to their diet. It succinctly describes how people can enjoy their food while still meeting their nutrition needs, taking the focus away from solely focusing on restriction and placing the spotlight on how to properly nourish our bodies.

Why you should try nutrition by addition?

Helps add important nutrients to your diet

According to the CDC, only 1 in 10 adults in the United States consume enough fruits and vegetables. Focusing on adding nutrient dense food to meals and snacks, rather than focusing on what to take away, means that things like vegetables and fruits that most Americans are missing are added to their diet.

Feel full and satisfied after eating

Eating carbohydrate rich foods alone can lead to a spike in blood sugar, leaving us feeling hungry again shortly after eating. Adding foods rich in protein, fiber and healthy fats help us feel satisfied as well as feel full for longer.

Adds variety to your diet

Variety is important to healthy dietary patterns. Eating a variety of foods, specifically plants like vegetables & fruit, means we are getting the variety of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that we need.

Easier to adopt

Focusing on what you can add is a more positive approach to diet change, which makes the habits more likely to be adopted. The more enjoyable we can make a healthy decision, the more likely we are to make it.

Eat what you want, add what you need

Only focusing on restriction can feel like a punishment, and foster feelings of guilt. Nutrition by addition supports a more flexible approach to eating; it provides guidance on how to create a nourishing plate of food while still providing people with lots of choice. Feeling full and satisfied from your meals also can help prevent overeating foods that are less nutrient dense.

What should I add?


Helps keep us feeling full, and is important for tissue repair/muscle growth. Some examples of protein rich foods are fish, beans, tofu, meat, eggs, and cheese.


Focus on adding color to your plate. Fruits and vegetables add fiber as well as micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.


Increase satiety/satisfaction. Some examples of healthy fats to add to your plate include nuts, seeds, olive oil, and avocado.


The brain's main source of fuel and an essential macronutrient. Some examples of carbohydrates are rice, potatoes, pasta, grains, bread, and tortillas.


You are allowed to eat the foods you are craving. Nutrition by addition puts the consumer in control of their cravings by adding nutrient dense foods to them.

Here’s how nutrition by addition might work in practice. Let’s say you need a snack, and are craving crackers. What can we add to your plate to make your snack more nutritious?

Carbohydrates/craving: serving of crackers.

Fiber: carrots or peppers.

Protein: cheese or greek yogurt dip.

Fat: pistachios or avocado.

You have built a snack plate with a variety of foods that provide you with fiber, protein, micronutrients, fats and carbs. Plus, you still got to enjoy the crackers you craved. Now you will feel satisfied until your next meal.

As always, for those who are required to follow specific diets for medical conditions, talk to your doctors and dietitian about how you can best meet your nutrient needs.

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