Count Colors, Not Calories: 2 Recipes for a Colorful Plate

Nutrition advice has never been more simple. Eat a rainbow of foods everyday.

So many people are quick to point out the inadequacies of food pyramids. But only focusing on criticism is boring. Let’s ask a different question: what do we do about it? What is the one food change we can make that is easy, simple, and relevant to everyone?

I say eat a rainbow of whole foods every day.

Different nutrients impart different colors to fruits and vegetables.

End the Restrictive Cycle

I remember back in the day when I started doing Jane Fonda-style aerobic workouts. It had nothing to do with form or engaging muscle groups. It was all about how many reps you could do for maximum burn and pain. As athletes and coaches, we now know that a solid rep executed with perfect form is more important than number of reps.

This number-focused mindset can rear its ugly head with nutrition, too. From a psychological perspective, anything that leads to a feeling of restriction or excess typically does not offer a positive long-term outcome. More often the reverse happens, causing people to bounce from over-restricted tendencies to excessive eating patterns. In the dieting world, this has been coined as “yo-yo dieting.” One of its most common symptoms is calorie counting.

When Calories Control You

When I first started a paleo lifestyle a little over four years ago, there were a few things I really struggled with, and counting calories was at the top of my list. I was shocked to learn just how engrained calorie counting had become in my daily thinking and decision making. I realized my mind was programmed to pay attention to the numbers of calories first and foremost.

I have to admit, I stored up a lot of random knowledge about calorie counts for the foods I loved. But I grew to see that most of those foods were not even real foods, but processed, packaged poison. I also realized the knowledge I gained by counting calories was often the deciding factor of what foods I ate, more than nutritional content. I was sad to realize this was how I was living.

Count Colors, Not Calories

Today I have a simple guiding principle: I try to eat at least two platefuls of an organic, whole-food rainbow every day. Instead of counting calories, I count colors. Five different colors a day is my goal. Many times I am lucky to have that with each plateful.

Food has become like art mixed with a seasonal scavenger hunt. My search for colorful foods to keep my plate interesting and fun has led me to try new seasonal and native foods. Here are a few examples of colorful meals that are also perfect for winter months and great for families or large groups.

Bone Broth Carrot and Butternut Squash Soup

Roast squash to enhance its natural flavors.

Yield: Serves 4-6

Prep time: 45 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes


  • 1 quart bone broth
  • 1 butternut squash, diced
  • 2lb carrots
  • 1/2 can full fat coconut milk
  • 2 Tablespoons of melted coconut oil
  • Pink Himalayan salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper and place diced squash coated in the melted oil on tray. Bake for 30 minutes until soft to touch and slightly brown.
  3. Meanwhile, begin to heat bone broth on stove, adding sliced carrots.
  4. Once done, add the cooked squash to the broth.
  5. Cook soup for about 20 minutes or until carrots are fork soft. Remove soup from heat.
  6. Using an immersion blender or hand mixer, mix soup into a nice creamy consistency, adding coconut milk and spices to taste right in the soup pot.
  7. Serve hot and enjoy.

Paleo-Perfect Slow Cooker Stew

The slow cooker is a useful tool for preparing post-workout meals.

Yield: Serves 6

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 10 hours


  • 3lb stewing meat of choice
  • 1lb carrots, chopped
  • 1lb mushrooms
  • Small head of red cabbage, chopped
  • 2lb baby onions
  • 1 large can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup water or red wine
  • Fresh thyme
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • Pink Himalayan salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper


  1. Place all ingredients in slow cooker.
  2. Add spices to taste. Cook for 10 hours on low. Once done, turn off and enjoy with a side salad.

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Photos 1, 2 and teaser courtesy of Shutterstock.
Photo 3 courtesy of V. Capaldi.

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