I think it is better to create meals.
It is more realistic and every food has its usefulness.
Example I posted on the Steam forum :
Meals and nutrition
Houses, hostels and taverns prepare meals with the available food. A meal has a cumulative caloric value.
The meals have five levels of quality: bland, simple, appetizing, tasty and delicious.
Quality affects the happiness of the villagers :
- bland : Loss of happiness;
- simple : no effect;
- appetizing : increases happiness a little;
- tasty : increases happiness moderately;
- delicious : great increase in happiness.
Quality depends on the diversity of foods :
- bland : one food;
- simple : two different foods;
- appetizing : three different foods, at least one meat and one vegetable;
- tasty : four different foods, at least one meat and one vegetable;
- delicious : five different foods, at least two meats and two vegetables.
Salt and spices increase the happiness conferred by a meal.
Meat : fish, meat (beef, chicken, pork...), egg , chesse, legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas...)
Vegetable : vegetable (Potato, cabbage, pumpkin ...), bread and fruit (apple, orange...)
During a meal, the villagers drink: water, milk, beer, wine, juice, tea, coffee...
Fish pie, meat pie... They have a new function, the villagers can keep them in their inventory to eat them when needed.
Foods are now distinguished from one another, even if they belong to the same category and therefore have their own caloric values.
For example with a short non-exhaustive search (100g, kcal) :
- potato : 77;
- cabbage 25;
- Whole cow's milk : 61 (goat : 69, sheep : 108);
- apple : 52;
- orange 49;
- chicken : 239;
- beef 250 (depending on the piece);
- bread 250.
Obviously, it is necessary to adapt to realistic portions in the game and that the real value depends on too many factors to represent them.
Yes, potatoes are much more interesting than cabbages, but having both allows better quality for the meal.
It can also have different on production in the fields.