I’ll never forget a patient I had many years ago. I was taking a diet history from her, and asked her what she usually ate in the morning. “Oh, just some tea, and bread with jam”. For lunch? “Another cup of tea, and bread with jam.” Same for her afternoon snack. And the same for dinner, too – except she’d add a piece of grilled chicken. She knew how to cook, and she told me that finances weren’t an issue. So why such a limited diet? “Well,” she said, “I just really like bread with jam.”
There are plenty of reasons that people stick to the same diet day after day. Their choices are influenced by what they like, what they can afford, what they know how to prepare, and what’s convenient. Some people tell me that they eat the same thing every day because those are the only foods they trust will keep their weight stable. I’ve met others who are so health-orientated, that they eat the same thing every day just so they can hit their nutritional targets. I had one patient who ate only very precise amounts of what he considered to be ‘superfoods’ every single day – no more, no less.
I meet plenty of people who tend to eat the same foods day in and day out – and they want to know if that’s good or bad. In order to sort it out, I try to help them see the difference between a dietary routine and a dietary rut. There’s a big difference between having a fairly consistent eating pattern (a routine), as opposed to eating the exact same foods every day (a rut).
My pattern, for example, looks more or less like this:
Breakfast: protein and fruit/vegetables
Lunch: protein and vegetables
Snack: protein and fruit
Dinner: protein, vegetables and a healthy carbohydrate
But within that pattern, what I eat every day varies – a lot. And it makes good nutritional sense to do that. Because every food you eat offers a unique blend of nutrients. Strawberries and mangoes are both fruits – and broccoli and asparagus are both vegetables – but each food offers up very different nutrients to your body. Brown rice and sweet potatoes may both be healthy carbohydrates – but, nutritionally speaking, they’re as different as night and day.
If you’re relying on the same foods day after day, make an effort to try a new food once or twice a week. Instead of your usual salad made with iceberg lettuce, try raw spinach. Cook a vegetable you’ve always wondered about but have never actually eaten. Or try a new variety of something you eat all the time – maybe a deep red ‘blood’ orange instead of the usual navel, or some purple cauliflower instead of the traditional white. One of the quickest ways out of a food rut is to think of each and every eating occasion as an opportunity to ‘mix it up’.
Written by Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD. Susan is a paid consultant for Herbalife