Seven days per week, you chow down on the exact same breakfast, lunch, and dinner portioned out from the ginormous batches of slow-cooker oatmeal, salad, and baked chicken with broccoli and sweet potatoes...
Seven days per week, you chow down on the exact same breakfast, lunch, and dinner portioned out from the ginormous batches of slow-cooker oatmeal, salad, and baked chicken with broccoli and sweet potatoes you meal prepped earlier that week. Sound familiar? As boring as it sounds, it’s a pretty common weight-loss tactic.
"Many people wind up eating the same foods every day because they believe that those foods are the ‘best’ or ‘healthiest’ options available," says registered dietitian nutritionist Tori Schmitt, R.D.N., founder of YES! Nutrition. After all, if kale is great for you, why wouldn't you eat it every day?
"For other dieters, the eat-the-same-thing-every-day approach is just easier. It takes the thinking out of food choices, and streamlines the whole grocery shopping and meal prep process," she says. And, as we all know, if you’re going to stick with a healthy-eating approach, it has to be easy.
Still, the downsides of this super-simplified approach can seriously screw with your weight-loss goals and even your health. After eating a food frequently enough, your brain actually starts to perceive that food as being less and less appetizing, Schmitt says. It's called palate fatigue or taste bud exhaustion and it happens to everyone at a different rate.
The result: Sticking to your set menu becomes increasingly difficult and your cravings for highly palatable junk foods spike to all-time highs, she says.
That’s prime time for slip-ups and overeating—and partly why research from the Harvard School of Public Health links greater dietary variety with a decreased risk of obesity.
So even though eating a wide variety of foods over the course of a week or month requires more meal prep up front, it’s easier to stick to over the long term.
Even more concerning than burnout, though, is the nutritional deficiency that comes with eating the same foods day after day, Schmitt says.
That’s because, no matter how healthy you're eating, you won't pack every single nutrient you could ever need in life into the three meals you eat every day.
"Each foods offers a unique mix of nutrients," Schmitt says. "Different protein sources contain a different matrix of amino acids, and high-fat foods such as olives, avocado, and hemp seeds deliver their own array of essential fatty acids."
Nutritional deficiencies can hamper your energy levels and your ability to build muscle while burning fat, while also leading to serious health issues—like anaemia—that could require medical intervention to correct. Basically, it’s not something you want to risk.
Fortunately, adding variety into your eating plan doesn’t have to involve learning a ton of new recipes or spending extra hours in the kitchen.
"To keep things simple, stick to the healthy basics you love while changing up some the components of the meal," Schmitt says.
For example, if you eat oatmeal for breakfast every day, change up the nuts and berries you add throughout the week. Some days you could do almonds and strawberries, another day might be walnuts and banana.
You can use the strategy for any meal. Use pesto in some of your turkey wraps and hummus in others. When you eat through all of your kale, switch to arugula.
Once you finish that off, pick up some spinach. These little tweaks will pay off huge in the weight-loss department.