With busy schedules comes routine. No we are not obsessive-compulsive but a plan does make things simpler, doesn’t it? So even when it comes to meals, a pre-planned menu of breakfast, lunch, and dinner not only saves us time but it could be the reason behind good health. Can a boring routine diet be linked to physical well being? Or is variety really the spice of a longer, healthier life?
Comfort is key
First of all, people tend to stick to the same stuff-at least on a weekly basis, says Rania Batayneh, M.P.H., author of The One One One Diet. “Those foods are the ones they know and like and have recipes for,” she says. And there’s more than just comfort in having a routine meal plan. If you are filling your portions with healthy amounts of colourful veggies and fruits , then you are taking in enough nutrients and antioxidants to keep your immune system boosted -resulting in a healthy mind and body. Plus a structured meal plan can keep your waistline in check. A recent study found out that the more wider the variety in the food intake was linked to a wider waist circumference.
However, there are drawbacks to maintaining a Xeroxed menu. First up: By eating the same thing day in and day out, you’re limiting your diet to certain nutrients and depriving yourself of others-even if you have a healthy, well-balanced meal plan, say Lyssie Lakatos, R.D. and Tammy Lakatos Shames, R.D., co-owners of The Nutrition Twins. For example, if your diet lacks probiotics like yogurt and kefir or prebiotics (the carbs that probiotics eat that come from whole grains and honey), you could throw off the bacteria in your gut, which could affect mood and immunity, she says. Plus, hogging on the same stuff exposes you to the same pesticides, even if you go organic. And it’s possible to develop food sensitivities if you overdose on any one food, Lakatos says. Typically, microbe diversity is a good thing when it comes to your gut.
But, according to Dr. Daniel Bolnick, an ecologist at the University of Texas, “We’ve shown that in some animals, mixing foods actually reduces the number and variety of gut microbes.” Bolnick says the takeaway at this stage isn’t that eating a wide variety of foods is bad, but rather that combinations of foods can do unexpected things. “If you know the effect of Food A and the effect of Food B, you can’t predict what will happen to the microbiome when you eat both,” he says. “There’s no question that, as a species, we eat a greater variety of things now then we used to. But whether that’s good or bad for us is still in question.”
Get in the rut
Eating the same things on a loop is okay as long as one is shrewd about the foods on their grocery list. But the biggest drawback to a structured meal is monotony. We very well know that boredom can bring on overeating or a quest for diet-derailing treats.
So, just to add a little variety to your diet here are some ways you can experiment with varied food items with high in nutrition with minimum effort:
- Try something new every week
Cooking one meal and then eating it several times throughout the week is a strategy many use to save time. The trick is to switch up one meal each week. Suppose you cook a large dish on a Sunday and have the same for lunch Monday through Friday. The workweek is when people are the most time-crunched and need a consistent nutrition rhythm, so keep to your cooking schedule, but prepare something different every Sunday. By just changing your lunch, you are introducing 25 percent more variety into your diet.
- Tweak your standard meals
Instead of cooking an entire new meal from scratch, you can just switch one ingredient and diversify without breaking your rhythm. For example if you always have a fruit and nut smoothie for breakfast, rotate the fruits (strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, banana, etc) and nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, etc).Or if you usually have a green salad with chicken for lunch, use different greens (spinach, lettuce, kale, etc) and protein sources (chicken, salmon, tuna, etc).This will give you nutritional variety without changing the meal so much that it causes you to deviate from your routine.
- Pop a multi
A supplement isn’t going to make drastic improvements to your diet, but it will help you fill in any deficits in essential vitamins and minerals. If you are eating the same thing most days, then your menu might be low in micronutrients such as zinc or manganese, and a multivitamin can help fill these small nutritional gaps so that you don’t have a problem.
Of course, there are a thousand other ways you could structure your meals to get all the good stuff your body needs from just a few dishes. And you don’t have to restrict yourself to such a limited plan. The big takeaway here is you also don’t have to go crazy trying to fit a million exotic “superfoods” into your diet if you want to be healthy. Just be monogamous when it comes to your favorite healthy meals and maybe you can have the french fries on the side.