Are your monotonous eating habits stuck on repeat?



Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
@EmmaThornton
Ask Emma


31 May 2018

Are you eating the same foods every day?

The UK may be stuck on repeat when it comes to their eating habits according to a recent survey conducted by Arla Fibre, with around 60% of the population eating the same foods every day and a worrying 45% of the 2000 people polled also admitting that they probably don’t get the nutrients they need from this limited diet.1  

Now this isn’t entirely unexpected – we’re all creatures of habit and have our go-to meals that we rely on during the week, a quick fix when things are too busy or too manic. We also have our own personal preferences – meals we like to include on a weekly basis because we enjoy them so much or sometimes we even restrict our eating habits as part of a diet. It’s also sometimes more affordable to make meals that involve the same ingredients rather than paying for a wide range of fruits and veg.

The problem is that if we’re not eating a variety of foods, we may not be getting all the nutrients we need. For example, it’s possible that the nation’s repetitive eating habits could be contributing towards the glaring fibre gap in our diets – the National Diet and Nutrition Survey estimate that on average, we’re missing 12g of fibre from our diet!2  

There’s also a worrying trend developing where people are turning to supplements, rather than food, to get their intake of vitamins and minerals. Now supplements are good for supporting your dietary intake, especially if you’re vulnerable to deficiencies such as when you’re going through menopause, suffering from PMS or recovering from the flu

But that’s all they should be, support.  At no point should you cease to try and get the nutrients you need from your diet – after all, your body is designed to absorb nutrients from the food that you eat, not from a tablet or a tincture. 

Doesn’t eating the same thing every day help you to lose weight?

Most of you probably aren’t aware of your repetitive eating habits or actively choose the same meals for convenience or affordability. However, many people do make a conscious decision to eat the same meal day after day, believing it will help them to lose weight. 

Prepping meals in advance and meticulously opting for the healthiest ingredients are essential aspects of many diet routines, with many food groups such as carbohydrates being limited or sometimes excluded altogether. Choosing the same foods helps to make this process easier and some studies have indicated that this type of ‘meal monotony’ could lead to a reduced intake of calories.3  

If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you’ll know by now that I’m not a big fan of calorie counting and I’m even less enthused about restricted diets. Meal monotony may work for some, but for others it can lead to boredom – it’s difficult to stay invested in your food when you’re stuck eating the same thing on a loop. 

It also doesn’t matter how healthy your food is, eating the same thing day after day means you’re not exposing yourself to the same amount of nutrients found in other food groups. Carbohydrates, for example, are becoming a real concern for some people but the right carbohydrates i.e. unrefined wholegrains, are rich in energy-boosting B vitamins and dietary fibre – remember the fibre gap I spoke about earlier?

How can I keep my diet varied?

Eating a different breakfast, lunch and dinner every day of the week is probably a bit too much to ask. Most of us simply don’t have the time or the money to keep things this varied so, rather than set an impossible goal, let’s focus on what you realistically can do.

Get a balance

The worrying thing about eating the same foods every day is the lack of balance. Your body needs a whole plethora of nutrients to function properly, from minerals like zinc, calcium and magnesium to vitamins such as vitamin D, vitamin C and vitamin K. You’re not going to be getting this range of nutrients if every day you’re munching on the same breakfast, lunch and dinner. It also goes without saying that most of our daily eating habits involve far too much refined carbohydrate, free sugars and processed meats. 

Start by making simple changes where you can – replace your white bread with wholegrain, add some banana or berries to your morning bowl of porridge and include a portion of veg with your evening meal. These might seem like small steps but they’re important when it comes to achieving more of a balance. 

Be a savvy shopper

One of the main issues that turns people towards repetitive eating habits is affordability. It’s all well and good to say that you should be eating as varied a diet as possible but realistically, paying for all the different ingredients can be difficult. That’s why it can help to focus on a few staple ingredients that can be re-used or added to. 

Porridge, for example, is a great solid breakfast that’s full of fibre but you can add to it in different ways. One day you can add some almond butter for an extra burst of protein and the next you can sprinkle with strawberries and blueberries for a good dose of vitamin C. 

Vegetables are another inexpensive inclusion – potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and broccoli can be added to a variety of dishes and they’re relatively cheap compared to ready meals and frozen food. Below I’ve included some of my favourite vegetable-rich dishes that you can whip up in no time at all!

Broccoli, Kale & Sweet Potato Soup

Coconut, Spinach & Red Lentil Dhal

Three Bean Curry

Don’t limit yourself

If you’re on a diet, it can be quite easy to dismiss certain food groups such as fats and carbohydrates, which will inevitably restrict what you can and cannot eat. However, healthy fats and carbohydrates are important for your health and well-being, helping to support the production of hormones and providing you with plenty of energy and fibre to get you through the day. 

Getting these food groups into your diet is essential so, instead of worrying about refined carbs and processed fats, focus on getting plenty of unrefined carbohydrates and healthy into your diet, such as wholegrain bread, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, avocados, oily fish and nuts. 

Experiment with different foods!

If you’re a fussy eater or simply a creature of habit, don’t be afraid to experiment and step outside your comfort zone. Immediately looking at a meal and deciding ‘that’s not for me’ without at least trying it can be very restricting. 

Are you curious about Mexican food but worried about the spice? Make your own Classic Vegan Chilli at home and adjust it to your own preference.  Enjoy an Indian on Saturday night but you’re concerned about calories? Make Saturday night’s a family event and get everyone pitching in to make a Vegetarian Thai Green Curry

Get more involved with your food. There are so many different foods out there to try, you’re bound to find something you like and you’ll never know if you don’t try! 

1https://www.arlafoods.co.uk/overview/news--press/2018/pressrelease/new-research-from-arla-fibre-reveals-nations-diets-are-stuck-in-a-rut-2469271/

2https://www.nutrition.org.uk/attachments/article/990/BNF%20looks%20at%20the%20years%205%20and%206%20of%20the%20National%20Diet%20and%20Nutrition%20Survey.pdf

3https://www.livescience.com/15154-lose-weight-eat-food-day.html

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