There's a popular notion that eating a wide variety of foods is the healthiest way to eat. In fact, many government food guides have included “food variety” in their recommendations for a healthy diet. If it’s in the food guide then it must be true, right? Maybe not.
While there are certainly benefits to eating a variety of healthy meals from day to day, there are also strong reasons why sticking to a few favorites will actually help you eat healthier and get in shape more quickly.
Here are 5 reasons why food monotony is better than food variety.
1. You Learn What You Are Actually Eating
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Imagine sitting down for dinner at a restaurant and the waiter presents you with a huge platter of food. He asks you to take just enough to fulfill an appropriate single portion. Could you do it?
Most people can’t. When presented with unfamiliar meals, people miscalculated a proper portion size by more than 20% - That’s a lot of extra food!
Eating consistent meals allows you to familiarize yourself with what you are actually eating. How many calories are in that meal? How much protein, carbohydrates, and fat does it contain? What are the ingredients? And of course, how much should you actually be eating? Knowledge is power.
2. You Can Easily Get All the Nutrients You Need
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There are a lot of nutritional requirements that need to be reached through the meals you eat each day. You need the right mix of vitamins and minerals, good sources of protein, a supply of healthy fats, and enough carbohydrates to give you energy.
Fortunately, you can get all of this nutrition from a relatively small selection of super-healthy food choices. This makes sense when you look back through history: People have rarely, if ever, enjoyed access to such a variety of foods as we do today. Historically, people have long been able to survive and thrive by eating the right foods, not by eating a wide variety of foods.
3. You Save a Lot of Time
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What’s the number one reason why people aren’t in as good of shape as they would like?
“There just isn’t enough time.”
Trying to come up with new healthy meal options takes a lot of time. There is time spent researching new recipes to try, time required to collect the necessary ingredients, and then time spent preparing the actual meal.
4. You Reduce Your Stress
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Change is stressful. Starting a new job or moving to a new city are just two examples of how newness can cause stress. Stress builds over time and chronic stress can take a real toll on your body.
So, while it can definitely be fun to try new foods, feeling pressure to come up with new recipes on a daily or weekly basis can become a source of stress. Contrast this with the comfort of eating a more monotonous diet. It’s easy and can mostly be done from habit, which means fewer decisions have to be made and less stress is created.
Anything that can be done to reduce your stress will have a positive benefit for your ability to lose weight, get in shape, and stay healthy.
5. You Can Become a Healthy Eating Master
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Nobody likes to fail.
That’s one of the reasons why so many people fall off the wagon when it comes to exercise. They try to adopt a workout plan that’s a bit too ambitious and end up quitting once a little failure (i.e. missed workouts) start to creep in.
Setting unrealistic eating expectations can lead to the same trap. Yes, it would be great to cook a new healthy meal every single day, but is that realistic?
Anyone can become a master of healthy eating if they start small enough. Choosing to perfect a handful of healthy meals is a great way to experience successful healthy eating and build confidence that you can do it. It then becomes much easier to add to this success by introducing a new meal to your repertoire once a week, or even once per month.
The benefits of eating a wide variety of healthy foods do exist, but they are often overstated. Keeping your meals simple is a great way to save time and reduce the amount of work associated with healthy eating.
A great way to get started is by finding just one recipe for each of your daily meals - breakfast, lunch, and dinner – that is easy to prepare, includes lots of fresh ingredients that you normally stock in your kitchen, and is enjoyable to eat.
Let these be your go-to meals and then slowly begin to expand your options by introducing new recipes over time.
Dave Smith is a professional weight-loss coach who was chosen as “Canada’s Top Fitness Professional” in 2013.
He approaches weight-loss from a psychological perspective. Most people know how to lose weight, but creating the right mindset and then putting those ideas into practice is where the real work begins.
His ”10 in 4” weight-loss program helps people lose 10 pounds in 4 weeks through daily coaching, group accountability, and a focus on building new lifestyle habits.
Enjoy free home workouts and learn more about his weight-loss programs at makeyourbodywork.com.