Variety is the spice of life…But, what if you don’t like variety?—Especially with your food choices.
Does it really matter if you eat different things or not?
Yes and no.
Growing up, what did you eat for lunch at school?
In the 1st grade, my mom packed me a peanut butter (Peter Pan brand only) and jelly sandwich on Iron Kids bread every day, alongside Cheetohs, grapes and maybe a piece of leftover Halloween candy (you know, it lasted all year long).
Fast forward to a year later, and I was sooooo over the PB&J thing. On wards to Lunchables—“Turkey, cheese and crackers with a Capri Sun please!”
Everyday for a year.
Come 3rd grade, I progressed to turkey and Kraft singles cheese on my Iron Kids bread with Doritos, Oreos and maybe some apple slices.
And by the time I was in 7th grade, and into “healthier eating”, I ditched the cheese and white bread, in favor of turkey, mustard and whole wheat bread with baby carrots—and ate it every day for a year straight, once again.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a creature of habit when it comes to my food.
Not easily bored, I can eat the same thing most days and am easily pleased. Until…one day…I wake up and decide I AM bored, and ready to move on to the next kick (a kick that typically lasts for about 6 months to a year).
Some people are foodies in life.
I was never one of them.
Couple this with an eating disorder in my teens and early 20’s, and I never felt like I was missing out on anything (other than extra calories and ‘fear foods’—which I was fine with avoiding).
Little did I realize…I was actually missing out on A LOT of things.
I’m talking: Nutrients.
For those of us in the health and wellness world, we know how wonderful nutrition is for the human body.
We know greens are “superfoods”. Oranges give us Vitamin C. We get energy and B-vitamins from protein. Healthy fats, like fatty fish, avocado, coconut oil and olive oil, do a body good and help our brain function. And “healing foods” like bone broth, liver, kombucha, sauerkraut, ginger and garlic fight inflammation and heal our gut.
But there is a difference in KNOWING about nutrition and fueling your body with these nutrients…and actually EATING and CONSUMING these nutrients.
Enter: The “problem.”
Eating the same things every day may give you the protein, carbs and fats your body needs…but little do you realize the varied vitamins and minerals you are missing out on when you eat…
- Ground turkey every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner
- Orange sweet potatoes or brown rice with every single meal
- Bananas or apples as your only fruit source
- Broccoli, cucumber and tomatoes as your only veggies
- Or extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil as your only fats
(I am preaching to my own choir here too)
Grass-fed Bison boasts ___.
While ground turkey boasts ___.
Eggs have tons or -__
While chicken sausage has lots of ___.
Broccoli is known for ___
And asparagus has ____
It’s not rocket science, a healthy diet consists of different nutrients—which come from different foods.
True Healthy Eating
“Healthy eating” means different things to different people.
Ask one person and it means: “Low-fat and no-fat”
Ask another and it means: “Chicken or salmon and broccoli” (for nearly every meal)
Ask another, and it is: “Paleo…or vegetarian…or gluten-free…”
And still another, it is: “Eating ‘clean’, but with occasional treats.”
Whatever your definition of “healthy eating” is, there is one universal truth behind healthy eating:
Our society loves to tell us about “balance” and “moderation”—but what does that even really mean?
- Some days having chicken, other days bison.
- Buying strawberries at the store one week, and oranges and blueberries the next.
- Maybe whipping up a spaghetti squash casserole or chili one week, and eating leftovers a few days in a row, then making meatballs or chicken thighs to eat another few days in a row
Balance is not just something to do for the sake of doing it…but instead, balance provides us with a variety of nutrients that just eating chicken and broccoli every single day does not provide.
Risks of Eating the Same Thing Everyday
In addition to missing out on key nutrients from a variety of foods, when we eat the same foods every day, we can actually set ourselves up to develop intolerances.
Yup. You can actually make your body allergic or intolerant and sensitive to eating certain foods.
Any food, if eaten repetitively, can cause food allergies in allergy-prone individuals or people with “leaky guts.” This is because we ingest the same protein components in these foods—which, if we have too much of them in our body, set our body up to attack these proteins like an auto-immune response. (Note: All foods contain proteins).
Be it eggs every morning for breakfast, sweet potatoes every day for lunch and dinner, apples and peanut butter for snacks, and more…
Have you ever wondered why a certain food didn’t agree with you “randomly” one day, despite eating it frequently prior?
This “intolerance” happened to me with eggs.
Every morning, without fail, 2-3 eggs found their way on my plate, alongside turkey bacon or my famous homemade banana pancakes.
After two to three years of this routine however, one day, I woke up…and eggs no longer were my friend—nauseas, constipation, bloating. Ugh. The thought of eggs made my belly do flips.
Aside from boosting the variety of nutrients you eat on the daily, if you want to continue to eat the foods you love—do your body a favor, and mix it up.
A Solution for the “Picky” Eater
If you, like me, tend to eat the same things most days—without blinking an eye—a value I have taken to in my own relationship with food is eating at least one new or different thing every day.
And trying a new recipe or dish or whole meal at least 1-2 times per week.
Both of these methods have helped me keep things fresh, and in spite of my apathy towards variety or not, these methods have allowed both me and my tastebuds to not get too comfortable.
Surprisingly, the act of mixing things up has also inspired me to give more thanks and gratitude for food itself. When we eat the same things day in and day out, we decrease our own mindfulness with our food—the same tastes, textures and types of food are nothing exciting or unknown, making it much easier to “check out” of the dining experience.
Try a new food, recipe or simple meal this week—something outside of your usual.
Consider building upon this feat with your own regular “routine” of variety.
Don’t like something? It’s not a total fail. At least you tried! And, get this: It can take the average person up to 17 times to actually learn to like a new food.
This is a rule of thumb I especially keep in mind when I work with kids in my pediatric therapy clinic, but it can also apply to any picky eater.
A way to “hack” new foods and dislikes?
Try foods in a variety of ways.
Zucchini for instance can be roasted, spiralized (into noodles), stir fried, baked into chips or shredded. Beef can be ground into burger patties, served as a stew, stir-fried with Asian flare or grilled into a juicy stek.
Mix it up.