Meal prep is supposed to be the gold standard of healthy eating. But can you actually eat the same thing every single day and still be healthy? Dietitian Melissa Meier weighs in.
For some, healthy eating can be a whole lot easier when you eat the same thing day in and day out. Your grocery list stays the same, your meal plan stays the same, your costs stay the same… it’s pretty stress-free. But is falling into the same old safe space and streamlining your diet actually nutritionally sound? Here’s my verdict.
If you’re eating the same healthy foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner over and over again, you’re doing a much better job than most people. On average, one-third of an adult’s energy intake comes from discretionary (AKA ‘junk’) foods – so if you’re beating that by sticking to a routine, I’m all for it.
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A consistent diet can help you build new healthy habits. Image: Unsplash
Another benefit, if you’re new to the world of healthy eating, is that a consistent diet can help you build new healthy habits. Over time, it’ll become second nature to opt for that bowl of natural muesli for breakfast, a chickpea salad for lunch or a piece of grilled fish and veggies for dinner – and that’s a much better option than skipping meals every day or ordering takeaway ad-hoc.
Another rung on the board for a routine diet is that it could be easier on your bank balance, because buying things in bulk often means the price-tag-per unit is a little lower. Plus, you won’t have to buy millions of different ingredients for a new recipe every night of the week.
The obvious con is that if you’re eating the same unhealthy foods every single day, you’re not doing your health any favours.
If you’re limiting what you eat drastically, you’re not going to get the full complement of antioxidants available. Source: Getty
My main concern with eating the exact same thing every single day, however, is that you risk missing out on some of the essential micronutrients your body needs to function it’s best. If your day on a plate is low in protein, for example, you could be missing out on things like iron and zinc that are delivered in high quantities in high-protein foods.
Fruit and veggies are another good example. They get their bright and beautiful colours from the different kinds of disease-fighting antioxidants they contain.
Orange fruit and veg, (carrots, for example) contain beta-carotene which is essential for healthy eyes, while purple fruit and veg (think: blueberries) contain anthocyanin, which fights against ageing. So, if you’re limiting what you eat drastically, you’re not going to get the full complement of antioxidants available.
With gut health in mind, it’s also important to consider the types of fibre you consume. In contrast to popular belief, there are many different types of fibre found in different plant foods. You need a pretty varied diet to reap the benefits of all of them – so again, if your diet is limited, you’re on the back foot here, too.
I’d suggest you follow the same type of meal, but mix up the components. Image: iStock
If you’d otherwise eat poorly, of course, having a routine diet might be your best option. As a rule of thumb, however, I’d encourage you to make your diet as varied as you can – not only to ensure you’re getting a wide variety of micro and macro-nutrients, antioxidants and fibres, but for some enjoyment and excitement around your food, too.
If routine is your thing, instead of having the same meal on repeat, I’d suggest you follow the same type of meal, but mix up the components – a little like a formula. If you’re a meat-and-three-veg kinda gal, for example, you could try chicken, sweet potatoes, broccoli and capsicum one night, then salmon, sweet corn, pumpkin and cabbage the next.
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practicing dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition