Q: I have pretty much the same thing every day for breakfast and lunch. Am I missing out on nutrients by doing this?
A: Eating similar meals day in and day out is a valuable and effective strategy for successful long-term weight maintenance, but yes, this type of diet may have nutritional gaps.
Research shows that people who successfully slim down and then stay at their new weight tend to eat comparable things each day. I have also found this to be true with my own clients. Other than the ones who have private chefs, everyone repeats multiple meals throughout the week.
It’s not that you can’t lose weight on a varied diet; it just requires more planning and preparing, and in my experience, the greater the “dietary effort” people need to exert, the lower their chance of long-term success.
To keep the effort low and the nutrition high, follow these three tips. (Bonus: This advice will also head off taste bud boredom.)
1. Try something new every week.
Cooking one meal and then eating it several times throughout the week is a strategy that I use with my diet. (Check out some of my favorite cook-once recipes.) The trick is to switch up one meal each week.
Let’s say Sunday is when you make a large dish that you then have 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.
2. Tweak your standard meals.
Upgrading your go-to dishes is another simple way to diversify without breaking your rhythm. All you need to do is swap out an ingredient or two for similar but nutritionally different ones.
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, arugula, 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.
3. Pop a multi.
I recommend that all of my clients take a multivitamin each day. 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.
Whatever changes you decide to make regarding your dietary variety, make them slow and don’t sacrifice these kinds of changes for the ultimate goal of excellent adherence.