It’s easy to get into a rut when it comes to cooking dinner every night. You find a recipe or a meal you like, and soon, you’re placing the same grocery delivery every single week, and you can set your clock to your Wednesday evening meal of spaghetti and meatballs or seared salmon and veggies. It’s your safe space!
“Many people feel a security in eating the same foods every day because those foods help them to lose weight, gain weight, or maintain the weight they want to hold onto,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It – Taking You from Label to Table. “Others eat the same foods because it makes them feel secure in having a habit they don’t have to think much about.”
But according to experts, it’s essential to change up your meals regularly. Sorry to break it to you, but eating that same dinner each and every weeknight that you’ve mastered cooking is not the way to go.
OK, so why exactly is it all that important to vary your meals?
There are several reasons why it’s so important to vary what you eat every day, but the big one here is nutrition.
“Seasons and growing conditions change the level of vitamins and minerals in our food,” says registered dietitian Jennifer Piazza of Real Food Blends. “Our bodies were designed with that in mind and thrive off variety.”
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND award-winning nutrition expert and Wall Street Journal best-selling author of The Best Rotisserie Chicken Cookbook, agrees.
“It’s okay to eat your favorite foods more frequently, but if you eat the same thing every day, you cannot meet all your nutrient needs,” she says. “It’s really the average of your consumption over a few days or a week that provides a better understanding of which nutrients you’re getting more and less of and how you should complement it,” she adds, citing one 2015 study examining the diets of over 7000 adults. The researchers found that those who ate a greater variety of foods were associated with a lower risk of metabolic syndrome.
Eating the same thing could lead to nutrient deficiencies, too—even if you’re eating ostensibly healthy foods. It’s important to always have a mix, as variety is the spice of life, right?
“You may eat a well-balanced plate of sauteed kale, salmon, and quinoa for dinner, which at a glance is incredibly healthy,” says Lindsey Kane, Sun Basket’s in-house registered dietitian and director of nutrition. “But, if you eat this same meal each and every night, you’ll wind up supplying your body with the same nutrition profile, one that may be a strong source of certain vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, but consistently misses out on other critical nutrients, which, in some cases, can turn into nutrient deficiencies.”
Not sure if you have a deficiency? Here are 5 Signs of Protein Deficiency You Should Never Ignore.
Deficiencies aren’t the only possible outcome of this sort of eating pattern either.
So what other risks do you face? Well, even foods that are very good for us can cause discomfort if consumed in excess. Broccoli, explains personal trainer and nutritionist Jamie Hickey, is a good example. While very healthy, broccoli and other cruciferous veggies “have been known to cause enlarged thyroid gland, weight gain, and constipation.”
“Blueberries are another healthy choice that when eaten daily can help prevent heart disease, weight gain, and insulin problems,” she says, “but they also cause acid reflux, diarrhea, bloating, and heartburn.”
Eating too much of a food high in certain nutrients can even put you at risk for vitamin toxicity too, explains registered dietitian Hannah Magee, so essentially, you could end up giving yourself too much of the same vitamin every day. Magee also points out the undeniable emotional component at play as well.
“Variety is also an important way to prevent boredom in healthy eating,” she says. “This is something I see often: people get into a routine with their efforts, eating the same handful of foods over and over again until they can’t look at them anymore. You see, when healthy eating habits get boring, they’re much more difficult to stick to. This is another reason why it might be helpful to switch things up often.”