Victoria Beckham is probably munching on some salmon sushi rolls right about now, mixing up a grilled salmon salad for her lunch, or dreaming about the salmon she’s going to enjoy on her toast in the morning.
It might sound extreme, but Becks eats salmon every day. That’s right. Every. Single. Day. The woman is basically keeping the salmon industry afloat with her fish-fueled diet that she says keeps her skin glowing.
Maybe it’s not salmon for you, but oatmeal, salad, or grilled chicken. Eating the same foods day after day seems like a really smart idea, at least in theory. Your weight will stay consistent and you don’t have to worry about running to the store for recipe ingredients each week.
On the other hand, things can get really boring, really fast (no offense to salmon, but what’s wrong with mahi-mahi or tuna, anyway?).
With that in mind, we wanted to find out if there are actually health benefits to eating the same thing every day, or if it’s just a myth that keeps us snacking on almonds. We explored the pros and cons more in-depth to find out the truth.
Keep calories in check
Calorie counting can be extremely helpful if you’re trying to lose weight, but it can also feel more like rocket science than simple arithmetic.
Consistently eating the same meal or a few different dishes can help you easily track your calories. Count it once and be done with it. No more looking up how many calories that one tablespoon of cooking oil added to each serving.
Establish healthy eating habits
Want to eat better, but don’t know where to start? Eating the same meal or snack each day can help you create healthy eating habits without the stress of figuring out what to eat.
Plus, the more often you eat something, the more it becomes a habit instead of a conscious choice. That apple a day gets much easier to keep up after a couple of weeks!
Meal planning and prep is a breeze
From what goes into your cart to making the recipe, frequently eating the same thing cuts down on the time it takes to plan out meals. It can also make it easy for you to prep and cook.
Is your lunch always the same? You can make a week’s worth of meals on Sunday and be done with it. You’re also more likely to stick to healthier meals when the hard work is done instead of trying to pick something up or cook at the end of a busy day.
Fewer choices = better choices
Decision fatigue isn’t just a thing at work — it affects your choices at the table, too. The more choices you have to make throughout the day, the harder it becomes to make good ones, including about what to eat.
A study of 1,018 college students found that those who had a high cognitive load, or were mentally taxed and tired, were less likely to choose healthy foods. The students who were the most mentally exhausted were also less likely to eat the recommended servings of fruits or vegetables each day than their less taxed counterparts.
Take deciding what to eat off the table. Know what you’re going to eat throughout the day or week to improve your diet and your productivity.
Avoid fast-food pitfalls and dinner panic
Forget half-heartedly scrolling through your phone for a recipe while standing in the frozen pizza section. It may be less tempting to grab something quick and easy like fast food when you already have a plan for your next meal. It’s even better if your next meal is already prepped and ready to go.
Eating the same thing every day or repeating meals and ingredients throughout the week may help you lose weight or stick with your diet.
Research has shown that more dietary variety is associated with fat and increased body weight. This is especially true when people are given an assortment of snack foods instead of just one. We can’t help but have a little bit — or a lot — of everything. Researchers believe that different tastes and textures may encourage overeating. When the study’s participants were only given a single snack option, they tended to eat less of it.
That doesn’t mean that diversity will automatically add inches to your waist. A variety of fruits and vegetables is absolutely vital to support your body and improve your health. But eating the same thing every day can help cut out the overwhelming amount of unhealthy or less-than-stellar snack or meal options.
It goes without saying that repeating meals can be a real snoozeville. Just ask anyone who grew up eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch every day in elementary school.
You should look forward to what you’re eating! That doesn’t mean takeout and massive slices of pizza all the time, but you should still enjoy the food on your plate. You’ll never stick to a diet — or even healthier meals — if you hate it.
There’s a reason pediatricians get nervous when your child will only eat chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese for every meal.
Your body needs a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and whole grains to ensure that you’re getting the macronutrients and vitamins you need. Depending on what you’re eating, you can become nutritionally deficient by severely limiting yourself to a few meals or a handful of foods.
Stalled weight loss
Adding in new, healthy foods can be a great way to make restrictive diets more interesting. One study found that increasing the variety of healthy foods may help overweight or obese adults lose weight and fat. The key here is healthy foods. Eating many different unhealthy foods like baked goods, salty snacks, and simple carbohydrates is associated with body fat.
A study of 59,000 women from 2002 found that women who rotated 16 to 17 healthy foods in their diet were more likely to live longer than women who regularly ate zero to eight healthy foods. Each healthy food eaten decreased risk of death by 5 percent. That may not seem like much, but it adds up quickly!
Risk of metabolic disease
A 2015 study found that eating a varied mix of nutrient-dense foods may improve your metabolic health, including lower odds of hypertension, HDL cholesterol, and excess fat around the waist. Plus, a varied, nutrient-dense diet may help you stick with healthy eating habits.
Miss out on health benefits
Rainbow-colored food is definitely good for you, especially if you’re indulging in all kinds of red, orange, yellow, green, purple, and white fruits and vegetables. Sticking with the same meal(s) every day can leave out a lot of foods that are loaded with important health benefits.
Lose out on good bacteria and gut health
Eating a wide assortment of foods and rotating what you eat helps increase the diversity of healthy bacteria in the gut. This good bacteria is important not just for overall health, but also for weight loss. A study from 2016 found that a lower diversity of good bacteria was associated with obesity and abdominal fat.
Bottom line: Mix it up!
Eating the same exact thing every day for every meal isn’t good for you. But that doesn’t mean you can’t create a blueprint for healthy meals, or use the same basic meal formula to make healthy eating habits easy.
Eating a salad every day for lunch is great, especially if you mix up the protein and other ingredients on a daily or weekly basis. Even small changes to your go-to meals can make a big difference. Try adding fermented foods like kimchi, Greek yogurt, kefir, or sauerkraut to at least one of your meals a day to boost the good bacteria in your gut.
Frequently eating similar meals can be healthy, but it’s important to make sure you’re eating well-balanced meals loaded with nutrient-dense foods like vegetables. It’s too easy to miss out on important nutrients if you get stuck in a food rut.
Opt for similar meals and snacks instead of keeping them exactly the same to get the benefits without losing out. And don’t forget to eat every color of the rainbow at least once a day.
Mandy Ferreira is a writer and editor in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s passionate about health, fitness, and sustainable living. She’s currently obsessed with running, Olympic lifting, and yoga, but she also swims, cycles, and does just about everything else she can. You can keep up with her on her blog (treading-lightly.com) and on Twitter (@mandyfer1).