Okay, let’s be honest. How many times have you fallen back on a go-to meal (it can be either home-cooked or takeout, we’re not judging here) at the end of a long, hard day? If you’re like us, this happens a lot, and we’re glad to hear that we’re not alone in that. "It’s so easy to fall into food ruts," states New York-based nutritionist and chef, and founder of AM/PM, Marissa Lippert, to Real Simple. "If you’re exhausted or bored with food, you often end up reaching for the same thing out of convenience because you’re too tired to make yet another decision that day."
But now and again, it’s important to stop, step back, and take stock of the effect on your body when you eat the same food day in, day out. While repeating meals or snacks can be easy and often comforting, it can also lead to a lack of variety in your diet. According to registered dietitian nutritionist Christine Palumbo, this can be problematic, as variety is vital "if your goal is to get or stay healthy" (via Well+Good). But how exactly does a lack of variation in your diet get in the way of health? And is duplicating your daily diet always a bad thing? Join us as we get into the pros and cons of eating the same thing every day.
You might end up losing weight
While eating the same thing every day might not be the most obvious path to losing weight, it turns out that a repetitive diet can end up in ultimately end in weight loss, according to Chelsey Amer, a registered dietitian nutritionist (via NBC News). Amer states that eating the same foods over and over ends up in less energy being consumed overall, "due to ‘food habituation’," a process by which you get used to the food you’re eating and end up decreasing the amount you consume overall (via Ohio State University). And when you’re eating a much more varied diet, Amer says that "you may (inadvertently) delay feelings of fullness or satisfaction from your meal and increase the amount of food you eat," to sample the wider and more novel range of food on offer.
Amer’s assertions about how keeping a narrow diet can result in lower body weight has also been supported in scientific research, such as a study published in Psychological Bulletin. The research examined the link between food variety and weight gain and found that a larger diversity of diet can, over time, contribute to weight gain and even obesity.
Your body might be exposed to contaminants
If you’re fixing a tuna sandwich for the fifth time this week, you might want to think about changing things around a little. That’s because repeating certain foods can inadvertently expose your body to stuff you might, upon further examination, really wish to avoid. "There are situations where eating a very low variety diet might expose you to higher levels of certain environmental contaminants," advises Monica Reinagel, licensed nutritionist and author, to Eat This, Not That! These contaminants can either work their way into your food through pollutants or through naturally occurring toxins in the environment, according to research published in Frontiers in Pharmacology.
In addition, these contaminants can be present in food that’s typically deemed to be a healthier option, which can be pretty surprising if you’re trying to eat healthily. Canned tuna, for example, which is much-favored for its healthy omega-3 fatty acids, can also contain mercury. Levels found in some canned tuna can be harmful to children and adults in larger doses, states Prevention. And brown rice, the fiber-filled alternative to white rice, can carry higher levels of arsenic than other grains. That arsenic is typically absorbed through the soil and water used to grow the rice crop.
With any food that carries a risk of contamination, it’s important to make sure you’re eating alternatives regularly. So, try swapping out your brown rice for quinoa or farro on occasion, as registered dietitian Jessica Cording recommends to Prevention.