Don’t Eat Anything Every Day

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A healthy diet needs to include variety, and eating the same foods every day can cause health problems. Don't eat anything every day.

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

Or does it?

Old Habits

One of the trickiest parts of real food meal planning for me is the temptation to keep eating the same things over and over. When highly processed foods are cut out of the diet, it limits the options of what’s available to eat. Add food allergies, sensitivities, or other restrictions, and the options become even more limited.

I’m a creature of habit. I used to eat a bowl of Cheerios with a banana for breakfast every day. For lunch I would have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a cheese sandwich. For snacks I would have a couple pieces of fruit, a Nutri Grain bar, or some yogurt. For dinner, I would mix it up with something different every night. I did this routine for years and years. Eventually I would get tired of Cheerios and then move on to oat squares. I’d eat them every day for the next few years until I got sick of them. It was a very easy approach to food because I didn’t have to think about anything except what was for dinner.

My diet is very different now. I was diagnosed about three years ago with dairy and gluten sensitivities. My doctor also suggested a low-oxalate diet for me last spring after I had a kidney stone. Foods high in oxalates include almonds, peanuts, cashews, pecans, spinach, beets, rhubarb, swiss chard, and chocolate. (I ignore that last one.)  The list is much longer than this, but I get indignant whenever I think about it. Really, I can’t eat spinach or beets? And with dairy out of the picture, I have often leaned on nuts to get some protein in the afternoon. Take out peanuts, almonds, cashews, and pecans, and there aren’t too many nuts left. I’d almost rather go through another kidney stone than have to drastically limit these foods from my diet.

Despite all these limitations, there’s one piece of advice I received from my doctor that I try to follow:

Don’t eat anything every day.

Rotating Your Diet

If we keep eating the same foods, she explained, we develop sensitivities to these foods. I used to eat lots of dairy and lots of gluten, and it got to be too much. I’m now trying to reintroduce gluten into my diet in the form of sourdough and other homemade whole wheat products. I haven’t had any problems so far, and I think this is due in part to the fact that I’m not eating gluten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’m going some days with no gluten at all.

We all know that we’re supposed to eat a “varied diet,” but what does that mean? I used to think that making something different for dinner every night gave me a varied diet. Some people pride themselves on eating a healthy breakfast of oatmeal and fruit every morning. I understand the convenience of this approach, but it’s not the best way to eat. It would be better to have oatmeal on Monday and Thursday, eggs on Tuesday, granola on Wednesday, and pancakes on Friday.

For me, the best way to avoid eating the same foods every day is to have a food plan for the whole week including breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Coming up with a plan like this can be time-consuming, and it’s not always easy to think of new ideas. But I’m working on it, and I especially want to implement it for my children. I believe they will be healthier and happier if they are eating a more varied diet. This means they can’t have a sandwich in their lunch every day even though that’s the easiest thing to prepare. Even if the filling is different from one day to the next, that’s a lot of bread to eat day after day.

Health Benefits

Since we started our commitment to real food six months ago, nobody in my family has had any significant illnesses. My daughter has had a few stuffy noses, but that’s it. The other day she came home from school feeling worn out, and she had a little fever of 100.2. I thought our streak was over, but by dinnertime her temperature was down below 100 and she felt fine. This is a pretty dramatic change from the past, when it seemed like every bug that went around my children’s school would knock one of them out for a few days. I was so happy to see her immune system working quickly and effectively, and I truly believe it’s because she doesn’t have highly processed food in her diet anymore.

I personally haven’t been congested in years, ever since I stopped eating dairy and gluten and started rotating my diet. I used to get seasonal allergies in addition to cold after cold after every winter. This morning, some other moms at a PTA meeting were talking about how bad the ragweed is this year and how itchy and sneezy it’s making them. I didn’t even know the ragweed was here yet. Breathing clearly is a beautiful thing, and I try to appreciate it once in a while.

When I start to get discouraged with my long cooking to-do list and endless pile of dishes, I think about how healthy we all are now. It’s so worth it to me.

19 Comments

  1. Dang! Thank you and, dang! Eating the same thing day in and day out is so much easier! Easier shopping, easier preparation, and less likely for me to go crazy on bad stuff. Thank you for the reminder to eat a variety. I am sure there are some big benefits!

  2. I agree! Some cultures and civilizations survive – and even thrive I imagine – on far more limited diets than we enjoy, but I do believe that we eat far too much of certain foods, like the gluten and dairy you mentioned. My sons both have food allergies, and I’ve been very careful to avoid getting into a rut of any one kind of food substitute for them (rice, or coconut, for example) for the exact reasons you mentioned. Thanks for linking up to Healthy 2Day Wednesday!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Anne. I hope this topic will become more mainstream because I think many people would benefit from mixing up their diets a little more.

  3. Japanese children are actually taught in school to eat 30 different kinds of food each day. So that is one traditional culture with variety, other than daily rice, of course! Fermented foods as small sides have helped bring my daily total up, but I am still a long way away from that kind of variety.

    1. Other cultures are often way ahead of us in terms of diet. That’s quite a goal for Japanese children – I have a long way to go too.

  4. I hear ya sista. Menu planning saves $$ too in the long run. Even though I’m not great at planning what we eat for breakfast and lunch each day because I plan for a variety of dinners it’s easy to translate that to bfast and lunch too. My daughter has benefited too because now she loves all sorts of foods she didn’t because she sees me eating them and thinks they must be good too!

    1. That’s a good point about menu planning saving money. If you don’t have a plan, it’s very easy to slip into the habit of grabbing take-out instead of making something at home.

  5. I love the encouragement to meal plan!!
    Just wondering, though, haven’t people been eating the same foods everyday for thousands and thousands of years, and flourishing? It’s only in the past 200-300 years that many of us have been able to eat a varied diet, and we haven’t exactly been decreasing our incidence of chronic disease in that time. I think if we are eating foods that are healing, not harming our bodies, we should worry more about the quality of what we are eating than the variety. What do you think?

    1. I appreciate your point, Danielle. I think it’s important to focus on both the variety and the quality of what we are eating. In my experience, eating too much of certain healing foods hasn’t been beneficial for me. Eating too many nuts and leafy greens actually gave me a kidney stone. By eating the same things over and over, even if they are healthy foods, we miss out on important nutrients in other foods. I believe the proliferation of processed foods is a major cause of the increase in chronic disease in recent years.

  6. I love this! I can easily see what I rut I get into healthy eating or not. It’s definitely something I’m conscience of now and trying to keep in check. Maybe that is one of the reasons gluten sensitivity is growing? I myself can say that I consumed mad amounts of it – for every meal. It’s no wonder I started feeling bad – the same foods, over and over for every meal, in portions that were too big and loaded with tons of sugar!

    1. It’s amazing how much we depend on gluten in the American diet. It’s easy to avoid so many other grains because wheat is in just about every convenience food.

    1. Thanks, Jessica. I appreciate seeing that other article. I think a lot of people get into the habit of eating the same things every day, and it’s important to be aware of it.

  7. Loved reading about this! It made me think that one thing I have daily is coffee, so I’m going to try to switch to tea on the weekends. When you are planning the menus, what kinds of things are you trying to balance (a no gluten day, different types of protein, etc)?

    1. Thanks, Sue. My menu planning is definitely a work in progress, so at this point I’m just trying to have different ingredients from one day to the next in all the meals. If there is some repetition two or three days in a row (which is common), I try to stay away from those ingredients for the next few days. If I eat granola one day and pesto the next day, I realize that’s walnuts two days in a row and I try to stay away from them the following day.

  8. Hi Atiera,
    The doctor I mentioned is a holistic doctor, and she does blood work for food sensitivity on a lot of patients for a wide range of health issues. My main presenting issue was inflammation, but there were also random issues like seasonal allergies and low energy. I haven’t seen research about not eating foods every day, but for me it is a helpful rule of thumb in trying to eat a varied diet. This isn’t the typical advice you would get from a mainstream doctor. I hope you get some relief for the issues you’re facing.

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