Having a ham sandwich for lunch today... again? If so, you're not alone. According to a poll of 2,000 British office workers recently published by New Covent Garden Soup, more than three-quarters of us have eaten the same lunch every day for the past nine months. The ham sandwich is the most popular option, followed by cheese, chicken and salad. 7 in 10 say eating the same thing each day is easier, whilst almost half of us believe it's cheaper. 37% admit it's simply a matter of habit, however, with 20% confessing that they simply don't know what else to eat.
Whatever your reasons for eating the same thing every day, though, at least you're in good company. Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow and Courteney Cox ate the same lunch for 10 years whilst filming Friends. Courteney Cox recently described the trio's go-to meal as "a Cobb salad that Jennifer doctored up with turkey bacon and garbanzo beans and I don't know what. She just has a way with food, which really helps. Because if you're going to eat the same salad every day for 10 years, it'd better be a good salad, right?". Then there's Eva Mendes, who recently told SHAPE magazine that she eats the same salmon salad accompanied by rice or quinoa for both lunch and dinner each day.
The Pros of Eating the Same Thing Every Day
Research suggests that eating the same thing every day may help you lose weight. In one study, women who ate macaroni cheese for lunch every day for 5 days consumed 100 fewer calories than usual over the course of the week, whilst those who ate it just once a week for 5 weeks consumed 30 additional calories with each serving. Psychologists believe that eating the same thing every day results in psychological "habituation" (or boredom), which tends to reduce calorie intake. "More food variety universally leads to more food intake," says Dr Susan Roberts, director of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at Tufts University.
Eating the same meals day in, day out can save you time and money, freeing up valuable minutes that might otherwise be spent planning and preparing meals for other activities. Assuming you go for a healthy option like Jennifer and Eva, it can make eating healthily automatic and effortless, too - taking a superfood smoothie to work each day will help you resist the temptation to pop into Starbucks for that daily coffee and croissant fix.
The Cons of Eating the Same Thing Every Day
According to Dr Mike Russell, however, "eating similar meals day in and day out is a valuable and effective strategy for successful long-term weight maintenance, but this type of diet may have nutritional gaps." Research suggests that those who consume the widest range of (healthy) foods are 21% less likely to develop metabolic syndrome, and tend to have smaller waists and lower blood sugar and blood pressure levels. Consuming a wider variety of foods promotes greater diversity of gut bacteria, which seems to guard against heart disease and the storage of abdominal fat.
Psychologist Dr Becky Spelman believes that maintaining our resistance to changing our lunch order could be keeping our minds closed in other ways, too. "Making small changes, such as trying something new for our lunchtime meal, can - in a small way - help to open our mind to new experiences in other areas of life, too," she says.
How to Make it Work for You
Is there a way to reap the benefits without incurring the costs? Yes - with a few simple tweaks, you can use your penchant for eating the same thing every day to lose weight, save you time and money and boost your health. Here's how:
- - Ensure your daily meals have all the major food groups covered - fruit, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean protein and healthy fats.
- - Over the course of the week, swap an ingredient or two from each meal for a similar one with a different nutritional profile e.g. bananas for blueberries in your breakfast smoothie and brown rice for quinoa in your lunchtime salad. Try to include as many different colours as possible, e.g. you could swap white cauliflower for purple cauliflower or regular carrots for rainbow carrots. Experiment with herbs, spices and seasoning.
- - Alternatively, you could eat the same thing every day, but switch up your menu each week. "Cooking one meal and then eating it several times throughout the week is a strategy that I use with my diet," says Dr Mike Russell. "The trick is to switch up one meal each week."