I eat the same thing for breakfast every day. A protein shake made with Jarrow chocolate protein powder, 1/2 a frozen banana, a teaspoon of modified citrus pectin, unsweetened cocoa powder, stevia, ice, and water. Once these ingredients are blended in my Vitamix, I have a creamy, chocolat-y breakfast drink. I also have a “side” of several vitamins and minerals. This is a low-calorie, high protein breakfast: 207 calories, 35 grams carbohydrates, 21 grams protein, and 3 grams of fat. Occasionally, I make it with almond milk, which adds another 60 calories or so.
But the reason I eat this every day has nothing to do with its caloric value. I just happen to like it. It’s the perfect pre-workout meal. I drink my shake at around 8am, then head to the gym at 9am. That’s just enough time for digestion to have gotten the liquid feeling out of my stomach while I’m still feeling energized. There’s nothing worse than being hungry at the gym. And when I get back from the gym, my post workout meal is similarly boring: another shake and a huge bowl of either broccoli or cauliflower.
I am a creature of habit.
So I was pretty intrigued to stumble on an article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition under the on-so-exciting title Long-ter habituation to food in obese and nonobese women. What was interesting to me was that researchers found that boring people like me, who tend to eat the same things all the time, generally eat less than people who consume a more varied diet. In the study, 32 women ages 20-50, 16 of whom were obese and 16 of whom were normal weight, were randomly assigned to one of two groups. Group 1 was fed macaroni and cheese once a day for five days, while Group 2 received mac and cheese once a week for five weeks.
In both obese and nonobese women, daily presentation of food resulted in faster habituation and less energy intake [read: calories] than did once-weekly presentation of food.
So there’s something to be said for eating a fairly consistent diet. It appears that when we are exposed to a food repeatedly, we don’t eat as much of it. I can attest to this. I drink the same morning shake, day in and day out. But when I’m on vacation and my sche4dule is altered, I eat far more of whatever meal I have instead, even when I am making a healthy choice. In part, this is the nature of restaurant food, but it’s also partly due to the fact that when I’m exposed to many different tastes during a meal — and especially if those tastes move from savory to sweet — I am able to eat much more than if I had only one flavor on my plate.
Of course, within our diets we want to be sure we are getting a wide variety of nutrients. But this research suggests that if you have a favorite healthy dish, feel free to make it your go-to meal.