Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
6 Jul

How Important is Food Variety?

I eat a pretty monotonous diet. I’m not averse to new foods or cuisines, and I’ll try just about anything, but my regular, day-to-day food is consistent and reliable. Check out a week in my life if you don’t believe me. Breakfast is either coffee, Primal Fuel, and/or an omelet. Lunch is usually a Big Ass Salad. Dinner consists of a meat/fish, something green, and a glass of wine. Occasionally, I’ll throw in some sweet potatoes, macadamia nuts, or berries, and if I eat out or have guests over I’ll mix things up, but that’s essentially it. I like the food I like, it keeps me satisfied and fueled, and it’s nutritionally complete. It’s also one less thing to worry about in an increasingly busy life.

I think most people have go-to meals, especially in the Primal community, where cooking the bulk of one’s meals oneself to avoid Neolithic poisons is the norm. You get comfortable with a certain range of dishes, you buy the same stuff at the market, you perfect your technique, and you’ve had success with these dishes in the past… so why change? It’s also not very realistic to whip up new dishes every single day, dishes that require this amount of some random spice or obscure vegetable that you’d never use for anything else. Cooking big complex meals is fun for a change, but it’s not realistic for everyday eating. This is true all across the world and, I imagine, across history. People have always had staples that they stick to, especially if they cook most of their own food – as mankind has done for most of its history.

But “monotony” is kind of a bad word. To many, it means boring, unfulfilling, onerous, and miserable. We in the Primal community often mention the “monotony of Chronic Cardio” as a detraction, so I’m not exempt. We like dynamic movement that passes through all three planes and uses multiple joints. We often speak of “fractals” and randomness, like choosing to walk across an uneven landscape or skipping meals just because. So, on the face of it, food variety seems like a natural extension of the Primal lifestyle.

And for the most part, I support food variety. There are clear benefits to eating a wider variety of foods:

  • Access to a wider variety of micronutrients and phytochemicals. Think of all the various antioxidants associated with the greens, reds, yellows, purples, and oranges in fruits and vegetables. Think of how vitamin and mineral content differs between foods.
  • Dilution of food toxins. Food toxins usually operate in a dose-dependent manner, so keeping a variety would help keep the doses low and spread thin.
  • Food enjoyment. Eating the same three things is a sure path to food boredom. Eating should come with a serving of sensory enjoyment.

Let’s take a deeper look at that food boredom thing. People like novelty, and food boredom is a horrible, horrible thing that certainly leads to bad food choices. I mean, who’s more likely to crumple and go for the vegetable oil sugar fritters (also known as donuts) – the guy who eats the same Big Ass Salad every single day or the guy who can’t stop talking about the latest Senegalese/Burmese/Ukrainian joint he hit for dinner last night? You might guess the salad-eater, since he couldn’t possibly enjoy eating the same thing over and over again, because, well, it just seems so boring and variety is the spice of life! The guy with berbere under his fingernails is surely immune to the allure of a novel industrial food-like substance, given his cosmopolitan appetites.

Let’s use a little logic here. Salad guy is an adult with the ability to procure or prepare the food of his choice. If he so wished, he too could be the guy who insists on ordering “Thai spicy.” Instead, he eats that same salad every single day. He chooses to eat that same salad every day. To me, that suggests not food boredom, but food contentment. Big difference. Boredom’s bad, contentment is great. The adventurous guy seems a bit bored, to be honest. Maybe not bored, but perhaps boredom is lapping at his heels and he’s doing all he can to keep it at bay.

Contentment and boredom appear similar to an observer, but they’re really not. Boredom is a projection, not a description. Because a daily salad would bore the onlooker, he or she assumes the salad eater is bored. To the salad guy, the daily salad is a beautiful, satiating thing. It’s like that “boring couple” we all know. They’re boring homebodies, but they’re probably content. Besides, who knows what kind of sexual escapades are going on?

Food contentment is really another word for habituation, which can actually be quantitatively measured in humans via salivary response to food. Yep, it’s not just dogs who subconsciously drool at the sight of food. Humans do it, too. So, by measuring the salivary response, we can gauge whether someone is habituated to a particular food. And obese and overweight people do not habituate to food as quickly as normal weight individuals. In one study, when presented with lemon-flavored candies, both normal weight people and successful weight loss retainers (former overweight/obese who lost and maintained) showed quick habituation, i.e. they stopped salivating after a few candies. Obese people did not show habituation. Their salivation did not cease or slow down. Their bodies craved that lollipop every time it was offered. You might think that it’s a genetic thing, that folks with the “non-habituation gene” are more likely to get fat, but the fact that the former obese all showed quick habituation makes that unlikely. It’s more likely that obesity changes our ability to habituate.

There’s another option, of course. It could be that a failure to habituate to food helps cause obesity, that if a food remains novel, we eat more of it. So, it’s not that obesity leads to non-habituation, but the other way around. If so, we’d need to understand how food habituation breaks down and why. Perhaps this recent study of food habituation in obese and normal weight women can help: both obese and non-obese women aged 20-50 years were broken up into two groups. One group received macaroni and cheese once a day for five days straight. The other group received macaroni and cheese one day a week for five weeks. Same amount of mac and cheese, different schedule. The five-days-straight group showed long-term habituation to the mac and cheese. They craved and ate less of it by the end of the trial. The second group ate more mac and cheese and showed very little habituation. Mac and cheese remained a novel food to the second group, while it was standard fare for the first group, even though both groups had access to the same amount of mac and cheese. The only thing that changed was meal frequency. You might say that the second group ate a more varied diet, while the first group ate a more monotonous diet.

Keeping frequency constant but changing the food also seems to affect habituation. Another study found that limiting snacks to a single variety increased the satiety derived from snacking, as opposed to participants who were allowed to snack on a variety of foods. Both groups received the same amount of snacks, but the no-variety group could choose only a single snack to receive for the duration of the study, while the variety group could get a different snack every time.

There’s also epidemiological evidence that food variety is associated with being overweight. One study looked at long term weight loss maintainers, or former obese folks who were able to successfully keep the weight off for years, and found that the most successful maintainers ate a diet very low in food variety when compared to folks who had just recently lost weight.

Does all that suggest eating a wide variety of Primal-approved foods will inevitably lead to obesity?

No. Consider that we are an odd bunch, and study groups do not accurately reflect us. We are, for the most part, eating, moving, and living uniquely. We’re not on this study’s control diet of refined grains and hot dogs or that study’s experimental diet of whole grains and low-fat dairy. They might provide interesting clues into general human metabolism, but that’s about it. We don’t eat crap in a box. Our idea of food variety isn’t having Pringles, Doritos, Bugles, and Kettle Chips in the pantry. When you limit choices to real food, variety doesn’t matter so much. One study found that overall food variety correlated positively with body fatness in urban Hong Kong Chinese adults, but that correlation reversed itself when limited to “meat and grain” variety. Adding “snack variety” to the mix flipped it to a positive correlation. So, eating a wide variety of snack food was associated with increased body fat, while a wide variety of real food (sure, whole grains aren’t ideal, but as studies have repeatedly shown, they’re better than refined, processed snacks and grain-derived snacks) was associated with lower body fat.

Snacks, mac and cheese? These do not a Primal eating plan comprise.

The question remains, then: should a diet be highly variable?

It depends on your definition of variety. Primal variety means eating organ meat, shellfish, muscle meat, and using the bones. It means rotating between kale, chard, and spinach. It means paying attention to colorful vegetation (use that color vision), like blueberries, cherries, Okinawan sweet potatoes, and carrots. It does not mean getting Chinese take out today and deep dish pizza tomorrow.

It needn’t be super exciting and variable. All that stuff up above is to show that there is nothing wrong with liking the food you like, and, as I showed a few weeks ago, you can satisfy your nutritional and hedonistic requirements with just ten foods. There’s nothing wrong with being the salad guy, or the meat-and-sweet-potatoes type. Variety for the sake of variety is mostly useless, nutritionally, and taken to the extreme might even lead to poor choices and weight gain. Just enjoy your food and eat plenty of plants and animals. As long as you make sure what you eat comes from the Earth, not from a lab or a food production facility, whether you enjoy a variety or a monotone meal plan is immaterial.

The key is that you enjoy it.

What about you, dear readers? Is variety important to you, or do you happily maintain a regular and consistent meal plan?

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I have pretty much the exact same meal plan. I think there is lots of room for variety even with that.

    There are so many types of salads to make for example, all while staying Primal.

    I think a good approach is starting off with a few basics and getting those down, so you can make them in your sleep. Then, slowly adding in variations to build up your repertoire.

    Mark S wrote on July 6th, 2011
    • +1

      I enjoy a BAS daily. This does not mean I don’t eat a variety of foods. I add a variety of meat, veggies, fruit, spices, dressings made from different oils and vinegars and/or lemon or lime juice, etc. My salads are always unique even though I enjoy 1-3 daily.

      I usually have a smoothie daily too. These are also always different.

      Same but different. Got it? Its simple for me. I grab my big bowl and throw whatever I want to and call it a salad!

      Primal Toad wrote on July 6th, 2011
      • Same here. I have a BAS (I call them Hugh Jass Salads actually) at least once a day. My favorite ingredients – romaine, tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, avocado, bacon (duh), sour cream, salsa. I make a pretty good dressing with peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, and some stevia. But I have other dressings too, and other random ingredients to keep it not quite completely monotonous 😉

        I don’t really do smoothies but maybe someday.

        I love the food I eat and I wouldn’t change it. If I’m feeling like a need a “cheat” from being primal I’ll go to Chipotle and get a small scoop of rice on my salad or maybe some corn salsa. Yum!

        Maggie wrote on July 6th, 2011
  2. I’m definitely a “monotonous” eater, and my fiancee wants different things almost every meal. Leads to (very) minor domestic conflict as I root around in the fridge for my same organic-ground-beef-and-sauteed-broccoli I have every two days and she wants something I have to go to the store to make :-P.

    I would be content eating 3 or 4 kinds of vegetables, 3 or 4 cuts of meat, a couple fruits (berries) and some pastured cheese/yogurt every day for the rest of my life, if that were necessary for some reason. My fiancee would likely go insane on such a diet.

    Although, contrary to the norm apparently, she is the one that has always been lean and has no trouble maintaining her weight, while I am the one still trying to lose that last 10 lbs (thrice-damned sugar addiction!).

    Uncephalized wrote on July 6th, 2011
  3. Mark, I think you must have been on a Zen retreat! Another great post.

    I’m just beginning to get my head around ‘there doesn’t have to be more and different’ here and now is just fine.

    Kelda wrote on July 6th, 2011
  4. oh i very much tend to stick to my staples over and over. i like not having to ‘think’ about what i need at the store. every so often i do throw in a diff dish or something but its usually whenever a craving or desire for something particular hits me.

    Junie B wrote on July 6th, 2011
  5. I am no culinary genius but felt under pressure to become one in the foodie culture I am surrounded by. The idea that I could eat the same food day in day out more or less was liberating to me. Gives me more time to get creative with the things I am interested in and while I’m more varied in what I prepare for my family, it’s still the same basic ten or so meals we usually rotate through. No one seems to mind, quite the opposite. They’re healthy and it all get’s eaten up!

    Alison Golden wrote on July 6th, 2011
  6. Is this a response to Stephan’s recent articles about food reward?

    Jim wrote on July 6th, 2011
  7. That is so cool that you wrote about food habituation. I have always suspected that people who settle in with routine foods have an advantage over those who eat out all the time or cook up fancy meals every night. And now I understand why!

    When I went primal, I naturally and without thinking settled into a diet of less variety. Even though the news advocates variety I just went with my new desire for less variety. It made sense anyway as variety is limited in a pre-agricultural world.

    I always wondered if I was just weird or what – probably just primal. :)

    Peggy The Primal Parent wrote on July 6th, 2011
    • Yea I think when people think they have to eat something different for every meal they go crazy and then just grab some snack crap.

      Whenever I cook meat I make sure I cook a bunch of it so I can use it for the next few days. I then will cook different meat when that meat is gone but I enjoy the same meat or 2 over a 2-4 day period generally.

      That reminds me that I need to thaw some drumsticks!

      Primal Toad wrote on July 6th, 2011
      • Right on! I just smoked a 4 pound heritage, pastured, peach-fed pork shoulder for the 2 of us. Made some BAS (bad-assed sauce) and woilah!!! Just for a little variety, I bbq’d skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs last night, served with sauce and a vegetable melange! (Love that word, melange!) Tonight we’ll have more smoked pork with a BAS (salad!). Also, our BAS usually includes hard-cooked egg, root vegetables, like kohl rabi, carrots, turnips along with the greens. No boring there!

        Mary Anne wrote on July 6th, 2011
        • I have done two pork shoulders the past month…slow cooked on the grill at 225 for 12-14 hours. YUM. Who knew something so delicious and tastefully fatty would be part of ANY approved nutrition plan! I pull mine apart (pulled pork like in the south where I lived 16 years…in the Rockies now) and eat it alone, warmed up on salads, even a handful thrown in an omelet for breakfast. DEEEELISH.

          Peter wrote on July 6th, 2011
      • It definitely is a relief to be able to do some batch cooking when you go primal (or else you DO feel like you are in the kitchen a lot!) I double recipes and freeze half for another night. It helps me keep my sanity as I prepare paleo meals for five three times a day. :)

        Crunchy Pickle wrote on July 6th, 2011
        • Absolutely, I’m with you there. I’m all about the crock pot, with meals lasting 3 days or more (depending on how much the kiddos like it 😀 ) and roast chickens. In fact, if I don’t have leftovers to put in the fridge, I think to myself, gosh, I didn’t make enough 😀 Those studies quoted were really interesting too. Really enjoyed the post. Good food is, well, good. There’s no other way to put it.

          Granuaile wrote on July 6th, 2011
  8. When I started tracking what I ate, I was surprised how often a limited list of items appeared. However, I put them together in very different combinations, using lots of herbs, spices, ethnicities and cooking methods. And I do strive for variety.

    You say your diet is monotonous but I look at your Choose Your Own Salad Adventure post. Sure, it’s a salad most every day. But the range of ingredients is huge.

    Even if it meant not being the first person to land on Mars, I wouldn’t go if it meant eating only 10 foods for years.

    Harry wrote on July 6th, 2011
    • Rofled at tomb raider avatar : D

      V4Vlasis wrote on July 29th, 2012
  9. My shopping list is pretty much the same from week to week (with a few exceptions of course) and I love the Primal food I eat! I will never ever ever get tired of the sweetness of coconut milk, the refreshment of chilled homemade guacamole, or the juicy goodness of a grass-fed steak.

    Ashley North wrote on July 6th, 2011
  10. I eat a large variety of foods, plants and animals. Deer, Elk, Bison, Bass, Trout, Catfish, Clams, Cow, Pig, Chicken, Duck and all of their organ meats and bones they have to offer. My plants even consist of wild picked lettuce, dandylion, soft thistles and their flowers that I get during hiking trips. I also drink raw milk from 4 different sources that have 4 different locations and soil quality.
    I can tell you variety isn’t making anyone fat. On the contrary, it’s keeping me satisfied and topped off nutritionally.

    If I ate the same things day in day out I would eventually crave the SAD junk because I’d experience mild malnutrition.

    “Consider that we are an odd bunch, and study groups do not accurately reflect us.” Mark Sisson
    Dang right we are an odd bunch that’s why I don’t believe ANY scientific tests and their results coming from the pharm. and medical establishments.
    How would that macaroni and ‘fake’ cheese experiment go down on us Primals?
    We’d probably do a 5 day IF…LOL. Test failed?

    Primal Palate wrote on July 6th, 2011
    • Yes, test failed! =P

      “Subject refused to eat garbage.”

      Kaiser Wilhelm wrote on July 6th, 2011
  11. I like Ashley’s notion. Sweet; Refreshing; Juicy. I, too, vary flavors with my home grown herbs and preparation methods. As long as the food is good quality, and the preparation careful, I can go with very few choices.

    Mary Anne wrote on July 6th, 2011
  12. I tend to fall into the same meals each day, especially when I’m working. I make up a few big batches of food and use that for the week, plus it keeps my grocery shopping easy. However, my daily foods include a rather wide variety of produce (about a dozen different fruits/veggies yesterday) , so I definitely don’t feel that I’m always eating the same thing.

    And on top of that, I love an adventure in the kitchen. A special on eggplants might inspire a night of culinary experimentation!

    Beowulf wrote on July 6th, 2011
  13. Before going primal I ate the same things all the time, from morning til evening, every week.
    I never did eat junk food,yet I was gaining weight and slowly creeping into digenerative diseases.

    Eating Primally my variety has actually gone way up, and I mean WAY up. What used to be only chicken and a steak once in awhile is now so much more. What used to be the same lettuce all the time when I had it, is now also so much more. All the organ meats, the marrow, the butter, lard, kidney fat, ALL the vegetables not just what I used to pick (cauliflower). I used to only cook with Mazola Oil, now I cook with coconut oil, palm, lard, butter, etc.
    I never even looked at fish, now I eat oysters and clams for their minerals.

    My variety has probably gone up by 20 fold and I lost 25 lbs.

    Arty wrote on July 6th, 2011
    • I agree. My variety has gone up tremedously eating primally.
      Sure there are 50 different kinds of cereals but they’re all made of the same thing.

      That’s like having broccoli every day, xept, one is ground into powder, one is chopped, one’s sliced, one’s smashed, one’s in a shape of a noodle, one’s in a shape of a flat string, one’s even mixed with sugar, one’s mixed with salt.

      Sure is awesome being able to unlock the door back into the paleolithic era and seeing the light.

      Eisenberg wrote on July 6th, 2011
  14. I think there’s a difference between repeating boring, uninteresting food, and the “food contentment” you talk about here. Once you start to really think about food, much industrially produced “food” starts to just seem like variations of the same boring basics. Get out of the cereal aisle, where there’s 50 different kinds of ground sweetened corn and rice and into the fruit & vegetable section where there’s genuinely 50 different kinds of food! Even if you only ate 6-8 different kinds of produce per season and the same 2-4 meats all year long, you’ve still got WAY more actual variety than eating a different shape of pasta each night.

    jj wrote on July 6th, 2011
    • I agree. The processed food section really just gives us the illusion of variety. In the end, it’s all just wheat, corn, soy, rice, and sugar in different combinations with different flavoring additives.

      Beowulf wrote on July 6th, 2011
  15. Same premise applies to sex: Consistent is good but now and then you have to spice it up!

    liberty_1776 wrote on July 6th, 2011
  16. I was recently diagnosed with several food allergies. I had eaten the same 10-15 foods for years quite contentedly, but according to my allergist this directly lead to my allergies. I am now allergic to all my favorite foods, eggs, chichen, turkey, beef, and chocolate. I’m now on a rotation diet to prevent future allergy development and hopefully reducde the severity of the allergies I do have. I think it is important to point out this ‘risk’ to eating the same food so often.

    Becky wrote on July 6th, 2011
    • I agree, food habits leads to food allergies.
      Grok surely didn’t eat the same thing day in day out. It wasn’t even available during certain seasons. Animals migrate. Maybe american indians travelled with bison herds, but european Grok didn’t pack up his hut and went after the deer. Deer in fall, rabbit in spring, fish during summer.
      Same goes for plants, hazelnuts are only up for a few weeks at the end of summer. Chestnuts (roasted) aren’t available until October, November. Grok was forced to rotate his foods, not weekly, but at least by season.

      Kaiser Wilhelm wrote on July 6th, 2011
    • I totally agree about the necessity for variety and food allergies.

      I went to an allergist and everything that I was eating–almonds, coconut (from coconut oil), eggs, etc. had the highest rates of inflammation from the allergic response. Since I wasn’t eating wheat at all, it showed I had lower allergic response although it was present.

      My take away is not to become overly reliant on certain foods and the basics–meat and green veggies don’t really do me wrong.

      mariss wrote on July 6th, 2011
    • I was wondering about this too as I was reading this article. My 7 year old daughter has multiple food allergies and they are all things she used to eat daily (eggs, citrus and dairy). Our doctor said the same thing – she developed the allergies from eating these foods too often. We eat a lot of coconut and nuts now and I’ve wondered if she’ll develop an allergy to those too.

      njpenne wrote on July 6th, 2011
    • I had allergy tests done and it said eggs where extremely high on the list. They only tested chicken eggs.

      I used to have severe digestive bloat and even 1 anaphylaxic shock from eggs.
      Chicken eggs is what I ate my entire life, go figure.

      Now I eat duck and turkey eggs and I feel absolutely nothing. :-)
      Sure glad I can enjoy eggs again.

      Primal Palate wrote on July 7th, 2011
  17. Mark, thanks to you, I have enjoyed on average .95 big ass salads a day for about the past 450 days. It used to be a sandwhich – mostly peanut butter and jelly.

    I rarely go a day without a salad and I sometimes eat 2 or 3! This does not mean I do not have variety. My salad is always different. I always add different dressings which I make myself. I always add different veggies and meats and fats too.

    They are always unique.

    Other favorites of mine are eggs and fruit, smoothies, meat and veggies. I also enjoy making a recipe from one of the 10 cookbooks I have on hand.

    I generally eat the same foods but I am always open to trying new things as well. As long as its a whole food like say lobster or squid.

    Primal Toad wrote on July 6th, 2011
  18. I’m really damn lazy with my salads. They’re basically exactly the same and I eat them 5 days a week… laziness trumps my desire for variety in this case.

    shz wrote on July 6th, 2011
    • Not to mention my laziness of 4 eggs for breakfast basically every day.

      Dinner is always something different though.

      shz wrote on July 6th, 2011
  19. Awesome article Mark. I feel like your articles are always so relevant to what I’m thinking about at the time…maybe humans just think similarly as the seasons change.

    My go-to lunch lately has been 6 Eggs fried in grass-fed butter and covered in cinnamon and turmeric, with a large can of coconut milk whipped up. Then I cut up the eggs and make little lettuce wraps with butter lettuce. Throw some egg, coconut milk, maybe a slice of tomato on the wrap and voila…delish

    Rhys wrote on July 6th, 2011
    • You can whip coconut milk? You mean whipped as in whipped cream?

      Daria wrote on July 6th, 2011
      • Yeah, you can whip it up to a whipped cream consistency. You just let the can sit in the fridge for a few hours so the cream can separate from the water, then you scoop out the cream and whip it up a bit. I usually add some stevia and vanilla.

        Rhys wrote on July 6th, 2011
        • Add a little cocoa powder and you’ve just described the “frosting”(sub maple syrup for stevia) we provided to the guests of my daughter’s primal open house. All her high school friends have been so intrigued by her new eating sytle that we decided to showcase it at her party using fruit, veggies, nuts, a salad bar, tons of smoked grass-fed brisket and coconut flour cakes and muffins with aforementioned frosting. All the guests were a little freaked out by how good everything was…no chips, candy or store bought cake. We are Johnny Appleseeding here in West Michigan!

          Paul wrote on July 6th, 2011
  20. In my pre-Primal days I visited a nutritionist (for weight loss and fertility advice) who gave me two tips on variety that have stayed with me into my Primal days. The tips were:

    – never eat the same meal at the same time two days running (keep the body guessing); and
    – incorporate as many different colours into every meal as you can (to get the widest possible variety of nutrients)

    Keeping these two simple things in my mind pushes me in different directions in the supermarket, and makes eating steak two nights on the run a guilty pleasure!

    DavidBrom wrote on July 6th, 2011
    • I love steak. My sister just visited for the week, and she doesn’t eat beef, or prok, so white meat it was. The same day she left, I went to the butchers and ordered enough steak to last me the week :) I’ll change up the spice, and the veg though, I promise 😀

      Granuaile wrote on July 6th, 2011
  21. Interesting post. I’ve had this thing that I need to get over with variety. I feel that I need to make something different every night for dinner and I usually don’t eat the same thing twice in one month. But I know I need to get over this compulsion, because I’m cooking much more often now on Primal and it does get stressful trying to figure out what I’m going to make next.

    It would make my grocery shopping much easier for sure.

    Daria wrote on July 6th, 2011
    • It’s simple: grab a pan, throw butter in it, turn knob to medium, throw whatever food you want to warm up into pan, wait 2-3 minutes. Done.
      On the other hand, why warm it up at all, just eat it raw.

      Kaiser Wilhelm wrote on July 6th, 2011
  22. I think some of us are taking this article the wrong way.

    It’s kind of coming over as if you eat the same thing all the time you end up eating less, and eating less = weight loss, staying thin.

    Don’t be proud of eating the same things every day and having a short list of 10 foods.
    Shame, shame, shame…

    The more nutritionally dense the foods are, and the more variety you put into your diet (primal diet! important!) the quicker you will overcome the food cravings for things like chocolate chip cookies and chips.

    People, top off your nutrition scale and the amount and frequency you eat will go down on its own.

    Don’t fall into the calorie trap, you’ll just end up at square 1.

    Kaiser Wilhelm wrote on July 6th, 2011
    • I agree. The every day question should be: ” Did I get enough nutrition for the day?”

      Arty wrote on July 6th, 2011
  23. I eat the same stuff, bison, grass-fed beef, bacon and on rare occasion, wild caught fish, cage free chicken and turkey. Veggies are tomatoes at every meal, and rotate between kale, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli, plus quite a bit of onion. The fruit goes in my protein shakes, except for the avocado, and is berries, all kinds, mango, cause I love it, and an occasional banana. Snack is Mac nuts about once a week or a Larabar before a workout. Coffee and water to drink. I try to do red wine each day, but I usually forget it. That’s it. It satisfies me and keeps me happy. I do have a cheat meal about once per month or two, if I remember.

    Bull wrote on July 6th, 2011
  24. I make a primal soup that I freeze in portions and later eat as a full meal at least once a day, so this is a particularly interesting question to me. I’ve often wondered if I might be doing myself a nutritional disservice… but, you know, there’s veggies in the soup, beef, and I usually have a BAS once a day too. So, surely I’m fine.

    Jenny wrote on July 6th, 2011
  25. Unlike most people, i tend to condense all my calories into 1 or 2 meals a day (snacking is stupid). So food variety is pretty moot. I shop for what I’m going to eat on that day so whatever looks good and cheap(ish) to make, I will buy it.

    Rhys wrote on July 6th, 2011
  26. While I certainly don’t make a different dish every day, I do need a good deal of variety. If I eat something too often, I will eventually develop a distaste for it and I would never want that to happen with my Primal foods. So I mix it up a lot. I never get the same type of fruit two weeks in a row. I love trying new ways to prepare beef and chicken. I never buy more than one dozen eggs per week or I’ll quickly grow sick of eggs. I’ll try a raw entree once a month or so.

    It does take a little work to keep it fresh. I do kind of wish I could eat the same menu pretty much every day because it would be easier to stay on track. But that’s just not who I am and I accept that.

    anon wrote on July 6th, 2011
  27. I worked as a cook for years and meals (especially dinner) are important to me. In that staples of a given cuisine usually the same and can be perishable and expensive, I break it up week to week. One week might be mexican the next italian or asian and so on.

    Shaun wrote on July 6th, 2011
  28. I could possibly make a million different kinds of breakfast egg scrambles with meat and veggies! So yummy… not sure how my boyfriend feels about it. I think he craves french toast and biscuits and gravy but just doesn’t tell me 😉

    mmaucsc wrote on July 6th, 2011
    • You’re a person after my own heart! I get cravings for scrambled eggs (plus assorted seasonal veggies) every morning. I remember one day as I was eating my yummy breakfast, my house-mate eyed my food enviously, and then looked down at the toast she was eating and said, ‘You don’t miss out on much by not eating grains, do you?’ I had previously explained the mammoth-sized plate of eggs I was eating by pointing out that I couldn’t eat toast. :)

      I’ve heard that it takes 30 days to create a habit – and I suppose it’s the same with food. Eat something for around 30 days straight and your body may well start to crave it. I think the thing with variety is to eat what is in season, and let Nature create the variety for you. Variety does not consist of different brand names.

      kerrybonnie wrote on July 6th, 2011
  29. “Not food boredom, but food contentment.” Love it.

    I eat mostly the same things every day too. The specific meat or veggie may change, but the basic pattern is there. I have four kids and a busy life, and this lets me eat well without stressing out about it or making meal-planning a full-time job.

    I sometimes feel apologetic for eating like this–so a big THANK YOU for this great post!

    Anne wrote on July 6th, 2011
    • Why should we EVER feel apologetic for feeding our kids primally???? I always think, my kids are so lucky, they’re off to a much better start than me. You’re right, we ARE busy, we don’t have time to “mix it up” and, while I wish they’d take their cod liver oil, I’m not worried about there nutritional requirements being sabatoged becuase they had eggs, carotts, broccolli, parsnips, onions grass fed meat (whatever I put in the crock) 3 days in a row. We make the best choices we can in todays world. Well variety may have been all Grok had, sometimes, it’s just not practical to us. I’m glad you don’t have to feel bad anymore 😀

      Granuaile wrote on July 6th, 2011
  30. I generally try and buy something new at the supermarket every week. This week–lamb. This method has introduced me to radishes, celery root, beef liver (never again!!), mangoes, goat milk, and a bunch of other different foods. But other than my single weekly novelty, my shopping cart looks generally the same week after week. And that’s not a bad thing either!

    Aly wrote on July 6th, 2011
  31. Seasonal variety. When berries are in, eat berries. When apples are in, or chard, or tubers, or whatever, that’s what I eat. It’s cheapest and easiest.

    Same can work for meat. When your local butcher or rancher is slaughtering cows, eat beef. When they have lamb, or goat, or pork, eat that.

    I do get bored very easily with meals and have to mix it up as much as possible. Seasonal variation helps. :)

    Ely wrote on July 6th, 2011
  32. “One group received macaroni and cheese once a day for five days straight. The other … The five-days-straight group showed long-term habituation to the mac and cheese. They craved and ate less of it by the end of the trial.”

    I’m deeply sceptical as regards what can be deduced from this. Maybe they ate more of something else. There’s quite a lot of evidence to show that obesity is nothing to do with the obese “eating more than they should” but rather that it’s WHAT they eat.

    Even if they did eat fewer calories overall how do we know that they didn’t spontaneously become less active, as rodents denied their full allowance do?

    I think there is so much evidence pointing in another direction that one would want to see in great detail how carefully controlled any of these “habituation” experiments were before believing that they showed anything much.

    I think the eventual conclusion —

    As long as you make sure what you eat comes from the Earth, not from a lab or a food production facility, whether you enjoy a variety or a monotone meal plan is immaterial

    — is spot on.

    Lewis wrote on July 6th, 2011
    • This is true. It’s not the calories that make you fat…it’s the lack of nutrition.
      I used to eat about 1000-1500 calories a day consisting of bread, vegetable spread, margarine, burrito, indian potato and peas, spaghetti, lasagne, etc…and I GAINED weight.

      Now, eating primal, the calories per day are about 2500 a day at least (consuming 2 gallons of full fat raw goats milk a week on top of meals), sometimes even 3000 + calories when cooking with lard and lots of bacon, and I’ve dropped little over 20 lbs in weight.
      Sure is ironic.

      Arty wrote on July 6th, 2011
  33. I love variety! But it’s true many studies have shown that variety causes people to eat more. What person hasn’t gone to a party or a potluck with tons of different choices and hasn’t wanted to have at least a bite or two of each.

    In my past weight loss journey, I had to work hard to remind myself that I could eat “X” whenever I want. I don’t have to eat it all today just because it tastes good.

    I find now that it helps that my husband travels a lot. If I make a big salad or big pot of soup, it lasts forever. By the end of the week, I’m pretty sick of it and not overeating.

    On the flip side, variety in fruits and veggies is a good thing!

    Marcia wrote on July 6th, 2011
    • Variety is what keeps you nutritionally topped off.
      Don’t understand the article the wrong way, “we are an odd bunch.” M. Sisson.

      Primal Palate wrote on July 7th, 2011
  34. Thanks, Mark. Interesting take.

    JoSUP wrote on July 6th, 2011
  35. Wow, I must have a way different response than everyone. I am doing this primal diet and HATE the monotony. Yes, it seems to be a little cheaper in the end but it’s so boring. I do try to switch it up with spices and such but I still long for the good ol’ days when I really had a lot more variety. But this is the diet that makes the most sense to me so I am sticking with it.

    I’ve also gained a tiny bit of weight and a whole lot of cellulite on this diet, which is pretty distressing to me. But, I think I will settle as my brain is a lot better- depression gone bye bye, much better concentration, clarity of thought, etc. Wish this fat would clear out though, boo.

    Dizzy wrote on July 6th, 2011
    • If you’re gaining weight then you’re eating foods that raise insulin.

      Arty wrote on July 6th, 2011
  36. Pretty much a monotonous eater, although I do look for new and tasty ways to prepare my basic meats and veggies. I’m perfectly satisfied, however, because the food is so filling and delicious. After 11 years, I have no desire for grain-based, sugary or starchy foods. And I believe in “just say no.” If you never eat those foods, then you learn that you don’t need or want them.

    Peggy Holloway wrote on July 6th, 2011
  37. Eating healthy nutritional meals and exercise is a must, you cannot go wrong. There are loads of different ingredents you can add to salads to vary a “boring old salad”.

    Ian G Henderson wrote on July 6th, 2011
  38. Have y’all heard of community supported agriculture? A friend and I signed up for one allotment from an organic farm in Seguin TX. Scott Arbor Farms–they have been organic for 30+ years. Every week we get our allotment of fruits and veggies and eggs straight from the farm. They deliver it to a house in the neighborhood and we pick it up. For 15 weeks, it’s $320 total. Split 2 ways that’s a bargain for fresh organic food. I also do a similar scheme for raw milk. The farmer brings it to us once a week.

    Medbh wrote on July 6th, 2011
    • I used to get my raw milk from them – when I drank it – before I moved to Ireland. I didn’t know they did CSA too. That would have been awesome. I was in San Antonio, and picked it up from a guy who had a drop off point at his house for a few $ extra. They’re really helpful like that.

      Granuaile wrote on July 6th, 2011
  39. I *have* to vary things. I IF most days, so I only eat one meal a day. If I didn’t vary things a bit, I would eat the same 2 veggies and same kind of meat for every meal. I think my body needs a little more variety than *that*.

    Sanctus Real wrote on July 6th, 2011
  40. I definitely need to switch it up, I’m guilty of following the same meal plan.

    bleu wrote on July 6th, 2011

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