July 06 2011

How Important is Food Variety?

By Mark Sisson
150 Comments

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?

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150 thoughts on “How Important is Food Variety?”

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  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.

    1. +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!

      1. 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!

  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!).

  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.

  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.

  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!

  6. Is this a response to Stephan’s recent articles about food reward?

  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. 🙂

    1. 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!

      1. 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!

        1. 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.

      2. 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. 🙂

        1. 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.

  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.

  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.

  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?

    1. Yes, test failed! =P

      “Subject refused to eat garbage.”

  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.

  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!

  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.

    1. 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.

  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.

    1. 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.

  15. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. 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.

    4. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

    1. Not to mention my laziness of 4 eggs for breakfast basically every day.

      Dinner is always something different though.

  18. 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

    1. You can whip coconut milk? You mean whipped as in whipped cream?

      1. 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.

        1. 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!

  19. 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!

    1. 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 😀

  20. 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.

    1. 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.

  21. 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.

    1. I agree. The every day question should be: ” Did I get enough nutrition for the day?”

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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 😉

    1. 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.

  28. “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!

    1. 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 😀

  29. 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!

  30. 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. 🙂

  31. “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.

    1. 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.

  32. 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!

    1. Variety is what keeps you nutritionally topped off.
      Don’t understand the article the wrong way, “we are an odd bunch.” M. Sisson.

  33. 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.

    1. If you’re gaining weight then you’re eating foods that raise insulin.

  34. 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.

  35. 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”.

  36. 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.

    1. 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.

  37. 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*.

  38. It’s when I think about all of the variety I’m missing out on that I start eating crap.
    “Wow, cheesecake brownies…it’s been a while since I’ve had one of those! I’ll have to make a special exception.”
    Bad News Bears. Once I start, I can’t stop. Bread, brownies, milk, soda…and then I spend about thirty minutes on the toilet lamenting my idiocy.

  39. Interesting. I was just earlier listening to this topic from the audiobook version of Michael Pollan’s book, “In Defense of Food”, which I find incredibly enjoyable and a well-founded and reasoned argument for Primal lifestyle decisions on the food front. Though he doesn’t outright make specific recommendations such as eliminating grains, etc., he presents strong arguments that lend support to the approach.
    Anyway, the part about variety was great because he was talking exactly about this type of variety – changing up which veggies, clean meats, or other whole foods you consume. One suggestion was to join a Community Support Agriculture (CSA) group and by doing so, you’ll get a variety of whatever happens to be at peak ripeness in your local area (almost always from an organically-growing – if not certified – local farmer).
    The other advantage to food variety that he points out as well is that it is also good for the soil! If we demand more variety in our foods (vote with your fork), more farmers would rotate their crops, allowing for more organic farming, better soil, and better nutrient-rich products. (And with more demand and then more supply, we can expect lower prices eventually.)
    I find the best ideas are ones that you arrive at from multiple streams of thought and multiple sources. This is certainly one of them.
    Grok on!

  40. Ever since I did the No S Diet (nosdiet.com), I usually eat the same thing each weekday for breakfast/lunch. Suppers with the family vary, but there are 3 or 4 staple meals during the week.

    Weekends and vacations/holidays are for more variety…and yes, a little bit of cheating/not-so-good-for-you food. There’s more time and enjoyment for such outside the busier days of the week.

  41. What about the monotonous eater with berbere under her fingernails (or at least a homemade jar of it in her spice cabinet)? 😛

  42. Hey Mark,

    Just wanted to let you know that I read this while eating my daily big ass salad that hasn’t changed much in 3+ years, which is about when I started reading your blog.

    Cheers mate!
    -Ryan Denner

  43. Day after day, meat and vegetables, meat and vegetables. I love it. Off topic; I’ve been wondering about a couple of things for years. One, do you think horseback riding is primal exercise? For the rider, I mean. And two, I’ve never read a mention about seed and legume sprouts. Are they in the diet, or are they not?

    Always enjoy reading the Apple, Mark. Your writing improves all the time.

    Kapo

    1. American Indian rode horses (after the spaniers left them here) and that was during a time when they were primal.
      Before european Korgs came and started agriculture in America.

      It also gives you a special bond with an animal, much like Grok had with his pet wolf. They found a 30,000 year old grave with flowers and special gifts of an extremely large dog in Belgium. This pet dog was burried with its owner in the same grave.
      In India they tame elephants and I’m pretty sure that goes back thousands of years,too.

      “Dog History and Archaeological Data:

      The oldest dog skull discovered to date is from Goyet Cave, Belgium. The Goyet cave collections (the site was excavated in the mid-19th century) were examined recently (Germonpré and colleagues, cited below) and a fossil canid skull was discovered among them. Although there is some confusion as to which level the skull came from, it has been direct-dated by AMS at 31,700 BP.”

  44. Hmmm..food contentment. I like that.

    I am content with,oh, say, chicken, and I can raid my spice cabinet and make it Italian, Indian, Mexican, BBQ, Asian, or go nuts and make it plain. The same goes for fat-on beef and lamb (although plain is best) and pork and turkey and bison. Veggies, a green and a red/yellow/orange, are sauteed in coconut oil and dressed in lime and a bit of salt, or steamed and butter-drenched. Done. Leftovers go into soup the next day, or the freezer, or the frig for breakfast or salad. Nutritious? Yes. Monotonous? No. Easy? Yes. There’s a lot to be said for not stressing over a meal.

    Cook, eat, enjoy. If that’s monotony, I’m all for it.

  45. Lets face it humans are creatures of habbit so it seems natural that we stick to certain food patterns and choices (i.e. eat at similar times each day and the same ingredients in our meals) I see it around the work office everyday!!

    Personally I try to shop seasonally and go for offers at the supermarket so that ensures I get some good variety, rarely eating the same meal for dinner in a week. Lunch however is less varied and I too like the ‘big as salad’ but have been living off lots of beetroot and natural yoghurt lately – strangely a nice combination!

    Oh and blackstrap molasses are now a key ingredient in my diet too!

    1. Try your yoghurt on some freshly sliced tomatoes, and your favourite colour pepper – also a strangely nice combination.

  46. i go on kicks with primal food. my current kick is turkey pepperoni yum yum.

    there isnt much variety to my primal diet and i like it that way.

  47. I was thinking about this exact question recently. I’m a creature of habit but I’ve been conscious of the need (in my opinion) to have more variety.

    I have heard that eating the same foods all the time can lead to allergies and nutritional deficiencies. Also I just enjoy food and eating a variety of foods keeps life interesting.

    Nevertheless I have a few staple foods and my diet doesn’t deviate much from day to day. I am addicted to spinach salad with avocados and balsamic vinegar. I have that as a pre-dinner starter almost every day. I started using pre-packaged arugula and spinach for variety.

  48. I have found that eating simply, with many repetitive ingredients, helps change and avoid the daily dynamic that plague most people, which is putting too much focus on food: when, what, where, etc etc. It makes eating a major focus on every day. Like a group of co-workers talking all morning about “where should we go for lunch.”

    Whereas being primal turns eating into a simple fueling process, without thinking much about it. But meanwhile, I get to eat greatly satisfying meals.

    My fridge has a few staples at all times:

    1. A ton of salad fixings, like most of us. (And Olive oil and balsamic vinegar in the pantry).

    2. Veggies to lightly saute or even microwave in a snap: zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, brussel sprouts, etc.

    3. A couple of baggies of cooked meat, such as grilled chicken, pulled slow roasted pork shoulder, for quick addition to salads or omelets.

    4. A big package of thawed sirloin (London Broil) that I lightly sautee in butter and throw on a salad (lunch), eat with some aforementioned veggies (dinner) or throw in with some scrambled eggs (breakfast).

    5. Wild Salmon in the freezer, thawed and sauteed in butter or grilled (with the skin…I LOVE primal!) once or twice a week. Chicken breasts or leg quarters that I grill once or twice a week (again..with that delicious skin…halleluja!)

    6. Eggs and a block of cheddar cheese.

    7. Blueberries and Strawberries. A handful every other day or so with a half cup of plain whole yogurt. (This is literally my only “dessert-like” fix I ever have as a snack…and now I can’t imagine craving cheesecake, ice cream or other things…this is so light, clean and delicious.

    8. A supply of canned tuna, sardines, and almonds in the pantry.

    That’s it. It makes shopping SO easy. And for the first time in my life, eating ‘clean’ leaves me with ZERO cravings for anything, especially carb-laden stuff. That used to happen all the time when I used to eat “clean,” which meant no skin on the chicken, low fat dressings, brown rice, beans, whole eat bread, oatmeal, etc.

    Another last comment…I find I am eating as few as two meals a day, yet never really feeling hungry! Intuitively, I feel it’s better to split these meals into 3 or 4 meals a day, after years of CW telling me that studies show more fat-burning on equal diets when the subjects at the same spread over 6 meals vs. 3. Mark, if you are reading this…any comments on the “grazing” philosophy as it relates to primal? Would taking our primal 3 (for most people) meals a day, and spreading over 6 meals a day, have benefits?

  49. I’m a morbidly obese guy who is just a few weeks into a serious lifestyle change.

    This is the first email I’ve gotten since checking out Primal Blueprint and MDA. My wife and I had talked about the feasibility of changing our lifestyles to Primal, and I have got to say…you’ve sold me. I’ve found more helpful information in this one article, about this one topic than I have in page after page of other fitness sites. Every PB thing I’ve read so far has been like that. On payday, I’m ordering the whole package.

    Now, to get on topic…(sorry about going off on a tangent there)…I’m a deeply regimented eater also, but at the other end of the spectrum. I used to eat a lot of the same junk over and over without varying, but it was exactly that…junk. I didn’t get morbidly obese haphazardly! Since taking steps towards changing my diet…that has been a huge challenge for me, getting monotonous about eating for the better while still trying to keep it interesting. For someone where I’m at right now, finding happy monotony with healthy food looks pretty bleak. I’m on the path, it’s just something of a struggle. I definitely think going more primal will help!

    1. Mike, you and your wife can do this. Study the website, the various links, and the posts to these threads. Take you focus off of food and try to replace it on exercise and lifestyle, with food being your fuel. If you’ve been living on junk, you might find it a bit more challenging to withdraw from all the carb-laden crap…but the good news is, unlike most “clean” nutrition plans, with Primal you can eat really tasty meals that include things most convential “diets” forbid. Tasty fats, meats. oils (healthy, live Olive oil).

      You had monotony before, with the same bad food over and over again. Now, be monotonous with good foods. Don’t feel that the outlook is bleak before you’ve even begun. Go the the “Success Stories” in the forum section and read the stories and look at the pics. This will hopefully inspire you.

      Good luck!

      1. Thanks bro…definitely appreciate the encouragement! I’ve been throwing myself into exercise the last couple of weeks or so. I actually keep a 20 lb. dumbbell on my desk and whenever a smoker goes out for a break, I’ll knock out a quick 10-minute, 5 exercise upper body routine. Thats in addition to moderate spinning for 30 minutes every morning and occasionally walking a mile or two.

        My habits are changing, but it’s coming along slowly. Reading all the success stories so far have definitely helped move me along!

        1. You are doing great! There is no question that the “moderate cardio” or as Mark calls it, ‘move at a slow place, frequently’ WORKS…in addition to following the nutrition guidelines (especially cutting out ALL the refined crap and any grains), and lifting some weights as little as once a week (intensely) to start increasing some muscle mass. Obviously, take your time if you are very obese, and don’t stress yourself…but this WILL work, and as the pounds begin to drop away, you and your wife will be STOKED. Keep up that walking especially, since you are spinning in the am, try to throw a thirty minute walk in every night. That will bring you up to 7 hours a week of moderate cardio which will definitely pay off big time.

    2. For Das and anyone else interested in following along, I am tracking my food, exercise and weight loss daily at myfitnesspal. My user name is Eats_With_A_Fist. I haven’t posted any before/during after photos yet…I’m actually taking my first one before I weigh in tomorrow. I’m going to wait until I’ve lost about 20 lbs. (or a noticeable number of inches, whichever comes first) before I post the first ones.

      My goal loss is 175 lbs. I have decided on a career change as well. I want to go back to school and become a Dietitian and then after I lose enough, to become a personal trainer as well. I’m gonna make a “shrinking man” video with the photos when I hit my target. Thanks for the positive thoughts and the support!

    3. Don’t keep it monotonous. Some of us are taking this article the wrong way. We ARE an odd bunch like M. Sisson says and tests like the macaroni and cheese test would flat out fail on us if it was bacon and eggs every day. These meals were only given once a day remember, not all day long at each meal.

      Eating the same thing ALL day for DAYS will give you malnutrition, which I assume you’re suffering from anyways if you’ve obese and have been eating the SAD diet your entire life.
      Monotony will end up in huge food cravings because you will lack certain nutrients. Be creative.
      When I first started out I also thought this was a monotone way of eating, I had pretty much the same thing every day and after 3 weeks the food cravings won. I had to get creative because nobody taught me anything about food.

      Beef, Pork, Chicken, Duck, Goose, Rabbit, Turkey, Fish, Oysters, Clams, Eggs of diff. birds, ALL organ meats of any animal like glands, eyeballs, livers, kidneys, heart, tongue, bone broth, bone marrow, cook with palm-coconut oil, lard, kidney fat, butter, ALL vegetables, ALL fruits, Stews, Fruit Salad with coconut cream, Shrooms, pick your own lettuce and herbs when you go hiking, dandylions, soft thistles, nettles for tea, etc.
      Try and consume nuts by season, in nature hazelnuts would be end of summer, chestnuts (boiled or roasted) at end of the year. Try and find a raw milk or cheese supplier, melt raw cheese over hamburger patties with green onions and mustard and use lettuce leaves for buns.

      Good Luck and glad to have you with us 🙂

  50. Just yesterday I was talking to someone about this diet, and he was going over the list of things I don’t eat, which is long. After several minutes of this, I felt compelled to jump in. This is NOT a restrictive diet, or it sure doesn’t feel like it to me! Think of the amazing variety of vegetables, spices, meats out there! The BAS is not one dish–it is an infinite number of dishes. I never feel restricted. But yes, I don’t eat a long list of garbage.

  51. I vary my dinners and not so much my lunches, with breakfast somewhere in between. Dinner seems to be a two-week rotation of various favorites for 10 of the 14 nights (with maybe one repetition in that), 1 favorite that gets made less frequently, 1 left-over or quick-and-easy meal and 2 new meals. Lunch is almost always either leftovers or a BAS with a rare variation on a weekend or holiday. Breakfast is usually either leftovers or scrambled eggs and bacon/ham, but most weekends I’ll do something different, anything from an omelet to bruschetta-without-the-baguette to banana-almond pancakes.

    I guess my two biggest repetitions are that I’ll often have the same thing for a dinner-breakfast-lunch combo due to leftovers, or I’ll have eggs for breakfast and salads for lunch when I don’t have leftovers. However, because dinner is almost always different, leftovers change on a daily basis, and my eggs and salads are normally interspersed with leftovers, so I don’t get bored.

  52. My theory is that eating local, fresh foods (harvested yourself or as close to it as possible) create more satisfaction (because of a host of reasons: freshness, taste, etc.) and thus result in food contentment, even if the options are limited at any given time. Going to the grocery store that offers a plethora of choices whereby one can achieve food variety might not result in food contentment because of the lack (in general) of freshness, taste, etc. We humans will want more and more variety of the grocery store foods because we are looking for the satisfaction of fresh, local taste.

    Incidentally I grew up on a self-sufficient farm where we were fairly limited to the items in season (big garden, fruit trees, etc.) except for canned and frozen goods, and I didn’t know a loss of satisfaction in the foods I ate until I went to college and started eating only grocery store goods. Suddenly it took more food to feel satisfied.

    Great post!

  53. This is reassuring. I thought there was something wrong with me because I was pretty happy having hamburger meat and greens and onions every night for supper. And eggs for breakfast every morning. And maybe hamburger meat again for lunch. It doesn’t seem boring to me to eat local food in season, even if that means I have to eat peaches every single day!!

  54. Thank you Mark! Every time something is on my mind, you have a relevant post….
    after tracking on Fitday for a while, I noticed I too eat the same basic things. But I do not buy fruits from Chile in January….so that means peaches only in the summer…just like you mentioned, seasonal availability is enough variety for me. And my kids know, if the fruit doesnt grow in the USA, we dont buy it!

  55. Mark,

    I tend to eat pretty routine meals because I am comfortable preparing certain meals and I don’t have a lot of free time to experiment in the kitchen. I do think variety is important though and ideally, I would love to eat a different Primal meal that taste great every day. Oh well, maybe when I retire…

    Alykhan

  56. yep, BAS daily. thanks to summer there is a change up. Gee how i love summer.

  57. My meals are, animal (usually cow) vegetable (rocket, spinach and watercress) eggs, coconut oil, ACV and that’s pretty much it every meal. Aspire are creatures of habit.

  58. My menu has definitely devolved: I’ve gone from a wide variety of modern foods to steaks cooked in tallow and/or topped with butter, usually with sauteed mushrooms. Eggs fried in tallow or ghee; small-sized berry smoothies, usually with a bit of coconut oil or MCT oil. (All animal fats are from grass-fed beasties.) Boiled down to the essentials: meat, eggs, and berries. (I often add raw egg yolks and/or whey proteins to the smoothies.)

    I’ve tried Big Assed Salads, smoothies with a variety of vegetation, etc., but leaves and twigs just give me intestinal problems. I do occasionally eat an avocado with my almost raw (very over-easy) eggs but that’s about it.

    I have had several people tell me that is an unhealthy way to eat but it works for me. I have plenty of energy, I sleep very well and I exercise well. In fact, in just the past ten days, I lost six pounds of body fat. (I know it’s fat lost, as opposed to water loss, because I finally got below that point where my clothes are now too damned loose and I have to spend some hard-earned money to re-clothe myself. I’m not whining, mind you, but it is still a pain in the ass.)

    I figure ol’ Grok, if he lived in the mid-continent, far away from the coast, probably had a fairly monotonous menu: buffalo parts and pieces for breakfast, buffalo pieces and parts for lunch, and buffalo steaks for supper. That’s a simplification I know, but you get my drift.

  59. I found PB when I found out I was allergic to a list of foods a half a mile long(some I am glad of lie wheat and soy and some not so much like spinach, most nuts, and peaches) so yes my list of foods I eat is pretty short but what I do with them is longer. I love to cook and try new recipes and since I have lost 81 pounds since going primal and I am under 300 pounds for the first time since the 4th grade, I guess it’s working for me so if it’s not broke don’t fix it as they say. I eat omelets for breakfast or protein shakes depends on my mood that day and then salads or proteins for lunch and then dinner is veggies and meat (mostly chicken I am allergic to beef) sometimes I have snacks sometimes I don’t depends on the day.

  60. I think there is some misunderstanding here about what variety of foods means. For instance you take the potatoe and say I eat potatoes as part of my diet, most people are referring to the standard strain of brown tomatoes we are used to, most people do not know that there used to be as little as 40 years ago over 20 different types of potatoes. Most strains of vegetables and fruits, have been commercially phased out, because 1-3 strains were the easiest to maintain and mass produce and the others fell to the side. So the concept of being content with the food choices you make on a daily basis, discounts the fact that those choices have been unnecessarily limited. If you like to always eat potatoes, that is great, but there was a time that choosing a potatoes had so much variety in and of itself!

  61. One thing that I think is hilarious is how a lot of people think they are eating a varied diet, when it is really just a myriad permutations of corn, wheat, and soybeans. Eating salad and meat every single day, though superficially monotonous, is inherently a far more diverse diet that the SAD.

  62. I’m actually fine with just meat, eggs and cottage cheese for now and have been for about 3 weeks now. I’m glad I haven’t gotten bored with it because I’ve lost 10 pounds and 2 inches off my waist! 😉

  63. ahhh another topic of great interest to me. Somewhere on the Kurt Harris “archevore” blog he makes a comment (I can’t find it now and I hope I’m not taking it too far out of context) about how simple his diet is. I was viewing my very limited diet as boring. (I eat a version of primal called “fodmap”, which controls IBS for me). There are so many foods I cannot eat. But when I read Harris, I really started to view it differently. It’s a simple diet, not boring. Simple and good. Like pulling on jeans and a t-shirt every morning. And sometimes one can get dressed up when the effort is worthwhile.

  64. I dont eat much variety at all. Good meat, fish, and eggs, broccoli, spinach, asparagus, tomatoes, garlic, onion and some berries and nuts.

    I think we humans can survive on a lot less variety than we think.

  65. Hi Mark,
    An important ad on, good food is never boring when you’re hungry, my colleagues at work ask me if I am not bored with chicken? bet no one would be bored with chicken in Belsen

  66. Nice post man, I’m diggin the “Big Ass Salad” idea, LOL. Good stuff tho, really like your site, you have tons of great information here. Keep up the awesome work!

  67. I think a really interesting little thought experiment would be to log the number of distinct subspecies Primal eaters eat over a given time compared to non-primal eaters. I strongly suspect that whilst we eat stuff which looks the same a lot of the time, we’re actually eating a much broader variety of food sources than non-primal eaters who are I’d suspect getting their many different types of food from the same few basic ingredients. Personally speaking I try to mix it up as much as possible within the basic same positions – the greens on my evening meal for example could be shop bought spinach, cabbage, asparagus etc or foraged wild leaves (NB – foraging is cool and one of the ultimate primal mild effort activities IMO) or home grown Orac or Horseradish greens. Variety is definitely the spice of life but there’s more than one way to define variety.

  68. Hey there,

    I have my eggs each morning, sveggies and meat at lunch and definately meat for dinner. Not much of a variety, but it’s perfectly working for me.

    Greets from Bulgaria!

    A.

  69. i eat ‘seasonally monotonously’. in summer lots of fish, chicken, salads and stone fruits. in winter lots of red meat, root vegies, eggs. don’t like salad in winter and don’t like soup in summer 🙂 natural variety…

  70. Lets face it, variety like we are accustomed to has only been available for 50-100 years, before that we were restricted to everything that we could source locally. Going through the seasons only certain things were available so it wouldn’t do for us to be constantly in search of strawberries in the depths of winter (I’m from Scotland), that would be caloric expenditure that we couldn’t afford.

  71. I used to think variety was important, but as I have became more interested in fitness meals have lost their appeal to me. I find myself only concerned about meeting my protein and carb intakes as well as watching my micronutrients.

  72. I have a BAS daily and no two salads have ever been the same. I vary the type of veggies, nuts, lettuce, dressing. I don’t see how anyone can hate salads. The challenge I have is always making two things: one for me and my husband, and one for my three small children. I WISH, but can’t expect, them to eat egg white omelettes, salads, and meat with more vegetables every day. I do let them have fun with a little mac and cheese every now and then. Someday…

  73. I eat the same foods almost every day. Even when I go out to eat, I still order the same thing I always order, not because I don’t want to try something new, but because I enjoy my usual meal :).
    Mark I love all the information you provide here, since I’ve been reading your blog, I’ve learned so much more than from my fitness study guide.

  74. Modern monotonous eating is really all about convenience. As Tim Ferriss says in his 4 Hour Body book, “there are 47 000 products in the average supermarket, but only a handful of them won’t make you fat”. So I think that once you settle on a few which you seem comfortable with and don’t produce any adverse results you get into the habit of eating the same foods, over and over again. After all it’s one less thing to think about.

    However, food variety is essential as the nutrients necessary to meet nutritional requirements are not all found in a single food item (with the exception of human breast milk in the first months of life) but come from a diet composed of a number of foods. Nutrition scientists have identified about 12 000 compounds (called phytochemicals) that play a role in preventing disease. As many of these compounds work together, it makes sense to eat a wide variety of foods. As such, diverse diets have been shown to protect against chronic diseases such as cancer, as well as being associated with prolonged longevity and improved health.

    If you consider the food choices of our ancestors, local biodiversity coupled with seasonal variations would have given rise to the availability of a huge range of plants, fruits, seeds, fungi, nuts, etc and their diets would have been full of changes throughout the year. Factor in fish and the animals they’ll have hunted down and eaten too and you’ve got lots of different dietary components.

    But beware! I’ve noticed that you tend to eat more food during a meal which consists of a variety of foods presented in a succession of courses than during a meal with only a single type of food, even if it is your favourite!

  75. Im like Mark…I know what I eat..I have a simple menu..I dont need to hide/or fancy it up ..And Im never bored because I think primal..and that means simple/fresh/and edible…It just goes with my territory>>>>>>

  76. Variety is definitely important to me because I get bored easily. I try to eat a food cuisine from a different culture every day at lunch partly because I work near a city and there are more choices. One day I would salad, another day eat Indian food, then Chinese and Mexican and so on.

    Breakfast is more difficult because I hardly have time to eat. But I try to switch different fruits such as grapes, pineapples, berries, etc for breakfast.

  77. I am also a pretty simple eater; I buy the same veggies, fruit and meat every week at the grocery store. I can eat left overs for two days in a row or more sometimes. I eat the same thing for breakfast pretty much every day.

    My husband is also a simple eater; while he isn’t primal, he does eat the same things every day. I agree that it is so much easier to cook what I know how to cook and what I know I will like; I save the culinary adventures for when I have the time and energy!

  78. I eat pretty much the same thing for breakfast and lunch everyday. I basically have a few go to foods for each of those meals and will rotate them out every other day. This helps to create the illusion of variety, but i am perfectly happy with the same food each day. It makes it a lot easier to know what im taking in without really having to think about it.

  79. I skimmed the above comments, so apologies if someone already said this, but I’m pretty sure I remember reading reports about super-annuated humans (people who lived to be 100+ years) and the one commonality they all had was ROUTINE.

    Same activities every day, same exercise routine every day, to bed the same time every night, and yes, same foods year/in year out.

    Of course the variety of those foods may widen or narrow with individual tastes, but it’s still an interesting consideration. Since our bodies have to repopulate gut bacteria to accommodate what we eat, might we be wearing out the digestive system faster by eating extreme varieties of food?

    (P.S.–I specifically remember one old man saying he never ever ate dinner, and swore it was the secret to his long life and health–IF, anyone?)

  80. Hey Mark! I am in total agreement with the concept of habitual eating. Every week I pick up 3 pounds of Chicken breast and thigh, 1 pound of Asparagus, 2 pounds of Zucchini and maybe some spinach as well. My question is this…Would Grok be satisfied (Nutritionally) with this diet? It could not have been as easy to get variety as we can in his day. He had no Farmers Market. Is it possible that American Grok ate Kale and European Grok ate Swiss Chard? Anyone else feel free to comment, I am curious

  81. I wonder if we crave so much variety on our plates because our lives have become boring in other areas? I love to cook and experiment in the kitchen,but when I don’t have the time,I can eat the same rotation of 6-8 meals and be quite satisfied and content. When I’m less excited about some areas of my life,I tend to feel disatified with my plate. The creativity in all of us has to go somewhere. I’m not suggesting that we abandon our culinary creativity,I’m just coming to realize how much I’ve changed my life and no longer feel my food has to be amazing,unique and gourmet.The rest of my life has gotten so interesting lately,that I really like the routine of the regular meal rotation. I know I’m feeding my body the best nutrition I can and look to other areas of my life to excite and stimulate me.

  82. None of these studies were done on subjects who were Primal, so as Mark pointed out, I think the applicability is limited. I think they tell us very little about those of us who are eating in a way that is copecetic with thier genetic/evolutionary make-up. Most of us tend to keep unhealthy cravings at bay if we’ve been at this for a while.

    If you like variety, go for it–there’s plenty to be had in the Primal community. If not, meh–Primal-approved foods, for the most part, are nutritionally dense enough to keep you healthy–so do what you like, I say.

  83. I’ve found that I can pre-cook a batch of chicken breast or whatever other meat I want and prep it in separate containers with some oil/homemade creme fraiche and a huge variety of seasonings. I’ve never in my life had such a varied diet, the flavors change based on the type of fat and the type of seasoning I use. I love it!

  84. I am glad you brought up the term “content” vs boring. I am very content with my limited food choices and I really enjoy the consistency. Usually, after about a month of the same ol same ol I will move onto a new consistent pattern so I have a bit of variety but after a longer time frame. I also make an attempt at “color” anytime I go out to eat so I get my spice of variety (and probably preventing cancer too!)

  85. I have just found out about stabilized rice bran, and tried it to-day. very easy to take and the claimes about it sound too good to be true. any comments

  86. This whole allergy thing is totally new to me. Im stumped. Can someone take the time to explain these repititive allergies to me. I am allergic to quite a few things and would love to know how to reverse an allergy. Any clues anyone ?

    1. Hey Java,

      I haven’t looked into the physiological reasoning but I’ve heard too many times now that people who over-consumed certain dairy products (e.g. chicken eggs) end up with an allergy to them. Common sense suggests that our bodies can be hyper-sensitive to, and reject certain nutrients if we over eat them for a sustained period of time. I wouldn’t like my body to reject eggs, so I tend to consume in moderation.