Is a healthy rut still healthy?

This week’s tip is for everyone who has been eating the same few healthy foods for weeks on end. You know who you are. Maybe it’s oatmeal with blueberries every day for breakfast, kale salad for lunch or almonds for every snack. First of all, kudos for such a healthy habit!

Indeed, research shows that LESS variety helps improve self-control and also cements habits faster, because the repetition quickly puts behavior on auto-pilot. It’s also convenient. Many nutrition experts suggest limiting variety when starting a new routine.

BUT, your health needs variety in the long run. Even the healthiest eating day will leave you deficient in some nutrients if you repeat it long enough.

So here’s a way to get the best of both worlds: Stick with your routine, but replace each go-to food with a “sibling food.” A sibling food is one in the same food group, adjacent at the grocery store, and ideally a different color of plant food, to maximize variety of phytonutrients. Buy a different set of siblings every week, and change up your combinations so that the different nutrients can synergize. Recent research is suggesting that this is more valuable than previously thought.

So now your morning oatmeal with blueberries and flax alternates with hot rice cereal with raspberries and coconut flakes, then quinoa with peach slices and chopped pecans, then millet with mango chunks and slivered almonds, and on and on. It’s like Geranimals for mealtime. You open up your choices just a tad, without having to make any major decisions…because, in nutrition, more decisions usually means worse decisions.

Of course, if you have the energy to be even more creative and diverse, go for it. But for those busy souls who want to improve variety but minimize food decisions, this approach can be the best of both worlds.

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