Repeating Meals: Boring but Effective

Want to lose weight or manage your blood sugar? Trying eating the same meals repeatedly. It’s not the most fun way to eat, but it can have a positive effect on your metabolic health. When you eat the same meals repeatedly, it’s much easier to predict the blood sugar impacts they’re likely to have. And the less exciting your food is, the less likely you are to overeat.

And if you’re trying a new diet for your health, repeating meals can be a useful shortcut. Changing dietary habits, especially when it involves learning new recipes and making new grocery lists, takes a lot of work.

The same thing for breakfast each day, the same thing for lunch, and the same for dinner. Does it get old? Sure it does. But it works.

“Habituation” of Foods as a Weight Loss Strategy

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A 2011 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that “habituation” with foods may potentially lead to weight loss. The researchers explained that habituation is “a form of learning in which repeated exposure to a stimulus leads to a decrease in responding. Eating involves repeated presentation of the same food stimulus in a meal, and habituation is reliably observed within a meal such that faster rates of habituation are associated with less energy intake.”

The study involved 32 women who were asked to eat macaroni and cheese five times each — either once per week for five weeks, or once per day for a single week.

The weekly mac ‘n cheese eaters didn’t get bored of their meal, but the ones that were forced to eat it every single day experienced rapid habituation, eating less one day after the other.

In other words, eating the same food day after day takes some of the thrill away from that food, which causes us to eat less of it. Is this why many of us tend to overeat at buffets or potlucks, or why obesity was once associated with wealth?

Perhaps this is one reason why people were less overweight throughout history. Having glorious grocery store variety is relatively new to humans. If you have to eat the same thing nightly, maybe you’ll end up eating just enough for sustenance, rather than going all out.

Consistent Eating and Blood Sugar Control

Many people with diabetes have also learned that eating the same meals helps them control their blood sugar. When Diabetes Daily conducted its own research into the Habits of a Great A1C, we were not surprised to learn that our community members meeting glycemic targets were more likely to:

Eat meals at the same times of day
Eat the same meals consistently
Eat at home instead of out at restaurants

The associations of monotonous eating with good blood sugar control held true in people with both type 1 diabetes, who require insulin before meals, and people with type 2 diabetes, most of whom do not use insulin.

Plan for Nutritional Balance

Eating the same foods repeatedly also makes it far easier to plan a healthy, nutritionally balanced menu. If you have healthy eating goals, you can tailor your one or more consistent meals so that you’re getting exactly as much protein, fiber, or carbohydrates as you want. And though most people don’t want to eat the same three meals every single day, it would offer an unmatched opportunity to guarantee that you’re getting a nutritionally replete diet.

You may save time in the store and kitchen by preparing the same things over again — as well as money, if you buy items in bulk and stay away from takeout. You could do the same with snacks, too.

We’re not arguing that you need to eat boringly for the rest of your life. Be sure to choose foods you genuinely enjoy, and switch things up when you need to. But if you’re struggling to meet your health goals, it’s good to know that a little monotony can be a useful tool in your arsenal.

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