There are people out there who eat the same thing every single day. Are you one of them?
I'm certainly not. Variety is essential to me, but so is time. Wanting to eat something different at each meal requires extra time. It takes more time to find and prepare food because you must first make a decision and then do something unfamiliar -- make a new recipe or read an entirely new menu. Executing the unfamiliar is typically the lesser of the two time sinks. Making decisions fast is the bigger issue for most people.
Streamlining or reducing the number of decisions you have to make in a day is an important time-management strategy. Many entrepreneurs claim to eat the same thing every day as a way to focus on greater priorities -- building their businesses.
If you were to settle on a one-day meal plan, what would it have to include to ensure you got all of the nutrients you needed? Could you survive without getting scurvy like a 17th-century sailor?
Breakfast: 8 ounces nonfat yogurt with a cup of papaya and kiwi and 14 walnut halves
Lunch: 1 small whole-wheat pita with a green salad including 1 cup of dark green lettuce, a red pepper, 1 cup of tomatoes, ½ cup edamame, and unsalted sunflower seeds sprinkled on top. Don't despair! You can add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and pepper as dressing.
Dinner: 4 ounces broiled wild salmon (about the size of your palm) with a yogurt sauce. On the side, a ½ cup of barley and lentils with a cup of steamed asparagus or baby bok choy.
This meal plan totals just over 1,100 calories, which isn't enough for most people. I'd personally like to fill in the gap with chocolate, red wine, and corn chips -- but that's certainly not based on any professional's recommendation. Regardless, this is a solid foundation that delivers everything you need to be a healthy, functioning person. From here, you could add on or alter a few things. For example, you could have oatmeal for breakfast instead of the yogurt on occasion, or add a piece of chicken to your lunch.
You might be thinking -- why not just pop a multivitamin as a little insurance for your health? Experts from Harvard Medical School say this is a tricky approach: "Dietary supplements would seem to be the obvious way to plug gaps in your diet. But taking too much can actually harm you. For example, you can get too much of a particular nutrient without realizing it." "Extra vitamin A supplements can lead to dangerous, toxic levels if taken too frequently," notes Dr. Clifford Lo, an associate professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. In the example of vitamin A, the National Institutes of Health says, "Getting too much preformed vitamin A (usually from supplements or certain medicines) can cause dizziness, nausea, headaches, coma, and even death."
And though the studies show benefits of both approaches, in my mind, a food-based solution to nutrition is best. According to Harvard Women's Health Watch, "Experts agree that the best way to get the nutrients we need is through food. A balanced diet -- one containing plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains -- offers a mix of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients (some yet to be identified) that collectively meet the body's needs." Of course, a truly balanced diet involves a wider variety than the menu presented above -- but that's a good start.
Of course, you don't have to stick to this rigid plan every day to reap the timesaving benefits. Having a go-to daily menu like this is an ideal way to streamline your life just on busier days when you'd rather not think about what to cook. Create a grocery list that will keep you stocked with all the necessary ingredients for this go-to menu for two to three days per week, and see how much you end up making it. After a few weeks of experimenting with this, you can alter that grocery list to reflect your new eating habits.
So, whether you opt for an everyday meal plan that saves you time and brain work or decide that variety is a necessary spice of your life, make sure that the things you're putting in your body meet your nutritional needs. After all, being hungry or not getting the right nutrients in your diet is a sure-fire way to make you sluggish and uncreative in your daily life.