Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Creatures of Habit

I woke up this morning, read the Dining Section of the Times (I’m not embarrassed to admit I read that first) and headed to Twitter. A few of my nutrition colleagues had posted a link to an article from U.S. News and World Report entitled “Why an All-‘Superfoods’ Diet is a Mistake” which makes a strong case for dietary diversity. For example, even though blueberries are packed with antioxidants and fiber, one should “eat a rainbow” and vary food choices as different foods offer different nutrients and potentially different protection against disease. Another interesting point is that eating a wide array of food may result is less exposure to contaminants, such as mercury, and pesticides.

It is hard to dispute benefits of “playing the field” when it comes to your food as far as your health is concerned. However, when it comes to weight loss variety isn’t always your best tactic. I was in session with a client yesterday, I’ll call her CM. CM is trying to lose weight and, for the most part, is doing a great job. She’s exercising 4 times a week, cooking more, keeping her food journal and eating “good” carbs. Impressive, right? I think so but there’s a catch. CM is grazing after dinner. Its healthy grazing: a little dark chocolate, some berries, perhaps some high fiber crackers with almond butter- but it adds up. The problem, as I so scientifically call it, is there’s a pupu platter. It’s the buffet syndrome, the more foods we have to choose from, the more we eat. Research supports this.

So what did I suggest? I suggested CM choose 1 snack per week as her designated dessert. This week it’s mixed berries. The other items are off the menu, for now. So yes, for weight loss I suggested CM limit her variety. Many of us have a time of the day where we tend to loosen up. The 3 main times are mid afternoon, after work and after dinner. Try organizing or standardizing your choices and you may feel more in control and eat less. In this case, and perhaps with snacking in general, being a creature of habit is O.K. maybe even better.

Are you someone who thinks “variety is the spice of life” or are you a creature of habit? What do you feel is the better way to swing?


  1. as usual BRILLIANT commentary Lauren. great information. I'm def a pupu platter eater so will consider this strategy !! :)

  2. addendum: I like variety but I like what I like. a bit of both I guess. Since I really ENJOY food and feel I deserve to eat well (strange choice of words - maybe needs further analysis - it just popped out) I get bored with the same things over and over after a spell.

  3. hey Lauren,

    I am a creature of habit but do like to mix it up every once in a while. I support the idea of variety when you think of an overall healthful diet...choose different fruits, different veggies, different grains etc because all foods within the same food categories offer different bouquets of nutrients....and I do agree 100% with you that having fewer items at one meal or one snack is a good idea...especially if you're consuming fatty foods. With fresh foods like fruit, it's ok to mix it up at one meal, but in general limiting the number of different foods you consume at any one meal or eating occasion is wise because having fewer foods tell your brain your belly is full more quickly then having several different tastes from a wider variety of options (and of course this is supported by Barbara Rolls' excellent research).
    So you can have your cake and eat it too..just stick to one type of cake, (and forego a sampling of several cakes so to speak)!
    Enjoyed your post as always!

  4. Wow. Funnelling through your blog posts I just came across this gem. Love it. I too struggle like CM with post dinner snacking. I don't snack at all during the day, I just don't get hungry at meals when I am grazing, so I stick to a 3 meals per day routine, funnily enough the same foods (which you suggest, I just did it naturally but am glad to see there is benefit to this) such as a protein-y salad for lunch (chicken or tuna or salmon or turkey with kale or spinach and carrot, peppers, cucumber, sliced avo etc), fish and some veggies for dinner.. but then after dinner all hell breaks loose. Tonight I sat with a tea cup of mixed berries with cinnamon on top. I'm going to try to do this, and wean myself off the biscuit, muesli/granola and (gasp) ice cream.. thanks LS