I have a confession to make: I’m an extremely boring date. No matter the restaurant, I order a variation on the same few foods. I ignore the drinks menu. And I turn down dessert without fail. I promise that my scintillating conversation more than makes up for my dearth of dining variety, but if you’re looking for someone to be your partner in sampling every menu item, I’m definitely not your girl.
I’m also not a nutritionist or any other type of certified health professional. What I am, however, is someone who’s consulted many nutritionists and then performed a lot of trial and error to determine the eating habits that keep my physical and mental state running smoothly. Which is exactly what finding your ideal eating plan should entail, right? Nutrition isn’t one-size-fit-all—or even one-size-fits-most!—so the only way to find your best fit is to do some experimenting. And for me, after spending years as my own personal lab rat and then reviewing all the data, the results are clear: I’m best served by embracing my inner creature of habit at mealtimes.
So consequently, I’m a boring date. Or, to reframe it more positively, I’m consistent. And study after study shows that when it comes to meeting health goals (or any goal!), long term consistency is the most powerful and effective tool. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, fueling my body with the energy it needs to kick workout ass, and even making budgeting, shopping, and cooking a breeze: For me those things come down to drawing on the same small roster of foods to build my meals. What’s more, as soon as I gave myself permission to feel okay about eating the exact same breakfast every day, the anxiety I often felt around food decreased significantly.
So what’s this boring consistent plan look like in practice?
- Breakfast is oatmeal cooked with my favorite vegan protein powder and either an egg or nut butter for fat. I’ve figured out how to blend and bake this combo as pancakes, waffles, and muffins for the mornings when I do crave a slight change!
- Lunch is a combination of unprocessed starch, lean protein, and a serving of fat. Frequent go-to’s are eggs scrambled with veggies and a side of apple slices; a mixed veggie salad with homemade vinaigrette and chicken, beans, or hard-boiled eggs; or a roasted sweet potato topped with sauteed greens, salsa, and melted grass-fed cheese. I’m often on the road during lunch and all of these meals travel very well!
- A mid-afternoon snack is a must for me, lest I get crabby from low blood sugar. In a pinch I’ll grab a low sugar packaged energy bar, but I recently started making my own in large batches and they’re just as convenient! Other snack options include a handful of nuts and a piece of fruit, or plain whole milk yogurt with berries. Oh, and I keep a jar of peanut butter along with a tablespoon measure in my purse in case for hangry emergencies!
- Dinner is most aptly described as “stuff on top of other stuff”. Stir-fries, soups, stews, and sauces lend themselves very well to adding flavor and heft to a bed of steamed or sauteed veggies. For example, tonight I’m browning chicken sausage to combine with a simple marinara sauce, then I’ll serve the whole works over lightly sauteed kale and zucchini. Tomorrow’s agenda is crockpot chile colorado over roasted cabbage wedges, garnished with pico de gallo and guacamole. Other frequent dinner stars are ground beef, chicken breast, and lentils for bulk; cauliflower rice, shaved brussels sprouts, and spaghetti squash for the base; and Thai curry, Indian spices, or pesto for flavor. From time to time a whole roast chicken makes an appearance alongside potatoes and broccoli. And I never met a soup I couldn’t love!
So there you have it! It’s a very non-scientific eating plan that works just right for me, presented for anyone to take from it what’s useful and leave behind what’s not. If that means discovering a tasty new vegan protein powder or marinara recipe, then great! If it means finally feeling okay about being a boring eater, then fan-freaking-tastic. And if nothing else, if it means hearing one more supportive and encouraging voice on the path to being healthy, happy, and sane, then hey, my work here is done!
- Anne Sage