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How a Food Rut Can Be an Easy-Eating Strategy in Busy Times

When life is crazed, thinking about what to eat is the last thing you probably want to do. Knowing that you’re going to eat a bagged salad kit with chicken for lunch, and dinner is going to a hamburger with whatever trimmings are in the fridge, allows you to move through life focusing on things that matter. Stuff like your job, your family, and your friends. Why should thinking about what to eat add to your cognitive load?

It shouldn’t. Research published in Eating Behaviors found that subjects who were mentally taxed and tired were less likely to choose healthy foods and eat the recommended servings of produce compared to others who had less on their minds. Here’s where food ruts can step in.

Why adopt a short-term food rut

We’re not advocating for living a life where you eat the same thing every day until the end of time. There are some serious drawbacks to that: boredom, the possibility of missing important nutrients, and creating a messy relationship with food—to name a few.

Consider the pressures on your time and your mind right now. Research shows that stress influences our eating for the worse because of the aforementioned bad food choices, but also the mindless munching. Taking the guesswork out of the food equation could help keep you eating healthfully.

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However, food ruts can be planned and used during specific times. If you planned your food for your next three shifts, deciding that you were going to eat a nut butter and jelly sandwich with an apple for lunch and a few ounces of chicken breast with penne, cherry tomatoes, and pesto sauce for dinner each day, then you would have one less thing to think about. The only thing you need to decide is what foods to include for your rut.

What will you eat?

If you’ve decided that you might need to tap into the food rut eating trick, here’s how to prepare:

Step 1: Decide how long and what meals you are going to make repetitive. Depending on your life you could decide that you want to zone out on food choices for all three meals for three days. Or, maybe thinking about lunch pains you, so you want a lunch rut.

Step 2: Pick your meal. I suggest eating your favorite meal right now for your go-to meal. For example, I love the kale slaw that my local grocery sells; especially when paired with beets, blueberries, blue cheese, and a little lemon juice. This tends to be my go-to/rut lunch because I hate thinking about what to eat for lunch, but I know that I will always enjoy this salad. What’s your favorite dish? Start there.

Step 3: Check your meals for veggies to make sure you’re getting enough nutrients. The addition of fruits, veggies, fats, and protein at each meal will make sure you’re satiated.

Step 4: Stock your kitchen. Prepare to have all your ingredients ready so you can assemble the meal when the time comes.

Now, if you have a family, this could prove a bit harder but could work. Consider each day of the week to have a food theme. For instance:

  • Monday: Pasta
  • Tuesday: Tacos
  • Wednesdays: Sandwiches
  • Thursday: Breakfast for dinner
  • Friday: Pizza or take-out (Kids’ choice)

Consider creating a food schedule that reflects your family’s wants. For instance, pasta night might become burger night, or you could have a fend-for-yourself night, where everyone needs to make their own dinner.

Ultimately, you should only consider putting yourself in a food rut only when you just don’t want to make another decisions. Food ruts in general are not the best way to eat long term since they can create nutritional holes in your diet.

READ NEXT: The 5 Best Foods to Help You Survive a Busy Shift

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