Will adopting the ‘uniform eating’ trend really benefit our health?

Despite all the research on what we should be eating for good health, it seems deciding what we should consume each day is more confusing than ever. A possible solution? Uniform eating.

You may have heard of uniform dressing – one signature outfit you wear each day (think Steve Jobs' turtleneck and jeans). In uniform eating, you choose healthy meals that work for you and eat them – every day. If that sounds unbelievably dull, you could adapt "capsule dressing" (choosing your outfits from the same 10 pieces) to "capsule eating" – a handful of meals that you rotate.

Beware of underplanning. Not including enough food in your plan because you want to lose weight can lead to overeating. Credit:Stocksy

But is uniform eating healthy?

"If you hit all your nutritional notes, it can actually be healthier," says dietitian Melanie McGrice. "When people leave decision-making until the last minute they're more likely to make poor choices, whether it's takeaway or shopping on the way home from work every night. Whereas, if you know in advance, you do one shop and save yourself two or three hours a week."

Uniform eating was integral to my own experience of treating an eating disorder. I'd tried "intuitive eating", but my body intuitively seemed to want the vitamin C found only in blueberry muffins, with a side of remorse.

I needed structure and a way to spend as little time thinking about food as possible. I saw a dietitian and we devised a sample day's food that suited my needs. My energy levels stabilised and I recovered vast tracts of mental real estate once devoted to obsessing about "good" and "bad" foods.

"Our brain can only make so many decisions in a day before we start giving in to impulse," says McGrice. "Having a food plan reduces the chance of decision fatigue. The more decisions we can take off our plate, the more we free ourselves up for other things."

It's important to stress that a food plan is not a diet. And one size definitely does not fit all. I was conscious, when writing a memoir on food addiction, to leave out the details of what I ate for recovery. What worked for me may be too much or not enough for others. Copying a celebrity's food plan is also likely to backfire.

"Different people have different requirements, different metabolic rates, intolerances and medical conditions," says McGrice. "For example, they may be pregnant, or trying to conceive."

A go-to plan doesn't have to be boring. It's more about having a set structure that you follow each day and one in which allows substitutions.

"I write clients a plan that meets their needs and includes foods that meet their requirements," says McGrice. "So a sample food plan could include one piece of fruit mid-morning and Thursday might be fish night. It's more empowering to teach people how to make changes themselves."


1. Invest in help

A meeting with an accredited dietitian can help tailor a food plan workable for your body and circumstances, ensuring you get everything you need. But take an active role in planning. No one knows better than you how your body responds to different foods (cheese, please!) or which style of eating (snacks, yes or no?) suits your body best.

2. Know when to change it up

"You do need to change your plan when there are big changes in your life – for example, if you're pregnant or have a medical condition," says dietitian Melanie McGrice. And remember that a plan is merely a guideline – if you're getting bored, it's okay for a plan to include "Friday pizza and wine".

3. Don't try to turn it into a diet

Beware of underplanning. Not including enough food in your plan because you want to lose weight can lead to overeating. By basing your food plan on optimal health rather than achieving twig status, your body will naturally find its appropriate weight.

Bad Yogi (Affirm Press) by Alice Williams is out now.

This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale June 2.

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