It’s time to break our mealtime monotony

So what's it to be tonight? Another bland meal?

So what's it to be tonight? Another bland meal? - Credit: Archant

There's a marvellous world of tastes out there. So why do we end up with the same boring stuff on our plate, says Andy Newman.

What are you having for dinner tonight? Is it the same as last night? And the night before? If so, you are in good company: six out of ten of us eat the same foods every day, according to a new survey. Given that we live in a country which boasts one of the most diverse food cultures in the world, that's a horrific indictment of how little importance we seem to attach to the pleasures of the table.

Now, we all know everyone is busy, and maybe that's some kind of excuse for not branching out in our menu planning. But according to the research, carried out on behalf of dairy company Arla, only 21pc of those polled cited lack of time as the reason behind their predictable eating habits.

More than half of us eat the same meals on a loop because we are stuck in a routine, with 46pc not allowing anything new into their diet because 'they know what they like'.

It's hard to work out whether this is laziness, a complete lack of imagination, or the sign of a painfully-closed mind. Whatever it is, it is one of the reasons why our collective national diet is so poor, and why what we eat contributes so much to the burden we place on the NHS.

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It's not like there isn't a huge choice of food out there. Thanks to our outward-looking attitude as a country – in the past, at least – we have access to cuisines from all around the world. It would be sad indeed if the pervasive 'Little Englander' attitude we see demonstrated so often amongst brainless internet trolls means we are turning our collective backs on the rich diversity of food we have at our disposal.

Perhaps it's because people simply don't know how to cook more than a very short list of dishes (assuming they are cooking at all, rather than simply heating up an additive-laden, processed ready meal, or shovelling yet another takeaway down their gullets). But there's really no excuse for that, is there? One thing we are not short of is TV chefs teaching us how to prepare new dishes.

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The same study which revealed the unbelievable lack of culinary imagination across a massive swathe of the population also found that eight in ten Brits have no idea what their diet is providing in terms of vitamins and minerals, with three-quarters of Brits saying they wished it was easier to get more nourishment from what they eat.

You might not care whether your family is enjoying the food you put in front of them, but surely you have a duty to ensure they are getting the right nutrition from their diet. And that's unlikely to happen if you serve them the same stuff on their plate day in, day out. In fact, the survey showed that 45pc are struggling to get the right nutrition, precisely because of their monotonous meals.

On top of all of this is, for me the biggest crime of the lot for those eating the same thing every day is that you are depriving yourself and your family of one of the greatest pleasures in life: great food. Just as you would soon tire of the cinema if you watched the same film every time you went, mealtimes become a dull chore unless you are serving up variety.

So here is a challenge for all those who will eat tonight more or less what they ate last night. Most people have at least one recipe book in their kitchen; if you do nothing else, simply open that recipe book at a random page once a week, and cook whatever dish is on that page.

It's not difficult – the book has a helpful shopping list of ingredients, a step-by-step guide on how to make the dish, and usually a picture of what it's supposed to turn out like (if your cookbooks are by starry Michelin-garlanded chefs, may I suggest you swap them for more accessible ones by cooks such as Delia Smith or Jamie Oliver).

As ever with anything worthwhile, eating a good and varied diet requires a bit of effort. But the reward is more than worth it; surely it's worth doing something, anything to escape the boring monotony of the same old thing on your plate yet again?

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