What would Einstein eat?
April 23, 2011 7:39 AM   Subscribe

I once read that Einstein had several outfits exactly the same, so he didn't waste time figuring out what to wear. Has anyone done this with food; specifically, figuring out exactly what to eat over the course of a week to provide exactly the right amounts of all the proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, etc. that the body needs? If so, is this menu available?

To be sure, I like variety and couldn't bear to eat the same things all the time, but it might be interesting to try for a few weeks.
posted by tomwheeler to Food & Drink (27 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
You might find The Hacker's Diet interesting.
posted by greasy_skillet at 7:49 AM on April 23, 2011

Monkey chow!
posted by Forktine at 7:58 AM on April 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

People have different dietary needs. You'll have to find a close match to you, or make your own menu.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 8:08 AM on April 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Though it lacks some of the necessary nutrients, the closest approximation to the (apparently apocryphal) story about Einstein's wardrobe is the story about Wittgenstein's diet:
My wife gave him some Swiss cheese and rye bread for lunch, which he greatly liked. Thereafter he more or less insisted on eating bread and cheese at all meals, largely ignoring the various dishes that my wife prepared. Wittgenstein declared that it did not much matter to him what he ate, so long as it always remained the same.
from Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir, quoted here in Autism & Creativity.
posted by Elsa at 8:10 AM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nutraloaf springs to mind. Here's some recipes if you're of a mind to try it.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:11 AM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Feynman also did this with food, eg decided that he would always have chocolate for dessert so he wouldn't waste time deciding.
posted by canoehead at 8:29 AM on April 23, 2011

According to my brother and sister-in-law, Nutrisystem is kind of like this. They are given a [limited] menu of items to pick from for the week, and then they basically eat whatever is sent to them, plus fresh vegetables they buy themselves. Their menu choices are based on their latest weight, and other factors, like gender. So my brother's menu includes more calories than my sister-in-law.

This is heresay, from them though. I've not researched this system myself.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:40 AM on April 23, 2011

We're a very broad species, with many elements (age, physiology, genetic history, food sensitivities, geography) that alter our natural requirements drastically, even within our lifetime. We should eat differently when we're ill, for example, or when a woman is pregnant.

We're also a very broad species in terms of what we aim to get out of life; if you're largely sedentary, your diet will be different than that of a marathon runner, who will be different from a Tibetan monk, and even within these groups, there are physiological and genetic factors that will alter the diet from person to person.

Trying to adapt a food system similar to Einstein's, where he wore the same clothes every day, doesn't get past the part where he found clothes that fit him, that he wasn't allergic to and that were suitable for his particular climate. Einstein's exact clothes specifications wouldn't be appropriate for a 6'5 runner from Brazil, and so treating our dietary input as something we should model off of other people is too simplistic. There are rules (like wearing pants, or eating more vegetables) that seem empirically better than the alternative, but finding a mix of foods that achieves your personal goal is a personal journey.
posted by dflemingecon at 8:59 AM on April 23, 2011 [4 favorites]

What seawallrunner said. Also don't end up like this.
posted by knilstad at 9:17 AM on April 23, 2011

Part of the problem with doing this is that there are hundreds of nutritional elements that we need in order to be healthy. The best diet is a varied diet, one which includes a broad selection of seasonal fruits and vegetables, healthy lean protein, etc.

A close approximation of this is the diet I've heard is popular in Asia, which is something like "Eat 50 colors a day."

Personally I have developed a few plug-in meals, which I figure serve as a good nutritional base. Then I try to eat a variety of other stuff, too. (Tip: If you focus on only eating what's in season, that will automatically rotate your diet for you.)

The easiest of these plug-in meals is: Microwave a bag of those new Steamers frozen vegetable packs. Pour into bowl. Eat. A full day's serving of vegetables all at once! If I'm particularly hungry, I'll serve it over brown rice.

My favorite is: 1/2 C quick oats + 1 C water, microwave 2 minutes. Add a splash of nonfat milk, a generous portion of cinnamon (circulatory health), a handful of chopped walnuts (omega-3 acids), a handful of Craisins or other dried berries (antioxidants), and a bit of brown sugar.

In summer I switch it up with a smoothie made from nonfat yogurt, 1 banana, a handful of fresh fruit (locally-grown berries) and a scoop of protein powder.
posted by ErikaB at 9:33 AM on April 23, 2011 [5 favorites]

I'd like to add to ErikaB's concern.

Not only do we need different nutritional elements in our diet, but we don't yet know what all of them are. Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food gives a brief history of 'nutritionism' and how we are constantly discovering what we should or shouldn't eat. (Don't get me wrong, I'm not an anti-nutritionism adherent.)

You can even see this in the different diet fads. Don't eat eggs. Yes, eat eggs. Don't eat fat, yes eat fat. But not trans fats. Eat more omega-3 fats. Eat more antioxidants.

We haven't yet figured out all the things that make the human body function optimally.
posted by just.good.enough at 10:09 AM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Tons of people do this and are incredibly healthy. Instead of every meal being the same every day is the same.

Something like this works:
Morning: Eggs, oats, milk
Lunch: chicken, broccoli, yam
Dinner: Chicken, Broccoli, brown rice
Before bed: cottage cheese, all natural pb

Chicken can be traded out with turkey and beef, etc.

You could do a freeze dried fruit supplement once a day like "superfood."
posted by zephyr_words at 10:17 AM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

a colleague used to eat at his desk, at noon, peanut butter sandwich every day of the week.
Another friend tuna salad daily (sandwich) every day

In passing: Einstein seldom if every wore socks. Some said this was to save time putting on and taking off; others claimed it was an affectation.
posted by Postroad at 10:29 AM on April 23, 2011

The magazine Clean Eating publishes a 2-week menu with a shopping list in each issue. Previouslly published 2-week plans are available online. They seem to make an effort at using a wide variety of seasonal foods. The menus are not vegetarian, but do contain several vegetarian meals over the course of the week. There is daily cooking involved, but they do make use of leftovers, so it's manageable.
posted by apparently at 10:45 AM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Diana Vreeland ate the same lunch everyday for years--she called it a "fighter's lunch".

a glass of Scotch and a peanut-butter-and-marmalade sandwich on whole wheat bread
posted by Ideefixe at 10:49 AM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Owsley essentially ate only steak and eggs for almost 50 years. No veggies or milk. Ultra low carb (fewer than 10 per day). His wikipedia page has some interesting references to his posts on the subject.
posted by okbye at 11:09 AM on April 23, 2011

First of all, most people will agree that the healthiest diet contains fresh, in-season produce so therefore it would be impossible to create a truly unchanging diet. At the calorie level I suppose that one vegetable is easily exchanged for another but in terms of vitamins this would be impossible to standardize. Also, what about the psychological benefits of food? Even something as simple as hot soup on a cold day can be very valuable to health and happiness, but a person's needs and desires constantly change.

Figuring the amount of calories needed to maintain your weight would be easy, but for your other nutritional needs there is simply not enough scientific consensus to know, for sure, what will keep you maximally healthy without pushing you out of compliance. For instance, the typical paleo and vegan diets are so diametrically opposed yet simultaneously allegedly healthy that I would not want to perfectly comply with either diet, lacking 100% confidence in either choice. However there are plenty of people who eat the same thing nearly every day. Many expensive cleanse programs such as Blue Print Cleanse and Organic Avenue propose that you drink a cooler of smoothies throughout the day, each with a different nutritional purpose. Extremely questionable science but highly tempting concept.
posted by acidic at 11:22 AM on April 23, 2011

Search the AskMe archives -- this question is a classic.
posted by salvia at 12:11 PM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Not a specific diet, but I spend about 6 weeks doing what I called the 'no choices' diet. I blogged about it here.

Not that I would recommend something so fast food heavy (or high in sodium) on a long term basis, but in the short term, it really worked for me in terms of making me not think so hard about food and not make bad choices.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:21 PM on April 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Tim Ferriss' Slow-Carb Diet: "Rule #2 - Eat the same few meals over and over again."
posted by zanni at 1:27 PM on April 23, 2011

As I posted in the referenced question, you can do this on meat - if you consume the organs occasionally, and all the fat. Muscle meat alone does not contain all the nutrients you need, and consuming more than about 30-35% protein is detrimental long-term. Pretty much the only deficient nutrient in this case is Vitamin C, but your requirements for it are lower when not consuming processed foods and grains - so this is a viable diet for the long-term.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 2:29 PM on April 23, 2011

In this episode of radiolab Oliver Sacks talks about eating the same thing every day in order to save his brain for other things. He eats a lot of sardines, if I remember correctly.
posted by Ventre Mou at 4:11 PM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the great answers. I guess the bottom line is that there's no one menu plan that could provide optimal nutrition for everyone, and even if there was, it would be potentially harmful (and definitely boring) to constantly eat the same foods.

greasy_skillet: I'm a programmer and the Hacker's Diet looks like just my thing.
posted by tomwheeler at 5:32 PM on April 23, 2011

I have just finished some masters level nutrition courses AND just started a diet, so here is my take: I am doing no gluten for reasons i wont go deeply into here - there are conflicting theories but overall I have concluded in my studies that grains are NOT our friend. That said I do eat brown rice and brown rice crackers, but honestly that is because I have not yet totally refined and perfected my diet (diet = way of eating).

The things to bear in mind when trying to eat "well" : healthy fats (monounsaturated), proteins, meats only if they are grass fed or organic/free range, fiber, phytonutrients. I eat the same thing every day:

1. sugar free almond milk smoothie: 1 cup almond milk, 2 tablespoons crushed NOT milled flaxseed, 1 cup berries, 1/2 banana, spoonful of cinnamon.


2. one egg and two egg whites with spinach, tomato and onion

and always

3. an apple


1. frozen meal of chicken marsala all natural (dont remember the brand), brown rice and peas, almonds or walnuts on the side, side of broccoli

2. 4 slices non-nitrate cured organic turkey, tomato, avocado, spinach on one or two long brown rice cracker with lots of mustard


a huge salad of mixed greens, spinach, every and any raw veggie, chicken and sensible dressing of choice (for me balsamic vinegar, olive oil, mustard and garlic. On the side I will have a sweet potato, some cooked veggie like cauliflower roasted with garlic or kale, some almonds or walnuts, a square of 85% cacao chocolate. This essentially has more than the daily recommended amount of veggies, provides the body with raw nutrients rich in enzymes, and lots of fiber here. The protein is either chicken or salmon.

This is a work in progress but it incorporates all the veggies I can get my hands on either in that mammoth salad or cooked as a side to lunch or dinner, a monounsaturated fat at every meal in moderation, protein in moderation, (no to) little grains (brown rice), lots of fiber both soluble and non soluble. Fruits are minimal because I am on a no sugar plan, the apple is worth the sugar as it is extremely valuable nutrient and fiber-wise and berries are low in sugar, otherwise I dont eat other fruits on the whole and no other forms on sugar which is toxic to the body. I cook only with coconut oil and garnish everything with olive oil. I include all kinds of spices including rosemary, turmeric, chili powder and so on. I add salt to nothing. My beverages are only water, water with lemon first thing upon waking, and water with stevia, lemon and ice. Oh and teas of course! I like eating the same thing everyday because I am learning to eat for life not live for eating - eating is for sustenance, that is not to say it is not enjoyable or that I will never have pizza again because I will, BUT the bulk of my eating is done to nourish my body which prevents disease and fatigue. Eating the same thing is easy, stress free, and comfortable.
posted by cerebral at 7:01 PM on April 23, 2011 [7 favorites]

This question again? I guess it's hard to search for, but it really gets asked a lot.

posted by AmbroseChapel at 1:29 AM on April 24, 2011

« Older The Cockroach of the Internet   |   Possible Masonic symbol? Something else entirely? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.