Clean Eating: Meal Systems

Three weeks into January, and here’s what I’ve learned so far: some diet adjustments have been much easier than others, and the hard ones were not necessarily the ones that I thought they’d be. Not only that, but I’m not really cut out for 30 days straight of treating food like a colouring book where I have to stay within the lines and not make any mistakes or else DEATH BLOOD DOOM.

My expectation was that the most difficult cravings to overcome would be my morning coffee and sweets. Surprisingly, the coffee was the easiest adjustment. I eliminated it for the month because I load it with cream and sugar, and I’d sooner avoid it entirely than drink it without cream (I find that milk doesn’t cut the bitterness to a degree where I can enjoy the taste). I switched to tea with honey and a little 1% milk, and it turns out I care more about the ritual of a hot morning beverage than the flavour. So that was easy and I will probably stick to this change on a permanent basis, having coffee only occasionally. I have cheated on sweets and consumed some most days, but most of the time I’ve had just a small handful of chocolate chips as a post-dinner snack and that’s been plenty to satisfy the craving. I expected to crave sweets all day, every day! I’ve easily avoided cheese without particularly missing it as well.

What has been impossible to stick to was the rule about no grains until dinner. This was a lack of foresight on my part because I always eat leftovers for lunch at work. So if I had grains with my dinner? I’m having it for lunch too! I’ve just made peace with this for budgetary reasons. I’m not going to make separate lunch items, it’s too expensive to add extra meals to my weekly grocery list. I’ve also been craving non-sweet plain white carbs like nobody’s business. Last week I would have probably kicked a helpless puppy for a big ol’ plate of pasta. So I had one. Hey, it was to save the puppies!

But after allowing myself some small cheats like this, I’ve been happy to get back on the bandwagon. I’ve been able to create some systems around eating clean that have made it much easier for me because they’ve eliminated some tedious food planning. Here’s what has worked for me:

Breakfast: I eat the same thing every day. No sweets or grains, so that left veggies, eggs and meat. I make a veggie scramble every morning with 1 entire egg + 1 egg white, mushroom, zucchini, and bell pepper, with salsa on the side. Some days I’ll add in some ham or turkey. Lately I’ve been cooking up a couple of breakfast sausages on the side. I have this with one mug of black tea. If I really need a break from eggs every day, I’ll make a green smoothie.

Snacks: I have a list of go-to snacks and I pick two each time I go grocery shopping. Those will be my snacks for the week. Here’s the list I pick from:

  • Veggies and hummus or baba ghanoush
  • Banana
  • Ants on a log (remember these from when you were a kid?!): celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins
  • Apple slices dipped in nut butter
  • Rice crackers with antipasto (this breaks my rule with carbs for a snack so I haven’t actually gone for this one yet, but I think it’s ok after the month is up as a healthy snack)
  • Trail mix with nuts, seeds & dried fruit

Dinners/Lunches: As I mentioned, I make extra dinner when I cook and use the leftovers for lunches at work. I’ve created a Detox Pinterest board with lots of delicious and healthy meal ideas, and I pick 3 recipes to make each week, which tends to be enough to feed me for the entire week with leftovers and usually a meal or two at my parents’ or cooked by my roommate. I try to pick one meal each week that’s a soup and one that’s more… solid… for lack of a better term?! I also stock the fridge with salad fixings, veggies and roast chicken so I can throw together a quick salad or roast a veggie and serve with chicken if I don’t have time to cook. On the weekends I’ll use the chicken carcass to make homemade chicken stock, and then use that as a base for the soup the following week.

A few meals I’ve made recently that have been fabulous:

Spicy kale & sweet potato “stew”
Asian chicken lettuce wraps
Chicken and veggie coconut curry
Mushroom & barley detox soup
Lean beef chili loaded with veggies, served with avocado
Turkey meatballs in spicy tomato sauce over spaghetti squash
And I can’t wait to make this lentil soup with sausage, chard & garlic that Smitten Kitchen posted today!

What do you guys do to stay on track with a balanced diet and curb cravings? Got any new snack or dinner ideas for me?

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3 thoughts on “Clean Eating: Meal Systems

  1. nellie

    I have found that a good pharmaceutical grade vitamin has helped cut the cravings..
    Also, the biggest thing to control cravings has been staying away from the white sugar and white flour. I will use coconut sugar,honey or syrup in place of that other stuff!
    I also love my RAW protein for making delicious and healthy shakes in my vitamix. I keep dark (70% cocoa) good quality chocolate on hand, I will eat a square when needed.
    I love sweet potatoes fries with spicy lentils on top.
    Lentil and veggie soup is great quick go to and freezes well.
    Also, for breakfast I make protein pancakes. I use 1 c of sprouted whole wheat,1/2 c of Greek yogurt, 1 c of almond powder, baking powder and baking soda. I also add frozen blueberries and lots of cinnamon.

    Reply

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