Tag Archives: clean january

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?

Clean January

I usually manage to quit eating so much chocolate after Christmas, but as a general rule I’ve never had any serious success at a real diet overhaul as a New Year’s Resolution. I quit making those resolutions years ago. But for some reason, hearing Amy and Holly write about doing Whole 30 in January really put a bug in my brain this year and I decided to do a month of clean eating in January.

The idea behind the Whole 30 plan is a 30-day program is intended to be a “nutritional reset”. Briefly, on the Whole 30 plan, you may not eat any of the following for 30 days:

  • All grains including oats, rice, wheat, barley, millet, buckwheat, and corn. I find this overly restrictive and unhealthy.
  • All legumes including beans, chickpeas, peas, lentils, and peanuts. I also find this overly restrictive and unhealthy.
  • All forms of sugar and sweeteners including honey, maple syrup and agave.
  • All forms of dairy with the exception of clarified butter (ghee)
  • Carrageenan, MSG, or any sulfites.
  • Any alcohol
  • White potatoes

I couldn’t quite get on board with all of this; it primarily seems concerning to eliminate all grains and legumes entirely. As well, I find eliminating all forms of sweetener to be overly restrictive. But the idea was still there to do a 30 day “cleanse” utilizing real, whole foods and so I decided to do a modified Whole 30. What I really want is to eliminate the foods that are actually a problem in my diet for long enough to stop craving them regularly, so that I can then reintroduce them on an occasional basis. So here’s what my plan looks like for the month:

  • No grains until dinner
  • No pasta, white rice, bread or “pastry” type desserts such as donuts, muffins, danishes, cake or pie
  • No white sugar or artificial sweeteners (i.e. Stevia, aspartame, Sweet ‘N Low). Natural sweeteners such as honey & agave are okay in small quantities for tea and salad dressings.
  • No dairy, with the exception of goat cheese, low fat milk, and small amounts of butter.
  • No coffee. One caffeinated tea on work mornings is ok.
  • No alcohol
  • No chocolate
  • Small amounts of oil okay for cooking and salad dressings
  • Lots of lean protein such as fish, poultry and eggs
  • As much fruit & vegetables as my little heart desires
  • Drink mostly water
  • Legumes, nuts, unsweetened dried fruit, and non-caffeinated tea all okay

I started on the first of the month by weighing myself to get a starting point. Here’s an embarrassing picture I never thought I’d post on the internet:

Starting weight. Image source: my own!

Starting weight. Image source: my own!

I’ve been struggling in a major way with my weight for the last two years. A lot of it is related to physical limitations with exercise due to my herniated disc, but a lot of it is also related to my diet. I’ve been hovering between 180-185 lbs for the last two years and have had very real trouble getting and staying under 180 lbs. I am determined to do it this month and never see that number again on the scale.

The biggest food items I struggle to eliminate usually are sweet baked goods, sugar in just about any form, cream in my coffee (heck I even named my blog after this one!), and cheese. Though I do love them, I don’t consume enough healthy complex grains and vegetables. So my personal 30 day clean eating plan directly addresses these specific food issues and will hopefully create some much healthier habits for me.

I’ve stuck to this regime with only 1 real slip-up this week: I made quickie butternut squash pasta the night I’d been planning to make chili, because my roommate had a date over and was watching a movie with him. My clattering of pots & pans while cooking up a storm would have been loud and distracting, and I would have felt like a jerk! So far I am down almost 2 full pounds in only 6 days. I’ve been more conscious of what I put into my body, more connected to my food, and more motivated to move my body. And the weirdest experience: I have had absolutely no trouble eliminating sugar, but I have had a recurring craving for wine, of all things! What the heck?! This is unprecedented! Watch Clean January transform me from having a wicked sweet tooth into a wino instead.