Well, it’s Thursday, which means I’m on Day 4 of the 7-Day Clean Eating Challenge I’ve been taking part in this week. It’s kind of hard to believe it’s already day 4! This week has been flying!! I thought I’d give an update on how it’s been going.
As I’ve mentioned many times in recent weeks, I had already given up sugar & artificial sweeteners for Lent. To some, they might think, “Hey, that’s enough, why add more of a ‘challenge’ when that one is already tough?!”
I chose to look at it this way: “I’m already cutting out sugar & artificial sweeteners, why not go the extra mile and try this ‘clean eating’ thing on for size?” I’ve been gradually improving my eating habits over the past 15 months, but this is one extreme I had yet to attempt. I was up for the challenge!
The “rules” of eating clean seem to depend on which website or article you’re reading, but basically the idea is to consume only what Mother Nature provides. Whole foods. Fruits and veggies, whole grains, grass-fed and free-range meats, low fat dairy products, unsalted nuts and seeds, and tons of water. Avoid anything man-made, processed, refined, or pre-packaged. Choose items that have as few ingredients as possible on the label – with only words that you can pronounce – or better yet, foods that have no label at all because they are in complete natural form. No sugar, no table salt.
I thought I was already eating pretty “clean”, but when I started examining labels of foods I consumed on a regular basis (“healthy” pita crackers with my soup, the broth I use in my soups, seasonings I used on meat and vegetables, pasta, salad dressings, baking ingredients, etc), I was still not even close. This week, and the preparation leading up to it, has been more of an eye-opener for me than I expected.
When I made the decision to take part in this Clean Eating Challenge, it seemed very doable. I mean, it’s only 7 days, anyone can do anything if it’s only for 7 days, and I was hoping I’d pick up some new information and habits during the week. Another big plus was the fact that when I looked at my calendar for that week, there were no big dinners out planned or birthday celebrations to throw a monkey wrench in things. It was a good week to focus on the challenge without being too tempted to stray.
I drafted up a meal plan for the week, and on Friday I shopped for the groceries to fulfill my plan. I then got rid of as much of the stuff in my cupboards as I could that would possibly lead me astray (mainly the crackers and Potato Thins that I had). Then on my Monday off, I prepped. I pre-cooked my salmon and chicken, my brown rice and quinoa, my hard-boiled eggs, I chopped up fruit and veggies, and assembled spinach salad into mason jars.
Here is how my week has looked so far:
Breakfast: 1/2 C. Cottage Cheese with a diced Asian Pear and sprinkle of cinnamon, Coffee with 1 Tbsp. of skim milk
Lunch: Strawberry Shakeology blended with 1 C. unsweetened Almond Milk & ice
Supper: Oven baked salmon filet seasoned with Epicure’s Lemon Dilly, roasted asparagus drizzled with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and sprinkled with sea salt and pepper, 1 C. cooked Quinoa with a drizzle of homemade Epicure Balsamic Vinaigrette, a handful of grape tomatoes; Strawberries & blueberries for dessert.
Snacks: snack-sized PC Blue Menu Finesse yogurt in the AM (not entirely sure if this is clean or not, but I decided to keep them), hard-boiled egg in the PM
Breakfast: soft-boiled egg with 1 slice of dry whole grain homemade toast, coffew with 1 Tbsp. skim milk
Lunch: Tuna Salad (1/2 can of Tuna mixed with 1 Tbsp. of nonfat plain Greek yogurt, green onion, celery, olives) served on a bed of Romaine lettuce leaves with 1 C. of Quinoa, a handful of grape tomatoes & a hard-boiled egg (These were supposed to be lettuce wraps, but ended up eating it as more of a salad. lol)
Supper: Strawberry Shakeology blended with 1 C. unsweetened Almond milk & ice
Snacks: yogurt in the AM, Strawberries & Blueberries in the PM, and a bag of homemade “Trail Mix” (raisins, walnuts, and sliced almonds) at Cheap Tuesday movie night
Breakfast: Oatmeal with a little bit of almond milk and a drizzle of local pure maple syrup, coffee with skim milk
Lunch: 1 1/2 C. of homemade clean Turkey Vegetable Soup, Egg & Tuna salad sandwich (made with 1/2 can of Tuna & an egg, plain nonfat Greek yogurt, celery and onion on homemade whole grain bread), and 2 small Morning On the Go Cookies (recipe here).
Supper: Strawberry Shakeology blended with 1 C. unsweetened Almond milk, a handful of spinach, and ice, Grapes & Strawberries
Snacks: Yogurt in the AM, mandarin orange in the PM
Thursday (so far)
Breakfast: 1 slice of homemade whole grain bread toasted with 1 Tbsp. of Natural Peanut Butter, 1/2 a homemade sugar-free granola bar, coffee with skim milk
AM snack: Yogurt
So… can you spot the times where it’s been a struggle?
Tuesday night at the movies of course was a toughie. Lindsay and I had decided a while back that IF she hadn’t had her baby by this week, we’d make a quick trip to the movies to see Divergent on cheap night, as it might be our last chance to go for a while! Since it was really up in the air as to whether or not we’d be going, I hadn’t given it much thought. But when she told me on Tuesday she was good to go, I instantly knew that buttery popcorn was not an option, and that was a hard sacrifice for me to make. Anyone who knows me knows the movie theatre is my “happy place”, and one of my favourite things about it is the delicious smell of buttery popcorn that literally hits you the moment you step through the doors. I still kind of can’t believe that I went to the movies and DIDN’T get popcorn or a big-ass Diet Coke. I really can’t believe I sat and ate a baggie of homemade trail mix and drank water bottles that I stowed in my purse instead.
I’m all for clean eating, but I won’t ever be doing that again!
The other big obstacle was that Wednesday was the monthly Soup & Sandwich Lunch at our church, and it is always a big treat for me. I knew it landed on Challenge Week, so originally, I just thought I’d skip it. However, my mom was making Turkey Vegetable Soup for the lunch, and after listing what she puts in it (her own homemade turkey stock, turkey, vegetables, brown rice, no salt added) – I realized I could eat it and stay within my guidelines for the week. After finding a recipe for “clean” whole grain bread, my mom made a loaf of that for me for the week as well, and then made a tuna-egg filling that I could eat with it in a sandwich. (spoiled rotten. yes, I know. My mom is the best.)
The really difficult part was the dessert. This month, the desserts were cakes – chocolate-caramel poke cake, carrot cake with cream cheese icing, strawberry short cake, fresh apple cake with caramel sauce… ugh!!! SOOOOO delicious. My mother, God love her, had made me those sugar-free clean cookies, and I really liked them, but they were not cake. Not even close.
Not gonna lie It was rough. Sitting there, watching everyone with their giant pieces of cake. While I nibbled and tried to savour my hippie cookies.
But I survived. I lived to tell the tale. And I’m kind of proud of myself for that.
The rest looks like it should be clear-sailing. Not that the weekend will be easy, as that’s usually when I let up a bit on my healthy eating ways, and tend to treat myself (probably more than I should). My mom and I often go to a restaurant for dinner on Fridays, and my family usually all goes out for brunch after church on Sundays. I also hear the local chipstand might be opening this weekend, and I never miss opening weekend of the chipstand! On top of that, there’s a big hockey tournament going on in the neighbouring town this weekend, and I usually try to get up there for a few games and to visit with friends – and anyone who has been to the arena knows allllll about the delicious smelling French fries up there!
I’m also taking the opportunity of my last Friday off to make a big batch of spaghetti sauce for the freezer, and it will be weird not to be able to taste-test it! (The hamburger I bought for it is most certainly not grass-fed beef. lol)
So the final few days won’t be without temptation, that’s for sure. But if I stick to the meal plan, and make sure that I am at home for scheduled meal and snack times, I should be OK.
It’s all about willpower and determination, and I’m really confident I can complete this week without any major slip-ups!!
The Facebook group that has been doing the challenge along with me has been great. People have been sharing recipes, asking lots of questions, commiserating over things we’ve had to give up or go without, posting about our “victories” – so it’s been lots of fun interacting and seeing how everyone else has been doing with it, too.
I’m not planning on completely falling off the wagon once this week is over, either. I’m hoping to instill some of these new healthy-eating practices into my daily routines.
To be honest, I’m more looking forward to Lent being over so that I can have dessert once in a while again! I’ve literally been daydreaming about Easter eggs… mmmm!! Can’t wait!
But there’s still a few weeks to go before that. Until then… I’ll be hangin’ tough! :)