(photo by Glen Carrie via Unsplash)
I’ve been promising to post about my diet for a while now, and I finally bothered to sit down and write up a meal plan! I’m in the middle of a 24-day cleanse challenge with a girlfriend and so far I’ve had great results.
A lot of people hear the word “cleanse” and automatically think of green juices, liquid diets, taking lots of pills and laxatives, etc. This isn’t any of those. It’s based around healthy, whole foods, lots of water, and a lack of the junk we typically inhale. You can take whatever vitamin supplements you wish. If you like replacing the occasional meal with a protein smoothie you can. But at the core, it’s just healthy, simple foods–lots of lean protein and vegetables–and no processed food. Simple!
On the cleanse you cut out:
- Coffee, soda, alcohol, and any other sugary drinks (like juice or sugared tea)
- Processed food (chips, packaged foods or “fast food”)
- Fried food and any fatty add-ons like creamy dips and dressings
- White sugar (basically anything with added sugar)
- White flour (bread, pasta, etc.)
- Most dairy
- Red meat
Instead you eat:
- Lean protein (tofu is perfect for me–my friend is eating lean chicken and Greek yogurt but obviously I don’t eat those)
- Complex carbs (sweet potatoes, quinoa, etc.)
- Healthy fats such as nuts, beans, hummus, etc.
You also drink a lot of water. As a general rule you take your body weight, divide that number in half, and drink that many ounces of water per day. So if you weigh 150 pounds, you’ll drink 75 ounces of water each day.
Each day you have three meals based around a lean protein (like tempeh), a vegetable (or fruit for breakfast), and a complex carb (like sweet potatoes or quinoa). You also get three small snacks (of 200 calories or less) and endless cups of unsweetened tea and water. Here’s a sample meal plan from a recent workday:
- 30 minutes before breakfast: green tea with lemon, no sugar
- Breakfast: oatmeal* with a banana and a dab of peanut butter
- Mid-morning snack: carrots and hummus
- Lunch: veggie stirfry with tempeh; berries for dessert; more tea
- Snack: apple
- Dinner: large spinach salad with quinoa (for protein–could also use chickpeas or tempeh) and diced veggies; fruit for dessert
- Snack: glass of warm almond milk
*I mix oatmeal with flax, wheat germ and chia seeds and shake it up in a large container so it’s premixed and ready to cook in the microwave. It’s tastier than plain oatmeal and gives you a nice health boost.
Obviously I’m eating a lot, but amazingly enough, I’ve lost ten pounds in the past ten days. I can’t say it’s because I’ve upped my activity level, either, because I’m being as lazy as ever (hey, there are books to be read!). Since starting this diet I have so much more energy and I feel so much better. I thought I would miss donuts, noodles and tons of coffee with tasty sugary creamer in it, but I don’t.
By contrast earlier this year when I got in a rut and was not eating healthy at all, a typical day might include…
- Three or four cups of coffee with flavored creamer
- Fritos and an apple (at least I tried to be a little healthy) for a snack
- Teriyaki noodles for lunch; more coffee or an energy drink; some kind of dessert
- A donut or other “pick-me-up” for a snack
- Pasta, French Toast, mac n cheese, or some other similar comfort food for dinner
Very little in the way of vegetables and fruits, not enough lean protein, and way too many carbs and processed foods. It’s no wonder I was sluggish and cranky. The weekends were even worse, with fried foods, soda and extra desserts thrown into the mix. I was still eating vegan, I just wasn’t being a very health-conscious vegan.
A big part of this diet has been learning to swap out my less-healthy old favorites for better options. Once a week I’ll still treat myself to my old favorite, pasta, but instead of a big bowl of white pasta with garlic bread on the side I have a small bowl of whole-wheat pasta with an extra-chunky veggie sauce and a salad instead of bread. I’m drinking tea instead of coffee. I spread a little peanut butter on a banana instead of eating a plate of toast.
How much I eat also depends on the day. If I have a busy workday and feel I need to up my protein intake, but don’t have time for food prep, I’ll mix up a vegan protein shake. If I’m at home all day and I’m not that hungry, I’ll sip lots of tea and graze on fruits and veggies instead of forcing myself to eat a big meal. I listen to my body and eat more or less according to what it’s telling me.
Another key has been learning to “arc” my meals according to the rhythm of the day. I used to eat very little until I got home from work, when I would load up on pasta, French Toast or other “comfort foods”. Now I try to get most of my carbs in the first half of the day, when I really need to power up my energy (and admittedly, my mood). I also aim to start the day with a boost of protein and a little fat, since these help with energy and tamping down hunger. As I shift into the second half of the day, I’ll shift to lighter snacks/meals based around fruits and veggies. By the end of the day I’m not really hungry or if I do need a little something, I can have a tiny snack and be happy.
So that’s it! Simple, really. I still crave potato chips, bread, desserts and lattes now and then, but the longer I stick to my protein/veggie/complex carb system of filling out my plate, the easier it gets.
Any questions? Anything I didn’t cover?