This week I switched to a completely clean, low-calorie, well-balanced “Green and White” diet. I planned my meals for 6 days at a time, made a huge grocery list and spent about $160 on produce from Trader Jo’s which should last about two weeks. It entails of exactly what it sounds like, lean white proteins like eggs, chicken breast, cod, tilapia, swordfish, tuna, turkey breast, tofu and loads of green veggies like beans, celery, broccoli, spinach, arugula, peppers, kale, and other leafy greens. In addition, I was able to enjoy high fiber “fat burning” fruits early in the day like watermelon, pineapple, grapefruit, apple, and antioxidant packed berries with a side of low fat dairy like cottage cheese, string cheese and plain greek yogurt for my mid-morning snack. The mid-afternoon snack consisted of things like walnuts, almonds, veggie sticks with hummus or natural almond/peanut butter or kale chips. Breakfasts were eggs of all kinds, boiled, poached, scrambled and omelette form with veggies (three egg whites usually) topped with low fat cheese plus a side of high fiber whole wheat english muffin or toast. Hot sauce and salsa was welcome thankfully in all meals and satisfied any salty/spicy cravings I had. Lunches were salads of mixed leafy greens with shrimp, turkey breast and avocado – balsamic vinegar/dijon mustard and olive oil to dress or tuna salad. Dinners were a bit more complex but nothing that required too much time or any unusual ingredient. 4-5 oz of a lean protein mentioned above marinated or spiced with ingredients like pepper, lemon, olive oil, mustard, sea salt, pesto as well as lots of herbs served with a heaping side of veggies (steamed, stir fried or roasted) sometimes accompanied by a small side of brown rice.
To prep for the week, I made sure to cut up my veggies into sticks for easy dipping the Sunday before. I also separated 4-5 oz of protein into a ziplock bag with the marinade for easy cooking. I just popped the contents of the ziplock bag every evening into a skillet with a bit of olive oil and voila! Quick and simple. I also made the dishes that keep well in the fridge like tuna salad, fresh salsa, a pot of brown rice or roasted mushrooms and broccoli along with the kale chips on Sunday so I could easily throw things together for each meal. Each night, I packed a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack as well as a lunch and took it to work, making sure to follow a timed schedule. This is the key to this diet working – making sure you are eating five small meals every few hours. I had breakfast around 9am, a mid morning snack at noon, lunch at 3pm, mid-afternoon snack at 5:30pm when I got home to energize me for a quick low-impact workout (for example 35 minutes of a dance video, brisk walking, kickball , light weights, squats, cycling, abs/planking or even yoga postures) followed by dinner at 8pm. I won’t lie, after the workout, you are VERY ready to scarf down dinner. I would immediately cook whatever was planned for that evening, throw together an accompanying salad, plop on a scoop of brown rice and devour everything on my plate. Throughout the day, I drank about three 20 oz glasses of iced water with lemon plus a huge cup of chamomile and vanilla tea every night to keep me away from those late night snacks I had grown used to. Worst case, if I felt I needed to munch on something salty I had more kale chips, or a spoon of peanut butter for something sweet. Both of these satisfy anything you could be craving if you just drink water along with it and promise to wait 20 minutes before getting up to grab something more substantial.
As far as progress and results go – I have to say I feel amazing. The week started with me feeling pretty tired after work, and fairly hungry the first two days. I realized it was more so me breaking bad habits rather than being hungry. I didn’t really know what to do instead of grabbing my afternoon coffee, or munching on chips while watching my favorite shows in the evenings…I felt like I didn’t know what to do with my hands!
But very quickly I realized there were associations I had made over time that needed to be changed rather than the simple fact that I was actually hungry and my body needed something vs. wanted something. While watching Parenthood or Scandal on Thursdays, I usually had a glass of red wine in hand (in honor of all the drama in Liv’s life of course). While watching sports, I grabbed a beer to root for my Longhorns, Cowboys or Rangers. After a hard week I wanted to make myself feel better with a comfort meal – pasta, take out Indian food or Mac and Cheese. After a hangover its always Thai or Chinese and when I am feeling proud of being a Texan, its Whataburger or a steakhouse. I am not objecting to these foods, nor am I saying don’t have a glass of wine or a beer, but it should stem from desire, we should all indulge or we wouldn’t stay sane! But I want to get to a point to really enjoy and savor that glass of wine and make a conscious decision rather than just have a beer out of habit. And when I do crave something specific, to make an effort to order something delicious but also nutritious. Having a whataburger junior meal instead of a regular – ordering soup and a spicy thai beef salad instead of a fatty coconut curry and white rice…these are changes that will cut down more calories than you can imagine but with all the flavor.
Five days later I felt lighter, energized, and motivated to keep going! I lost 3 pounds but more than anything its the way I feel in my own body – slimmer around my waist, less lethargic and feeling as if I no longer want some of those processed foods I used to crave. While I did spend the St. Patty’s day weekend indulging in far more beverages and foods I would have normally wanted, I think a cheat day is essential to longevity in any meal plan. It allows us to transition at our own pace and achieve balance as well as maintain a social life. At some point I hope to reach a place where even my cheat days are processed food free!
**One thing I would like to note is to compensate for any vigorous activity during this program with more calories and hydration. On day three of my diet, I spent an hour in a hot yoga studio sweating continuously. The following day I had a dull headache which turned into a major headache soon after. If you know you will be burning closer to 500 calories in a workout session, eat more nutritious food! Grab a coconut water which has amazing hydration properties, vitamins and minerals like potassium, and natural sugars to add some extra calories to address those concerns.
Overall, I am very happy to have learned, most importantly, a schedule and plan of action for daily food intake. Sticking with the motto of “Clean, Green and White” provides me with a guideline of many options for filling my body with nutritious, healthy and satisfying foods without any major sacrifice. Its amazing how a few days can retrain your mind, body and taste buds – I would highly recommend it for anyone looking for a long term change towards health. On to the second week!