I was ecstatic when I heard about this 3 week clean eating challenge and couldn’t wait to accept. I had just gotten out of a terrible month of midterms, which meant very little sleep, lots of caffeine and a decent amount of stress eating. I’m generally a very healthy eater, so I knew I wouldn’t have to go completely out of my way to take on a clean eating lifestyle for nearly a month, but I do often indulge in fried or high sodium snacks when I have to study past 10. That had to go, and I must admit; letting go of those little treats were the hardest part of the challenge.
Breakfast gets a makeover
The main change I made in my daily meals was replacing most processed food with either handmade or more natural option. Instead of buying juice every week, I’d drink smoothies every day. They allow you to get about half of your fruit and veggie daily intake in one sitting AND to cut down on sugar. Pretty great, right? Plus, they fill you up much more than a glass of juice (and taste delicious).
Most of my breakfasts consisted of a banana and berry smoothie with a small piece of toast coated in almond butter. Another great breakfast I enjoyed on days I knew I’d need lots of energy to get through was avocado toast. You’ve all seen the Instagram pictures…foodies are obsessed with this delicious, quick meal for a reason. It’s high in the right type of fats, super yummy and, when topped with salt, pepper and tomato, it provides the perfect breakfast option for people who don’t have a strong sweet tooth.
Easy breezy lunch
For entrees, I liked to get a little more carbohydrates in, as I often work out in the evening and need the calories. Of course, I always go with whole grain! I also substituted store-bought sauce for a homemade lentil-based one. A drizzle of olive oil and some fresh herbs can also be a quick and easy way to flavor your pasta if you’re in a rush. I also liked adding some steamed veggies to my bowl for an extra boost of vitamins.
On days I couldn’t access my school’s microwaves (such as lab days where I’m confined for 8 hours), I’d pack myself a wrap. I substituted mayonnaise for tofu spread and filled the wrap with spinach, crunchy vegetables and just a little hot sauce for a kick. I’m a vegetarian, so I kept it meatless, but a little lean meat in there could be cool too (just as long as you get your vegetables and cut down on rich condiments).
Move over Chipotle
Finally, I made sure to have bigger dinners that would provide my protein and fiber fill. I tried to lower my carb intake here too and also tried respecting the recommended plate proportions: half veggies, a quarter meat (or protein-rich food) and a quarter whole grains. I found one of my favorite meals to make was a vegetarian taco bowl (link here). You heard me, TACO BOWL – it’s like Chipotle, but love-handle friendly.
Water = the key to healthiness
Other than food, the most important aspect of clean eating is the drinking. No, not the alcohol type, which should be avoided as much as possible (although I DID cave in one night and downed an entire 35oz bottle of wine. 100% WOULD NOT RECOMMEND). Water is your best friend! I already stated in my previous article that water is essential to nice skin, and guess what, it’s also essential to your body as a whole. I’d say I drank about 8 glasses of water a day, even more if I had to walk around campus a lot that day.
As for the actual results of this little experiment (which were supposed to be the main subject of this article, but I’m a rambler), I noticed I dropped a lot of weight after the first week. This was mostly water weight, as my last month of cheap food and dehydration had made me bloated as hell. It felt nice to see that my “natural” state was actually a lot slimmer than I thought. During the next two week, I didn’t really lose weight. I do a lot of heavyweight training at the gym, so I work on gaining muscle mass. However, I noticed more definition in my legs and butt (hooray!). I also, of course, felt much “cleaner” and more comfortable in my body. I didn’t have as many stomach burns (which I really have a problem with), got less headaches and generally felt a little more alive.
My final thoughts
I could finish off by telling you about my healthy poops, but that’d be TMI. So I’ll end this by recommending a little clean eating challenge to everybody out there who is looking to get back on track (after Christmas overeating, for example). It’s important to not let yourself be obsessed with your eating, though. Indulging once in a while won’t hurt and WILL help maintain your sanity! Now go eat some veggies and a cupcake!