I've gotten meal planning down. I have a system. I have no fear of food anymore! I have no fear about gaining weight ever again.
This is big for me because in March of 2016, I was very scared I was going to gain weight. Ya see, I had been following Whole30 for most of 2015, and I did my final Whole30 in February 2016. Yeah, I broke up with Whole30! I was scared to tell anyone that I wasn't doing paleo anymore because I was unsure if eating rice or eating bread would cause me to gain weight again. That's why I waited until the whole month of March was done before I told anyone. I was scared that I would go out of control and eat everything. I was scared that I was going to gain all the weight back.
Whole30 is an elimination diet where you eat only things that are meat, veggies, and fat. You do it for 30 days straight, and you are supposed to be PERFECT. Like if you mess up and have something off plan, you are supposed to start over on day 1 again.
You don't have dairy. You don't have grains. You don't have sugar. You don't have anything processed. You don't have dessert. You don't even have anything that is a paleo version of anything. Example: Want to make a paleo pancake? Can't do it. A paleo banana ice cream? Not allowed.
It's very strict. And for a reason. It's supposed to teach you about your addiction to processed food, sugar, and desserts. It's supposed to teach you how to eat without snacking all day. It's supposed to teach you what effects food has on your body.
I learned a lot from it!
I learned that I love sugar. I learned that dairy makes me skin break out. I learned that I don't really need to be snacking and grazing all day.
But here's the thing: Whole30 is supposed to be for 30 days. It's supposed to be a way to learn about food and then learn how to incorporate what you learned into your life.
I messed up. I got caught in the social media hysteria. I signed on for Whole365s. I made myself feel guilty for wanting chocolate or wanting pizza. I made myself feel guilty for wanting a breakfast chocolate shake or pancakes instead of making frittatas all the time. I made myself feel guilty for eating things that weren't Whole30 approved.
I did it to myself over and over because I didn't trust myself, I didn't love myself, and I thought I had to keep punishing myself because there was something wrong with me. That if I kept doing Whole30, I would eventually get skinny. And being skinny was my only goal.
I've learned that I have the tendency to do the all our nothing mindset because I don't trust that I am capable of doing something unless I do it perfectly.
I've also learned, through lots of practice, trial, and error that that's bullshit. I have done a million things imperfectly, but because I have done them and done them with love for myself, I get them accomplished.
So last March, I decided I was done with Whole30. I was done with cleanses. I was done with fad diets. I was just going to learn how to eat in a way that felt good for me. I've done enough diets, read enough books, and watched enough documentaries on food to know what I should and shouldn't be putting in my body. And I still continue to learn and modify what I eat.
I wanted something for me.
What was important to me:
1. I needed food that made me feel good. Like my body needs to feel energized and happy and not heavy and lethargic. My overall goal in life is to be happy, healthy, and strong, so I needed to match my actions with that goal. Whole30 IS right in that It DOES start with food. When I eat highly processed food or snack all day, my body feels like crap. I need food in me that is as close to its natural state as possible... And also...
2. I needed food that made me feel happy! Here's where Whole30 needed to be Whole30 one time and not Whole30 x 5 or Whole365. When I followed Whole30, I didn't get to eat food that made me happy. I didn't get to eat pizza. I didn't get to eat chocolate. I didn't get to have freaking corn tortillas or beans. Whole30 is a diet. It is. It is an elimination diet to see foods effects on your body. Eating pizza every now and then is okay for me.
3. I needed food that was quick and easy to prepare. And if we weren't spending $200 a week, please sign me up. I got really tired of making frittatas. I got really tired of spending my Sundays prepping meals for 4 hours. I got sick of spending so much money on meat and on fat. Avocados and coconut oil aren't cheap when you're having them at every meal. MEAT IS NOT CHEAP WHEN YOU'RE HAVING IT AT EVERY MEAL. I needed a system that was easier. I couldn't afford the time and money I was spending.
4. I needed food that wasn't a diet. I didn't want to do something for 21 day or 30 days and then eat a giant pizza, jelly beans, cookies, cake, booze, feel guilt, and start over. I needed a way of life. I learned SOOO much from being perfect for 21 days. I learned soooo much from being perfect for 30 days. I wanted to be imperfect and good enough. I know that sounds weird and like maybe I am not trying hard enough.. but in the context of food, who wants to be perfect for the rest of their life? No. I needed a system where I could be good enough, have pizza and chocolate every now and then and not call it a cheat, and just be imperfectly consistent FOR LIFE.
I have been working on this plan for the last 1.5 years, and it's been going well. I make changes to it every so often. It's not a diet. It's a way of life for me. THIS is working for me. EATING FOOD THAT IS GOOD FOR MY BODY MAKES ME FEEL ALIVE!! And it tastes really good! I never feel deprived because I make sure I am eating food. Seriously.
I like this because I spend almost no time on Sunday stressing about what we are going to eat. I spend almost no time searching Pinterest or blogs or recipe books. I keep it super duper simple. I've learned that when I have a million options, I get overwhelmed and don't do anything. When I keep things simple, I am able to create a routine that works for me.
And I am sharing it with you because sharing is caring!
Remember, I am not a doctor. If you have a gluten sensitivity, don't have gluten. If you have an autoimmune disease, then yes, you might need to go strictly paleo or strictly plant-based. Talk to a medical professional.
My meal plan system is based off of the Portion Fix Containers, specifically the vegan plan. You can find that here: Vegan Plan If you do want to eat meat, just think about the red container as your measuring cup for meat!!
7 tips for keeping meal prep super freaking simple
1. Plan out your meals. When can your work schedule allow for breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner? Do you need another snack in your day because you have a long commute or an extra long work day? Plan it out and see what your day actually looks like. Without a plan, you are probably forgetting to eat, starving, and then pounding a bag of potato chips when you get home or grabbing fried chicken from the grocery store because it's there and you have no time. I tend to have the same thing all week for breakfast, a different salad every day for lunch, the same snack all week, and then a different dinner. I keep it simple. Take 10 mins and plan. This time you are investing now will help you ten fold in the future. Download a meal planning template here.
2. Make a grocery list. I know! Crazy. But if you want to prep meals, you need a plan. And if you aren't buying ingredients to help with your plan, how can you eat? Your grocery list should have VEGETABLES on it. No, not fried, breaded, or loaded with cheese vegetables. Fresh vegetables, frozen vegetables with no other ingredients besides the vegetable, or canned vegetables with the only ingredient being salt. If your fridge, freezer, and cabinet have vegetables, then you will be able to eat vegetables through the week. If you don't have vegetables, how can you eat them during the week? Your grocery list should have protein! Keep it simple! Chicken breast, ground turkey or beef, chicken sausage links, eggs, and beans! SUPER DUPER SIMPLE and versatile. Check out this grocery list printable to plan out your shopping trip... and use it to see if you are buying mostly processed foods. Ah, frozen pizzas and cookie dough. I love them too, but they aren't helping our wallets, current health, or long-term health. Def once in a while treats. (Mark those on "extra" on the list.) Sometimes we think that eating healthy is expensive, but really having all of those chips, cookies, and candy is expensive. It adds up daily, and it's hard to stop at just one cookie. We end up spending more time and money at the doctor for those things. Think long-term health! Download a color-coded grocery list here
3. Have a super easy breakfast. Especially if you are someone that is always running out the door! I usually make 1 minute oatmeal and slice a banana on top and eat as I am walking to my car, or I have plant protein powder plus almond milk and water in a shaker cup. I never have time for a blender!! (Things I am working on...not rushing and always being late.) If you eat yogurt, have one that has no added sugar. Add your own fruit if you'd like.
4. Have a salad for lunch. I know, you probably just rolled your eyes at me. Listen, this is a blog post about keeping things simple. If your mind just knows it is always going to have a salad for lunch, it is what it is. Now it's your job to make it a mind-blowing salad. Add variety to that salad! Start with a cup of romaine, mixed greens, or spinach. That is SUPER easy to prep. Add a cup of diced peppers, red onions, tomatoes, sugar snap peas, carrots, cucumbers, or any other vegetables you like. Add some protein like crock pot chicken, taco meat from ground turkey or ground beef, tuna, hard-boiled eggs, veggie patties, or beans! I have been eating a ton of beans because they are super cheap and super quick and easy to make. Add a fruit like diced apple or pear or dried cranberries. Add some carbs like quinoa, beans, or a few crunched up tortilla chips. Add a really yummy salad dressing or just some vinegar and olive oil. In this paragraph, I gave you 2,268 salad combinations. Don't you DARE say you need more variety. If you are eating iceburg lettuce and ranch dressing and calling it a salad, you need to try a little harder. Find ingredients here!
5. Have 20 baby carrots and 1/4 cup of hummus for a snack instead of the protein bar or candy bar hiding in your desk. Have an apple with peanut butter. These are things you can bring to work and not worry about going funky in the work fridge after 2 days. PLANT POWER.
6. Keep dinner simple. Look for a veggie + a protein + a carb, and call it a day.
Examples: 1. Green beans, chicken sausage, rice (extra veggies with the peppers and tomatoes mixed with the rice!)
2. Broccoli, spinach, onions + chicken sausage and chickpeas + pasta (and a little bit of olive oil and parmesan cheese)
3. Giant salad + hard-boiled eggs + pizza on a pita
7. Have dessert. You live once and having a single serving dessert to look forward to helps keep you happy AND on track. No oven or mixing bowl required!!!
stove popped popcorn (put 1tsp of oil is a pot, add popcorn kernels, put that lid on, and pop 'em up!)
1 tbsp of coconut oil
1/2 scoop of vegan protein powder
2 tsp Trader Joe's peanut butter (I picked this one because it has no added sugar, I can read all of the ingredients in the ingredient list, and since oil is separate, it makes the peanut butter easy to drizzle.)
Heat the coconut oil in the microwave for 15 seconds. Mix the protein powder with the oil. It should be a liquid. Drizzle over the popcorn and then drizzle the peanut butter. Eat with a spoon!!
This has become a popular after dinner dessert in our house. (Sorry Jameson! Can't have any!)
That's it. Keep it SIMPLE. I have so much variety even using really simple ingredients. As long as my freezer, fridge, and cabinet have vegetables, beans, lean protein, and some carbs, I can whip together a meal in minutes. As long as I can have a dessert each night, I can hold off my cravings. We tell 5 year olds to not be impatient. We as adults can delay gratification as well!
What about weekends? What about booze? Yeah! We add variety on the weekends, but I still don't buy bags of potato chips. I know that is going to throw me down a rabbit hole still. Booze? I have it sometimes. I might have a beer or vodka soda every now and then, but I don't do the whole "had a bad day, have a giant glass of wine" thing. That has gotten me into trouble many times, so I just told myself over and over that I can't feed my feelings with food or booze. It never ends well. It usually makes matters worse. (If this is something you struggle with, you might want to talk with a counselor! Professional help is amazing.)