Let’s start with FOOD
Don’t eat: processed food.
To simplify, a processed food is any food that’s no longer in it’s natural state–think boxed cake mixes, frozen meals, boxed meals, fast food, lunch meat, granola bars, most condiments, cereal, white rice, white flour, refined sugar, juice, tortillas, chips, crackers, etc.
Do eat: fresh vegetables and fruits
There are no good or bad fruits or vegetables in this challenge; if you like to eat it, and if it grew from the ground–go for it. Canned vegetables, canned fruits (in own juice), plain tomato sauce, beans, tuna, and other whole canned foods are all okay, IF…..they are reduced salt or no salt. Use your common sense–if you think a food could be an overly processed food, then it probably is. Check the ingredient list if you see ingredients you can’t pronounce or know what it is don’t eat it. Don’t be afraid to branch out and try new foods this month!
Don’t eat: processed meat
Lunch meat, bacon, sausage, and hot dogs are all filled with unhealthy preservatives like nitrates and refined salt, even if they say “all natural” they still probably have a concentrated/processed celery juice as a “natural” preservative, which is also high in nitrites and nitrates.
Do eat: fresh meat and plant-based proteins.
Go fresh and eat lean turkey, chicken, beef, eggs, salmon, tuna, tilapia, and shrimp for your protein. Eat more vegetarian protein sources like lentils, beans, or quinoa.
- Roast your own turkey or chicken for your lunch instead of lunch meat–cheaper and healthier.
- Hard-boil 1/2 dozen eggs for an easy breakfast protein, or pair one egg with a piece of fruit for an afternoon or post-workout snack.
- Cook 2-3 lbs of chicken at once in the crockpot, and then portion the chicken into 3-4 oz servings for you lunch, or quick protein for dinner. Nobody wants to clean raw meat off a cutting board every night.
- Not a huge fan of fish? Try a mild fish like tilapia, or grill fresh salmon, which is significantly less fishy tasting than the canned version.
- Skip the meat all together for a few meals a week and use a vegetarian protein option like lentils, beans, or brown rice in a stir-fry with lots of veggies.
Don’t eat: added sugar–real or fake.
If what you’re eating doesn’t look like a piece of fresh or dried fruit yet still tastes sweet, then you’re probably eating added sugar. For this challenge raw honey and maple syrup are ok in very small amounts. I normally use small amounts of raw honey or maple syrup and this will be allowed if they are not processed. Small amounts only! No molasses, coconut sugar, brown rice syrup, agave, evaporated cane juice, Sugar in the Raw, stevia, splenda or artificial sweeteners. YOU CAN DO IT!!!! Wondering about your morning coffee? Trust me, if you need that morning coffee, you’ll drink it without sugar. If you’re looking for an alternative sugar source for your workouts, then dried no sugar added fruit is a great real food alternative to energy gels and chews.
Instead of sugar ….Do eat: fruit.
The point of forgoing added sugars is to readjust your taste buds to what sweet really is–fruit. Fruit is sweet, and cookies are incredibly sweet; you’ll have a new appreciation for what sweet really is at the end of the 30 days. You will begin to crave a fruit salad or a certain type of fruit and will find it is quite sweet. I love my fruit and enjoy the different seasons. I look forward to summer for melons and the berries and in the fall for all the different varieties of apples. Although you can typically get fruit all year around it is much better when in season.
- Blend fruit in a smoothie with unsweetned almond milk for breakfast.
- Pick your favorite fruit to eat as your after dinner “dessert.”
- Have a small piece of fruit, like a plum or a few strawberries with some nuts for a snack.
- Freeze peeled bananas, then blend with 1 tablespoon no sugar added peanut butter or almond butter for a healthy dairy-free banana ice cream.
Don’t eat these dairy products:
whole milk, 2 % milk, cream, half and half, evaporated milk, ice cream, butter, margarine or sugar laden yogurts. If you are unsure if a food has dairy in it, it probably means it’s a processed food anyway–problem solved.
Do eat: unsweetened milk alternatives and yogurt if <5gms-10 gms of sugar
I’m making an exception for unsweetened non-dairy milk alternatives like soy, almond, flax, oat, or coconut milk. They do have more than 1-2 ingredients because of the added vitamins and some have thickeners, but there needs to be a healthy dairy alternative for my morning smoothies, coffee, or in your oatmeal (my challenge, my rules)!
Don’t eat the highly processed breads, cereals, pasta, crackers and chips:
On this challenge we are ditching the highly processed breads, cereals, pasta, crackers and chips. We will be stressing grains in its natural form.
Do eat: other grains & legumes
Not only are they packed full of nutrients, but they provide protein and fiber to keep you feeling full and a cost effective way of adding protein. They lower your blood sugar and cholesterol as an added bonus. Many folks have never tasted some of these grains let alone know how to prepare them. We will help you!
- There are so many great grain options out there: Wheat berries, barley, buckwheat, Bulger, farro, millet, oats, quinoa, brown rice, amaranth, sorghum, triticale, just to name a few. Stick to ¼ -1/2 cup cooked brown rice or other grains for most meals (I stick to no more than 1/2 cup per meal). You don’t want to fill up on only grains–focus more on vegetables.
- Ditch the bread at lunch and branch out with a fun salad, or have chicken or tuna salad in 1/2 a pepper or on cucumber or zucchini slices.
- Make a large batch of brown rice or quinoa and take 1/2 cup of the cooked grain with a lean protein and veggies for lunch.
- Use spaghetti squash instead of traditional whole wheat pasta. Spaghetti squash naturally shreds into a convenient noodle shape.
- Eat a small handful of nuts instead of chips with your lunch. Yes, nuts are higher in calories, but you’ll eat less later in the day, because healthy fats keep you full longer than carb-filled chips or crackers.
- You may eat Whole wheat Tortillas or whole wheat wraps. These are a great alternative to breads and less calories.
Don’t drink too much alcohol
Wine and beer do have health benefits in the appropriate portions, but they also are easy to overdo and can affect your sleep and sports performance when overdone. If you drink too much it also makes you hungry and adds way too many calories. So for 30 days, we will be limiting your wine, beer and alcoholic drinks to 1/day. It is advised if one does not drink – don’t’ start.
Do drink: water
And lots of it. The current recommendation is at least 8-10 glasses/day. This seems to be a tough one for folks. We will be discussing the many benefits of water and lots of it! Some ways to add flavor without all the added calories;
- Add slices of orange, lemon, lime, strawberries, or cucumber to flavor your water naturally.
Do Drink coffee and tea
Many studies have shown the benefits of drinking 1-2 cups of coffee or 1-2 glasses a day of tea. Anymore than that can raise your blood pressure and sometimes increase your hunger. So with this challenge keep to two cups of coffee and 1-2 glasses of tea/day. You will find you will sleep better if you limit your caffeine and its advised to cut out caffeine in the early afternoon. I am sensitive to caffeine and find that if I drink it for supper, I can’t sleep at night.
Your health is more than just the food you eat. Getting in a good sweat session is what tones your body and builds endurance. Have you been slacking with exercise? Whatever your reason for not getting in at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week change it this month. One should also be lifting weights or resistance bands at least 15-20 minutes 3x/week.
My personal goal is to lift weights and/or resistance bands three days a week for at least 20 minutes, and something aerobically 30 minutes most days of the week. It’s specific and not beyond my reach. Give yourself a fitness challenge. It should be something doable, yet empowering. I guarantee you can do anything if you make the time for it.
Concentrate on the above goals and the weight will melt off. It is a good idea to weigh maybe a couple of times a week and at least once a week to monitor weight loss and or weight gain. Weigh on the same scale at the same time to be consistent. I weigh first thing in the morning after my first cup of coffee.
- Will it be hard to eat right and exercise for 30 days?
- Most definitely.
- Can you do it?
- Without a doubt