The day before I’m going to start my challenge, I did all my grocery shopping for the week. The meal plan I’m using comes with a grocery list, so it was easy to see what I needed versus what I keep on hand. I spent a ton of time in the Trader Joe’s produce section. They have really good, fresh seasonal produce, and often the organic produce is only a couple of cents more expensive than the regular. The only drawback is because it’s such a small store, the variety is really limited. So I just got my basics there, like onions, celery, carrots, sweet potatoes etc. I went to Savemart for the rest, like acorn squash, turnips, blood oranges, and more specific stuff like that. I was really impressed with the quality and selection, and the prices were just about as low as Trader Joe’s, so I’ll probably shop there a lot more. I did a little pre-challenge prep too, like grilling a batch of chicken to have ready for lunches and soaking beans. After a late night of prep, I felt ready to start the challenge!
Today is Monday, and isn’t that stressful enough? But no. Today, I’m getting trained on a new position at the restaurant I work at. I’m learning to wait tables. It’s a shock, I know, for those who have worked with me in the industry. Me, a die-hard back of house stalwart has moved into the fishbowl. At least for one day a week. So I’m already super stressed out, and am changing the way I eat all in one day. I worked the night shift, so I knew that I’d have to switch around my meals a little bit. Restaurant shifts are great for the eating schedules of the people who eat there, but not so much for the people who work there.
Breakfast was a frittata with sweet potatoes, kale and onions. It was super easy to make, but took about 20 minutes, so definitely not something I would do on a day I was in a hurry. It was really tasty, the sweetness of the potatoes offset the bitterness of the kale really well, and since I was using beaten egg whites in addition to the whole eggs, it didn’t feel dense and heavy. The recipe made two servings so you can have leftovers later in the week. The half I ate plus the orange was plenty to make me feel full, but I don’t really like eating in the morning, so your experience may differ. The one thing that I can already tell is going to be hard is the coffee. I love coffee, but I like it sweet and very white. I didn’t find out that I could have a lil milk or cream in it until after I went shopping, and I didn’t want my almond milk to go to waste so I decided to tough it out. And I usually use Splenda in my drinks, and that is the epitome of what I’m trying to cut out, along with sugar, so I’m stuck with unsweetened coffee.
I got a little hungry about two hours after breakfast, so I ate my pomegranate and almonds. I didn’t think I’d like raw almonds, but I do! They aren’t as strongly nutty as roasted almonds, but they are less bitter, and the skins are tender and don’t get stuck in my teeth as much. Win!
I realize that I’m going to need to switch my lunches with my dinners on the days that I have to work nights, so I start getting my kitchen cleaned up to start making my lunch, which takes almost an hour to make. By the way, you really need to keep your dishwasher cleaned out, cooking all your own meals makes a crazy amount of dishes.
This recipe also makes two servings, so you are eating half an acorn squash stuffed with what amounts to a giant turkey, kale and onion meatball. With curry. (Seriously, whoever wrote these recipes puts curry in everything. It’s an OK seasoning to me. Maybe I just need to try a different blend) And a big pile of roasted Brussels sprouts. The good part of having to bake this for 45 minutes is that I have plenty of time to clean up. It’s done, it smells great, and I forgot to take a picture. Oh well. This definitely wasn’t as good as breakfast. The turkey just couldn’t handle all that curry. Also, this was a ridiculous amount of food. The squash I got wasn’t particularly large but I still had more that half of the half I served myself, as well as about a quarter of the turkey. AND I still have the half of the recipe that was meant to be set aside. So. Much. Food.
For dinner I used one of the chicken thighs I had pre-cooked for my salad with crispy curried chickpeas, dried unsweetened tart cherries and a blood orange vinaigrette. I threw it all in a lidded container to take to work. It was so good. I love salad. And I love little crunchy things and fruit in my salad. I spent my dinner going back to the break room for a bite here and there when I had a free minute. Again, no picture. I’m a foodie failure.
I saved my last snack for my dessert when I got home. I was glad to have a minute to relax with a nice piece of chocolate before bed. I felt really good about sticking to it, and ready to keep going.
Today, I decided to sleep in, since I didn’t have to be at work until 2pm. And by decided, I mean I hit snooze until my alarm gave up on me. Whoops. If you couldn’t tell, I hate getting up in the morning. Or afternoon. Or whenever it is my schedule says I need to be vertical. I decide to just have my leftover frittata for late breakfast/early lunch. It was really good warmed up in the oven. I tried to do my coffee like a cafe au lait, by steaming my almond milk. Better than yesterday, but I still miss my sweet coffee.
At snack-time, I have what the meal plan calls “fancy ants on a log” which really just replaces the raisins with unsweetened dried tart cherries and oh my god its good. The cherries make all the difference. I usually find raw celery to be a very disappointing vegetable, just because it smells so good, but you eat it and it’s just celery. This is by far my favorite snack.
Dinner is supposed to be roasted chicken with Brussels sprouts and barley, but I’m taking it with me, so I chop up another piece of my pre grilled chicken, and I totally forgot to make the barley, so I nuked a sweet potato. All tossed with the leftover sprouts from yesterday’s lunch. I tossed in some of the crispy chickpeas and cherries for a little texture and tartness. Not a bad dinner, but it didn’t keep me full. Or maybe that was because I was making pizza all night and I really wanted a pizza…
My evening snack was this weird frozen pumpkin yogurt bark, and I definitely hate it. The flavor is OK, but the plain Greek yogurt tastes crazy sour, plus its frozen, and I hate biting into cold things. I didn’t even finish it. I ate some fresh strawberries instead.
Today is my only day off this week, so I get to relax! For breakfast, I make a sweet potato and spinach hash with garlic and fried eggs. So good. This has been a breakfast staple for me since I did my clean eating challenge in the summer. Its super easy and filling and I always have this stuff on hand. Pro tip: I keep a bag of frozen baby spinach on hand, since I don’t like raw spinach and will always cook it anyway. But I can’t do this coffee anymore. I didn’t even finish my cup. I just can’t. It’s a big ol’ nope.
That’s when my day took a downturn. I decided to be a responsible adult and finally get to the bottom of why I haven’t heard back about my insurance application. Well three hours, a lost application, figuring out how to get all my pdf based statements into a format compatible with a system whose documents are all in pdf form but won’t accept pdf uploads, and lots of crying and frustration and texting my mom later, I finally get it all sorted. And all I want is a frappuccino and a big bag of tacos. Which I can’t have. I settle for eating half a cold chicken thigh and going to the store for half and half. I can handle unsweetened coffee if I have real dairy. I get home and have my coffee with a kiwi that is surprisingly ripe and a couple of strawberries. I feel better.
For dinner I made a recipe I found in a cookbook I got for Christmas to go with my pressure cooker, which I also got for Christmas. Its chicken breast and sweet potatoes with Chinese 5 spice and steamed snap peas. It turns out looking nothing like the picture in the book but oh man, is it good. I wished I hadn’t cut it in half so I could have leftovers. Tonight, I also decided to make my own hummus! I turned out well, but it’s not quite as thick as I would have liked. Its time for the day to be over.
Breakfast today is plain Greek yogurt with fresh fruit, some pistachios, and a splash of vanilla, plus my coffee with half and half. So much better with the real thing. Since I’m working the day shift, I pack my snack and lunch to take with me. I bring a little container of hummus and carrots and celery for a snack, and I make a salad with spring mix, leftover snap peas, half a diced apple, some cooked barley, and a few dried sour cherries. I made a simple vinaigrette with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper. I manage to eat my snack but never get around to the salad so I took it home to have another day.
By the time I got home and cleaned up the kitchen, its time to start cooking dinner. I just threw a few things together from the fridge, I just wanted simple. I cut a chicken breast into strips and grilled them with salt, pepper, garlic, as well as steaming some broccoli. I found a neat potato medley at Trader Joe’s that has baby yellow potatoes, purple potatoes, and red skin potatoes that turned out to have yellow middles instead of white, so I cooked those up too.
In one of the meal plans, there was a recipe for a baked pear that I tried and it was so simple and tasty. Just a pear cut in half and sprinkled with cinnamon, baked and served with a spoonful of plain Greek yogurt.
I don’t feel like eating right away, so I just have my coffee. A little later I have some celery with peanut butter and dried sour cherries. I see my parents for a while today which is nice. Lunch is more coffee and whatever leftovers are in the fridge. I took a smoothie to work as an afternoon snack along with the salad I didn’t eat Thursday for dinner, and an orange. By the time I get off work, I’m hungry again, and I realized I should have put some protein in the salad, so I boil some eggs to have on hand. This was just a really long day, and I’m glad for a shower and a hot tea at the end of it. I’m obviously getting tired of cooking.
Day 6 :
Today I made an egg white frittata with carrots, the last of my snap peas, and some of my potatoes from a few dinners ago. I put a little feta on top and it was such a nice breakfast. the bottom got a little done, but it was unexpectedly good, all brown and crispy and chewy. For lunch I make a turkey burger in a lettuce wrap with some turnip and sweet potato fries. I had forgotten how sweet turnips are. I remembered I had an avocado, so I sliced a quarter of it on top of my burger. I packed my dinner again, and took the last of my cooked potatoes and some of my broccoli, and made a potato salad with yogurt instead of mayonnaise. It turned out well, and I put a sliced boiled egg on top for some protein. I also brought the other half of my apple in slices with some peanut butter. It was busy all night, so I only ate about half of what I brought.
Leftover frittata breakfast! Honestly, frittatas are so good leftover. They reheat so well. It snowed hard last night so I need to leave early for work, partly because of the roads, and partly to have time to get the snow off my car. I just take yesterday’s leftover dinner for lunch, still in its bag in the fridge. It’s too busy to eat, so I end up having it after work. I decide that I’ve done really well all week, so I’m going to make a really nice dinner. I got a steak, and grilled it. I took some of the drippings and made a pan sauce with some shallots and beef broth. I made some garlic mashed potatoes and warmed up the last of my broccoli. It was a big piece of meat too, so I set half of it aside in the fridge for tomorrow.
Overall, I feel a lot better. I’m not as tired or cranky, but even though I’m eating regularly and plenty of food, I’m always hungry. Maybe that’s just the kind of person I am. I’m noticing that foods smell more strongly and fruits taste more naturally sweet, so that’s a positive change. I did get pretty sick of cooking everything by the end of the week though. I think for next week, I’m going to do batches of things like meat and veggies, so I can just mix and match without as much work. I also need better snacks. Better salty snacks anyway. Next week should be easier, now that I know what works better with my schedule. I still miss bread, and sweet coffee, and pasta. I don’t think this will be something I do forever, but I definitely want to incorporate a lot of what I’ve learned about reading labels and keep the sugar to a minimum.