Congratulations! You’ve made it to day 30! By this point, your food choices are probably much better than they were on day 1. All that’s really left, is to keep the creative juices flowing so that healthy never gets boring. To this end, I’m encouraging you to try a new cooking method today. You can check out this slideshow of 15 basic cooking methods and see if any look interesting for some ideas. I’m going to attempt braising for dinner, because slow cooking methods don’t happen often in my kitchen. I may also poach some eggs for breakfast if I’m feeling froggy. Come back and tell me what method you tried and how it worked out!
Put away the Doritos and the Gummi Bears… it’s time to get closer to nature. By now, those types of things should already be at a minimum in your diet, but now we’re making it official. Limit yourself to all-natural snacks today. If you aren’t sure what qualifies as natural, here’s my guidelines:
- If you can recognize everything in it, it’s probably natural.
- If it hasn’t been processed and preserved in some way, it’s probably natural.
I realize that that’s a pretty basic definition, but it works for me. My greatest suggestion for making sure our snacks are all-natural is to make them yourself! This is when it’s a great time to invest in a food dehydrator. Homemade jerky, craisins, apple chips, kale chips, and nuts are all great examples of completely natural snack options. Enjoy! WE’ve only got one more day to go!!
Fruits and vegetables need a larger presence in your diet. They offer the most nutrients for the least amount of calories. But nobody is going to stick to a healthy diet if you’re just eating broccoli and apples every single day. Build some variety into your diet! Go to the grocery store or the local farmer’s market and pick a new fruit that you’re never tried before. Have the staff help you choose a ripe one, or some stores even keep a guide posted somewhere in the produce section now. Come back and tell me what you tried and how you liked it!
So a few days ago we discussed how you can ruin an otherwise healthy dish by slathering it with a fatty condiment. We even practiced seasoning with calorie-free herbs to prove that flavor can be found in other places. It’s time to make this standard practice. Leave the mayo alone and cut out the creamy salad dressings! Olive oil and other healthy, nutrient-rich fats are ok, but leave the whip cream at the store. Shoot for vinaigrette dressings, citrus-based marinades, and naturally low-cal condiments. Mustard is an awesome example of a multipurpose condiment with next to no calories in it.Worcestershire sauce is another personal favorite of mine. Many hot sauces tend to be low in calories, so review the nutrition facts before you pick up *insert random dipping sauce here*.
Sugar=Empty calories in most cases nowadays. The fact that it was added in the first place tells you that it was not necessary, and as Americans we have managed to find an excuse to add sugar into EVERYTHING. You’ve only got 4 days left! (Yay!) Take the time to cut all processed sugars out of your life and just see where it leads you. If you’re not sure about the sugar content of something, check the nutrition label. Keep in mind that some sugars are naturally-occurring, such as those in fruit and milk. But many packaged products contain processed sugars, which will likely be identified in the ingredient list as “sucrose”.
Let’s be clear. All potatoes have fiber and awesome nutrients that you can definitely use more of in your life. Very few people have a shortage of regular potatoes in their lives, which is why for the last 5 days of this challenge, you will be all about sweet potatoes. Nutritionally, they edge out white potatoes in several categories. With more fiber and insanely high amounts of vitamin A, sweet potatoes are where it’s at! Did I mention they’re lower in calories than white potatoes? And you can cook them in all the same ways. One of my personal favorites is this recipe here.
Salt does not contain calories. It does, however, contain sodium. Sodium in large amounts will sabotage your weight loss efforts by causing you to retain water. Many foods have sodium in them already, so adding more might help your tongue, but it won’t help your waistline. Make a conscious effort not to add salt or salty seasoning blends to your food today. Fortunately, salt-free seasonings are widely available nowadays.
Even after you’ve started drinking water and eating lean meats and whole grains, you can still sabotage your own efforts with excessive use of condiments. Things like mayonnaise, duck sauce, and soy sauce are loaded with fat, sugar, and salt. But you know what’s virtually calorie-free? HERBS!! They’re all-natural, come in a wide variety, and are packed with flavor! So cut it out with the loads of calorie-drenched condiments, and sprinkle some chopped herbs over your food. Dried or fresh, they’re a healthy alternative to whatever you’re using on the regular. Mix with a little citrus juice and/or healthy oil, and you’ve got awesome marinades, dressings, and dips!
You’ve spent 3 weeks able to enjoy most anything in the meat department. It’s time to get smart and cut some more fat out of your diet. Let go of the hotdogs and fatty cuts of pork, and stick to leaner cuts of meat. Shoot for mostly white meat chicken, seafood, and turkey. As far as beef, stick with lean cuts like sirloin or round and cut off any visible chunks of fat. You don’t have to cut out pork entirely either. The tenderloin is a very lean cut of pork. Stop eating the skin off of chicken (even when it’s oh so crunchy) and be sure to drain your ground meats. I will not judge you for continuing to enjoy bacon, but consider turkey bacon. (I cook mine in the microwave to make sure it comes out crispy.)
What other lean proteins can you think of? Let’s make a list of options!
When you go to sleep, your body enters rest mode. It requires significantly less energy to function than when you’re, say, awake running a mile. This means that any digested food gets stored as fat during this time instead of burned off as energy. How do you avoid this? Don’t eat so close to bedtime! Whatever your bedtime is, subtract 3 hours and make that your food curfew. I think 8pm (2000 hours) is a reasonable hour for the average responsible adult. That way, your body has time to digest dinner before you go into rest mode. This will be my hardest habit change yet, so if it’s a challenge, know that you’re not alone. After your curfew, just drink water. Period.