As promised, I’ve decided to make a goal for myself this week. The goal is to go the week without wheat and grains!
On Monday, after my morning workout, I made myself a smoothie rather than cereal, oatmeal, or toast that I normally go for. I’ve been pretty good about cutting back on my grain consumption, but I noticed a trend of grain every morning. Not that I think it’s a bad thing to have grain in the morning, I just figured I’d challenge myself to try something different. That one meal change made me think, hey, why not go the whole day without grain? Then I followed suit on Tuesday. At this point, might as well make a whole week of it!
My purpose in making goals such as eliminating wheat/grains from my diet for a week is to be conscious of what I’m eating. What made me aware of my daily morning grain consumption was the food diary that I’m keeping for the contest I’m in. I’ve been keeping track of my meals with pictures in a word document which made it very easy to see that just about every morning started off with some type of grain. I would wake up and make myself some cereal without really thinking about it. Sure, I like how cereal tastes, and it’s convenient, but I want to have variety and discover healthy alternatives to foods, dishes, and meals that I’ve become accustomed.
This whole process of healthy eating and exercise is truly is a perpetual journey. I find that every week brings me opportunities to improve my diet and to try new things. I wanted to share some tips that I feel are useful, particularly when you’re new to healthy eating.
Take Baby Steps: Today, one of my favorite dinners is a nice bowl of roasted veggies. 4 months ago, I wouldn’t have considered that a proper meal. Before I started eating well and exercising, I was doing the exact opposite: Eating poorly and not exercising. I consumed tons of junk food, ate out often, mostly at places that served greasy and fatty foods. Whatever I felt like eating, be it pizza, a burger, pasta, I would. It would have been a mistake if I jumped right into eating what I do now, which is a mostly vegetarian clean diet. I probably would have been overwhelmed and reverted back to my old eating habits. I think it’s a mistake many people make. People want to make a change, but go from one end of the spectrum to the other, and then get frustrated and give up. Take tiny steps that won’t overwhelm you and that will ultimately lead to a healthier result. For example, maybe instead of eating regular peanut butter, switch to reduced fat. Once you’re comfortable with reduced fat, switch to natural. Same for milk. If you’re starting at whole milk, try and switch to 2%, then to skim, and then possibly to soy or almond. If you like to have a turkey sandwich with cheese and mayo, maybe switch out the mayo to mustard or vinegar. Try going without the cheese. Maybe down the line try a salad with turkey slices and cheese instead. Then switch the cheese for avocado and the turkey for veggies. Move at your own pace.
Be Mindful of What You’re Eating: This can be a tough one. Ask yourself the question, “Why am I eating this?” or “Why am I adding this ingredient to this meal?” I found that a lot of times I would add salt to things that didn’t need to be salted or cheese to things that tasted fine without it. I would eat pasta dishes that taste just as good by replacing pasta with spinach because I was used to having pasta as a dinner meal. I think keeping a food diary and taking pictures of what you’re eating can really help when you’re starting off to give yourself a better visual representation of what you’re putting into your body. Often we eat, forget, and just move on. It can be hard to make healthy changes if you’re eating this way.
Smaller Portions: If you’re not ready to give up some of your favorite meals, try to first cut them down. Instead of a whole serving, do half, and replace the other half of what you’d normally be eating for a fruit or vegetable. Smaller portions, in general, are a good thing. I’ve been finding that having smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day keep me more satisfied. When you go hours between meals, get busy, forget to eat, and then finally have the time to eat, you’re starving and it’s easy to over eat or to make unhealthy choices at that point. One healthy decision leads to another. If you eat healthy snacks, most likely, you’ll crave a healthy meal. You’ll also be full enough to take the time to prepare a healthy meal.
Have Healthy Foods and Snacks Easily Accessible: One of the best things I’ve been doing lately is making large portions of meals in order to have plenty of leftovers that are ready for me when I need them. This also helps me save a lot of money by packing lunch instead of having to order it. It eases my mind to have something already prepared rather than stressing out over what I should eat for lunch because I’m often indecisive and it can take me hours to finally make a decision, at which point, the decision might not be a good one. Last night, I got home and was hungry for dinner. I didn’t want to take an hour to make myself something so I heated up some leftover steamed veggies, threw a veggie burger in a pan, and sliced some avocado. I ate and was satisfied, and was then able to sautee myself some brussel sprouts for lunch. It’s much easier to prepare a meal when you aren’t starving. The opposite rule should also go into effect: Remove any unhealthy temptations from your kitchen. I know that I hate wasting food, so the thought of getting rid of the ice cream in your freezer can be tough. You might keep chips in your pantry and think “it’s okay, I won’t eat these, or maybe I’ll just have a tiny bit once in a while.” For me personally, if junk food is stored in the house, ultimately, it will be consumed. It will probably be at a time when you’re looking for a quick food fix and consume more than you should. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be allowed to treat yourself occasionally, but when you do, again, make it a conscious decision. Try not to consume junk food at any given whim. The longer you go without junk food, the less often you crave it. I try to fight through any cravings I may have and save my rare indulgence for a time a really need it. Don’t have a piece of cake just because it’s in front of you or offered to you, have it when you’ve really thought about it and have concluded that you do in fact want it and won’t immediately regret it. Maybe make a rule that if you’re going to eat something unhealthy, you eat it out of the house. Or only have enough for one serving rather than an entire bag of Doritos. Find healthy alternatives to snacks you crave, even if it’s something as simple as having a piece of dark chocolate instead of a Hershey’s Bar. If you have a lot of unhealthy foods stored up, collect them and make a food donation. You won’t have them in your house anymore, and they also won’t be going to waste.
Try New Things: This one is really important. We get so used to sticking to what we’re comfortable with that we may be missing out on something much healthier and that we much prefer. There are dozens of foods that are staples in my diet that I only tried for the first time within the past 2 years. I plan on posting more in depth on this topic in the near future, but do yourself a favor and try new things. Not only that, revisit old things you might have tried and didn’t like, and continue to try them. Many foods take a while to grow on you, but you’ll be glad they did.
Later I promise to post some of my wheatless/grainless meals from the past few days. Hope everyone is doing well!