Eating Overhaul: Progress so Far

Well, as you know I cut out sugar and started eating big salads at lunch every day at the end of May. It’s been a month now and I am loving the changes I’ve noticed since I started this: more even skin tone and clearer skin, better sleep, less cravings.

Lunch/daytime eating is now pretty much sorted for me – I love salad and eat it every day happily. I always have it with some form of carb (most recently, a slice of home made bread), plus a portion of protein (fish, nuts, cheese, egg – or a concoction such as a slice of ready-bought quiche).

These two changes alone (removing the sugar and eating a balanced, largely raw, lunch) have been straightforward to implement and the reward of how I’ve been looking and feeling is great motivation to improve my diet further.

This whole eating overhaul has been done (and will continue to be done) in stages. Stage 1, which took the longest time for me to understand, was how a meal should be composed. Not getting this has been the reason for my failure over and over again at trying eating plans and diets.

A balanced meal (in my experience), needs to contain three things:

1) Carbs
Yup. Bread. Or some pasta. But not stuff full of sugar. Why? Because without carbs you can’t fully process:

2) Protein
The. Single. Most. Important. Item. On. Your. Plate.
Meat or fish, if that’s your thing, but also eggs, beans and nuts. Protein keeps you feeling full, stops you having carb highs and lows and acts on your brain at a cellular level to regulate your emotions (read Potatoes Not Prozac if you want to understand exactly how protein can kill your sugar cravings forever).

3) BIG serving of fresh stuff
Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables. Raw is best, cooked will do.
Fruit is also good, but I like to have less fruit as it’s quite sugary.

If all you do is attempt to make each meal fit this criteria, you will probably drop your consumption of sugary snacks simply because your body is getting what it needs so it will remain stable and happy between meals.

Stage 2 for me was the complete removal of sugar and a concerted effort to eat raw food every day at lunch, as part of a balanced meal. I didn’t cut out caffeine, until recently I was still eating cereal for breakfast (Krispies, Cornflakes, etc.), we’re still having the odd takeaway, and our dinners tend to be quick and easy – i.e. some form of processed food.

Before stage 2 my typical day’s eating looked like this:

7am Rice Krispies, whole milk, juice, mug tea
10am chocolate bar or cake, mug tea
2pm Cheese sandwich, mug tea
3pm Maybe another bit of cake or biscuit, depending on what was in the house, sometimes a final mug of tea
8pm Takeaway dinner, or ready meal, or pasta and sauce, or pasta and pesto, or pie and shop bought mash

Now, my typical day’s eating looks like this:

7am Muesli with whole milk or natural yoghurt, some chopped fruit if I’m particularly hungry, juice, mug tea
10am Mug tea (or a hot chocolate as a treat on the three days I work).
12pm Large green salad, slice of bread, some flatbreads or a pitta, slice of quiche or handful of nuts, or smoked salmon
3pm A couple of dates and some nuts, or a plain yoghurt with nuts and honey, mug tea
8pm Takeway dinner, or pasta and sauce, or pasta and pesto, or pie and shop bought mash

The next two things on the agenda are 1) our evening meals and 2) cutting down my tea consumption

I only drink 3 cups of tea a day and never touch coffee. The rest of the time I drink water, so the tea habit isn’t so bad, but I am and have always been sensitive to caffeine, so would like to cut down to 1 or 2 cups a day. Finding a substitute is hard – I love to have a hot drink to cradle – it’s one of my comforts that gets me through the day.

The evening meal is a MUCH bigger challenge.

My goal is to aim for simple, home cooked food, based on potatoes, veg, nuts, eggs, cheese and beans. However, this is going to take a few leaps to get to. First I need to move us away from “prepared” foods: pies, pasta parcels, freezer staples like kievs, crispy chicken, potato smiles, and veggie boxed meals. Then I want to make the move to cut out meat again, which, being pregnant means I have to be very careful about eating properly. In tandem with these changes I need to be more disciplined about preparing food, organising shopping, and not making excuses to order food in. I also kind of have to learn to cook again, as my cooking skills are limited and I don’t enjoy doing something (like cooking) that I am not very good at.

So at the moment, I’d say I’m in the early part of stage 3: move away from prepared foods. In order to be economical I’m attempting to use up everything we’ve bought that comes in a packet. We have a freezer full of stuff in bags and boxes, and quite a lot of other bits in the dry food cupboard (packet risotto, boil-in-the-bag-rice!). I’m also doing the kids food in tandem, so we are nearly out of baby snacks (maize-style organic crisps, rice cakes, organic sugar-free biscuits and rusks), pureed fruit, and baby rice.

I’ve already had success giving DS1 broken up nuts, raisins and fruit for snacks (although supplemented at the moment with the stuff I am using up). DS2 is going to be more of a challenge as he has been slow to wean and despite giving him finger foods every day he is still gagging on most of it. I’m trying to avoid purees (actually, I have a load of them in the cupboard to use up, since I decided that purees were a waste of time), but without them he still gets at least 90% of his intake from milk, and at 10 months I think he should be reducing this.

I’m also going to move DS1 and DS2 onto porridge for breakfast. DS1 is eating the last of the cereal and I’m not planning on buying any more when it runs out (at the moment he has bitesize shredded wheat with a few Rice Krispies on top). DS2 eats baby rice at breakfast, but I have some baby porridge in a box to use up, then he can have the real thing (well, Ready Brek to start with!).

All this is going to simplify our eating – it will limit our choice, which is a good thing, and it will be better for all of us to get all these packaged and processed foods out of our cupboards and our bodies.

I suppose the biggest hurdle in all of this, is the acceptance from me that eating healthily requires more time and preparation in the kitchen. I need to accept this as non-negotiable. I think once I take on board the fact that food is important, and thus warrants more than 10 minutes spent on its preparation each evening, I will be more inclined to do it without resentment.

Well, that’s the plan.

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