All the Veggies! During the challenge, at least half of every meal will be vegetables; you’ll consume 6-8 cups of vegetables a day. This was a change for me in how I eat and cook -- especially at breakfast time. I recommend eating your veggies first. I would use my carb (berries are my favorite) as a reward I earned after finishing all of my vegetables. I also recommend using a variety of vegetables in each meal. Eating two cups of cabbage in one sitting may seem overwhelming. How many different types of veggies can you fit to make that salad as colorful and delicious as possible? My record is 10 different veggies in one meal!
Does your shopping cart match your food container? You can think of your shopping cart as essentially a giant food container. If your cart isn’t 50% vegetables, 25% fruit/squash/sweet potatoes, 25% lean meat/protein you’ll end up with a surplus/deficient of something at the end of the week. If you do your grocery shopping on the weekend, like my family, you’ll want to plan for a quick mid-week freshen-up. Fresh food doesn’t keep as long as packaged/boxed foods, and that’s okay. Make your shopping fun, check a local farmer’s market, you might find some neat varieties of seasonal vegetables and discover a new favorite.
Be social. For most of us eating out with friends is just as much a social event as it is about the meal. If you do go out to eat, remember the tips about using your fist to measure, take leftovers home, and add a salad to your meal to get your veggies in. If you’re looking for the social aspect invite some gym-mates over your house, fire-up the grill, and enjoy the company of those you are in this challenge will you. You can still be social and succeed in this nutritional challenge.
Comfort food. Growing up one of my favorite meals was spaghetti and meat sauce; in fact, it has become a weekly staple in my house because it’s a quick meal that tastes great. Challenge yourself to make a comfort food that's "challenge" approved. Eggplant and spaghetti squash make decent alternatives to pasta, grass fed lean ground beef is just fine, and spaghetti sauce is easier to make than you might think. I’ll gladly share my recipe with you.
Make fun drinks. If you are not used to drinking water all day/every day this change could be challenging; but there’s no arguing the benefits of hydration. Just because you are drinking water doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. First, treat yourself to a new water bottle or fun cup to carry around everywhere. You’ll certainly get good use of this new purchase over the next six weeks and beyond. Add some flavor to your water with lemons, limes, mint, berries, or even cucumber – your water will look pretty and taste great! You can even drink water from a wine glass to spice it up. Water can be a great distraction from times where you may have normally snacked. If you begin to feel hungry between meals sip on some water. Don’t forget that unsweetened coffee and tea are variable alternatives but water should be your main source of fluid throughout the day.
Dessert! I love dessert and I felt a void when I removed this treat from my diet. If you love dessert too there are some fun options to try as an alternative. A banana with almond butter because my nighttime favorite. I would save my dinner fat and carb allocation for this treat. Another “dessert” I enjoyed is sweet potato pie filling - warm mashed sweet potatoes, almond butter, and cinnamon – this concoction kind of resembles pie filling. Another treat I tried was “baked apples” apples, cinnamon, vanilla, and grass-fed butter. While these options are not cake and ice-cream they do a great job of curbing that sweet tooth.
Add some flavor. Your food does not have to be bland throughout this challenge. There are so many great spices and seasonings that can be used to make your food extra tasty. Before the challenge begins take note of what’s in your spice cabinet. I recommend stocking up on some of the essentials like garlic, basil, sage, cumin, thyme, paprika, oregano, dill, parsley, oregano, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Additionally you’ll want to have other essentials on hand to make home-made marinades and vinaigrettes. While you out at the store go ahead and pick up a few varieties of vinegar (red wine, balsamic, white wine, and apple cider are great options) and olive oil. Remember in this challenge there is no limit to the amount of spices and vinegars but be mindful of the thumb size portion of fat/oil per meal.
Hungry? You shouldn’t be hungry throughout the nutrition challenge. If you find that you are, add some additional vegetables for your next meal. If you finish a meal and still feel hungry, give it some time. Once I would get back to work or tackle the next task at hand in my day, I would lose the notion of hunger, and realize I probably wasn’t that hungry anyways.
Get a buddy. Make a new friend; you’ll want some friendly support and a good rivalry throughout this challenge – it’ll make it more fun. Text each other pictures of your meals, hold each other accountable, and provide encouragement throughout the challenge. Remember you are not in this alone. You have a whole community behind you, cheering for you, and wanting you to succeed.
Earn your Fitaid! While working out is not a measured part of this challenge it’s something that you’ll want to keep in your daily routine. You show up every day for the workout, don’t let that routine change. Being at the gym will remind you why you’re working so hard at the foundation of fitness – nutrition, your body’s fuel. The only way to earn your Fitaid is to get a workout in for the day. Your diet adjustment may have some effects on your workout – positive or negative. Talk with a coach if you want some recommendations