If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw a recent post that mentioned how making an effort to focus your holidays on active experiences rather than eating will make it so that you don’t feel a need to adopt some drastic diet plan in January.
Unfortunately for most out there, this isn’t the case.
But even if the past two weeks of your life was full of long couch-sits and chocolate fondue (I’m referring to “a friend”…), you don’t need to commit to some drastic plan centered around deprivation. It’s probably a good idea to get off concentrated sweets for a while, it’s probably a good idea to choose minimally-processed foods, and it’s probably a good idea to lay off the booze for a little bit. However, committing to these things 100% of the time is simply not realistic for most of us. Going gung-ho for a short amount of time can be enough to get yourself to stop craving the cookies, jumpstart the healthy living motivation, and to get things feeling a little more regular again.
So this post-holiday period I’m proposing a new method for the health conscious of us: instead of inflicting an unnecessary list of rules for as long as we can barely hold together our sanity, let’s all just have 3 smart, simple days. Instead of resolving to follow some “cleanse” that is sure to end in hanger-fueled relationship problems resulting in a red wine and romcom binge, let’s fuel our bodies properly with whole grains and a bunch of vegetables, and less meat than normal. Since “normal” is healthy and balanced, why try to go over the top? Our digestive systems will say thanks, our wallets will have some time to recuperate from the holidays, and our friends and family will still love us in February.
So here’s how it works: you need to have some carbohydrate, some protein, and some fruit or non-starchy vegetable at breakfast (for a list of non-starchy vegetables check here), lunch, and dinner; but in different proportions for the different meals. In the following plan, choose one item from each of three categories and consume them in the designated amounts. Breakfast is simple and nourishing, lunch is a bit bigger, and dinner is a salad-based meal with a smaller portion of starch.
Why it works
The goal of this plan is to provide the nutrients you need, and little else. The basis of each meal is fruits and vegetables, which should always be the base of our personal food pyramids but often isn’t. They provide tons of nutrients and filling fiber with very few calories which means your hunger will subside with fewer calories than normal. Lean protein keeps your muscles strong and complex carbohydrates stabilize your blood sugar. Following this plan will have you eating simple, easy food. You’ll cast aside the extra salty, the super sweet, and the heavy foods that are often around at the holidays. They’ll probably make appearances in your diet later on, but definitely less frequently than they have been lately. By going back to the basics for three days, cravings will lessen, you’ll feel lighter, and you’ll be ready to get back to your healthy homeostasis!
Lunch will be the biggest meal of the day, with a bunch of vegetables, a good portion of starch, and a medium portion of lean protein.
Examples for lunches are a bit more in-depth, since there are boundless combinations. The suggestions below are a bit more “fancy” (i.e. seasoned), but really just choosing one thing from each column and sticking it in a container to bring to work for lunch is perfect. Don’t think too much, it will be simple but nutritious and it’s time to step away from elaborate meals for a little bit.
- Chopped romaine salad with 4 oz chipotle marinated chicken breast, 1 cup corn kernels, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
- 1 cup grilled onion, zucchini, and bell pepper with 4 oz grilled pork tenderloin and 2/3 cup quinoa tossed in 2T basil pesto
- 1 cup microwaved frozen stir fry vegetables with 2/3 cup brown rice, 4 oz salmon and 2T teriyaki sauce
- Grilled chicken breast on whole wheat with mustard, lettuce, tomato, and a side of carrot sticks
Dinner is more simple, and salad-based. I’ve included a small portion of carbohydrate because it’s important for optimal brain and muscle function and blood sugar regulation. Especially with a plan like this, where calories are probably lower than we’re used to having for the past few weeks, it’s important to keep these things in mind. However, if you’re staunchly against carbohydrate at dinnertime, cutting them out of the evening meal is a better idea than cutting them out of breakfast or lunch.
You’ll notice that the table below is very similar to the lunchtime table, but that the portions are smaller. You need less fuel at this time of day, so fill up on greens and add the rest to round out the meal. Dressings are homemade and simple – you could go with 1T of store bought but I encourage you to take this time to learn what makes a tasty dressing (hint: very little effort, maybe a jar to shake it in). Oftentimes when I make salads at home they’ve got cheese and nuts on them for extra flavor, but I encourage you to season your meat with herbs and spices here, and use flavorful vinegars to add a tasty but simple zip to dinner.
So there you have it, folks. An easy plan to reset the taste buds and jump start a healthy 2016! And don’t be afraid to dust off this plan during any time in your life when you feel the need to get back to your healthy roots – post-Mardi Gras comes to mind. Let me know if you try it – tweet at me or post photos of your simple yet delicious meals on instagram and tag @how_to_eat_RD, or just comment here, I’d love to hear how it goes! After all, we’re trying to be healthy and happy here, not miserable and deprived 😉