MEAL PLANNING, RECIPE GUIDELINES & TIPS
You will need:
- A reliable kitchen scale
- Reusable plastic containers
- Wax paper or parchment paper (to place on top of your kitchen scale when measuring ingredients)
- As an option, but not absolutely necessary, a Brita water filter in the pitcher size. I take a big glass of water before, with and after every meal. (Yes, I go to the bathroom a lot.)
Before you go to the grocery store:
- All nuts should be raw, when possible. Roasted are okay if raw nuts aren’t available, but absolutely not salted!
- Nuts are interchangeable in recipes and on the meal plan (except no macadamias for now), so pick your favorites but vary them from day to day. In other words, sometimes pick walnuts instead of almonds.
- Either old-fashioned oats or steel cut oats (not quick-cooking or instant) is fine for all the oatmeal entries, but do not prepare them with salt!
- Buy plain, nonfat Greek yogurt with a minimum 20g of protein and a maximum of 9g of sugar per 8oz. serving (even though our serving size is 5oz.)
- Almond butter must be without sugar or any added oil. A little bit of salt is okay. Substitute peanut butter if you want to, but also without any sugar or added oil.
- Frozen fruits and veggies are absolutely acceptable; just make sure the only ingredient is the fruit or vegetable.
- Use extra virgin olive oil or another healthy fat with each meal. Feel free to cook vegetables and meat with EVOO, but do be reasonable with the amount. No need to consume more than 2 T at a given meal or snack. Even though EVOOs are marked “olive oil” many brands actually use lower quality oils. I am told that California Olive Ranch is guaranteed 100% EVOO. I like the fact that it comes in several varieties: Rich & Robust, Mild & Buttery, Bold & Peppery, and For Everyday Meals. It’s nice to have a range of flavors to choose from since the meal plan relies heavily on EVOO as the main healthy fat. I found all four varieties at my local Safeway store. Also, if you have an Oil & Vinegar store in your nearby mall, their olive oils are 100% EVOO.
- Use hot sesame oil to add depth of flavor and heat. I also use regular sesame oil and avocado oil in place of EVOO sometimes.
- Sprinkle on toasted sesame seeds, poppy seeds, chia seeds or hemp hearts for added texture. They’re great on bowls! A teaspoon of one is plenty.
- Start getting creative with spices, herbs and no-calorie (or very low calorie) sauces. I like spicy mustards, sriracha, harissa, and Asian chili-garlic sauces. They have next to no calories, but they do have salt, so watch your portion size. Usually a teaspoon is adequate. Sauces with more than 1g of sugar per one teaspoon are not allowed (i.e. BBQ sauce, steak sauce, spaghetti sauce).
- Top veggies or protein with sautéed onions or fresh pico de gallo for more flavor.
- Always buy low-sodium beans and vegetables, if you used canned.
Making the most of the meal plan:
- The meal plan is written based on women’s portions. That is, protein is limited to 3-4 ounces per meal or snack. For men, those same meals or snacks should include a 4-5 ounce serving of protein. And men may increase the carbohydrate as often as three times per day by ¼ cup (i.e. ½ cup of oatmeal listed on the meal plan would be ¾ cup and a ¾ cup serving of brown rice would be 1 cup).
- A note about substitutions: Some things are fine to swap out, like walnuts for almonds. Some are okay occasionally (i.e. forgot to buy salmon, but you’ve got halibut on hand? Sure, knock yourself out.) Others are absolutely not okay (a fatty cut of prime rib for the flank steak). Use your best judgment when you’re in a jam, but whenever possible follow the meal plan and don’t substitute.
- Sometimes substitutions are necessary because of allergies or maybe you just hate If you absolutely cannot stomach something make a reasonable substitution or post a query to the group on the Facebook page to get advice.
- We’re retraining our palates to appreciate the natural sweetness in fruits and vegetables. Before I unplugged from sugar I failed to recognize how vegetables like carrots and tomatoes are slightly sweet. For these first 28 days the sweet veggies are allowable only in the portions outlined in the meal plan.
- It’s easy to overdo fruits when we wean ourselves off of sugar. The best fruits (included in your meal plan) are berries and citrus fruits, but apples are great too (always eat the peel; that’s where all the good fiber is). Fruit juices are absolutely verboten.
- If you haven’t noticed from looking at the meal plan yet, fiber is a big component of the program. Fiber – especially when combined with frequent lean protein and healthy fats – provides an important sense of fullness. It also takes longer high fiber foods, which gives your stomach a chance to signal your brain that you’re full. Most of us who suffer from food addiction eat very quickly. And yes, fiber keeps us running smoothly, if you know what I mean. (Ahem.)
- If you like to shake something on your food while it’s cooking (in lieu of salt) knock yourself out with crushed red pepper flakes. Muy caliente!
Food prep shortcuts:
- Make overnight oats the night before. Place all ingredients in an airtight container and cover. The next morning, just stir and enjoy cold or heat it in the microwave for about 60 seconds.
- I like to cook a decent quantity of my go-to proteins all at once, prep them, and then have them ready to go in a moment’s notice all week long. For example, I cook 6 lbs. of (thawed) boneless, skinless chicken breasts in my slow cooker on low for three hours (no broth, no salt, no nothing), drain the liquid, let them cool, then shred them with two forks. It makes a huge amount of shredded chicken that can be added to salads or lunch bowls. I don’t season it at all so that I can vary the seasoning based on what I’m adding it to. Works great not just for me but also for my whole family.
- Same with brown rice and quinoa. I’ll cook up a double batch of each for the week and keep them in containers in the fridge.
- A note from my personal playbook: At least one of my 12:30pm or 3:30pm or 6pm meals is a ginormous salad made up of 3 cups of some sort of greens, 3 ounces of lean protein, 1 T white wine vinegar, 1-½ T of EVOO, ½ tsp of hot sesame oil and 1 tsp of toasted sesame seeds. I adore this meal and look forward to it every day.
- Whenever I’m in a rush (daily) I’ll throw all the components of a meal into a bowl and drizzle hot sauce over it. Love that!
Immediate craving go-to help:
- Chew gum, brush teeth, use mouthwash or drink coffee or tea right after a meal to get the taste out of your mouth.
- Hop on the Facebook page and reach out for help. We’re all in this together and I guarantee you that somebody else is having the same frustrations you are!
- If you’re really gonna lose it, go ahead and eat whatever is your next meal/snack, even if it’s not time yet. Tell yourself that before you give in to a craving you’ll eat the next meal and see how you feel. This works for me every time. Once I eat that meal, the cravings and the panic go away and I haven’t strayed from the program.
A note to vegetarians:
- I’m not gonna lie, this program is going to be difficult for vegetarians. Not impossible, but difficult. I was a vegetarian for years, relying heavily on beans and nuts primarily for my protein sources. There are two problems with that strategy when we try to plug it into this program: 1) beans are a good source of protein, but they’re also high in carbohydrates. They’re complex carbs with lots of fiber – which is great – but they are added carbs nonetheless. More on why that’s problematic in a moment. And 2) nuts are high in fat and calories. Again, yes they’re a healthy fat, but fats are very densely concentrated calories so we must use them sparingly. In each scenario (the carbs from beans and the fats from nuts) the balance of carbs and fats gets thrown out of whack so it’s not just a simple matter of substituting a vegetarian protein for the animal protein listed in the meal plan. If you’re a vegetarian struggling with this situation, let’s brainstorm solutions on the Facebook page.