As a certified group fitness instructor and personal trainer, exercise and movement have always been my expertise. And while I am not a dietitian, I know that food is a crucial part of the health equation, too.
I’m a firm believer in the idea that you will never be able to out-exercise a bad diet. As a result, I take extra care to tune into how my body feels when I eat so that I can better understand how food fuels me—and puts me one step closer to achieving my fitness goals.
Thing is, ever since the holidays, I’d been looking to hit the reset button. My husband had gained a few holiday pounds and I’d noticed my energy was off. So, I created a 21-day eating plan to give us both the structure we needed to reset our eating habits and focus on our health.
The 21-Day Clean Eating Plan
The goal of this reset: to cut out as many inflammatory foods and common allergens as possible (think dairy, wheat, soy, alcohol, sugar, and artificial sweeteners) and create an easy-to-follow plan. (Though neither my husband nor I have any known food allergies, there’s no doubt the food we eat directly impacts how we think and feel throughout the day.)
Additionally, we planned to cut out caffeine with the goal to improve our sleep. (I personally also wanted to see if it would help reduce my feelings of anxiousness.)
So, instead of coffee, we’d start our mornings with lemon water or tea, followed by a multivitamin and omega-3 supplement. Then, we’d enjoy a protein-packed meal replacement shake for breakfast and lunch, and a healthy meal for dinner. We’d snack on fresh fruits, veggies, and nuts as needed.
With this formula, we could reset and focus on nutrient-rich foods and balanced macronutrients (think lean protein, veggies, healthy fats, and wholesome carbohydrates).
To build our meal replacement shakes, we’d blend up one or two scoops of plant-based protein powder, one scoop of greens powder, one tablespoon of a healthy fat (like avocado or nut butter), and fruits and veggies in a liquid base (almond or coconut milk or water).
For our healthy dinnertime meals, we’d fill a quarter of our plates with lean proteins (organic chicken, grass-fed beef, wild fish, turkey, or beans), a quarter with healthy carbohydrates (quinoa or sweet potatoes), and half the plate with non-starchy vegetables (spinach, kale, bean sprouts, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, or carrots). We’d also make sure we cooked with healthy fats, like olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil.
Find the full details of our 21-Day Work-In Challenge here.
After the 21 days, we’d slowly reintroduce foods we had eliminated back into our diets one by one. This way, we could better understand how certain foods affected our bodies.
From there, we committed ourselves to sticking to the plan 100 percent for three weeks and got going!
Read More: How To Choose The Best Plant Protein For You
Following The Plan
Before we got started, we made sure we had everything we needed ready to go. To keep day-to-day craziness from messing with our success, we planned our groceries out week by week. We also planned to make our shakes the night before and freeze them, so they’d be ready to drink first thing in the morning. (This is especially helpful if you’re not a morning person, like my husband).
Though I was already pretty dedicated to eating healthy, taking the time to meal plan and prep was definitely a challenging investment. However, it proved to be essential for our success.
Even with our planning, though, the first few days on the eating regimen were a difficult adjustment. We had to make a lot of changes (like eliminating coffee, which lead to some brutal headaches) all at once.
When we had the first three days under our belts, we loved how we were feeling. After months of all-over-the-place eating, we finally felt back on track—and in-tune with our bodies’ nutritional needs. Plus, making a commitment to each other to complete the challenge kept us both accountable.
We both enjoyed starting the day with lemon water—and noticed it really helped our digestion, mood, and hydration throughout the day. (Plus, antioxidants!) And, with late-night snacking no longer an option, we found ourselves going to bed earlier and falling into a healthier sleep routine.
Although our meal options were obviously much more limited than usual (dining out or ordering takeout really were nearly impossible), we both ended up appreciating a break from the world’s endless options. It was like a reset for decision fatigue, too.
I kept things interesting by experimenting with tons of shake variations throughout the 21 days. This was my favorite combination:
- 8 oz almond milk
- 1 scoop plnt brand Vanilla Plant Protein Powder
- 1 scoop plnt brand Chocolate Plant Protein Powder
- 1 Tbsp peanut butter
- 1 Tbsp flax seeds
- 1 Tbsp chia seeds
- 1 scoop plnt brand BioGreens (or a handful of spinach)
- ½ banana
- Optional: ice until desired consistency
At the end of our 21 days, we were both pleased with our results! My husband lost 10 pounds (about five percent of his body weight)—and while I didn’t lose significant weight (I hadn’t intended to), I certainly gained clearer thinking and increased energy. Additionally, cutting caffeine helped me control my feelings of anxiousness, and we both felt calmer, less tense, and clearer-minded.
At this point, we started to slowly reintroduce some foods we had cut out to see how our bodies reacted. We both noticed that some foods messed with us more than we previously realized. I identified dairy as the culprit behind a lot of my breakouts, while my husband pinpointed a gluten sensitivity he hadn’t noticed previously.
Since the challenge, I continue to moderate my dairy intake, and my husband limits gluten. We also both continue to have one protein-packed shake per day.
I would definitely recommend this plan to anyone looking to reset or restructure their eating. Regardless of your goals, it can help you explore how different foods make you feel and identify the unique eating style that works for you and your body. Just remember that this is not a fad diet and should not be used for quick results. The goal here is to give your body a break and establish the eating plan that will keep you healthy and happy long-term.
Of course, if you have any underlying health conditions, check with your doctor before trying any new routine.
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