Last week, I participated in the Unite Fitness 7-Day Carb Cleanse Challenge. First, I will tell you I really liked it. It was not too difficult and I honestly felt great (most of the time.)
Juliet Burgh, the nutrition director there, posts different challenges from time to time designed to make you more aware of what you are eating and in the end make some healthy changes. (She also provides new recipes to try.)
The cleanse did not mean I had to cut out ALL carbohydrates. But all carbs had to come from natural, healthy sources. Vegetables, beans and legumes were all okay as was protein such as chicken, turkey and fish. Fruit could only be eaten after a workout. No dairy except Greek yogurt. Almond milk was allowed. But no sugar, no grains and no processed foods and no alcohol.
I was motivated and excited to participate. I shopped on Saturday and prepared all kinds of dishes. The biggest obstacle to eating healthy is usually planning. How many times have you made a pledge to eat healthy but then you find yourself eating out of a vending machine because you get stuck somewhere with no access to healthy food?
In fact, on day two of the challenge I was stuck in a live news van for about nine hours covering a snow storm. But I had packed a cooler bag full of healthy foods on the eating plan. Had I not had that, I definitely would have grabbed something unhealthy (or at least not on the carb cleanse.) Instead I had chicken with butternut squash. I also had some almonds and a Greek yogurt. I had energy and didn't feel hungry. (I was freezing but that's another story!)
So my typical lunch and dinner was chicken and veggies or a big salad with lots of veggies, some black beans, grilled chicken or tofu. I also tried a lot of root vegetables which typically I would pass right by in the grocery store. But they were great- added crunch and seemed a bit heartier than lettuce. I also made sure to have protein with each meal which along with healthy fats will keep you feeling fuller longer.
I have to say breakfast was the toughest for me. I usually wake up pretty hungry and scrambled eggs did not feel like it was enough. Plus, I missed having fruit in the morning.
My snacks were veggies and hummus which I love but again, you have to plan ahead. A few days I forgot and I felt pretty hungry around 4 o'clock. That is also when I would typically want something sweet to pep me up in the afternoon.
Overall, I was able to stick to the plan and I have to say, I felt great. They had said we could expect less bloating and better digestion, more energy, and fewer cravings. I did not feel bloated at all and seemed to feel "lighter." I don't know if this had anything to do with it but I seemed to wake up and fall asleep better last week. As for cravings, they were not there in the beginning but as the days wore on I did crave some sweets.
So my plan now is to stick to a 80/20 rule which is what I typically like to do (but sometimes need a booster to get me back into it.) 80-percent will be only healthy, natural carbs, meals with protein and I have decided I will bring fruit back into my diet but will try to eat them earlier in the day. For breakfast, I will go back to my oatmeal with almond butter and try to add a scrambled egg when I have time.
As for dairy, this challenge did make me realize I could lower the amount of cheese I eat. I tend to put it on every salad when I may not even need it. My sister follows this rule: if it doesn't add significantly to the taste of the meal, she skips the cheese.
The best thing about any diet overall is it forces you to look at what you are eating every day. In society today, it's too easy to eat unhealthy, processed foods or foods with a lot of added sugars. These can weigh you down and while they may provide quick energy, they also provide a quick crash in energy. Then you are on a roller coaster and that's how you can pack on the pounds, eating more than your body needs.
Another good tip is to pay attention to why you are eating. It should be to fuel your body, not help you escape unpleasant emotions or as a way to relieve stress. Easier said than done, I know. But just pay attention to when you are doing this. If it becomes a habit, it will affect you in the long run.
So that's my wrap-up. I'd love to hear what you think about this challenge and if you have any good recipes to share, please post below or to my Facebook page.
Thanks for reading & Live healthy!