Our Meal Plan and How We Choose Food

Here’s our meal plan for the week.

Sunday: Broccoli Salad from here. I don’t use mayo or milk for my dressing and I added chickpeas.
Monday: I made my favorite broccoli soup recipe but subbed cauliflower for the broccoli. It was delicious.
Tuesday: As soon as the weather turned the slightest bit cool I started roasting veggies. Just in case you don’t have your own sweet potato fry recipe. I use chili powder and paprika instead of cayenne. There are never extra!
Wednesday: We invited some friends from our small group over for dinner Wednesday so I fixed a bigger meal than usual. We had rotisserie chicken, roasted asparagus [even though it’s out of season, just a craving], roasted cauliflower, and an apple and feta spinach salad.
Thursday: We had leftovers from Wednesday’s feast! We never have leftovers so I was thrilled!
Friday: Because I switched Wednesday’s meal plan last minute I had to use up my broccoli so we had another roasted veggie dinner of broccoli, sweet potatoes, and corn. Not the most creative or inspired meal but all of our bellies were full and there was not an extra veggie left.
Saturday: We love to watch football on Saturdays so that usually means a big meal late afternoon with some healthy football snacks [roasted chickpeas, guacamole, carrots]. I can’t wait for this BLT salad!!

I’m still recovering and still on some meds from last week’s triple whammy sickness but [like all mamas know] that doesn’t give you a free pass for dinner. I did take the liberty of filling the week’s meal plan with low prep dinners and I’m finally starting to feel better. I’m definitely itching to get back in the kitchen next week and try some new recipes!

I thought I’d explain a little this week how we choose what to eat. I hinted at it in this post, but we use the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate as our guide to healthy eating. There are a couple differences between the Harvard plate and the government’s Choose My Plate initiative. One is that the Harvard plate is limiting dairy to 1-2 servings a day and the other is that you should eat more vegetables than fruit.

Making choices about what to eat [beyond what I’m craving or what tastes good] took some adjustments. There were some foods on my “no” list that had to switch columns. But it started at the grocery store. If you don’t buy “treats” [are they really treats if you eat them all the time?] you won’t have to resist the urge to devour them. Here’s some things I noticed after I started eating healthier:

1. My definition of sweet changed. Sugar is good. It’s so good when you eat some your body wants more. When I stopped eating sweets on a daily basis I noticed I couldn’t eat as many of them. My taste for them changed. The less sugar I ate the less sugar my body wanted. I feel like that’s crazy: but it’s true. And even better still, as my desire for sugar went away so too did my guilt for the occasional indulgence. It’s bananas, really.

2. I convinced myself to try [and like] foods I’d never cared for before. Some examples from that list: carrots, coconut, and broccoli. My aversion to carrots and coconut was kind of intense. But I changed my lunch from a sandwich and chips to salad everyday. And I put carrots on my salad [and ate them all]. Eventually I decided carrots are naturally super sweet and tasty. Obviously #1 helps with this transition. Coconut was pretty much the same way. So many of Lucy and Landon’s allergen-free recipes called for coconut oil and at first it was all I could taste. In a bad way. But, eventually my taste buds acclimated. Broccoli was a different story. I’ve always been okay with broccoli. I would cook it until it was mushy. Slather it with cheese and then have a little broccoli with my cheese. So after I learned how to properly steam broccoli I started to enjoy the taste of it. Here’s what’s crazy to me: we all want our kids to eat healthy. And we ask for advice on how to get them to eat their vegetables. But are we being a good example for them [I wasn’t]? Are we giving them a variety of vegetables, cooked and seasoned well, and eating alongside them. That was my game-changer: eating the way I wanted my kids to eat.

3. I felt sick when I strayed from healthy eating. This is the one that kind of bummed me out in the beginning. The first time I ate fried chicken after I switched to a healthy diet, I thought I was going to see it twice. My tummy ached. My head was cloudy. My energy waned. I’m not trying to be melodramatic; It was crazy! My body was trying to reject the fried goodness.

4. We eat a bigger variety of foods now. So we aren’t eating the typical American fare. We eat meat about once a week and the rest of our meals are vegetable-based. We cut out or limited a lot of the foods we were eating [meat, pasta, acidic foods]. Because of this we get the question, “What do you eat?!” a lot. So here’s the thing. We eat a greater variety of foods now than ever before. If vegetables are going to be the main part of your meal you need a lot of veggies to feel full. I mean, really, you have to eat a lot of veggies to get your calories. So this has led us to really expand the number of veggies we eat. If it’s plant-based, it’s fair game. And that’s really fun. We’re trying out new recipes all the time. We’re aiming to see three colors on our plate each night. We’re giving our children a variety of tastes to try.

So the story totally has a happy ending. We made these changes. We committed to owning our family’s health. We learned about food: what’s good for us, and how our bodies feel about what we eat. We did these things and we saw results. Some were immediate and some took a lot longer. Almost all of them were surprising. So here’s my list of how a real food diet changed me, Beth.

1. My hair is shinier. I used to dye my hair because it was so dull and looked sort of dead. No more. Hallelujah.

2. My pores are smaller. Yep. On my face. Can’t explain it. Don’t know the science behind it. Really, in general, my face feels healthier. This is super exciting for me because I have a crazy combination-skin face and any improvement makes me want to give myself high-fives.

3. I have more energy. I kind of laugh at this one because when we started our new eating lifestyle I was nursing a six month old baby who reeeeeeally likes to eat. He was still waking up two or three times a night to nurse and didn’t seem to care that his sister was also an early riser. And I was tired. So tired. So to feel less tired, was awesome.

4. Vegetarians make better lovers. I don’t want to talk about this in person. I’m totally blushing in my living room. But all I can tell you is that it’s true. Even if things are already great: Get ready for it!

5. I’ve lost weight. And kind of a lot. And inches. And booty. And love handles. It’s sort of crazy to me. I tried on pants today in a size I’ve never worn. Well, not since my Bongo days in the late 90s [please someone else tell me they wore Bongos.]. But I couldn’t tell you how many pounds I’m down. I honestly haven’t weighed myself. It’s just never been about that. It’s been about feeling healthy. But, seriously, what a bonus.

If you’re looking for a resource to help you understand how foods affect your body I’d recommend “You Are What You Eat” by Dr. Gillian McKeith. It’s not for the person casually considering changing their diet, and I’ve never done a detox or cleanse, but I think it’s so interesting to see signs your body is giving you that it has nutritional deficiencies. Is that homework? It just might be…

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19 thoughts on “Our Meal Plan and How We Choose Food

  1. Jen Bearden says:

    I feel like you should teach a class, or become a paid consultant. For reals. And I’ll be one of your first customer. :)

  2. Little Sis says:

    Thanks for this. I hadn’t heard of the Harvard plate, although it’s a much more accurate representation of how I strive to eat. Nice to have all of that affirmed for me, and to have the resource to share!

  3. Jen Bearden says:

    Alright…first of all, I love, love, love everything you write. How could I not? But, I have a question. How feasible is this for my life? I feel like between my 40+ hr job, keeping up with the house and going to school myself, I have 3 full-time jobs already. I feel like what you do is like your full-time job and I don’t know how I’d have time to add all that work into my already busy life. Again–you should teach a class and have that be one of the first lessons–ways to do this easily, or Making it Work 101. Does that make sense? (And hopefully you don’t read in this anywhere anything that suggests you don’t work a full-time job–you TOTALLY do, and do an AMAZING job at it, lady!)

  4. Katie B says:

    I love you! And I’m craving broccoli.

  5. mommalovescookin says:

    I had never heard of the Harvard plate, glad you posted that. Now we just need to continue to move away from meat a bit more, we already have A LOT! Have you met my husband, the carnivore??? We are still working on him, but we are continuing our forward momentum! I need to be more creative with our veggies, never considered roasting broccoli, for example! Shine on Beth, you are enlightning my food world!

    • heybethbaker says:

      The meat thing was hard for me at first because it was what I built meals around, so I had to totally change my thinking there. At least we’re all in it together. :)

    • I told Ben this Sunday night at dinner – we didn’t just jump right in to having meat once/never a week. We started with a commitment to one meat-free meal a week, (often Monday) and went from there. I’m sure Beth would agree that she enjoyed the creativity required to make that one night work, and once we figured out we weren’t going to die (and Beth worked up her meat-free repetoire), we started extending it because we liked what we were eating.

      Next we moved to 2/3 meat-free meals a week, then only 2/3 meat meals a week, so on and so on.

      Unless you’re in serious physical need to changing your diet immediately, I don’t see a reason not to allow yourself a few months to transition. Christina, I know you make delicious food, so I feel confident that if you continue THAT, your clan will keep filling their bellies.

  6. mimi2four says:

    Thanks for the wisdom! I’ve had compliments about my skin too since our diet changed. And smaller sizes are definitely motivating to me to stay the course!

  7. Rham says:

    Hey Beth,

    Like your article and somehow it makes me want to write our own healthy eating plate and share something from my experience. Lol.

    Oh, don’t forget to eat variety of nuts. My hair has hanged a lot since I included them in my diet and take note I no longer use shampoo (for a year now). And, yeah, the best way to lose weight or maintain weight is eat more fruits, vegetables and nuts…less or eliminate refined foods,, sweets, sugary drinks.

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