Real Food Challenge – Week #5

Real Food Challenge – Week #4

For 14 weeks, the family and I are undertaking a Real Food Challenge (put forth by the awesome 100 Days of Real Food blog). I’m hoping to check in about any struggles and successes along the way each week. Our ultimate goal is to cut down on our dependence on processed foods and start using some cleaner fuels to energize our bodies. And stuff.

So, here’s how it works. I’ll get an email every Thursday for the next 14 weeks (the actual eating challenge will start on Sunday or Monday for 7 days, so there are a couple of days of grocery prep built in). Each email outlines the “rules” for that particular week. It’s up to each participant as to whether or not they’d like to try each week independently or build on top of the prior week. In other words, continuing doing the prior weeks while attempting the new weeks, if that makes sense. There’s also a very active Facebook group (I’ve actually joined an offshoot that’s super supportive and far more focused) that’s there to share, answer and support.
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Review of Week #3: So, this week was all about cutting back on meat consumption and eating only locally-raised meat. I loved the idea of the thing, but had to get a little creative to get our hands on some. Our favorite local market was during a different weekend, so we missed it. Instead, I sent my savior husband to a local store that happens to provide local, organic, grassfed meat. I was disappointed at the cost of pork and the fact that they had no chicken, so we grabbed two pounds of ground beef and went with it.

I’ve just gotta say that during this whole challenge, the way to succeed is MEAL PLANNING. I do it in a casual, less structured way — by creating a list of possible meals for the week rather than saying “Tuesday is taco day and it’s set in stone!” For example, we usually eat pizza on Fridays, but for some reason I was jonesin’ for it on Wednesday. So, I sauteed some onion and a handful of the beef (our first meal with meat for the week) to top the pizza with, served it with salads and TADA! Simple. Plus, keeping the list written on our fridge’s dry erase board lets me get home from school and start cooking right away rather than racking my brain for ideas.

So far, so good. We still have the weekend to go, but we’re doing fine. I had to run to the store for some supplies last night, which delayed my cooking (but I didn’t have the stuff on hand to make a slow cooker soup…double-edged sword), but it’s a first-world problem.

Week #4 Challenge: This week is going to be E-A-S-Y. The challenge is twofold: No fast food (sit-down restaurants are okay, which is AWESOME because we’ve got a date night planned) and nothing deep-fried. We don’t use things like hard taco shells (deep-fried) and if we eat fries, they are healthily baked. I’m also thinking that I’d like to try baking some chicken fingers just to see how it goes; I did it once before, but I didn’t like the mess of the method.

Soooooo, purdy easy. We have the option to either stack the challenges (so that by the end we’re doing all 14 things habitually) or try each week separately to see how it works for our families. Right now, I’m trying to maintain the 6-fruits/veggies a day challenge, having little to no sugar in my coffee/tea, and now think that I’ll try to keep more local meats in the freezer and attempt more vegetarian meals each week. It’s actually easier than I thought, although I’d like to put more thought into the balance of nutrients we’re getting. So, I’d say that we’ve got a “modified stacked” approach going on, and I like it.

Here’s my meal “plan” for week #4:

Real Food Challenge - Week #5 - image 12685-real2bfood2bweek2b4 on http://megactsout.com

Real Food Challenge – Week Two

For 14 weeks, the family and I are undertaking a Real Food Challenge (put forth by the awesome 100 Days of Real Food blog). I’m hoping to check in about any struggles and successes along the way each week. Our ultimate goal is to cut down on our dependence on processed foods and start using some cleaner fuels to energize our bodies.

So, here’s how it works. I’ll get an email every Thursday for the next 14 weeks (the actual eating challenge will start on Sunday or Monday for 7 days, so there are a couple of days of prep built in). Each email outlines the “rules” for that particular week. It’s up to each participant as to whether or not they’d like to try each week independently or build on top of the prior week. In other words, continuing doing the prior weeks while attempting the new weeks, if that makes sense. There’s also a very active Facebook group (I’ve actually joined an offshoot that’s super supportive and far more focused) that’s there to share, answer and support.

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Review of Week #1: We officially started on Monday (through this Sunday, although we’re going to attempt to keep up the increase in fruit ‘n veg), which also happened to be the first day for all of us to return to work. Thanks to some prepping over the weekend, some mornings and evenings (like making some ranch dressing for dipping and chopping veggies for snacking and tossing into meals) it was simpler than it would have been otherwise.

I loved having my meal plan, which you can see in my Week One post, jotted down on our white board, although I ended up switching out a couple of alternatives, like chicken fajitas (filled with veggies and with a sweet potato on the side) instead of a quesadilla…which isn’t really a huge change. But, yeah, I love having the structure and a quick choice for meal planning rather than that daily “what are we going to eat today?” feeling, as well as the slight flexibility of being able to switch out an equally healthy alternative. Ahhh. Yup, I’d say that’s the trick here.

The challenges this week? Well, all that prepping did take up more time, and we were generally exhausted trying to get back into a routine (and still are), but we’re handling it all just fine. Also, although Hadley’s not usually a very picky eater, he didn’t eat a few of our meals. That mixed with some teething (molar!!!) meant that I got pretty creative and had to have a conversation with myself about whether or not he HAD to have the same dinner as us every night. My answer? No. And it’s not a big deal. (I usually subscribe to the “I’m not a short order cook!” concept.)

Gonna keep working on this as we move forward, particularly finding meals that he WILL eat (along with us) that can become staples. Fingers crossed!

This week is all about beverages. Namely, limiting them to coffee, tea, water and milk (and sweetened only with a bit of honey or 100% real maple syrup). I’d like to say this is an easy one – it is, really – but Hadley’s a juice drinker. Plus, I can’t completely control what he’s given, aside from the meals I send, throughout work days. Also, I’m a sugar-user in my coffee and tea, so I’ll either be going without (not a huge deal) or trying a new method this week. {I tend to hate honey, not sure why. We’ll see how it goes.}

Oh, and since one serving of juice is allowed during the week, I’m not sweating Hadley’s intake. He’s only supposed to consume one sippy cup of it daily (and that’s watered halfway), so I’m not sweating it. I’d like to get him on to mostly water one day, anyway, and he also drinks milk, but at his age, I’m not concerned.
Otherwise, since this week is so simple, I’m going to try to build it on top of the “eat more veggies” thing. If I look at the day as “eat at least six fruits and vegetables, total” it’s not that bad. I’ve always brought an apple for lunch, so if I bring along carrots to munch or celery and hummus for an additional snack or add-on to lunch, I’ll be good. It definitely helps me to think about cleaner breakfasts than just, like, toast. 😉

Here’s my food plan for the upcoming week:

Real Food Challenge - Week #5 - image 04d01-clean2beating2bwk2 on http://megactsout.com
{WW = Whole Wheat}
Can’t wait to make our veggie pizza tonight! Is anyone else making some healthier choices lately? 🙂 Let me know in the comments!

Real Food Challenge – Week One

Since one of my intentions for 2015 is for our family to eat cleaner, less processed foods, it was damn near providence that I saw 100 Days of Real Food‘s 14-week challenge, just in time for the new year. Talk about luck! After running by the weekly challenges with Dave (and having him totally and excitedly on board), I signed up.


So, here’s how it works. I’ll get an email every Thursday for the next 14 weeks (the actual eating challenge will start on Sunday or Monday for 7 days, so there are a couple of days of prep built in). Each email outlines the “rules” for that particular week. It’s up to the participant as to whether or not they’d like to try each week independently or build on top of the prior week. In other words, continue doing the prior weeks while attempting the new weeks, if that makes sense. There’s also a very active Facebook group that’s sharing and answering and supporting. 

I’m trying to be flexible in this while still adhering to the rules, so I can’t say whether I’ll be doing the “build-on” method or the “one week at a time” method. I will, however, be following the rules as best I can. To help with figuring out what groceries we need to get weekly, I’m trying to make a loose menu for each week. Here’s this week’s (which is to eat at least two fruits/vegetables with each meal): 

Real Food Challenge - Week #5 - image 08e4e-cleaneating1 on http://megactsout.com

Some explanation: Whole wheat wraps would also include a natural lunch meat like turkey or ham along with the ingredients listed (and probably something more); the sandwich would have a side of things like carrots/cauliflower/peppers to dip into hummus or a healthy ranch; all other items listed are homemade (not canned soup or bought pizza). 

We may end up substituting other dinners if we don’t feel like, say, veggie quesadillas or I don’t feel up to making something, but it’ll still be within the rules. Let’s just say we’re all salad people (Hadley’s even into them, with a little ranch) and all of the dinners would include an additional veg on the side. Oh, and you’ll also see that there aren’t always seven items for the week per mealtime; this is mainly because we’ll sometimes repeat a meal (like have oatmeal twice in a work week).

I’ll also have to make some substitutions for our two-year-old. He usually eats pancakes every morning during the work week, so I may continue this but ensuring that it’s a real fruit-based one with a banana or orange slices on the side (although he’ll probably devour a smoothie or omelet on the weekend when we’ve got the time). He’s also not quite at the “chewing a carrot” stage (he takes HUGE bites, so…no) so he’ll get cooked, frozen (organic) veggies along with a sandwich or a ham-and-cheese wrap with extra fruit and veggies.

Check out the above link to see if you’d like to see what the other weeks entail or if you are interested in signing up (better late than never!) There are a zillion ways to make this work for you and your family, so don’t take my loose menu as “the” way. And I hope to let you know how the first week goes next week (Thursday or Friday), along with my menu for the following week.

Happy eating!