Good day, errbody! As I have said in my last post, I took on the challenge to eliminate all labeled or pre-packed foods for a week! Yesterday was as if I were preparing for Ramadan–I rid all of my favorite packaged treats–Trader Joe’s Chocolate Acai Powerberries, thinkthins and Enlightened Ice Cream coffee bars (but I’m sure my sister helped me out with that one too! :D)–by the most logical way of doing so: eating them to my heart’s content! Otherwise I am super excited to begin eating natural foods, and only those!
Currently I have an addiction to protein bars and pre-packaged snacks labeled “healthy”. Even though they are better substitutes for candy and other junk, these products are still manufactured the exact same style as their crappy counterparts, and may even have the same or higher quantity of sugar! (This is also a “No Processed Sugar” challenge, of course!) High fructose corn syrup and vegetable oil products are already poison to this challenge. That means it is my job to eliminate their “healthy” or “raw” counterparts as follows:
- Nutrition/meal replacement/protein bars
- Low-carb junk foods
- Pre-packaged baked goods, salads, wraps, parfaits, sandwiches, etc.
- Candied fruit, nuts and seeds
- Substitute sweeteners and syrups
- Packed raw products (ex: truffles, raw-nolas, cereals, cookies, crackers, chips and more)
- Frozen patties, deli meats, sausages and vegetarian mock meats with GMO soy
- Dried fruit and jerky (many have added sugars)
- Sweetened protein powder
- Flavored juices and concentrates (this means no Elli Quark. Bummer!)
- Bottled fruit or vegetable juices
What I will eat are whole, unrefined foods. Yes, some will come in a package, a bottle, jar, box or whatever, but there is only one ingredient. The exceptions are listed below:
- Organic dairy such as Greek yogurt and mozzarella cheeses (total and nonfat)
- Organic non-dairy milks
- Nuts, seeds, legumes and grains in bulk (includes plain popcorn kernels)
- Raw powders such as cacao, maca, acai or matcha (if I can afford them at the moment lol)
- Raw honey and Stevia (I will use Stevia twice a week at MOST in little teaspoon amounts)
- Single-ingredient nut or seed butters (sorry Justin’s! Not this week!)
- Organic proteins (chicken, tofu, seafood, eggs, lean grass-fed beef, etc.)
- Organic and ground spices
- Along with these, I definitely will continue to eat tons of fresh produce! It’s likely that with this challenge I will increase my nut intake, besides the ridiculous amounts of almond butter I eat daily.
- Will I be prepping meals ahead of time? Yes and no since meal prep is guaranteed to be difficult. I have to make my own trail mix and bake my own bars and such, but it will be fun! Breakfast and snacks will obviously be planned out a day or two before, but dinner is often made by my parents. I will ask them to prepare the food with no or minimal condiments (the Asian culture, we love chili paste, fish sauce, Hoisin sauce, soy sauce, just lots of sauce!) so I can have leftovers for lunch!
- Will you count calories? Because this challenge will contain no purified ingredients, I will not calculate anything. Not even macros or micros. Whole foods have no label for a reason–you already know you’re getting a ton of nutrients so there’s no need! 🙂
- If Stevia is acceptable, why will you use it minimally? Ha ha, when I realized a genius invented a plant-based, natural, zero-calorie sweetener, I became infatuated. However, a week would go by and I’d run out of a huge tub of Stevia because I used it all! Not only has there been studies saying that Stevia can interfere with hormones, but I find the aftertaste to trigger cravings, which is why I gradually used more and more. With raw honey, I’ll only need a teaspoon or less to be satisfied. Otherwise, Stevia is still considered an acceptable product because it is a single-ingredient sweetener from a plant.
- What exactly will you post? I will make a lot of the food I eat, so you bet that I’ll share a lot of recipes, especially my original creations! However, those that have 5 ingredients or more will most likely be separate. Sometimes I might post my struggles, my accomplishments and how I feel giving up packaged food! Feel free to ask any other questions of how it was like, or if you want a complete recipe! 🙂
- Is this a good guideline for weight loss? Note that I’m not doing this to lose weight, but that I love my body and want to nourish and detoxify it. My busy schedule overwhelmed it with a lot of GMO soy proteins, sugar subs, and deprived it of essential vitamins and minerals found in produce. But if you do want to lose weight, I encourage trying this challenge. When you eliminate anything packaged or pre-made you surround yourself with an abundance of natural, nutrient-dense foods that aid in weight loss. Nonetheless, if you eat too much of anything, it won’t happen.
- What is the permanent effect? I said this in the last post, but to explain a bit more, I will remember the food industry has many ethical tricks to persuade people to buy supposedly “healthy” products. These low-carb protein bars can very well be as sugary or as processed as Snickers! From now on and after, my intake of these bars and treats will be reduced dramatically. Once in a while though, I will definitely feast on a Quest bar. Because face it, they’re delicious.
So now that you get the gist of the “No Label” Challenge, on with Day 1!
DAY 1 OF THE NO LABEL CHALLENGE
Rise n’ shine, peeps 🙂 I basically spent last night rummaging through my kitchen making snacks and lunch! It was a lot of fun but of course it was more challenging than just throwing in a protein bar or raw truffle. However, I think if I use at least 30 minutes to cook, this challenge will be solid! And as a bonus treat, I baked gluten-free cookies that were vegan, flourless and SUPER EASY! Not to mention they were delicious 😉 Katie Higgins provides the recipe on her website! I actually use her recipes frequently and adore them. I want her to make my wedding cake!!
Anyways, let’s proceed with what I ate! (yum)
Breakfast: Usually breakfast is my second-largest meal of the day after my post-workout meal, which is dinner on the weekdays and breakfast on the weekends. I started the day off with a hot egg white omelette stuffed with arugula, 1/4 avocado and part of a cubed heirloom tomato!
I sprinkled pepper, dried garlic and cayenne instead of Sriracha! GET IN MA TUM TUM. 😛
The omelette was washed down with half a smoothie bowl prepped the night before. I only had a little less than half–just the parts with cinnamon and apples. It actually had the consistency of a sorbet because I froze it! Cray cray, right?!
Oh yeah, I still wasn’t done–I had a big Fuji apple too! And I didn’t forget the teaspoon of almond butter! Told you I eat a lot 🙂
Snack 1: I tried this recipe yesterday for the first time, and if I did it again the day after, it means it’s good! What you do is take 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt, a teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder (with only cocoa powder; I used the Trader Joe’s brand), and a pinch of Stevia! Yes, there is Stevia and I know I said I’d try to use as little as possible, but I needed it to relieve the bitterness of the cocoa powder, which I only like to an extent. Otherwise I could’ve also used vanilla extract or any other natural sweetener.
Just a small disclaimer: It will look pink, but it tastes nothing like strawberry yogurt 🙂
Snack 2: Yes, I have TWO snacks in a row! Before I would have only one snack at around 9 or 10 AM and wait until 1 PM for lunch, but I was often starving at lunch and overate when I’d get home! It’s not good to be too hungry at every meal and I try to eat right before I become ravenous. Today I had one of my favorites: sliced apples with cinnamon. Put everything inside and shake shake shake so that each one is covered in a little bit of that delicious spice.
Talk about raw apple pie 😛
Lunch: Basically, I microwaved frozen edamame, leftover Vietnamese catfish and cut up a celery stalk to make an Asian veggie salad! Again, I used cayenne instead of chili paste! Even though it looks small, it was surprisingly filling because it’s packed with protein!
Snack 3: Today was actually pretty cold from sitting in air-conditioned classrooms all day! When I got home, I immediately wanted homemade hot chocolate–vegan and has zero refined sugars! It consisted of unsweetened coconut milk (I got mine at Trader Joe’s), a teaspoon of cocoa powder, cinnamon and I added a little vanilla extract! It was perfection for the fall weather!
Oh, and I didn’t forget the Greek yogurt again 🙂
Dinner: I had to wait for my parents to make dinner when the time came, so meanwhile, I prepared oatmeal for my post-workout dessert. YES, I’m an oddball and love oatmeal after exercise and not before. I created a mighty bowl of superfoods!
I made this ahead of time because I actually like to put my oats in the fridge to cool and form together! It becomes cakey, soft and delicious!
*tick tock song ends* Ding ding ding!
My workout is done and I feel like Jello! The best part after exercising is that you get to eat delicious food! My parents prepared me several options: Goi ga which is a fresh Vietnamese chicken salad made of shredded cabbage and white chicken meat, chicken brown rice soup, and a chicken stir-fry with carrots and celery in homemade tomato sauce! Of course, I had to try all three. After all, you do not resist your mother’s homemade cooking. Ever.
Ooh ooh, and I could not omit dessert! HOORAY, OATMEAL TIME!
It looks sooooooo soft and creamy! Add in the raw honey!
Cassie, don’t lick the screen…don’t lick the screen!!!!
And as a supposed “midnight” snack seconds after the oatmeal, I reached for the Chocolate Covered Katie oatmeal cookies! Perfect amount of sweetness from the raisins and the coconut oil! A+ for Katie and me for deciding to bake it!
Because it is Day 1, I was guaranteed to face challenges. The biggest one was meal preparation because I couldn’t use any pre-packed or pre-made treats. Cravings weren’t too drastic but at times I did want an overly sweet protein bar, or especially my spicy Sriracha sauce. I miss it already! I’m not used to eating a lot of cayenne and for some reason the spice wasn’t as satiating as I wanted. Maybe it’s because it’s fresher and more natural, or it could be just me On the other hand, I never craved Stevia throughout the day even with less than a teaspoon! I was super proud of myself for not using as much because I tend to use it ALL THE TIME. Plus I loved the raw honey in my oats. It was so sweet, sticky and natural.
Overall, today was a success and I cannot wait to begin again tomorrow! One thing I’ve noticed is that my food looks a lot prettier. It sounds so weird, but I have never put this much effort into my food for a really long time because I’ve been busy! I mean I swear, I almost didn’t eat my oatmeal because I thought it looked so decadent and perfect. I realized that when you make the food yourself, you value it much more.
If you have any other questions about the challenge, please let me know! I will be quick to answer 😀
Have a lovely day,