Life is getting busy. Between midterms, student organizations, the weather cooling down, the holidays approaching, and balancing your social life, all while trying to stay fed and fit – man, someone needs to spike my lattes with extra espresso on a daily basis. Because we all are such busy ladies, it’s easy to fall into the habit of pouring yourself a bowl of cereal for dinner or having chicken nuggets for breakfast because “they were already in the fridge”. I’ve caught myself getting into some pretty lazy habits these past few weeks, and I decided to try something shockingly new.
I didn’t eat grains or sugar for an entire week. Yep, seven days.
I didn’t even realize this was a ~*thing*~ until a few weeks ago when I was reading a food blog. Nobody is talking about it because I’ll be honest with you – it’s not the most ideal way to live. Only “organic-non-GMO-non-dairy-gluten-free” moms and some very passionate fitness people seem to have the amount of self-control it takes to follow this trend. There are all of these studies surfacing recently about how detrimental grains and sugar really are to your health. I mean, we’ve all known for years now that sugar isn’t the greatest, and the whole gluten-free lifestyle is becoming a little more normal rather than some crazy fad. But there are people out there who believe you should completely eliminate all sources of sugar and grains. And I don’t just mean wheat. I mean all grains: rice, wheat, barley, corn, oats… the whole nine yards. I’ve been reading these posts and studies that SWEAR all of their health issues have magically disappeared after cutting out grains and sugar, but all I could think was: okay, try being a college student and not eating grains. Like, what? Am I supposed to eat LEAVES everyday with the occasional side of eggs or chicken?
There are plenty of people out there who think, doctors who agree, and studies that show that humans only really need plants to survive. While I do not believe that extensive of a conclusion, I do think there’s some benefit to cleaning up your diet enough to the point where it mainly consists of protein and vegetables. Sound familiar? That’s because the fitness industry hopped on the “chicken and vegetables” diet ages ago. People who are trying to eat clean and get toned, more in shape, etc., have been directed by trainers and fitness influencers to turn to protein and vegetables. Every person has a different opinion about how exactly this diet should be interpreted, but you get the gist. For the most part, their diets consist mainly of a clean source of protein and a large serving of vegetables for every meal, even breakfast.
I thought this would be a pretty miserable way to live, and I consider myself someone who is fit. For some background – I go to the gym about 5 times a week, I train with weights and some additional cardio, and I know how to build muscle based on my body type and configuration. I thought I was pretty healthy, considering I eat organic foods, a majority of them being vegetables, and I exercise regularly. But I’m also a human being, so yes, I eat toast for breakfast and have cookies when my roommates bake them. When I heard “no sugar” I thought “no way”. But then I thought of all of the benefits I would probably have if I could just try this and stick it out. Because, despite how healthy I thought I was, and how many times I went to the gym in a week… I wasn’t in as great of shape as I thought. When I really considered doing this, I became aware of how my stomach hurt every morning when I got out of bed, how I always felt bloated no matter what I ate (or didn’t), and how, try as I might, I could never get my face to clear up and stay that way. Maybe I could really use a diet overhaul. So, I decided to take the leap. What’s the worst that could happen, right?
Well. The worst that could happen is that I COULDN’T EAT A PUMPKIN SPICE CINNAMON ROLL. Man, that was tragic. But as I started preparing for this new diet change, I realized how hard it was actually going to be. First, because I love sugar. I love oatmeal (grains AND sugar), I love yogurt (sugar), I love cookies (grains and sugar)… you get the idea. I’d have to cut out all of the foods I eat on a daily basis for breakfast, most that I have throughout the day for snacks, and I’d have to stop cooking easy things for dinner and actually preparing my meals. Because it turns out, in this America – sugar and grains are in EVERYTHING.
I’ve been gluten-free for years now, due to my own choices, and it has significantly helped my overall health. So, I thought the “no grains” thing wouldn’t be that bad considering I usually avoid them anyway. Well, I was wrong. No grains meant no rice, no oats, no corn, and basically no snacks. Gone went my oatmeal breakfasts, gluten-free toast with peanut butter, rice cakes, corn chips and guac, and healthy stir-fries. If any of you out there know of a breakfast food besides eggs that have zero grains and sugar, please lmk. I’ll owe ya one. I learned that even gluten-free foods are made with rice or corn flour, which were no-no’s for me now. There were a lot of things I learned during my search for foods I could actually eat.
I had to do a MAJOR overhaul of what I was eating in order to commit to this. I went to the grocery store and loaded up on (all organic) chicken, eggs, sweet potatoes, squash, mixed greens, zoodles, and frozen vegetables. I had to close my eyes and use all my willpower to walk past the snack aisle, the bags of gluten-free cookies I love, the yogurt, and my beloved oatmeal. But, I was determined to make this work and ENJOY IT, dammit. I learned that I could, in fact, eat quinoa chips, veggie straws, and dark chocolate. At least I had a few saving graces.
I hurried home with my new foods and went to work searching on Pinterest for recipes I could make with vegetables and chicken. I was relieved to find that there are a LOT. Over the course of the week, I enjoyed making baked sweet potatoes with red pepper flakes, acorn squash with cinnamon, balsamic chicken and garden peppers, spaghetti with zoodles, and even just a simple plate of a seasoned chicken breast with steamed veggies. I thought it was going to be miserable, but it wasn’t that bad. Breakfast and lunch were more difficult. Like I said before – I’ve yet to find a breakfast food that is EASY TO MAKE that doesn’t have sugar or grains. I work 8-4 so making eggs before work was out of the question. It never occurred to me to make egg bake but that could have been an option. Instead, I would just drink some tea early in the morning and have some dinner leftovers in the late morning if I got REALLY hungry. Acorn squash is amazing for breakfast, with cinnamon and butter. Additionally, I was able to eat a sandwich bag of veggie straws or quinoa chips during the late morning before lunch to hold me over. Dark chocolate came in handy lots over the course of this diet – it was a fantastic after-dinner snack to get me to forget about all of the fall baking I could have been doing.
Overall, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Although the meals I made got to be a bit repetitive because I would often eat the same thing for lunch AND dinner, it wasn’t terrible. The meals I made were not complicated, either. It takes 10 minutes to steam a bag of vegetables on the stove and even less to do it in a microwave. You can cook chicken in a frying pan in less than 20 minutes, and all you have to do for a sweet potato is cut it up and season it, before baking for 30 minutes. Acorn squash is the easiest thing – cut in half, bake. I could go on about more of the meals I made, but the point is that it’s really not that much more difficult than popping in chicken nuggets or a frozen dinner. Sure, it’s not as easy as pouring a bowl of cereal but this is much better, trust me.
There were a few take-aways from this trial. The first is that it can be expensive to live this way, unless you do it right. Obviously, organic foods are more expensive, and that’s really up to the preference of each individual. I was splurging more on organic chicken and vegetables, but personally, that cost was made up by the amount of snacks I didn’t buy. I ended up actually spending less that week overall than I normally spend on groceries, and I didn’t run out of food. However, this commitment was also time-consuming. I needed to research what foods I COULD eat and how much/many to buy for a week. I needed to research recipes and save time to actually cook for myself. Even though the meals didn’t take that long to prepare and cook, sometimes we just don’t have that extra 40 minutes – or we are just too tired.
And finally – did I notice a difference in my health? The answer is yes. I was more energetic, had less stomach aches, and felt MUCH less bloated. I plan on sticking to this type of diet for a while and seeing what it does for me. I may reincorporate yogurt, and I’ll have a few cookies now and then, but for the most part I will make a much more conscious effort to avoid sources of grains and sugar. I know there are options out there for meals that are frozen or easier to prepare, for times when I am too tired or busy to cook, so I will try some of those out as well. I think over time, it will benefit me in a much more significant way. After all, I just feel better about cleaning up my diet and avoiding things I knew were bad for my health anyway. Sometimes self-care can be doing something like this for yourself, more than doing a face-mask and painting your nails.
Overall, I’d say if you want to – give it a try! It can be difficult but if you’ve got the time and patience, or have been looking for a solution to some health issues, this could help you! I think it’s definitely worth a shot. Okay, I’m going to go eat some veggie straws now… ?