It’s January. We all know what that means. Resolutions! Eating healthier! Joining the gym! Getting reeeeealllly psyched up and spending a fortune at the health food store in an attempt to completely overhaul our kitchens. Believe me, I understand.
In the past I used create resolution-inspired meal plans for myself that involved buying tons of ingredients and wearing myself out making all kinds of complicated recipes. Not that there’s anything wrong with learning new ways to cook and mastering a new dish, but after a busy day, the thought of following a complicated recipe is just about enough to have anyone reaching for the take-out menu.
This kick-start, healthy eating plan is so stress-free, it is barely a plan. It’s an idea really, and one I want you to run with. Make it your own. There’s no measuring. No counting calories. No complicated recipes. Do it for a week, 3 days, even just 24 hours if you just need a little clean eating re-boot.
Here’s why I love the idea of easing into (or back into) healthy eating with Smoothies, Salads, and Soups: you can pack a LOT of nutrition into these three categories. By their very nature, smoothies, salads, and soups are filling and satisfying (and basically MADE OF plant foods). They’re also highly versatile. You can add soaked buckwheat or oats, plant-based protein powder, or chia seeds to a smoothie to make it more filling. Pile your salad with a good amount of beans, a small handful of nuts and seeds, and lots of crunchy veggies and even fruit. Soups and stews can be loaded up with beans and veggies and warming spices. I promise you even with my appetite, I was always full and satisfied during this little re-boot.
This is also a great way to get started on a plant-based diet. These are some of the easiest plant-based foods to prepare, even with a busy schedule. You can make a big pot of soup one night, and have dinner ready to go for at least a few days. Prepping your fruits and veggies ahead of time for salads and smoothies will also save time. I even know some folks who bag up greens and fruits and freeze them as little smoothie packs.
I did this “3-S” eating plan for about 4 days, and I felt like that was just right for getting myself back on track after the holiday season. I want to stress that this is not a “cabbage soup” diet where I was hoping to lose 10 lbs in 3 days or other such nonsense. First of all, thin, watery soups aren’t going to cut it for me. Second of all, I had realistic goals: to get back to filling my plate with veggies (and not cookies) and simple, wholesome, from-the-earth foods.
Above is an iPhone shot of my salad on one of the days, and I basically stuck to this salad formula more or less each day; a couple big handfuls of spinach or other greens, any veggies I had in the fridge (on this day it was carrots, celery, and beets), plus a small apple, 1/2 a grapefruit, chickpeas, a handful of walnuts, and a handful of sunflower seeds. I top it off with a homemade dressing of a spoonful of tahini mixed with the juice of half a lemon, salt and pepper and a tiny bit of maple syrup and water to thin it out. It takes just minutes to whip up this salad, and you can use whatever you have on hand.
The “Soup” part of this plan should really be “Stews” because I enjoyed thick, hearty, vegetable and bean concoctions like vegan white bean chili (I have a new recipe to share soon!). My Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup and Smoky Corn and Bean Chowder are also good options. Think stick-to-your-ribs stews, chili, and soups with plenty of veggies and ideally some protein and fiber rich beans. If beans don’t agree with you, try lentils or mung beans, as these are often easier to digest (especially red lentils). You can add a scoop of cooked quinoa or brown rice to your soup too. A good tip to remember when adding a lot of fiber to your diet, is to drink plenty of water, that will help keep all that fiber moving through your system.
There’s secretly one more S to this plan and that of course is Sweets! I have a pretty big sweet tooth, which is probably fairly obvious if you take a look through my recipe archives. Part of my plan was to reset my habits so that a small treat was satisfying again. During the holidays I tend to go a little overboard, I want to try ALL the cookie recipes my fellow bloggers are posting, in addition to all of the recipe testing on my own creations. Things can get a little out of hand, and my ability to “just eat one or two” kind of flies out the window. I steered clear of any large batch desserts for awhile (too tempting) and went for one of my favorite healthy but satisfying sweet treats; a big juicy medjool date filled with peanut butter and topped with a few cacao nibs or dark chocolate chips. Perfect!
After several days, I gradually started to switch in other meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you’re new to plant-based eating or just starting out on a whole foods diet, try doing this for a few days, which will give you time to think of some other easy meals you’d like to start including in your day. So that may mean after your little kick-start, you might decide to have oatmeal with fresh fruit and nut butter for breakfast, and then have your big salad for lunch and hearty stew for dinner. Eventually you’ll find other easy meals to replace salad and soup, or maybe you’ll decide to always keep one or two of the three. Right now I’m on a smoothie and soup kick, so it seems those are always a part of my menu. Not only will this easy plan give you some time to jot down some ideas for other meals, you’ll also feel great eating this way! And it’s a start. That is the most important thing, just to start. Sometimes that step can be so hard.
Starting a new way of eating, or even just getting back on track after the holidays can be a challenge, especially when you have a busy schedule that doesn’t allow a lot of time to prepare meals. I have always had a big appetite, and a persistent sweet tooth, so I can understand and appreciate how the parties and gatherings of the last two months could unravel healthy habits. I hope this little plan can inspire you too, and help you fall back in love with foods that love you back. Below are links to some of my favorite smoothies, salads, and soups to get you started!
Soups and Stews
Healthy Sweet Treats
Also see: 10 Tips for Giving up Sugar
My go-to resources around the web:
Oh She Glows is another great place to find filling salad ideas, and is probably my favorite place to find hearty soups too (I love every soup from the first Oh She Glows Cookbook, they are all my favorite!).
If you need some healthy sweet treat inspiration, I recommend perusing Natalie’s recipes at Feasting on Fruit, for amazing desserts that are fruit sweetened, vegan, gluten-free, and oil free.
If you’re looking for a great app to keep you on track, I highly recommend Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen, which provides a checklist of his top favorite foods to keep you healthy for life. I find it so much more helpful (and healthful) to check off my servings of veggies, beans, and fruits than to record calories.
How do you get your eating habits back on track after the holidays? What are some of your favorite sources and recipes??
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or medical professional. This information is meant to inspire and motivate, and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions about your health.