Okay we all know how much I hate salads. For the month of September, I committed to focusing and improving my nutrition and physical health. One way I undertook the nutrition side was to participate in a 21-day plant-based nutrition challenge. Sis! It was HARD, but I’ve learned a ton and created some life-changing habits in the process.
Why did I try it?
I’ve been trying to take better control of my health for quite some time. If I’m being honest, I don’t eat a ton of vegetables, and I was starting to feel sluggish and exhausted after every meal. I liked the idea of removing everything from my diet and assessing how I felt as each food group was added back in. It was also a way for me learn how to incorporate more veggies into my daily meals and start on a completely new food lifestyle.
The Food and Schedule
The 21-day plant-based program was VERY challenging to say the least. We started with a 24 hour water fast. Following the water fast, we could only eat green vegetables and green juices for a few days. Next, we could add all veggies for a few days. Then, we could incorporate all fruits and vegetables, and finally, we could add back either grains or whatever meats we would be incorporating.
Plant-Based vs. Vegan
Vegan foods eliminate all meat products while plant-based diets prioritize whole, natural fruits, vegetables and legumes as the primary source of nutrients in your diet (and don’t necessarily eliminate meat). The challenge I joined was intended to be vegan, but I revised the last week to be plant-based and incorporate fish and eggs rather than grains.
Let’s go ahead and address the elephant in the room: juicing is EXPENSIVE AF if you plan on doing it often. But it is definitely worth it. You feel AMAZING after drinking a fresh juice — noticeably better than store bought. I compare it to getting an ivy of nutrients. While juicing, I am always at my best health, and depending on what combination of fruits and veggies I put it in it, it is always absolutely delicious!
I literally never remember to drink water during the day. Two things that helped during this challenge: 1) A friend gifted me a fun water bottle to help measure and encourage me to drink more water throughout the day. 2) I added cucumbers, fruits and mints into my water bottles. Not only did it make it more flavorful, but the benefits are amazing. Cucumbers help bone health, losing weight and improving skin. The fruits and mints in the water help to reduce stress muscles and flush toxins while making the water taste great! I also sometimes add collagen peptide powder into my water because it is flavorless, goes well with the fruits, and I know it’s helping my skin too.
Veggies Can Be the Meal
Until this month, I never considered that a plate of vegetables could serve as an entire meal. My primary goal throughout this plant-based challenege was to center all my meals around green veggies. This wasn’t just leafy green salads but incorporating veggie bowls or interesting veggie salads like this spicy cucumber salad. Can I just say, it’s very challenging to overeat vegetables.
One time saving hack: when I had the time, I would often batch roast frozen veggies. This gave me no excuses to eat unhealthily since I would have veggies waiting for me in the fridge. Eating a meal of only vegetables took a little getting used to for me, but I must admit, I felt great after every all veggie meal.
The Crisper Drawers
A new hack I also learned about are crisper drawers, and nope, they aren’t some fancy attachment or bin you need to go buy. The crisper drawers are already in your fridge, and me, being a dummy, had been using them completely incorrectly my entire life. I had no clue!
In short, you can adjust the humidity settings in your drawers to keep your veggies fresher for a longer period of time. It’s a good rule of thumb to have one drawer be low humidity and one that is high humidity. Just put your veggies and fruits that tend to go bad faster in the low humidity drawer and your leafy greens in the high humidity drawer. This way the veggies that rot faster (by releasing ethylene gas) won’t get to your leafy greens and herbs! Y’all, when I say my groceries lasted so much longer!! It was so worth it to reorganize my fridge and use the crisper drawers.
After doing this plant-based challenge, I have now officially realized that it is possible to make some of the most delicious meals with all vegetables. These meals just require a little more google search love and creativity. Some amazing foods I have started to use more are mushrooms, cauliflower, and jackfruit and let me tell you, they are magic! I hope you guys give this challenge a try and let me know how you like it, love it, or could do without it.