Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Oh yes, the Clean Food Challenge is over...

It's not the greatest picture (I have to play around with food photography), but I'm getting there.  If this doesn't say Summer, I don't know what does.

Clean Food Challenge - The Final Day

Well, it looks like the challenge is officially over.  I'm so glad I made it through, and I definitely plan to be more mindful of what I eat in the future. I will not, however, be extending the challenge. As I said in my introductory post, I really believe in the 80/20 rule.  So, as I move forward, I will try to make sure that the food that I eat 80 percent of the time is healthy and whole, but I'm not going to eliminate entire food groups.  I will probably do another challenge in the future, when I feel like I need a "restart."  In the meantime, I will eat whatever sounds or looks good at the moment.  With that said, I'm going to try really hard not to just stuff myself with all of the forbidden foods that have been calling my name over the past week.  That would totally defeat the purpose of the challenge.  I'm going to try...really, I am.

My food for the last day of the challenge was pretty standard.:

Breakfast:  Overnight oats with blueberries and almond milk, coffee

Lunch :  Large salad with black beans, black olives, avocado and a cumin lime vinaigrette

Dinner:  Stuffed portabella mushroom and tons of fresh strawberries.  We went strawberry picking this evening, and we all stuffed ourselves while we picked and for the rest of the evening.

Snacks:  Goodie earth balls, raisins, strawberries, nectarine, cashews and a rice cake

I finally experienced the clean sweat that everyone was blogging about.  I went for a great run in the morning, and my sweat definitely felt less sticky.  When I let it dry, it didn't have that dry, salty feel to it.  It makes me wonder if it is all of the chemicals in processed food that causes it. Or, could the clean sweat be due to the gallon of water I'm drinking each day?  Does that change the composition of sweat? Hmmm...maybe I should do more research on this...

So, now it's time to move forward.  Since I have so many fresh strawberries, tonight's menu will include homemade strawberry shortcake with real biscuits and real whipped cream.  I think that's a great way to end a clean food challenge, don't you?  I'm also planning to have a glass of wine.  Oh, and this weekend my mother-in-law and her husband will be visiting from Florida, and I'm already looking forward to s'mores in our backyard fire pit.  So, yeah, I think I'm ready to move past the clean food challenge, but I'm doing so with a renewed outlook on healthy eating and increased mindfulness about what I'm putting in my mouth.  From now on, I'm going to eat foods that I truly enjoy and refrain from eating the random junk that I don't actually care about.  As far as I'm concerned, that means the challenge was successful.

Now that the challenge is over, I need to spend my time and energy figuring out this whole blogging thing.  It's time to add some pictures and write some posts about something other than food.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Clean Food Challenge - Days 5 and 6

Well, I survived!  I spent the entire weekend with my in-laws and three dozen New York City bagels and I didn't eat a single bite.  They smelled and looked delicious, but I stayed strong and reminded myself that I can eat them another time.  I froze most of the bagels that were left and am planning to enjoy one at a later date (preferably with some cream cheese and some lox).  Not only did I refrain from eating the bagels, but also the other junk food that was all over the house during their visit.  It was surprisingly easy.  I didn't really want most of it, and felt great eating my clean foods throughout the weekend.  We grilled on Saturday night, so I was able to prepare a lot of good foods to eat with everyone else.  On Sunday, they wanted to take everyone out for breakfast, which I was worried about.  I knew that even if I ordered eggs and potatoes, they would most likely be fried in butter and would not be very healthy and clean.  However, in a rare twist of fate, my son woke up with a horrible ear infection in the middle of the night and needed to go to the doctor first thing in the morning.  I took him while everyone else went to breakfast.  I'm certainly not happy about the ear infection, but I guess if he has to have one anyway, I might as well be happy about the fact that I got a free pass from breakfast.

So, since I'm covering two days with this post, I'm just going to give an overview of the food I ate.  Breakfast was the same both days:  oats with almond milk and blueberries, and a splash of maple syrup.  Lunches were salads with lots of great veggies and chickpeas and the delicious tahini balsamic dressing.  I'm seriously obsessed with this stuff!  Dinner on Day 5 was grilled shrimp (I was originally going to avoid meat, but decided to eat this while it was cooking), salad, and grilled potatoes.  Dinner on Day 6 was a portabella mushroom stuffed with a combination of millet, kalmata olives, sun dried tomatoes and that fabulous dressing (I told you I was obsessed).  It was a spur of the moment creation, but it tasted pretty good.  In the future, I would make it with a softer grain like quinoa.

I have had a lot of snacks over the past two days, including ricecakes with almond butter, some tortilla chips with guacamole (I'm still on the fence about these because they are technically processed even though they are all-natural, organic and only have four ingredients - I don't know that I will include them in any future challenges), apples with almond butter, veggies dipped in hummus, raisins, medjool dates, and fruit.  I also made a snack that is pretty common in our house - Goodie Earth Balls.  This recipe is a combination of a few different recipes, and it is a great snack for kids:

Goodie Earth Balls

1 C Peanut Butter (natural works best for this recipe)
1/4 C ground flax (I normally use toasted wheat germ, but substituted flax this time to make it CFC friendly)
1/8 C honey
1/8 C carob powder (or more or less to taste)
Raisins (the amount is flexible)
Unsweetened shredded coconut

Mix all ingredients together until it forms a soft, workable "dough."  Roll into small balls and roll in the shredded coconut.  Keep balls in the refrigerator.

Quite honestly, I don't really use measurements for this recipe any more.  Each time I make it, I just throw everything together until it looks and tastes the way I want it.  So, play around with the recipe until it works for you.  You can also make a number of changes and additions.  I sometimes make it with cocoa powder instead of carob powder.  These are a favorite with kids and make a great snack for outings.  If you have peanut allergies, you could always use almond butter. 

I'm getting ready for my last day of the challenge and I'm thinking I might not be completely ready to stop.  I'm really enjoying eating this way, and I think I might continue through Friday.  Or, I might just keep eating most of the foods I have been eating and let myself eat other foods as the desire or situation presents itself.  I really just want to be more mindful about what I am eating.  That is what this week has taught me.  So, maybe the next step isn't just gorging myself on all of the taboo foods that I couldn't eat during the challenge, nor is it continuing to follow rigid rules.  Maybe it is just letting myself find a new way of eating that is more mindful and whole.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Clean Food Challenge - Day 4

Before I give my recap for yesterday, I have to express publicly how happy I am to be a New Yorker today.  After weeks of deliberation, our senate officially recognized that love comes in all shapes and sizes and made it possible for all New Yorkers to get married.  I can't begin to tell you how happy and proud I am.  I know that there are still so many states, not to mention the country as a whole, that do not provide the same rights.  However, I woke up this morning with such hope.  Change is on the horizon, and I am so excited to see it happen.

OK, so I'm halfway through the challenge and I'm feeling pretty good.  I had a crazy day and it made it difficult to eat and drink as often as I wanted/needed to.  I was feeling it by the end of the day.  My in-laws are coming for the weekend, so I spent the day after I left work (I'm so thankful for summer early-out Fridays) cleaning and running errands.  The most difficult part was my trip to the grocery store, where I bought snacks for them to eat during their visit.  I found myself wandering through the aisles looking longingly at some of the foods, especially the pints of Ben and Jerry's in the ice cream aisle.  But, it wasn't too difficult, and I left the store realtively unscathed.

One interesting thing that I have noticed over the past two days is how my cleaning habits seem to have changed.  I found myself washing walls, baseboards and shelves.  I even made a special trip to Target for a new duster and proceeded to dust every corner of my house.  It's as if I feel the need to make my house as clean as my body.  Or, it could also be the houseguests that are due to arrive... 

Here is a breakdown of my food for the day:

Breakfast - overnight oats soaked in almond milk and topped with blueberries and a splash of maple syrup

Lunch - huge salad with lettuce, cucumber, red pepper and chickpeas.  I topped it with this dressing, which came from another CFC participant.  It was delicious!

Dinner - this was really a bunch of snacks that I ate throughout the afternoon and evening.  Since I was so busy, I just ate as I had the chance.  I ate tortilla chips with guacamole, raisins, pineapple, and a ricecake with almond butter.  Not the most balanced meal, but it was what worked for today. 

So, this weekend is going to be challenging, but I'm committed to staying on track.  Typically, when my in-laws come from Long Island, they bring real New York city bagels.  If you have ever had real New York city bagels, you understand how difficult they will be to resist.  But, I plan to stay strong.  At this point, I'm not willing to ruin the challenge so close to the end.  That would be like dropping out of high school in the second half of senior year.  I planned to make some foods to get me through the weekend, but I ran out of time.  I'm going to have to find some time to do it today.

Have a great Day 5 (or whatever day you are on) fellow CFCers!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Clean Food Challenge - Day 3

As I sit here typing this post, my two-year old son is standing on the chair behind me and he's trying to shove animal crackers in my mouth.  It's surprisingly easy to resist.  In one of her posts, Emilie commented that she really likes having a set of rules to follow.  I find that I am the same way.  It's fun (in a sadistic sort of way) to have to refuse the things that I'm tempted to eat because they aren't "clean."  I'm not sure how healthy that sounds, but it's the truth.

Day 3 was a good day, but I did find that the after dinner period was difficult again.  I really wanted something sweet after dinner, and it's hard not to turn to the mass quantities of chocolate in the house.   Instead, I resorted to smelling a bag of chocolate chips, eating a bunch of raisins and drinking a large glass of water.  I felt pretty good after.  I have a "problem" with sugar, and find that the more I eat it, the more I crave it. It's good to get it out of my system.  After the challenge is over, I will definitely eat chocolate and other sweets again, but I will be more mindful of how much and how often.  Moderation is key.

Here is a breakdown of my meals for the day:

Breakfast - Another green monster using the same ingredients as yesterday, coffee (this is a given)

Lunch - The last of the quinoa with black beans and corn and the last of the grilled sweet potatoes

Dinner - Stir fry with tempeh, garlic scapes, snow peas, broccoli, carrots, and red pepper.  I made a peanut sauce and drizzled it over the stir fry.  It was delicious!  I still have half of it left for another meal.

Snacks - Rice cake with almond butter, tortilla chips with guacamole (I decided these were OK since they only had four ingredients, all recognizable and all on the allowed list), raisins

I'm going to make some new snacks tomorrow, including the Goodie Earth balls that I mentioned in the last post.  I'll post recipes when I do. 

I realized that I haven't included a water recap in any of my posts so far.  I have been able to meet (or come very close) my water intake requirements for each day, and my bladder sure is feeling it.  I haven't had to get up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night since the last time I was pregnant, and I have had to each night of this challenge.  Sorry for the TMI!

So, once again, I feel great and am loving the CFC.  I'm so glad I jumped on board this time.  I'm actually thinking about doing it every couple of months as a way to keep myself on track.  Thanks for the motivation, Emilie!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Clean Food Challenge - Day 2

The second day of the clean food challenge was just a wonderful as the first.  I'm really enjoying how this "diet" is making me feel.  Overall, the day was pretty easy.  I'm really enjoying all of the foods and am excited to try some new recipes for the rest of the week.  I did have a few minutes of frustration in the early evening when my daughter was filling up her special candy dish for the week (more on that parenting strategy in another post).  I saw all of the dark chocolate in the candy bin that sits on top of our fridge and I just wanted to indulge so badly.  I eat dark chocolate and it was tough to see all of it in the bin and not be able to eat some.  I drank a large glass of water instead and found something to do in a different part of the house.  The urge passed pretty quickly.  I am realizing how much I mindlessly snack.  So many times, I have found myself almost eating the last few bites of the kids grilled cheese or a handful of their crackers or cheddar bunnies.  I am a snacker by nature, and I'm realizing that I go through each day snacking so much that I don't even realize what I am eating most of the time.  The challenge is helping me recognize when and why I would normally snack and be more mindful of what I put into my mouth.  I'm hoping this carries over past the end of the challenge.

Here is a breakdown of my food for the day:

Breakfast - Gigantic green monster with kale, banana, pineapple, mango, and hemp seeds

Lunch - More quinoa with black beans and corn and a peach

Dinner - Gigantic salad with avocado and black olives, grilled sweet potatoes and a sunshine burger.

Snacks - peach, watermelon, rice cake with homemade almond butter

I need to find more snacks that I can eat throughout the day.  Since I had my wisdom teeth out, I'm not supposed to eat nuts.  These would normally be a go to snack for me.  I'm still planning to make some hummus, which I'll eat with veggies for a snack and I'm also thinking I will make some "Goodie Earth Balls" (recipe tomorrow).

On to day 3!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Clean Food Challenge - Day 1

I am an avid reader of the blog One Mom in Maine.  Last November, Emilie spearheaded a one-week clean food challenge and invited her readers to participate.  At the time, I was unable to participate due to a number of scheduling/work/travel issues.  However, I read along with Emilie and the other bloggers who were doing the challenge with her, and I filed it away for the future.  Well, Emilie recently decided to do the clean challenge again, and invited readers to sign up.  I immediately posted a comment on her blog and committed to the challenge.  Emilie asked her readers to send links to their blogs so that followers could read about their progress.  This request is what finally gave me the push I needed to publish this blog.  So, now that I have introduced myself, I will jump into blogging with my daily clean food challenge experiences.

The rules for the clean food challenge are pretty basic:
  • No dairy
  • No gluten
  • No alcohol
  • No sugar
  • No processed foods
  • No meat (this is optional - some people are choosing to eat meat, some are not)
Some people have also given up caffeine. I have chosen to drink one cup a day because I fear for my family's safety :)

Last Friday, I had my wisdom teeth removed (yes, at the age of 34).  So, the past few days have been spent eating yogurt, ice cream, cottage cheese, sorbet, soup and other soft foods.  Needless to say, I was fully ready for a cleanse.  I prepped by shopping for food on Sunday, and jotted down a list of meal ideas for the week so that I can plan ahead. 

Yesterday, (June 21st) was the first day of the challenge, and I have to say that it was a great success!  Here is a breakdown of the different foods I ate:

Breakfast - overnight oats soaked in almond milk and topped with thawed blueberries and a drizzle of maple syrup.  One cup of coffee with coconut milk (I chose to use the coconut milk creamer because I already had an open container.  It has very small amounts of dried cane juice aka sugar, but I feel OK about it.  I'll use regular coconut milk once this is gone.)

Lunch - Quinoa with black beans and corn.  This was delicious!  I'm so excited to eat it again today.

Dinner - Grilled sweet potato and zucchini and a large salad with avocado and a dressing made with olive oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice and miso paste.  I also ate organic tortilla chips (the only ingredients were blue corn, flax seeds, sunflower oil and salt so I figured they would be OK even though they are "processed."  Maybe I shouldn't have eaten them...) with a dip made from mashed black beans and salsa.

Snacks -   Watermelon, peaches and snap peas.  I need to add more substantial snacks to the menu for the rest of the week.  I'm going to make some almond butter tonight to spread on bananas and rice cakes.  I'm also planning to make a batch of hummus.

Overall, Day 1 was fabulous.  I'm hoping for another great day today!  Now I just need to figure out how to add pictures to my post so that the blog is more interesting to look at and read.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

And so it begins...

I'm not sure how to start a blog, but I think it's about time I did.  I love reading blogs, and can literally spend hours reading through pages of posts.  So, it only seems natural that I join the blog world myself.  After all, if I'm going to read what others are writing, it's only fair that I give something for others to read in return.

So, the big question is how do I start my blog?  Do I start with a post that discusses my day and what I did, as if my blog has been here all along, or do I start with an introductory post that I'm sure no one will even read since I don't currently have any followers?  Most likely, by the time anyone actually discovers this blog (IF anyone actually discovers this blog), I will already have written numerous posts and an introductory post won't matter.  However, since I feel the need to start with a formal introduction (it's all those years studying and then teaching students how to write research papers), I will put one out there.  Even if it goes unread, I will feel more comfortable knowing that I started my blog with a proper introduction.

So, here goes...

My name is Willow.  I am a 34 year-old mother of two, wife of one.  I work full-time at a community college where I coordinate academic programs and teach history.  I am committed to living a healthy lifestyle, which includes whole foods, exercise and the use of natural products. I recently discovered running, and completed my first half marathon on April 17th.  I just signed up for my second half marathon (October 15th), so I guess I'm hooked. I also enjoy biking, hiking, and walking as much as possible, especially when my whole family is involved. I am passionate about my choices, but I also understand the need to have balance and flexibility in life.  I'm a firm believer in the 80/20 rule.   As far as I'm concerned, as long as I am making healthy choices 80 percent of the time, the other 20 percent of the time is not an issue.  I do not want to spend so much of my time stressing over every little choice that I make for myself and my family that I forget to have fun and enjoy life.  In the grand scheme of things, it's our overall lifestyle that matters, not random little details. 

So, that's a brief introduction.  Well, as brief as I can be.  Over time, you will discover that I have a tendency to ramble on, which is something I will have to work on if I want to keep the attention of my readers.  Hopefully, someday I will actually have readers...