I devised this no-stress healthy diet meal plan because during some of my diet trials, I found it difficult to stick to eating healthy. I also started getting headaches, which I found were linked to stress. One of the stress-causing lifestyle factors was having to spend a lot of time preparing foods and buying special ingredients, all of which was time away from doing pleasurable, enjoyable things in my daily life.
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After a long time I finally came to recognise that I needed simple, quick-to-make meals and snacks, especially now that I have gone back to full-time work. I decided that I did not want to spend all my free time in the evenings and weekends to prepare three meals plus snacks for each of the seven days in the week. That's a lot of food to prepare!
I also recognised that I had to be prepared for different wants and needs of my tastebuds and my body. So I made sure to include 1) raw foods 2) warm meals 3) heavy meals 4) foods that wake me up and 5) energy-giving foods into my diet plan.
Based on my previous diet trials, I knew that it was of huge importance to make sure that my diet was low sugar, free of allergens and intolerance-causing foods, dairy-free, low-starch, high-fibre, high-alkaline and high-protein. Additionally, I didn't want to spend a lot of money on eating, so buying ready-meals from organic and healthy food shops unfortunately didn't provide the answer. I cannot tolerate stimulants, so caffeine (even green tea), concentrated sugar, guarana and other stimulants were out of the question. I had used the pulse test to find and eliminate food intolerances to: carrots, celery, preservatives, etc. I didn't want to eat dairy or sugar either, which both caused mucus and other problems. So my diet choices were fairly limited, but with much experimentation I did manage to device a guild-free and no-stress healthy diet plan!
No-Stress Healthy Breakfast Options:
I usually have one or more of these dishes in the morning, depending on how hungry I am. I find that my morning meal has to include a fair bit of protein and fibre to enable me to feel good during the day. Starchy-carbohydrate-dominant foods don't prepare me well for the day at all and I also can't have too much sweet fruit or berries in the morning. Especially for breakfast I prefer to have foods which also generate an absolute minimum amount of dirty dishes.
- Spirulina and wheatgrass smoothie (1 tbsp spirulina, 1 tbsp wheatgrass, one grapefruit or lemon, water, blended).
- Two boiled, organic eggs with green lettuce and boiled green peas (from frozen). (Boil the whole pack of eggs at once and keep in the fridge to save time.)
- Raw porridge with raisins, seeds of your choice, coconut flakes, cinnamon, rock salt, vanilla concentrate, grated apple or 1/4 sliced banana. (Soak raw oat groats overnight** in water, nut milk* or organic soya milk.) Note: if you are using chia or flax seeds (or psyllium husk) you will need more water and let it stand for a while before eating as they will thicken the porridge. Optional added ingredients: sugar-free nut butter, coconut yoghurt. Can be enjoyed blended or chewy.
- Apple and kale smoothie (one pink lady apple, large handful of green curly kale, water). Note that if you find it hard to tolerate sugar in fruits, blending them with fibrous greens will help because fibre slows down the absorption of sugar by your digestive system.
- Coconut-cacao smoothie. (1 tbsp coconut cream and/or coconut flakes; banana; nuts*; seeds or soaked and boiled beans for protein; 1 tbsp cacao, vanilla essence.) Keep coconut cream in a container in the fridge and soak + boil large amounts of beans at once, keep in the freezer and add into the smoothie straight from the freezer. Coconut cream can be frozen as well and if you prefer your smoothie warm (like me) just take small portions of each to melt the night before.
- When I have to rush out the door in the morning I buy lots of mandarins on the way and eat them. You can also grab a packet of eggs and when you get to work, sit them in cups of boiled water for 15 mins or so before eating.*** Ripe avocados (if you can find them) keep hunger well but personally I don't feel well if I start my day with a fat-dominant breakfast.
- Instant Cereal: Rolled oats (non-raw), ground flax seeds, other seeds, raisins (not too many), dried fruit, dried berries (e.g. aronia), coconut flakes, sea salt. You can also add a little coconut flour or almond flour to the mix. Keep a large jar of this at work and enjoy with water (the almond flour will make it creamier). Adding a little apple juice will make it a lot sweeter, however I personally cannot tolerate fruit juices.
- Cucumber. Grab on the way to work, wash under a sink somewhere and eat the whole cucumber like it was a banana. To treat your taste buds make fresh lemon tea at work and add a little bit of olive oil into the tea to keep hunger a little longer (makes into vegetable-stock-like liquid).
- Fried plantains. Cut into pieces and fry on a frying pan with olive oil or non-raw coconut oil and salt, adding ground hemp seeds and/or flax seed powder for protein.
- If you have the luxury of a health food shop on your way to work, you can get coconut yoghurt, gluten-free fibre-rich bread (check that it's sugar-free), or even freshly-made smoothie for breakfast, although this will not be the cheapest option.
- Scrambled eggs. You can mix in organic minced beef, tomatoes, sweetcorn, green peas, and almost any leftovers you happen to have in the fridge. To ensure enough fibre, however, mix the scrambled eggs with chopped lettuce or grated vegetables before eating.
No-Stress Healthy Lunch Options:
- Red or white cabbage salad. (Grated 1/4 cabbage, raisins, citrus-fruit pieces of your choice, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice mix in to stop it from smelling, olive oil, salt.)1
- Potato salad. If you have leftover boiled potatoes, chop them into pieces and mix with seeds, cayenne pepper, olive oil, salt, a little lemon juice and any greens or grated vegetables you may have.
- Smoothie: Needs six components: 1) Fibre (e.g. kale, lettuce, or flax seeds), 2) healthy fat (e.g. mild-tasting coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, coconut milk, unsalted olives, nuts*, nut butters*, or coconut yoghurt), 3) protein (e.g. raw organic egg, soaked and boiled beans, seeds, almonds*, sugar-free nut butter*, boiled green peas, or tofu), 4) good carbohydrate (e.g. apple, 1/2 banana, or pineapple), 5) antioxidants (turmeric; any strong-coloured natural foods, such as purple grapes or berries; or sprouts), and 6) extra taste (e.g. goji berries, coconut milk, vanilla extract, berries, cacao, chilli, cinnamon, nutmeg, fennel, lemon, pumpkin puree). Take with you to work either in a soup container and eat with a spoon (thick smoothie) or in a bottle (thin smoothie).
- Alkaline green soup in a thermobottle. Make a double-portion at once and enjoy for dinner and for lunch the next day. The soup boiling time is only 15 minutes.
- Apple slices and sugar-free nut butter. Keep a knife that has a safety cap at your workplace, as well as nut butter, so that you can at any point satisfy your hunger quickly, or take with you to have park-lunch.
- Hummus4 and sundried tomatoes wrapped in lettuce leaves. Instead of sundried tomatoes you can also have: olives, red pepper, avocado, or dates if you can handle the sugar (I can't). For the brave: use nori seaweed sheets instead of lettuce, and eat with wasabi and Bragg's liquid amino acids (a bit similar to soya sauce). Alternatively you can sprinkle small pieces of nori inside the rolls. Good thing about this meal is that you don't have to prepare it in advance, but you can just get the ingredients and 'roll as you go'! For added benefit, include sprouts as well.
- A ready salad mix. Can be usually purchased in any supermarket. Ensure that you carry cutlery, a tight-lid mini-container of olive oil, and a small bag of salt with you at all times. If you don't have these, you can use lemon juice as dressing, however in that case it is a good idea to add another source of fat, such as coconut meat pieces (snack bag), avocado, cheese2 or nuts.
- Kidney beans3 with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and black pepper. Tastes surprisingly good. Other beans can be used also and capers and other salty pickles go well with these, however, I personally choose to avoid these since they contain bad quality salts.
- Salad with green pea chutney.
- Check whatever healthy ready-sauce you can find at your local health food store and keep some with you in your bag or rucksack. Enjoy with lettuce, potato salad, grated vegetables (such as courgette), or rice (if you can tolerate it) from a take-away restaurant. In the case of rice ensure that you don't eat too much and that you have plenty of fibrous vegetables and nuts (for protein) to go with it.
No-Stress Healthy Snacks:
- Low-sugar dark chocolate (The small amount of sugar and caffeine present wakes me up and if I have just one piece I seem to have no problems. It's my coffee substitute for when I feel very tired at work.)
- Plums rolled in processed licorice powder (that has no added ingredients). This used to be my favourite snack but unfortunately the plums proved too sugary as well.
- Trail mix: Coconut flakes, nuts*, dried berries or dried fruit, seeds. Aronia berries and goji berries are good low-sugar contenders here.
- Buckwheat crackers with vegetable yeast paté (buy both from a health food store), salt and red pepper.
- Coconut balls (shredded coconut, olive oil, coconut oil, vanilla extract, salt). (Optional added ingredients: dates, figs, lime, nuts*, ground flax seeds, nut butter*, cacao or any other 'sticky' foods.)
- Raw cauliflower pieces dipped in hummus and Bragg's liquid amino acids.
- Coconut yoghurt mixed 50/50 with trail mix or the instant breakfast cereal described above.
No-Stress Healthy Dinner Options:
- Oven-roasted vegetables, such as cauliflower or pumpkin, prepared with olive oil, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. (Tastes better than cauliflower and cheese.)
- Grated courgette with blended raw tomato sauce (sundried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, salt, fresh basil). Dates can be blended in too for nicer taste if you can handle the sugar. Add nuts or seeds for protein.
- Chickpea-flour pizza. A little more time-consuming treat but this grain- and dairy-free pizza is still pretty effortless to make, very tasty, cheap and you can make a whole oven-tray at once. Recipe here.
- Green alkaline soup, apple slices and almond butter and most of the breakfast and lunch meals above can be enjoyed for dinner as well.
- Briefly-boiled vegetable soups. Use the base of the alkaline green soup recipe above and use any vegetables you desire.
- Stews made in a slow cooker. Throw the ingredients together in the morning and let it cook while out for the day. Purchase a separate timer (that fits in between the wall socket and the slow cooker plug) to turn the slow cooker off if your one doesn't have an integrated timer.
- Boiled sweet potato with salsa.
- Organic meat pan-fried with steamed vegetables.
- Boiled green peas and steamed salmon.
- Porridge with salt and butter.
- Fat-free corn crisps with vegetarian yeast pate or raw blended tomato sauce.
- Warm salads: cold salad ingredients and dressing of your choice combined with salmon, oven-roasted vegetables (e.g. mushrooms, pumpkin, fennel), organic meat, eggs, halloumi or other warm cheese, boiled or steamed vegetables (e.g. broccoli), sweet potato, fried plantain, or left-over sauce from a meal. I often even have home-made curry sauce or prawn sauce on top of a large salad. So satisfying and you will feel good for a long-time after eating it!
- Plenty of as good quality water as possible.
- Sparkling water (can help against addictions).
- Chaga mushroom tea (I often have this in a thermo-bottle and carry it to work too).
- Green juice (excellent to improve moods and energy levels but takes quite a while to make, you may choose to buy this occasionally in a juice bar instead if you have one nearby).
- Herbal teas, according to your personal health needs.
- Fresh lemon tea (ginger goes well with it too)
- Star anise tea (so enjoyable!)
- Occasionally I treat myself to a small amount of sugar-free orange juice, but pasteurized juices are not ideal and other fruit juices are too concentrated sugar without the fibre. Choose ready-smoothies instead of juices if you can from your supermarket.
* Note: Nuts are a controversial health food because they can contain mold and/or cause allergies, food intolerances and mucus. It is worth testing your reaction to different nuts using the pulse test, and also by elimination-testing (cutting them out for two weeks, and then reintroducing, keeping note of your body's reactions to them).
** Make sure to soak all raw grains for a minimum of 7 hours to eliminate phytic acid.
*** I keep olive oil and salt at work for adding to quick meals.
1 The only downside of salads for lunch is that they take a long time to eat! Make sure you have something 'heavy' in the salad, like olive oil, to make it more satisfying and filling.
2 Many people cannot tolerate cheese and it has been reported to aggravate certain conditions, such as infections of all sorts, inflammation and asthma. If you cannot resist and want to eat it anyway, minimise the damage by taking digestive enzymes before eating it and by choosing non-cow-milk cheeses, such as sheep's cheese (e.g. good-quality feta), goat's cheese or buffalo cheese (e.g. good-quality mozzarella). Unpasteurized and non-homogenized cheeses may be healthier, and anything less processed is always a plus, as there will be less added chemicals. If you must buy normal supermarket cow's cheese, I have found that blue cheeses and Port Salut may be less harmful than other cheeses.
3 Many canned foods, including kidney beans, unfortunately contain a source of bad calcium as a firming agent, so it is better to soak and boil your beans from dry in large quantities at home and freeze.
4 Unfortunately most hummus contains very large amounts of sunflower oil or vegetable oil, which are both very inflammatory foods, full of free radicals. Try to find hummus that has been made with olive oil.
Have some cheat items that you allow yourself every once in a while, but make sure to test that you are not intolerant to them. My cheat items now include freshly baked bread, a small shot of whiskey with sparkling water, and fresh croissants. They are not good for me, but you cannot be too strict on yourself, because it will back-fire.
Your Food Has to Be Enjoyable:
Note that your food has to be enjoyable, otherwise your daily stress load increases. The enjoyment of eating is an important part of reducing stress levels!
The enjoyment of food typically comes from three basic things: fat, sweet taste, and salty taste mixed in with the more subtle flavours of ingredients. Other flavours and spices are secondary to these three key satisfying aspects of food. There is a reason why cooks in restaurants use salt, sugar and fat liberally in their foods. However, you don't have to go into excess - just ensure that there is enough of these in your meals to make them taste nice.
Use healthy forms of fat: olive oil, mild-tasting coconut oil, avocado and naturally fatty foods such as salmon. Healthy fats are important for proper brain function and hormone balance, among other things.
When it comes to sweet taste, it is partly a matter of retraining your taste buds. The more sugar you eat, the more you will need. So start cutting back slowly and gradually, eventually using only natural wholefoods as sugar sources, such as fruit and dried fruit (especially dates), berries, perhaps a little honey, coconut milk, sweet potatoes, sweetcorn, etc.
The Road to Excellent Health:
Simultaneously to eating healthy and reducing stress, it would be extremely beneficial to your happiness, moods and health to test yourself for food intolerances. Please read more about why it's important and how to test for free here.
Written: 13th June 2015
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Eating for Energy