The Diet that Makes Meal Planning Fun (No Joke!)
The Cooking Light Diet changed my eating habits through and through.
I’ve struggled with my weight since I was a little kid. I remember bringing thermos mugs stuffed with Jenny Craig frozen meals into my eighth grade cafeteria, and counting points in my Weight Watcher’s booklet when I was 16. It wasn’t until I took control of my meals in college that I was finally able to shed pounds, research how to eat clean, and feel better than I ever had before.
But falling off the health kick is somehow so much easier than getting on. Senior year of college I gained some of my childhood weight back (I blame you, brunch and happy hour) and I needed something to help me back to where I wanted to be.
With a brand new job, city, and schedule, working for the Cooking Light Diet seemed like a perfect opportunity to do just that. I decided to try the program and blog about it along the way. I’ll be following a 1200-calorie diet that omits chicken, beef, pork, and shellfish with a goal to shed 2 pounds per week.
To prepare for my very first week, I spent more time than I’d like to admit toggling through all of my meal options and making a grocery list. I’m just one person, so I aimed to make breakfast every day, and focus on prepping bigger meals for lunch and dinner to eat throughout the week. Everything good takes a little effort, so I’m excited that I spent the time to really consider what I’ll be cooking this week.
Despite exploding some oatmeal in my microwave (I never said I was a chef), my lunch of Greek salad pita was delicious and creative, my snacks were filling, and my chickpea curry was surprisingly simple and tasty. I added a little red pepper flakes on top to give it an extra kick, and sent a photo to all of my friends. I was really excited to cook with garam masala for the first time, and now I have a new favorite spice.
Today I’ve learned two important lessons. Lesson one: I can (and should) easily make adjustments to my meals. I tried cold quinoa for breakfast today and it’s definitely not my thing. I’ll be sure to pass on that one in the future when I toggle through my meal choices. I also had an orange as my breakfast side, which I typically am not a fan of. In the future I’ll just swap that out for another piece of fruit in the same calorie range, something I can consider doing with my snacks too.
Lesson two: eating throughout the day is the greatest gift. My lunch bag has been packed to the brim these past two days with carrots, celery, clementines, cheese, grapes, and cucumbers. I can nibble on these throughout the day instead of one set snack time so my stomach isn’t grumbling before lunch during the 11 a.m. meeting or before dinner in my 6 p.m. yoga class. Who knew diets included so much food?
I was pleasantly surprised this morning when I realized making fried eggs is actually a super quick breakfast. I always avoided eggs first thing in the morning, because it seemed like it would take too long, but it turns out that it’s super fast.
As for the rest of my day: surprise! There are fresh cookies in the office today, so I chose to enjoy one as my snack and leave my berries and veggies in the fridge for tomorrow. I have lunch and dinner ready for the rest of the week, so I’m excited to spend my night doing things that don’t involve prepping meals. Plus, that chickpea curry gets better every day.
Today has definitely been the easiest day because it’s leftover day! I popped my already made pasta salad in my bag for lunch, I had my snack waiting for me in the office fridge, and my last day of the chickpea curry (I’ll be coming back to this recipe ASAP!) I subbed my half of a cucumber snack for half of a red bell pepper, because I had an extra one on hand.
I started to think about what I should plan for the coming week. I know that I want to try and use some of the ingredients I have in my pantry already, so I search terms on the Cooking Light Diet website like “English muffin” and “Cod” because I know these are already in my freezer. I’m also spending some time cross checking meals, so I don’t end up with too much of one food in one day to help diversify.
I tried a different oatmeal recipe today, which was simple and easy to make. I had more of my pasta salad leftovers, and I whipped up a quick fruit salad last night to eat on the side. I’ve been really happy with this week, and I’m finding that having a set plan for my breakfast and lunch have made me make some really positive choices.
Dinner was so easy; I decided to repurpose it for the rest of next week too. I made a salad with tofu and this super delicious miso dressing, so all I have to do is cook up 2 slices of tofu every night and dinner is served!
I did start hitting some roadblocks as the weekend continued; but I held strong. I went to the movies with some friends, and I brought along a bottle of water and my own bag of 100-calorie popcorn so I wasn’t tempted to buy anything there. I went a little over my calorie goal, but I still feel really good about my decisions.
Today I made a quick English muffin with strawberries so I could make it to an event I had in the morning. I love that I’m able to pick meals that are quick like this so I’m not tempted to just grab some coffee and run out the door without breakfast.
They provided a light lunch at the event, so I tried to stick to items that I knew were healthier choices. I took a half of a bagel instead of a whole, fixed half my plate with fruits and veggies, and took some eggs baked with veggies inside. I was also invited out to dinner that night, so I tried to keep the diet in mind. Though I definitely went over my calorie goal (we went to a funky ice cream shop for dessert), I absolutely saw change in my choices. I went for a meal that was super vegetable focused and light, and even though I had ice cream, I asked for one small scoop. I still consider this a success.
My first full week on the diet is complete and I found myself in another tricky day. I started off with this delicious shakshuka recipe for breakfast, but I knew I was headed out with friends to a baseball game and would be out for dinner and lunch again.
Lunch at the game was definitely tough, but I opted just for a bottle of water, one slice of cheese pizza, and frozen yogurt. I was actually really proud of myself, because before the diet I would have definitely gotten 2 slices or fries as well, but I made sure to stay in my calorie goal for lunch. Dinner was a little by trickier, because my friends and I went for sushi. I stuck to two rolls with brown rice, and I think it was a fair choice for myself.
Eating tons of fruits and veggies has helped me feel much cleaner. I’m also really enjoying the prepared shopping lists. I spent under $50 at the supermarket for this upcoming week, which was really nice, and I already have a schedule set for my future meals. I’m very excited to continue with what was originally a one-week trial period!