21-Day GGC Challenge: The Big Finish

healthy blondies herb crepes goal cheese apricot preserves honey grilled chicken miso glazed Brussels sproutspumpkin crostata papaya salad

lunch chili pm snack orange nut cake pork chops mushroom sauce zucchini portabello

I’m sure you’re wondering how the 21-Day GGC Challenged finished up.  It was a success!   I lost five pounds, dropping from 137 to 132 and I’ve maintained that weight since then.

I thought you’d like to see a sampling of the food I received the last week.  I remember a very interesting breakfast of herb crepes with goat cheese and apricot preserves.  I’m not a huge crepe fan, but I give GGC props for creating a mix of very different flavors.  Who doesn’t like apricot preserves?  Mwah!  Turkey chili and pumpkin crostata with papaya salad for a couple of lovely lunches.  The chili was spicy and delicious!  The pumpkin crostata had some kind of blue cheese in it…say no more!  I love blue cheese!  Afternoon snack standouts:  light and lovely orange nut cake (how do they bake such a light cake?) and healthy blondies (nuts, chocolate all mixed together with a brownie-like texture…I could eat 10!…but I won’t! 😉 ).  Best dinners (like, “Can I have them every week?”, awesome dinners): pork chops with mushroom sauce and zucchini portabellos and honey-grilled chicken with miso-glazed Brussels sprouts.  Delicious dinners, how I love thee?  Let me count the ways. 1) Mushrooms.  I love them and can’t get enough.  The mushroom sauce over the pork chops was sublime.  And I love portabello mushrooms…and these were stuffed with savory zucchini shreds.  2) Brussels sprouts.  Cooked to perfection, grilled, glazed with miso.  Say no more!  What can I say?  I love good veggies.

It’s been a great experience not having to shop, plan, prep, cook and clean up, knowing a nutritionist planned every fantastic recipe with flavor and nutrients in mind.

 

21-Day GGC Challenge: Highlights and Lowlights from Week 2

buckwheat pancakes turkey sausage pancakes with blackberries and bacon grapes pineapple and basil fruit cup veggie balls mac n chard and field green salad steak salad with corn and fresh herbs baked apple with caramel Tuscan steak French potato salad shrimp puttanesca over lemony millet

The second week of my 21-Day GGC Challenge featured some great tasting foods.  I just want to share a few of them with you.  My favorite breakfasts, by far, are the pancakes and GGC makes all kinds, even buckwheat and cornmeal.  Love the sausages and turkey bacon on the side.  Especially turkey bacon– man, I love turkey bacon!  A couple great morning snacks: fresh and delicious grapes, pineapple and basil fruit cup.  The little pieces of basil made for an interesting taste experience.  A savory morning snack treat really rocked my world– veggie balls.  Not sure what was in them, but were they delicious!  Would make a great hors d’oeuvres for any party.  A couple awesome lunches: mac n chard with a field green salad.  The mac n chard is a take off on mac n cheese, but so much better.  There’s some cheese in there, because I could definitely taste it, but it was powered up by the chard.  Nice fresh salad on the side– GGC dressings are fantastic!  The steak salad with corn and fresh herbs was great.  Love the marinade they use on the steak.  The corn added a great texture and fresh pop to the salad.  An interesting afternoon snack– a baked apple!  The little dab of caramel on top was pure genius.  Like a having a little apple pie.  Standout dinners: the Tuscan steak and French potato salad.  Again, great marinade on the steak– perfect pairing with the potatoes (yes…healthy can be “meat and potatoes”, folks).  I really liked the shrimp puttanesca with the millet.  I’ve experienced more interesting sides with GGC that I have in my entire life: quinoa, millet, polenta, couscous.  Really enjoying the variety of textures and flavors.

So the highlights: great food!  Again, so nice having everything prepared, delivered to your door.  No need to plan or to figure out something on the fly when life is busy.

The lowlights: hormones (squeamish men…look away now).  Every woman is different, but I experience fatigue and big-time cravings for sugar during my “time of the month”.  It’s the biggest struggle for me with regards to staying on track with healthy eating.  I have to say I fell off the healthy eating wagon a few times and met up with my old boyfriend, Coke, for a little tryst with a Pop Tart.  I know!  Look away, everyone!  It’s not pretty!  Also, I forget how difficult it can be going to family gatherings and sticking with just the food I bring from GGC.  I did have a slice of my mom’s plum cake.  *sigh*  When you fall off your wagon, you get back up there and hitch on a few more energetic horses and ride forward.

The good part?  I rode right over to my favorite skating rink on Monday with my daughter, to get some outdoor wheels for my skates and some protective gear.  Exercise, for me, has to be fun (skating, hiking, biking) or practical (shoveling snow, raking leaves, gardening, cleaning house).  I’ve been having fun taking to the streets.  My thighs aren’t too happy, but I think this is a good arrangement.  One where I can step right out my door and have the best time doing what I really love- roller skating!  Now…where is my 70s skating playlist….

21-Day GGC Challenge: Days 9 & 10 Wrap-Up

blackberry pancakes with berriesblueberry walnut muffin ginger pork noodles with bok choy oatmeal chocolate chip cookies halibut with leeks, peppers & oives over minty quinoa oatmeal banana pancakes with applesauce quinoa salad with roasted asparagu and white beans poached salmon with tomato and cucumber salad Greek cookies Moroccan chicken with Israeli couscous and haricot verts

Day 9, Sunday, July 20:  My kind of breakfast: blackberry pancakes with berries & agave syrup.  Sweet and filling; firm, tart berries.  The ginger pork noodles with bok choy for lunch was great aside from the slices of ginger (not a fan of ginger).  Ate the morning snack, blueberry walnut muffin, as my dessert.  Got my “little something sweet”!  Yes!   Dinner was another great fish dish: halibut with leeks, peppers and olives over minty quinoa.  Didn’t really like the minty quinoa… couldn’t put the flavors together with the fish, but the fish was great.  Topped it off by saving the afternoon snack as dessert: heavenly oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. (*sigh* homey oatmeal chocolate goodness….) I’m reprogramming my brain that cookies should come in twos (not tens).  I take my time and savor them.

Day 10, Monday, July 21:  Another nice breakfast: oatmeal banana pancakes with agave syrup.  Wish I could have tasted just a little more banana flavor in them, but they were good.  For a snack I had quinoa salad with roasted asparagus and white beans— nice and fresh tasting.  A perfect cool summer lunch, poached salmon with tomato and cucumber salad, hit the spot.  Not sure what kind of sauce was over the top of everything, but I liked it.  The salmon was filling and I love the garden-freshness of the cucumbers and tomatoes.  The Greek cookies were a honey-sweet, fabulous afternoon snack.  Love the honey and nuts.  Dinner was the BEST!  I think it’s my favorite so far: Moroccan chicken with Israeli couscous and haricot verts.  I loved, loved, loved it… the chicken, the olive slices, the pieces of sweet potato and the just-right-not-overpowering spices.  I could eat haricot verts everyday…what is it about thin green beans I love so much?

So, how’s it going?  I’m feeling completely spoiled with all these great meals.  I do LOVE not having to plan, shop, prep, cook, clean up anything.  I could get use to this!  I see why Green Gourmet Chicago clients stick with us– it makes life so much easier– and you can’t beat the variety of meals and snacks.  Never get bored!  Big, refreshing glasses of ice water with every meal.  I feel good.  My tummy is “down”, and I can definitely feel progress in the right direction in the way I fit my clothes.  11 more days in the challenge.  Bring it on!

To weigh or not to weigh…that is the question

scale

Now I think I understand why we only weighed in once a week at Weight Watchers.  This last week I’ve been weighing myself at the beginning and end of each day.  I feel fabulous in the morning because I’m in the 131 range (big change from the 136.7 I was before starting my 21- Day GGC Challenge).  I feel defeated before bed because it jumps three pounds.  I can’t decide which weight I should use to measure against my benchmark.

When I’d go in to my WW meetings, it was a 5 p.m. weigh in.  I’d eat dinner afterwards when I came home.  I’d always use the bathroom before weigh in.  I’d wear the same lightweight outfit (jeans are a serious buzz kill for weigh in success…unless you always wear jeans to weigh in).  Anything to help get me to a loss.  If I stuck to my points– and I exercised nearly daily– I’d see a loss.  The exercise is what really helped.  If I would lay off exercise for a week, I wouldn’t been very impressed at weigh in.

At the beginning of this challenge, I said that I was more concerned about how I felt in my clothes than my weight.  I’m making progress there, but I’ve got a ways to go.  The next two weeks I need to up my activity to really see results.  I’m convinced that making daily cardio (biking, walking, hiking, skating) part of my “rest of my life” routine is going to be key to long-term health and happiness.  Time to buy my outdoor quad skate wheels…and only weigh myself once a day.  Who wants to go skating tonight?

skating

21-Day Challenge Wrap Up: Days 7 & 8

 pumpkin waffles with turkey bacongreen beans with tomatoes and almonds shrimp rolls with lettuce almond butter brownies chicken pepper stew with millet mash quinoa porridge with crisp apples and pomegranate seeds red quinoa salad with beet salsa mac n chard with sun-dried tomatoes and mixed greens fingerprint cookies apricot stuffed pork with brussel sprouts

Day 7, Thursday, July 17:  Hooray!  Finally a filling breakfast with delicious pumpkin waffles (agave syrup to pour over the top) and yummy turkey bacon.  Happy dance!  AM snack reminded me of raiding the garden: green beans with tomatoes and almonds.  The green beans were gorgeously crisp-tender, the tomatoes were roasted (maybe?), almond slices tossed in for nutty crunch.  Lunch was different: shrimp rolls with lettuce.  Never had a wrap like this before (Asian rice paper wrappers?); not super fond of the texture.  I liked the shrimp and the dressing provided. It was okay.  Another happy dance in the afternoon: almond butter brownies!  I ate it slow and savored each bite of its chewy brownie goodness.  Lovely walnuts baked into the top.  Dinner was spicy and filling: chicken pepper stew with millet mash.  I realize now that it’s been a long time since I’ve eaten this many entrees with cooked bell peppers, and I’m not the biggest fan.  The spiciness and the fun texture of the millet mash (new for me) saved this dinner from defeat.  A good day, on the whole. Snacks were perfectly timed to satisfy mid-morning and mid-afternoon tummy growlies.

Day 8, Friday, July 18:  Quinoa porridge with crisp apples and pomegranate seeds.  Yes, I’ve had this before for breakfast.  The repeat is because I don’t eat typical egg breakfast dishes (just a texture/taste thing– not an allergy).  Man, I love pomegranate seeds!  Red quinoa salad with beet salsa for AM snack.  Had a quick bite– never a big fan of beets.  Let my mom have a taste and she loved it.  Figures!  She’s a beet lover!  Lunch was a filling mac n chard with sun-dried tomatoes and mixed greens.  Nice sunflower seeds in the salad.  Good cheesy-tomato flavor sauce with the mac.  Saved the snack, fingerprint cookies, to have as dessert with dinner: apricot stuffed pork with Brussels sprouts and honey beans.  The pork was fantastic!  GGC chefs roasted the Brussels sprouts– perfection!  The honey beans were filling and a healthy take on baked beans.

How’s it going?  Well, after one week of being on Green Gourmet Chicago meals and snacks and drinking only water– I dropped five pounds!  Need to ramp up my exercise the next couple of weeks.  Still fighting the 9 p.m. munchies.  I’m finding that if I can fight the craving for a bowl of cereal and instead drink a glass of water, occupy myself in some other way, and just employ plain ol’ will power, I can resist the temptation to fall back into my old habit of having another meal after dinner.  Man, it’s tough to change bad habits!

“Resisting Temptation” 21-Day Challenge: Day 5 & 6 Wrap Up

croque monsieur wrap cabbage walnut salad spinach triangles with smoked salmon strawberry apricot crisp hangar steak with garlic spinach and red peppers carrot and zucchini pancakes orange couscous salad   cocoa date truffles  herbed salmon with steamed asparagus

Day 5, Tuesday, July 15:  Interesting breakfast– one which I liked but my savory-loving husband would really enjoy: croquet monsieur wrap.  It was like a ham and cheese melt in a spinach tortilla– a quesadilla with ham!  The morning snack was cabbage & walnut salad— love the light, and not overpowering sweet/sour dressing and crunch of the walnuts and cabbage.  Lunch wasn’t super filling: spinach triangles with smoked salmon.  I’m not a huge fan of smoked salmon so I may ask GGC to add that to my dislike list.  Hungry.  Hungry.  More than ready for my afternoon snack– sweet strawberry apricot crisp.  Thank God!  Dinner was great: hangar steak with garlic spinach and red peppers.  Hangar steak tasted great– good marinade!  Ate the spinach because I know it’s good for me and I liked the garlicky flavor.  Ate the red peppers last so I can savor their flavor– cooked to crisp/tender, just the way I like it.   Tuesday’s big temptation:  Really wanted to cheat. Made cinnamon rolls for the family for dessert.  Had to text my sister for moral support.  Her advice: “You can cheat later.  21 days will go by fast.”  I sent the rest of the warm rolls to my niece’s dorm to share and temptation was removed.  Whew!  That was close.  I’m sticking to it.  GGC and water (no Coke).  I can do this!

Day 6, Wednesday, July 16Breakfast again would be one that savory-loving fans like my husband Jeff and my niece Haley would love: carrot & zucchini pancakes.  Ever had a potato pancake?  That’s what these were like.  It was accompanied by a little container of apple sauce, which I savored as I managed the pancakes.  Just not a fan.  My mom used to make potato pancakes for me as a kid and would only let us have apple sauce with it.  I guess if I’m eating a pancake, I want it sweet and I want maple syrup.  I think it comes down to preferring some kind of sweet breakfast: cereal, oatmeal, pancakes, etc… It’s going on my GGC dislike list.  Snack was interesting: orange couscous salad.  The couscous was unlike any I’d ever had before.  Big pearls called Israeli couscous.  Loved the juicy orange slices on it and interesting salty flavor from Greek olive slices.  Lunch was perfect: turkey quinoa meatloaf with arugula salad.  I was doing a walking tour of Wicker Park with my kids and niece Haley, so while they ate Penny’s Noodles, I ate my GGC cold.  The meatloaf was great– even cold.  The arugula salad had almond slices and blue cheese crumbles…did I say blue cheese (man, I love blue cheese!).  The afternoon snack was nice: two little cocoa date truffles.  Nice date flavor, dusted in fine coconut.  Liked them.  Dinner was super: herbed salmon with steamed asparagus on a bed of couscous.  I love salmon!   Resisted temptation #1: Niece Haley and the kids got donuts from #1 ranked favorite donut place in Chicago: Glazed and Infused.  Didn’t get one.  Didn’t take a nibble.  Didn’t even smell them.  Ha!  Take that donuts!  Resisted temptation #2: Got the kids ice cream from a vendor at a park.  Andy couldn’t finish his…so instead of finishing it (like, who wouldn’t?), I tossed it.  Gah!  The worst part was that little chocolate chip cookie ice cream thing was $3!  I was more upset about the price than missing out on scarfing up Andy’s leftover ice cream.  *sigh*

So how’s it going?  Tuesday was a bit tough.  Felt a bit hungry here and there.  Trying to beat my afternoon energy slump.  Drank more water and breathed more deeply.  Battled temptation and won.  Hanging in there.

21-Day Challenge: Day 3 and 4 Wrap Up

Sunday breakfastSunday lunch Monday breakfast monday am snack Monday lunch monday dinner

(Click on the pictures to view a larger photo.)

Day 3, Sunday, July 13: Fantastic breakfast that kept me going all morning: french toast with agave syrup.  Homey, filling.  I savored every bite.  I could eat that nearly every day!  Combined my AM snack with midday entree for a light and lovely salady summer lunch of salmon, spinach & quinoa salad and pear and fennel salad.  The afternoon snack was fab, an energy bar with oats, raisins, cranberries, nuts and who knows what else.  Loved it.  Unfortunately, dinner was a bust: chicken with roasted red peppers and spaghetti squash.  I love spaghetti squash, but I just didn’t love the dinner tonight.  Picked out the chicken and ate some of the spaghetti squash/pepper accompaniment.  Can’t love ’em all.

Day 4, Monday, July 14: One of my favorite savory breakfasts (had it once before) sweet potato, mushroom & asparagus hash with turkey sausage.  Can I just say how much I love sauteed mushrooms and onions?  Had a spicy touch. And turkey sausage? Great combo.  The morning snack was a zucchini slice.  I wasn’t sure what it was, but it had bacon and cheese in it (who doesn’t love bacon and cheese– hello?).  Didn’t look much like a slice– more like a mini souffle.  Lunch were asian chicken wraps.  Good flavor.  I hadn’t really done the lettuce wrap thing before.  I love that GGC included a lime slice to squeeze over it all.  Fresh lime flavor–whoo!  Snack was a little slice of sweetness: honey pecan cake.  Not dense.  Light and cakey.  Who can’t resist the pecan on top? I”m nuts about nuts.  Dinner was out of this world: teriyaki shrimp with gingery chard & coconut brown rice.  The shrimp were huge.  I should have cut them in thirds, but no, I shoved each shrimp into my mouth whole (glad no one was watching my manners).  The aromatic rice was a great accompaniment.  I don’t think I’ve had chard before, but it was great.  Made me feel good knowing I ate something “dark green and leafy”, full of antioxidants.

So how’s it going? Feeling pretty good despite my cravings for “a little something sweet” after lunch and dinner.  Having no problem cooking for my family and eating my own meals.  Definitely think I have more energy, but it’s still early days.  Let’s see how I feel at the end of a full week of eating The Green Gourmet Chicago.  Opening the cooler up each day is like unpacking a package sent by a friend: you know it’s going to be good, but you just don’t know what it is.  🙂  Don’t we all love a little surprise?

A Little Something Sweet

mint meltaway

Okay, I’ve been on the 21-Day Challenge for four days, and today it happened (I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner): the craving for “a little something sweet” after my lunch.  I was dying for a Fannie May Mint Meltaway.   Livestrong.com has a great article about this phenomenon that confirmed for me my suspicions.  That desire for “a little something sweet” after a meal is for me, first and foremost, an ingrained habit developed over years and my brain won’t let me forget it.  Second, something fantastic happens after eating sugar and simple carbs– the body releases serotonin, the feel-good chemical.  (I think I’m in love with serotonin.  If I ever have another baby maybe I’ll give it the middle name serotonin…or some derivative…or maybe not.)

Not that sweets, in moderation, aren’t just fine.  Even The Green Gourmet Chicago sends a sweet afternoon snack each day (yes, desserts can be healthy and delicious).  But it’s mind over matter.  If I don’t want to devolve into the lower form of myself, stuffing pop tarts and ice cream bars when the kids aren’t looking (mainly so they don’t steal my pop tarts and ice cream bars), I need to have a backbone.  I need to have standards.  I can’t let myself down.  I’ve got to see my health as a long-term investment, and that means not eating 15 Maurice Lenell pinwheel cookies (not too crunchy…just a little bit of bend) in a row instead of something that’s going to give me long term energy.

Sugar is a drug and I’m addicted.  They say recognizing the problem is half the battle won…well, we’ll see.  I’ve got to re-train my brain to think differently about food, but especially sugar and simple carb foods I love.  Do they have “A Little Something Sweet” Anonymous meetings?  Might need to go to that.

Challenge Day 1 and 2 Wrap Up

cinnamon apple pancakes with fresh berries  Quinoa Porridge with crisp apples and pomegranate   Acorn squash & sage bisque  lamb burger  beef tenderloin with grilled cauliflower and mixed green salad

Day One- Friday, July 11:  Started out the day grabbing my cooler from outside the back door.  Took all my meals out of the cooler and put them in the fridge.  Breakfast was lovely: apple cinnamon pancakes with fresh berries drizzled with agave syrup.  The berries were little explosions of flavor– genius, balanced with the homey cinnamon apple pancakes. Brought my morning snack and lunch along with me when Mom and I went to estate sales:  spinach salad with tangerines and pecans (the vinaigrette was amazing…like nothing I’ve tasted before) and oriecchiette with squash and hazelnuts  (spicy and delicious… not a strong squash flavor and loved the crunch of the hazelnuts.  Didn’t have a microwave, so ate it cold– fantastic– loved it).  I was stuffed after lunch, but come snack time I was ravenous.  The cookie dough macaroons were like someone scooped chocolate chip cookie dough and dusted them with very fine coconut– heaven.  To top off the day, supper was the very delicious polenta crusted snapper with asparagus and almonds.  I love fish, but with the polenta on top and amazing sauce– mwah!  I love the crunch of the almonds and the asparagus was fine (I’m not the biggest fan, but I was good girl and ate my veggies).  Sorry I only have pictures of breakfast…day was kind of crazy.

Day Two- Saturday, July 12: Grabbed the cooler, popped my meals in the fridge and checked out breakfast: quinoa porridge with crisp apples and garnished with pomegranate seeds (very filling, just slightly sweet, the apples added the perfect amount of tart and the pomegranate seeds just make me want to sing, the flavor is so fresh and tangy).  Snack was at home and not on the go.  Really enjoyed the acorn squash and sage bisque.  I’m more of a chunky soup girl rather than pureed, but the flavor was so good I had to savor it all!  Lunch was fine: lamb burger in a pita garnished with goat cheese accompanied by a yellow raisin carrot slaw.  The burger was great, lots of flavor and I liked the goat cheese.  The pita was very plain.  I liked the carrot slaw, but not being a fan of mixing raisins in savories, I picked them out.  Dinner turned out to be awesome and I saved my afternoon snack to use as dessert: beef tenderloin topped with sauteed onions and mushrooms, roasted cauliflower, and a side salad of mixed greens with walnuts and shredded carrot, then finished off with ginger hazelnut upside down apple cake.  Felt like I went to a steak restaurant because I love sauteed mushrooms and onions.  I could eat a whole plate of roasted cauliflower!  Another nice vinaigrette with the salad– love the walnuts for flavor and crunch.  Took pictures of all the meals for you to peruse.

Two days off Coke, just drinking water, and I’m doing fine.  I forgot how awesome ice water is– especially in a pretty glass.  Setting a nice placesetting and a lovely glass of water really makes a difference.  I’m taking my time and really tasting the food and enjoying as an experience.  Feeling very spoiled, knowing a chef is preparing my meals.

I Challenge Thee…

It’s time to get serious.  I’m challenging myself (and anyone who wishes to join me) to eat better and exercise for the next 21 days…through July 31.  As far as the “eating better” part of my plan, I’ve enlisted the help of The Green Gourmet Chicago, a healthy meal delivery company, that I also happen to work for.  I’m getting breakfast, lunch, dinner and a morning and afternoon snack delivered to my door each morning. The menu is designed by our nutrition coach Joelle and balanced to fit the 40/30/30 model of nutrition (40% good carbs, 30% protein, 30% healthy fats).  The meals and snacks are prepared by our chefs.  I’m going to be spoiled, I know.

My plan: eat my GGC meals and snacks, drink lots of water, and exercise daily.  My goal: to see if I feel different, feel better, and hopefully, through eating healthy portions, get back to my desired, healthy weight.

Disclaimer: Yes, I’m the marketing manager of The Green Gourmet Chicago, but I’m going to be honest about the foods, the meals and what I think if them.  I’ve had a meal here or there in the past couple years, but I’ve never eaten GGC exclusively for 21 days.  Our clients tell us they feel they have more energy once they start eating our meals and snacks.  I would love that to be the case for me 21 days from now.

Let’s do it together!  Sign up with The Green Gourmet Chicago for the 21 day plan.  I’ll be blogging daily about my experiences, and I’d love to hear back from you in the comments or on Facebook.

What am I leaving behind the next 21 days: soda pop, crappy foods I like and eat too much of (hot dogs, potato chips, french fries, bread, huge desserts).

What I’m looking forward to the next 21 days: taking control, enjoying gourmet, chef-prepared meals and snacks (and not having to plan, prepare, cook and clean up), and having more fun being active!  Let’s do this!