After trying my hand at Bella Hadid's diet, a three-day "anti-detox," veganism, and Kaia Gerber's "yolo" diet—it's safe to say I've run the gamut of popular eating plans. Now, more so than anything, I'm interested in keeping things simple. Fresh, nutrient-dense, real foods make up my new meal plan, regardless of fad diets and outdated advice. Instead, I'm keeping to one rule—no packaged foods (that means, no chips, low-cal snacks, and processed foods—packages like yogurt containers and coconut oil jars are allowed).
This idea came up in one of my many conversations with Farah Fahad, MS, RD, a dietitian and founder of The Farah Effect. "The majority of packaged foods can be high in chemicals and preservatives," she warns. "So read labels to make sure what you're buying has minimal ingredients. You should be able to recognise and pronounce every ingredient on that list." Instead, I decided to forgo packaged foods altogether (for a week, at least) to see what it did to my body and how I felt throughout the process.
This mindset favours nutrient-dense, full-fat foods over the familiar low-fat "diet foods" with the belief that they're ultimately better for your body because they don't come in a "low-cal" marked package. "In the '80s and '90s, 'fat-free' and 'low-fat' were popular claims to make in regard to food," says Siggi's in-house RDN, Abigail Kinnear. "However, in the past decade, there has been an increase in the popularity of items that contain fat, as consumers seek less processed foods." In other words, real foods are finally at the forefront of diet and wellness trends, while low-fat packages with artificial sugars are on the decline.
Below, I describe how my week without packaged foods went and include my five favorite recipes I used to do it.
This super-delicious (it practically tastes like dessert) breakfast has an added protein boost courtesy of the Greek yogurt. Everything can be found at your local grocery store.
3/4 cup of low fat Greek yogurt
1 tsp. of coconut oil
1 sprinkle of coconut sugar
1 sprinkle of cinnamon
2 tbsp. of coconut flakes
Toast the coconut flakes in a pan over medium heat and stir frequently until the flakes are mostly golden brown then set aside.
To caramelize banana, heat 1 teaspoon of coconut oil in a pan. Next, place the sliced banana in the pan with a sprinkle of coconut sugar and cinnamon then brown the banana on both sides.
"Greens and grains are my go-to power combo for a complete meal," explains Fahad. "Kale is full of fibre and nutrients, and quinoa is a gluten-free grain packed with vegan protein." Sweet potatoes, walnuts, and a drizzle of olive oil make this dish feel hearty while still good for you.
1 tbsp. of olive oil
1 sweet potato
1 cup of quinoa, cooked
2 handfuls of prepared kale
1/4 cup of chopped, toasted walnuts
2 tbsp. of balsamic vinaigrette
Preheat oven to 250°C degrees. Chop the sweet potatoes and then toss in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste.
Roast sweet potatoes at 250°C for about 20 minutes, or until soft. Remove the potatoes from the oven and cool down to room temperature.
"I love this Paleo-style recipe for when I’m trying to cut carbs and rev up my metabolism," recommends Fahad. All the coconut makes it taste like a giant macaroon, but, it's made up of only super-healthy fats. Fahad agrees: "Only a tablespoon of honey for two servings also makes this a low-sugar way to start your day."
1/4 cup of coconut flour
1/8 tsp. of baking soda
1 pinch of salt
1/4 cup of coconut milk
2 tbsp. of coconut oil
1 tbsp. of honey
1/2 tsp. of vanilla extract
Maple syrup to taste
Sunflower oil (for cooking)
In a large bowl, whisk eggs, coconut oil, honey, coconut milk, and vanilla extract together. Whisk in coconut flour, baking soda, and salt.
Heat oil in your skillet and then add a little batter to the pan and cook until browned on both sides.
"The earthy flavour of grilled asparagus and wild rice gets a tangy kick of low-lactose protein with some creamy goat cheese," says Fahad. Again, it's super easy to make and tastes absolutely satisfying.
1 bunch of asparagus
1 tbsp. of olive oil
1 cup of wild rice
2 oz. of crumbled goat cheese
1/2 a tsp. of sesame seeds
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp. of fresh garlic, crushed
1 tsp. of red wine vinegar
1 tsp. of olive oil
To cook wild rice, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Stir in 1 cup of uncooked wild rice, reduce heat and simmer. Cook for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the grains puff open. Take off the heat and refresh the rice under cold running water using a colander.
As the rice is cooking, prepare the asparagus. Trim the ends of asparagus and cut into two. Next, heat the olive oil over medium heat and grill asparagus for a few minutes until tender. Set aside.
Make sure rice is drained well then place it in a bowl. Toss the rice, asparagus, and goat cheese together in red wine vinegar, olive oil, and garlic or classic vinaigrette made with fresh garlic. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.
I hadn't even realized I'd been eating mostly vegetarian all week because the food had been so hearty. But, by Friday, I wanted some chicken. I chose to make Fahad's chicken kale salad. "Keep your constant cravings at bay with a delicious meal that is simple, nutritious, and totally easy to prepare," Fahad said of the dish. And, it only took 10 minutes to prepare.
2 chicken breasts
1 tbsp. of grapeseed oil
3 large handfuls of kale
4-5 baby gem leaves
2 tbsp. of classic or balsamic vinaigrette
Preheat oven to 250°C. Drizzle grapeseed oil over the chicken and season with salt & pepper. Place chicken in a hot pan. Flip chicken over until nicely browned on both sides then place in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until the juices run clear depending on the size of the breast.
Place chicken in a hot pan. Flip chicken over until nicely browned on both sides then place in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until the juices run clear depending on the size of the breast.
While the chicken is in the oven, prepare the salad by mixing kale and baby gem leaves in a bowl. Toss in the vinaigrette dressing.
Remove the chicken from the oven, and let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Place cooked and sliced chicken on top of dressed salad leaves.
I can't lie—this week had me feeling amazing by the end. Of course, I had a few cravings here and there for my usual fatty or packaged foods (I'm a junk food die-hard), but I couldn't get over how easy it was. I lost four pounds (and never felt hungry), but it wasn't at all about losing weight for me. Instead, I noticed more how much energy I had, how light I felt, how much less sluggish I was in the morning. It really made a huge difference in my productivity.
After all the fad diets and possibly damaging tips out there, this is one I can stand behind wholeheartedly. If your food doesn't come from a package, the more likely it'll be good for your body. Just try it, you won't be disappointed.