5 Days of Clean Eating - enhancing the lifestyle of an indie developer and our busy family

Normally I blog exclusively about our business, offer my experiences on what worked for us, what didn't work, or how I've applied my MBA studies on the marketing or promotion of mobile apps. Today's post is a bit of a departure on that. However, there is some relevance to our apps, since our biggest seller is our cooking app, and I've spent the past week delving into cooking and diet and how to improve our eating habits and consequently, our health. This post will go through my hilarious (my opinion) escapades in trying to find time to cook and run a business at home, while keeping up with the family's busy schedule. It's a practical application of what we do for a living.

What is Clean Eating?

Clean Eating, so I'm informed, is more about lean meats, vegetables, and fruits, proper portion sizes, and eliminating processed foods, refined sugars, artificial sweeteners, and pop (including diet), rather than calories. I ate more food this past Monday thru Friday than I have been eating, and I lost 5 pounds! Read on to find out how...

The Backstory of an Indie Developer

First, I want to thank my friend, Jenn Tohtz, for getting me to try 5 Days of Clean Eating. I needed something to get me out of my funk of the daily grind. It is not easy working from home sometimes—no one around to keep you on task, loads of daily customer service inquiries that can sometimes be quite abrasive. You sometimes have to have very thick skin and the ability to read between the lines to respond accordingly. We love feedback, but written word never comes with the intended tone, so you read into every little word and sometimes take it quite personally. Although I work with my husband as well, it's also hard to be with each other 24/7 and you really need a distraction. In addition, my workspace is not in a private area, so as soon as the kids get home from school, all work is interrupted, even if you were just on the edge of a breakthrough trying to understand iOS Auto Layout!

Being an indie developer requires a different skill set to be successful. Self-motivation, perseverance, and tolerance to a lot of isolation. Because one can only be isolated for so long, we've all taken up karate in our household. My evenings are filled with daily visits to our dojo, sometimes more than one trip. It's great to interact with people, see our friends, and get in an excellent workout. My husband and I recently earned our first degree black belts in January, following our oldest two, who are already at second degree.

Because of our schedule, we have a lot of flexible time during the daytime, but our evenings are quite scheduled, making it difficult feeding everyone. Not only is there little time to cook, but also no one wants a heavy meal prior to a workout. This 5 day plan also includes a lot of in between meal snacks, which can be challenging to fit in. I believe the snacks are key to not overeating at the main meals, so I tried my best to squeeze them in. In addition to all these hurdles, my husband is allergic to fish, seafood, chicken, turkey (all poultry), walnuts, and eggs-not-fully-cooked. This leads to very few meal choices, especially lean meat ones. Plus, HE is the cook, not me. He loves to cook—watching many cooking shows, reading cookbooks (his fav is Jamie Oliver), and generally understanding the science behind it (you should see his home-baked goods!). I do all the prep work—menus, grocery shopping, and timing (“it's really time for you to start cooking so we can make it to classes!”). He's busy programming (our bottleneck), whether it be our apps or contract work to supplement the app income.

We've also been through a crazy few months. Our dishwasher died, our sump pump failed (just enough to create unnecessary work for us), our garage door springs sprung (cold winter?), and I got bit by a dog while running (not serious, but a serious distraction). Eating right, and/or focusing on healthy choices towards weight loss goals have not been at the top of our priority stack.

Enough backstory: I needed a healthy distraction, to get me back on track. I don't cook very confidently, even tho I do the prep work, we are limited in our food choices due to allergies, and my family has a busy schedule....

It's Just 5 Days....You Can Do Anything for 5 Days...

The 5 Day Clean Eating is a side project to the 21 Day Fix/Shakeology. My friends Jenn Tohtz and Lisa Aubert are coaches, if you want to check it out. Our group leader for the 5 day was Dana Jill, who put together the whole 5 day menu plan to help us and set up a private Facebook group for support. I don't believe I can directly share the menu plan she provided, but I will share some of the things I've learned. It was great for me to have a plan, because the effort of researching foods would have been too overwhelming of a hurdle to go through. The menus consisted of breakfast, midmorning snack, lunch, midafternoon snack, and dinner. We also had to exercise every day and drink water (which I just couldn't drink it all, but I tried).

Prep Work: Scaling, Listing, and Shopping

The plan was Monday-Friday, so I spent last Sunday dissecting the menu and preparing a shopping list. I hate wasting foods, so I wanted to make sure I only bought the foods in the amounts I'd use. We have apps Recipe Manager with Serving Sizer for iPad and Serving Sizer with Recipe Manager (iPhone) that will convert recipes by serving size. I also used our quick app, Serving Sizer, to scale a few ingredients in one of the sauces. I took the recipes for salmon (which no one else can/will eat in my house), entered them into our app, and scaled them for one serving. I planned to make the kids try the salmon, but I didn't expect them to eat it. They like chicken, so I scaled those recipes to include them, as applicable. I had to scale up the pork chop recipe, because our whole family of 5 would eat that.

I will say the initial shopping trip was a bit more pricey than I expected, but it also included staples I didn't have already, like coconut oil, quinoa, and chia seeds. I was a bit apprehensive on all the produce, but I'm happy to report we ate every bit of it, except the bok choy, which I should have erred on the side of caution and picked up the baby bok choy size. I recognized that the menu was extremely varied—to give you lots of snack choices, but I wanted to try it all, so I did. However, it is still ok to substitute, so I also did that as well. And I did not give up my morning coffee, nor my evening adult beverage (neither on the menu plan). And I still lost the weight!

Appliance Inadequate, Burnt Quinoa, Not the Best Start: Day One

I started out by feeling a bit overwhelmed, and feeling appliance inadequate. On Sunday, I brought home all the fresh food. It was difficult to find room in our fridge for it all. And when the fridge is packed, it tends to get colder because air doesn't circulate, so all the lettuce freezes, for example. I had a big fear that all the money spent on this food would go to waste!

Monday's menu included a supersmoothie for breakfast. I had do to some research on this, and pinned a few to Pinterest. I decided on a raspberry peach one, found on this pin. I had purchased frozen raspberries and peaches for this purpose. A splash of vanilla extract really made it tasty. I had neglected to consult the recipe so I did not have the dates, nor am I into almond milk, so I substituted 1% milk I had on hand. But I did have chia seeds! I had a heck of a time getting my antiquated blender to adequately blend the frozen fruit and ice. Again, an inadequate kitchen tool to start me out. (A nice blender is now located on my Amazon wishlist!) It took so long to make the smoothie (which I DID perfect by the end of the week), that it was already time to eat the midmorning snack! I tried Greek yogurt (not being much of a yogurt fan to begin with) and it was awesome! Just sliced a few fresh strawberries into the 0% fat version by Fage. Yum. My youngest LOVES strawberries, so I cleaned the whole pack and put them in the fridge. I used a few the rest of the week, but she inhaled the rest for snacks and lunch sides. Big win for not letting half the pack go bad—strawberries can be so pricey...

Raspberry Peach SuperSmoothie

supersmoothie

As I'm eating the snack, I'm making the lunch, which struck me as sort of a bruschetta, but stuffed in zucchini instead of over toast. My zucchini's were too small, so I had too much stuffing. I tried to modify, but the mix of sweet onions and tomatoes was not good. I don't digest onions as well, so I did have a tummy ache for most of the afternoon—not good on a day where I have to go sparring in the evening. I started out with a bang by severely burning the quinoa element of the recipe. Yeah, I burned quinoa to a crisp...typical cooking results for me. I did successfully make a second batch. The whole meal is heated in the oven at 200 degF, so it just never seemed to get done. The parm cheese never melted. I had to call my husband to rescue this dish. It was ok. We both tried it. My son, who LOVES onions, ate the last piece, after I reheated it in the toaster oven. He loved it. Reheated seemed to be better.

After I finished making the zucchini and popping it in the oven, I set to prepare the dinner. It was a chicken enchilada soup, in the crock pot. We have a decent crock pot, so this time I had the tools! I figured the whole family except my husband would eat it. However, we start our karate schedule at 5:30 and end after 9 PM. I certainly didn't want to workout on a full stomach; I needed 8 hours to cook the dish plus it was already after 9 AM. My bad. I got out the chicken and lined the bottom of the crock pot. It was 11 AM, but then I realized that it was too early to start! Having a full fridge meant I couldn't put the whole pot back in the refrigerator for 2 more hours and I couldn't possibly leave the raw chicken out for that long. Unsafe! What to do? Not having any cooking sense, I wasn't sure I could leave the soup for longer (and no one would be home to monitor it). After texting several friends frantically, I came up with a solution, but I was already ready to throw in the towel. But I was determined to get thru 5 days, plus I had all this food....

I got no work done on Monday, as I cooked pretty much the whole day (who has time for this thing we call cooking??)....but the soup turned out fantastic! And we did eat it upon our return from our workouts. Whew, day 1 over!

Chicken Enchilada Soup

chicken enchilada soup

Timing, Salmon Virgin: Day Two

Day two was much easier, as I have a baked eggs in avocados before. I love avocados and look for ways to incorporate them into my diet. Plus this day I got to eat leftovers—I froze the rest of the soup. Win for me.

Baked Eggs in Avocado

eggs avocado breakfast

The dinner, wild salmon, proved a bit more unnerving. I've had salmon before, and liked it, but I had no clue how to cook it, let alone prep it. The karate schedule started at 6:15 and I had kickboxing later, so I wanted to try to eat beforehand, with enough time to digest. This fish was made in a foil packet, took 20 min to cook, so in afterthought, a great quick meal for one. I had purchased a nice piece of fish, divided it in half—two salmon meals this week. First decision: Would it last til the one later in the week or should I freeze it? It did last, so I made the correct choice. Next up: How to prepare? Do I have to remove bones? How do I know? One side had skin on it. What to do, what to do? In a panic, I consulted my husband. He can't eat fish, but he knew how to prepare it. He helped me discover that it had already been deboned. And I can cook it with the skin on. Whew. Fish in the oven, starting in time to eat by 5:30. Last, how do I know it's done? If I unwrap the foil packet too soon, will it be ruined? We checked after 15 min, not quite there, so 20 min worked great. Google is my friend as well! I had no problem in kickboxing—didn't have that “too full, sleepy” feeling that I've gotten if I have a big dinner or a lot of carbs before I workout. Success!

Honey Salmon in Foil

salmon

Hummus Yummus, and Shrimp Saavy: Day Three

A bit more cooking for the third day. I had to grill up some chicken for lunch. I just pan fried it—a smidgen of oil, and watched it carefully. I discovered that using hummus as a condiment, in a wrap, is very satisfying! It is low cal as well. I elected not to buy both whole wheat wraps AND whole wheat pitas, so I modified this recipe to use a wrap. I spread out hummus on the wrap, added tomato & cukes, and the cooled sliced chicken. Delicious. The menu called for a side salad, with just balsamic vinegar as dressing. I usually whip up some of this for salads, but this time, I tried it without the oil. Just as good! I'm not a big salad eater tho, so today I made the chicken wrap again without the side salad. So far so good on fullness after lunch.

Did I mention that my kids got into all the fresh food? I usually buy fresh during the summer (we have a local produce tent that's dirt cheap), but not as much in the spring/winter. The red grapes I picked up for today's snack were very good. So much so that my two daughters pretty much inhaled the grapes the first two days, so I had to pick a different afternoon snack.

The evening meal consisted of a Paleo Shrimp Fried Rice. I love shrimp, but when I bought them, the fish counter guy asked me if they should be precooked or raw. The recipe just said “peeled and deveined” so what the heck did I know? At least the guy was very helpful—he said if it was in a stir fry, he would suggest pre-coooked. So I picked those up. I was panicked tho—will they last til Wednesday? Should I freeze them? Ugh. Too many decisions. I did put them in the fridge and they did survive. The shrimp dish did not include actual rice, but cauliflower rice—essentially a head of cauliflower ground up in the food processor to mimic rice. I was a bit apprehensive, but felt it would be good way to cook cauliflower besides steamed with shredded cheese on top. (Did I mention I'm not very creative with food?) Since my husband is the cook, he did offer to cook this one up for me. I did all the mise en place. Because of the shrimp (allergic) and the two eggs (allergic) in the stir fry, he couldn't try it. My son already likes shrimp, so he and I ate it for dinner together. My other two just tried it. It was very mild, but tasty.

Paleo Shrimp Fried Rice

shrimp fried rice

Choking on the Timing and Bok Choy with Botched Brown Rice: Day Four

Day four was interesting because the breakfast sandwich required one slice of turkey bacon. As we have a turkey allergy in the house, I elected to just have my husband fry up some regular bacon as a substitute. No sense in buying a whole pack of turkey bacon that no one would eat for just one slice. I love egg sandwiches, but mine consist of a fried egg, and English muffin, and a slice of cheese. This one had a poached egg, the slice of bacon, and slices of tomato on whole wheat toast. I was a bit apprehensive. While I am proud to say I can fry a mean over-easy egg, I had not poached an egg before. Google to the rescue! It came out quite awesome, if I do say so myself. And the sandwich was yummy, despite being devoid of cheese. And on dry toast. Surprisingly.

Pretty Decent Poached Egg

poached egg

The lunch consisted of tuna. I haven't had tuna in the house since the mercury levels are not healthy, but I figured one sandwich would not hurt. I do need to look into getting some mercury free natural tuna, but for this exercise, I opted for a can in the store. I usually doctor up my tuna with mayo, but this recipe called for the Greek yogurt to moisten the water-packed fish. (I will say, I bought the smallest container of plain Greek yogurt I could find, in case I didn't like it, and all the recipes managed to use up the entire container, even tho it was much larger than I wanted to purchase.) The wrap included a practically a whole salad wrapped WITH the tuna, which seemed odd, but it really did make the sandwich tasty.

Since smoothies were the afternoon snack this time, my kids were home from school by then, so we spent the afternoon making smoothies for everyone. They opted out of the chia seeds, but that's ok, at least it was a healthy snack. My oldest is now making her own. We had thrown overripe bananas in our freezer (in hopes of future banana bread), so we had a ton to use. And my husband would be happy because they would stop falling out and landing on his feet! Poor feet! So we had banana smoothies, banana/raspberry/peach smoothies, and banana/strawberry smoothies...Yum!

Dinner was salmon again, this time it had to be marinated. I had to remember to do this beforehand, one thing we oftentimes mess up. The recipe included sautéed bok choy, and a grilled slice of pineapple. I hate canned pineapple, so opted for a fresh one. My husband loves fresh pineapple so he just set aside a slice for me as he cut it up. He grilled the salmon and the pineapple on our grill, which both came up wonderful. Of course, inadequate time, we don't own a rice cooker (my oldest was allergic to rice as a baby/toddler), so I tried to make brown rice on the stove. Burned it! Two strikes this week. My husband came to my rescue and tried to make it in the microwave this time. It cooked, but it was bland, watery and awful. So I just forwent the rice....

The bok choy was another panic for me. How to clean it? Prepare it? The recipe called for the whole head, which was A LOT of bok choy. I do like bok choy, but.... I cleaned most of it, but set aside the rest for maybe a stir fry this week (if it doesn't go bad), and then only cooked up about half. The recipe said to stir fry with a clove of garlic—but should I slice it? Should I mince it? I chose to slice it—I think it was just to add some flavor, not eat. The leaves softened up nicely, but I was VERY glad I only cooked a few. And timing. Wow, was timing ever off. I had kickboxing at 7:45. I wanted to eat by 6. At 7:00 everything was done, due to the rice debacle. And my husband had to grill the pineapple for longer (in his mind). I had to rush through eating it—but it was very good. I will say, you really need to chew bok choy well—it was tasty, but I nearly choked it down, literally.

Grilled Teriyaki Salmon, Grilled Pineapple, and Sautéed Bok Choy

salmon pineapple

Dead Grill but Great Pork: Final Day, Five

Last day! The dinner meal was pork, so we could all eat it. And steamed vegetables, which I elected steamed green beans (frozen). Peas was on the menu, but I just hate peas. And one of my kids is allergic to peas. I marinaded the pork in the morning.

Lunch was egg salad, again something I add mayo. The only change was adding ¼ cup of low-fat cottage cheese. I purchased mine in the single serving cups—so I could eat the rest as a snack another time and not end up throwing out (or over eating) the remainder in a pint. The result was moist and as tasty as the way I usually make egg salad.

Dinner timing was tricky again. We had our evening karate at 7 PM, but I also had to squeeze in some haircuts for the kids. I needed my husband to put the pork on the table no later than 5:30. And I wouldn't be home to prompt him. He was very open to work with my schedule, so we did accomplish the meal, along with cut vegetables from the rest of the week (my kids love fresh cut vegetables). My youngest discovered that frozen steamed green beans are MUCH more yummy than the ones from a can, so she pretty much inhaled the vegetable. The only issue was that our grill died (rusted out), after the previous night's dinner, so we had to broil the pork chops inside.

Thoughts and Conclusions: I like Greek yogurt! Kids Love Fruit and Smoothies! I Survived Cooking!

I lost 5 lbs in the five day change of eating habits. I have been on a weight plateau for over a year. I ate more food than I normally do. I exercised my norm (usually once a day anyhow). I drank a bit more water. I tried new foods, found good healthy snacks. I didn't snack at night (a big problem I've had). I didn't overeat at dinner, as I'd snacked throughout the day. I ate the right portions of protein. My kids were ecstatic because we had fresh fruit and vegetables in the house, and nothing went bad for once! I discovered that grape tomatoes will add some good taste to any sandwich. I found I liked Greek yogurt. I like chia seeds and they are great in the supersmoothie. My kids are eating smoothies now too. I still suck at cooking—I will leave it to my husband from now on, as he loves it. But I can buy fresh produce with more confidence that it won't be uneaten. I am still the designated menu planner, grocery shopper, meal scheduler. I can do that. I bought some more of the foods that I liked for this week. I probably won't be as strict in what we eat (I did not have time to research menus this weekend), but I will try hard to eat better meals and snacks. I think I was already on the road to this, but it helps having some structure to work with. I'm a control freak and a planner, so this worked well with my lifestyle.

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