Tuesday, 2 February 2016

REVIEW // Popsugar's 2 week clean eating plan

Last month I decided to commit to the 2 Week Clean Eating Meal Plan by C&J Nutrition on PopSugar's website. Reasons why I did this include:

1. it was just after the gluttonous festive season and I was feeling rather...saturated.
2. I wanted to ditch the habit of snacking needlessly when bored (office treats are the devil)
3. to get a good start on getting in shape for a holiday to Italy in May 2016

I ordered all the ingredients needed online at Sainsburys.com and had them deliver on the Friday evening before starting the following day. Days 1 and 8 are prep days so I decided to begin on a Saturday to give myself the weekend to settle into the routine before the working week began. Plus this way I got to finish on a Friday, and may have had a cheeky pint in celebration...

Week 1 groceries cost me around £50 and Week 2 cost around £60. Afterwards I was left with a week's worth of meals in the freezer, and therefore did not have to buy much food at all the following week.

So what kind of plan is this? C&J Nutrition claim the plan is around 1600 calories, which is about the right amount for me. It is largely vegetarian, with only a few pieces of lean white meat and fish here and there, has no dairy and does not exceed the RDA for sugar. The macros are roughly 50C, 20P and 30F, so lower protein and higher carb than my usual diet, but pretty standard. There are tons of vegetables, so it is very micro-nutrient dense. The instructions are thorough, advising you when to take things out of the freezer, and what to do with any leftovers.

I kept a journal documenting what I was eating and how I was feeling on each day, and have written this below.

Advance warning this is a long post!

B: 2 x banana muffins and steamed almond honey milk
L: soba noodle salad
S: roasted chickpeas
D: sweet potato curry, brown rice and kale salad
S: dark chocolate

SATURDAY: No doubt about it, day 1 has a fair bit of cooking. However by the end of the day, I had pre-made a variety of delicious dishes to save time on other days, including a number of frozen meals - this is one plan that just keeps on giving!

It was the first day in a long time where I didn't go overboard with sugar, so I was very proud of myself. I did eat a prawn cracker from Chris' takeaway without thinking, which  demonstrates how mindless I can be.

Prep today was aided greatly by my Nutribullet and my ceramic garlic/ginger grating plate; seriously they stole the show. That and my new Dyson handheld hoover for when I dropped the salt..

Right, onto the ratings.
Breakfast was lovely, I mean who wouldn't want cake for breakfast?
The addition of warm almond milk was very comforting and I didn't even miss my usual frothy coffee.
Lunch was delicious and easy to make, however the instructions are a bit muddled as they fail to tell you to half the recipe. I ended up with an extra 2 portions which I just popped in the freezer, so not the end of the world but unexpected nonetheless. Love the peanut soy dressing in this recipe.
Dinner took 6 hours to cook in the slow cooker, so I'm glad I read the recipe the night before otherwise I would have been caught out. I think I'll read the recipes for the following day each night from now on. 
Roasted chickpeas are delicious, especially straight from the oven. I ended up with a smaller amount than the recipe suggested however.
I have to admit that I left the chocolate to last minute because I was nervous my inner cookie monster would be like GIVE ME MORE BITCH after just 30g. Turns out it was just the perfect amount. Phew!

B: hot brown rice cereal w/pecans
S: banana muffin
L: sweet potato curry and brown rice
D: chicken chili, kale cucumber salad
S: pecan stuffed dates

SUNDAY: There was a lot less to do today, which suited me just fine as I had committed to stripping some wallpaper and cleaning the house. Woke up at 10am (so lazy) and had some leftover coconut rice with half a pear, pecans and warm almond milk which was very comforting, but felt healthier/lighter than porridge somehow.
Lunch was easy; I just heated up a portion of last night's curry which tasted even nicer than the night before. That's one of the best thing about curries imo.
Late afternoon I had a cup of tea which alongside coffee is permitted on the programme, albeit you should not exceed 2 cups a day. I also had one banana muffin from yesterday.
For dinner I substituted jalapenos for birds eye chilis and bloody hell it was hot. Oops!
So far everything has felt so easy to digest - I'm not experiencing any bloating or discomfort at all, nor any slumps. We'll see how it goes when I'm back at work surrounded by temptation tomorrow.

B: egg sandwich w/avocado and mushrooms
S: roasted chickpeas
L: chicken chili tortilla
D: quinoa sweet potato and mushrooms
S: mini peanut butter cups and milky tea w/ honey

MONDAY: here's where the real challenge started - spending the day at the office. Or so I thought...
Breakfast was avocado toast with knobs on. Eggcellent, didn't leave mushroom for anything else #sorrynotsorry
I managed to last until 4pm before eating my chickpeas snack, and survived a display of free cake in the office kitchen. That was a big win for me!
Completed an abs and cardio class at Pinnacle, before tucking into the biggest dinner ever. Very satisfying.
We don't have Justin's peanut butter cups in the UK, so I substituted this for half a raw snickers treat from The Naked Deli which was seriously good and 100x better than a normal snickers bar.

I feel the need to emphasise how well today went by scoring it 10/10.

You may not have noticed but I have deliberately not discussed alcohol yet. Possibly as it is not allowed, but I am just taking each day as it comes. So far I have not craved an alcoholic beverage, but it is only Monday and I don't want to jinx it.

B: mushroom quinoa w/avocado and egg
S: white bean celery salad
L: soba noodle salad
D: kale tofu omelette and roasted chickpeas
S: matcha latte

TUESDAY: another work day, and more mushrooms! I am a fan of them but I know not everyone is, so just a heads up, you eat a fair few of them in this plan.
Overall another successful day! Instead of making a matcha latte myself, I was able to source one from Quilliams Tea House who offer them with soya milk. I was pleasantly surprised.
Also, thanks to the instructions I made my first successful omelette - look how non-broken it is!

B: sweet potato pie smoothie
S: orange with cinnamon PB
L: avocado salmon salad w/ white bean kale salad
D: soba kale soup
S: maca maple cashews

WEDNESDAY: Bloody love the sweet potato pie smoothie; thick, creamy and filling. Will be having that one again. Today I made a little mistake: I didn't realise I was meant to save 1/3 of the avocado salmon salad for tomorrow, and ate the entire portion at lunch! I thought it seemed like a generous portion... I completely missed that on the instructions oops, my bad.
I thought the soup was going to be a bit dull, but the addition of sesame oil at the end made the meal. Like the plan suggests, I had normal cashews instead of maca maple ones (whatever they are).
Today I refused a beer offered by my boyfriend - should I cheer that my willpower won or sigh that I'm being so sensible? For the past 3 nights I have consecutively hit the gym, and tonight's bootcamp class was the most intense session yet: I'll be interested to see whether I am getting enough protein and calories to keep me going towards the end of the week.

B: tofu scramble
S: avocado salmon salad w/cucumber
L: soba kale soup
D: salmon quinoa cakes
S: bruleed banana

THURSDAY: to be honest, this morning's breakfast I could have done with changing. I leave the house to get to work at 8am, and cooking a meal that takes 40 minutes was not ideal. So I made it last night instead. My little freezer is already getting quite full - I hope week 2's food will fit!
As I only had 1/2 a cucumber as a snack for work, I decided to eat it with my favourite tahini and feta dip by Hemsley + Hemsley. Afterwards I realised this is dairy, oops.
The salmon quinoa cakes were really good, although I must admit I'm looking forward to a change from kale - eaten pretty much an entire big bag this week. Still, it must be good for me.
Bruleed banana was a great dessert, and really quick to make, literally 3 minutes. I enjoyed it with a mint tea before hitting the hay.
Side note: today I needed to cook tomorrow's lunch and prepare breakfast, but they didn't take too long thankfully. 

B: PB banana overnight oats
S: banana muffin
L: cauliflower quinoa frittata
D: veggie tacos
S: cheesy kale crisps

FRIDAY: my favourite day of the week is here! I saved my muffin for the afternoon as work got busy in the AM and the gap between breakfast and lunch seemed very long - was very hungry! Lunch was tasty although it did not look like a frittata when I came to eat it.
The veggie tacos rocked my evening, but the cheesy kale crisps dried out too much and became dust. Nutritional yeast is lush though, tastes just like Parmesan cheese.
PS. Sainsbury's home delivery rocks, I am converted.

B: cranberry almond breakfast bar
S: hummus with crudites
L: bean and egg burrito
D: maple salmon quinoa w/ roasted veg
S: brownie cake

SATURDAY: my breakfast bars did not stick sadly, so I basically made granola and popped it in a big jar. Very moreish though.
The brownie cake is insane - over the past couple of months I have eaten chocolate pretty much every day, so this week has been the longest gap I have had for a long time. Sadly, I came undone when making the brownies and felt a bit out of control when cleaning up the bowls and spoons i.e. I cleaned them with my mouth.
Loved lunch, however after eating I felt incredibly bloated! I can't put my finger on whether it was from breakfast or not, so will monitor this week and see how I go. Very uncomfortable :-(
In the evening I went to a housewarming party, and may have had a few glasses of prosecco - oops!

B: quinoa egg scramble
S: popcorn
L: maple salmon, spinach, pear, walnut salad
D: black and white bean soup, broccoli
S: almond milk cocoa

SUNDAY: black pepper popcorn is one of my favourite snacks in my Graze box so I was pleased to have the chance to make it myself. Generous portion too.
Maple + salmon + pear = omgoodness
Not usually a big fan of vegetable soup, I stared enviously as my boyfriend ordered a delicious Malaysian takeaway while I cooked the bean and potato soup. However I was actually bowled over by the taste of this one and liked it so much I may have eaten an extra helping...don't think I'm going to be losing any weight doing this plan! The label on my tupperware for the freezer portion reads 'Veggie soup - f amazing'. I didn't have any cocoa, as it wasn't on the shopping list :-(

DAY 10
B: avocado toast and fried egg
S: walnut cranberry trail mix
L: sweet potato quinoa salad
D: veggie fried brown rice
S: brownie cake

MONDAY: Not gonna lie, I felt really bloated mid afternoon and really wish I knew what the trigger was. The toast I had is wheat free, but could it be all the beans? I had a pretty grueling workout and my performance was definitely off; I didn't feel as strong as normal. Could it be that the diet is a bit low in protein, or perhaps it's just an after effect from the prosecco?
The recipe for the fried rice doesn't tell you what to do with the garlic, but it was tasty and filling all the same. I didn't feel very hungry today, so only had a bit of trail mix for a snack.

DAY 11
B: maple chia pudding w/ walnuts and banana
S: almond butter, chia and apple
L: black white bean soup and cucumber salad
D: roasted veg frittata, spinach salad
S: chocolate drizzled popcorn

TUESDAY: before today I had only ever tried chia pudding with coconut milk, which is not my favourite I have to admit, so I was a bit cautious to try it again. Turns out that almond milk, banana and maple syrup make it a much nicer dish. Also, how filling are chia seeds?! Full until lunchtime, big thumbs up.
After having balsamic vinegar a few times this week I have decided that I'm not that keen on it as a dressing, unless it is a reduction.
Roasted veg frittata was nice but huge! It took two sittings to finish it actually.
Popcorn + melted chocolate = delicious mess
Today felt like A LOT of food.

DAY 12
B: cranberry almond breakfast bar
S: hard boiled egg and grapes
L: tuna salad tortilla and orange
D: turkey meatloaf, baked potato and broccoli
S: turmeric milk and dark chocolate

WEDNESDAY: as my breakfast bars turned out to be granola (see above) I found it difficult to know when to stop eating. It's like crack.
The filling of the tuna wrap was too much to fit into a tortilla wrapped up, so ate it like an open sandwich. Plus there were no forks at work so I had to eat it with a spoon, definitely got some funny looks.
I have never to my knowledge had meatloaf before, and boy was I ready for some meat on this mostly vegetarian plan. The baked potato took too long to make, so I confess that I left it out.
Turmeric milk is warm and comforting, without being cloying. My wooden spoon is now bright yellow however, I wonder if my insides are the same?

DAY 13
B: almond butter pear quesadilla
S: walnut cranberry trail mix
L: turkey meatloaf, cucumber salad and grapes
D: fish tacos and salsa
S: avocado chocolate mousse

THURSDAY: there are a few wraps in this meal plan, however so far I haven't been able to actually wrap any of them! There is simply too much filling - not that I'm complaining. I did manage to fold the pear quesadilla, as for some reason I only had half a pear rather than the whole one in the recipe. As you can see below, the fish taco was an open affair.
I skipped the avocado mousse, not because I didn't want it but because I didn't seem to have enough avocado :-(

DAY 14
B: spiced pineapple smoothie
S: ants on a log
L: avocado egg salad wrap
D: chicken fajitas
S: apple crisp

FRIDAY: cranberries and almond butter together are so tasty, makes me want to try Buff Bake's Cranberry Coconut Peanut butter very soon.
Another wrap for lunch, this time a simple one of egg and salad. It was interesting to notice how different I felt after a wrap without beans in compared to one with - with beans I don't feel quite as 'clean', like my digestive system has to work pretty hard to break down the substance. The wrap itself, which was not grainless by any stretch, left me feeling fine.
The lettuce fajitas worked out great, despite the recipe not telling you what to do with the rice? I used my imagination and just heated it up to add to the chicken and salsa.
I forgot to buy more oats for week 2, and therefore missed the apple crisp, instead having the apple cut up with some peanut butter. The apple crisp sounds lush though..

Aand that's a wrap (another one?!).
I wasn't convinced that each day is 1600 calories, so for a couple of days I used MyFitnessPal to log the meals, and discovered that they added up to 1800 calories. This could be for a number of reasons, such as product type or miscalculation, but could explain why I felt quite full; I was full! I know not much can happen in 2 weeks in terms body composition, but I didn't lose any weight. This may be because I have replaced a few of my cardio sessions with lifting workouts, which have resulted in me burning less calories overall.

The meals are without a doubt super tasty, and you pack in a lot of vegetables. Personally I would have preferred to eat some more fish and meat, and less beans, but otherwise the balance between carbs and fat seemed spot on. I rarely felt hungry on this plan i.e. I was not going to bed feeling empty; it felt sustainable and I would look forward to every meal. The snacks in particular saved me from temptation at work, as they were varied and decently sized.

The only cons I can think of are that there are a few mistakes on the recipe instructions and the shopping lists, which in my opinion do not outweigh the pros.

  1. read the recipes and schedule in advance.
  2. you will need a relatively empty freezer as a lot of cooked meals get put in there. Also invest in some freezer bags and a marker to label them. The benefit of this is that you won't need to buy much food for a week afterwards.
  3. at the end you will have lots of leftovers in your fridge too, such as quinoa, hummus and veggies, particularly if you had to buy larger packs in the first place.
  4. although buying the food initially may seem expensive I actually saved money during the two weeks, and this continues there is food in the freezer and cupboards. Additionally, by pre-making all my packed food for lunches I was able to avoid tempting food shops on breaks at work.
Bottom line is, I would recommend the plan for anyone looking to learn a few new cooking tricks, eat a balanced and healthy diet and save money in the long run.

My overall rating is 8/10.

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