Cook and Eat healthy for 30 days

Raspberries, avocado and blueberries for a smoothie

If the holidays or extended family bonding sessions have left you bloated and in need to regain your energy levels and vitality, then join me and challenge yourself to cook and eat healthy for 30 days. You may find that after thirty days you choose to cook and eat healthy on a regular basis because you feel better and like knowing what goes into every meal.

I grew up in the glory days of diets and radical fitness regimes, when fat was the enemy and carbohydrates were the mainstay of every balanced meal. The diet industry flourished on the insecurities of millions of us who were fat shamed and belittled for being plumper than our svelte friends.

Diets, deprivation and disordered eating

Over the years I have gained and lost weight on more diets than I care to remember; from diet pills to the Atkins diet, to very very low carb and calorie restriction. What I learned from all these diets is that the results are temporary, and the constant gnawing hunger and restriction is probably why dieters always look miserable. The very restrictive nature of a diet causes disordered eating and cravings that sooner or later, result in binge eating.

I remember the very first time I went on a diet. I was 12 years old and a normal weight for my age and height, but because I always had fat cheeks and was bigger boned than my cousins and school friends, I felt like an elephant among gazelles. A week of some weird blue drops that evacuated my bowls within 30 minutes of taking it left my school dress a bit looser at the chest and waist, but my insides in turmoil. That was the start of teen years of occasional yo-yo dieting, followed by a short bout of bulimia during my first year at university when I felt like my life was out of my control.

At the end of that year my dermatologist prescribed a hormone contraceptive therapy for acne that had become progressively worse over the course of the year. He asked whether I was satisfied with my weight but didn’t explain why he asked. I weighed about 60 kg at the time which was normal for my height. Within 6 months of starting the treatment I gained 12 kgs, despite walking at least 5 km’s per day to and from the university campus. Many years later a specialist mentioned that the specific group of hormone therapies permanently disrupted the body’s ability to metabolise lipids, especially when administered at a young age like 18.

I enjoy tasty well seasoned food and find that when I cook and eat healthy unprocessed foods, my energy levels are higher and I feel less sluggish. Although I kept my goal weight (60kg) in mind, I never made any serious attempt to achieve it until about five years ago. I embarked on a very low carb, low calorie diet that became synonymous in my mind with deprivation, constant gnawing hunger and extreme disordered eating. After reading some of the comments in various online diet groups I came to realise that it is a common trait of highly restrictive diets. That, and the almost manic judgmental attitudes of dieters towards others who are not as strict or precise in their diet methodology.

The only benefit of the diet was that the restriction made me aware of my food allergies and intolerances. These have become more numerous the longer I am on the Rheumatoid Arthritis treatment.

Additional reading: Rheumatoid Arthritis – My journey into the light

Cook and Eat healthy with gluten free Almond and Coconut pancakes

Almond coconut breakfast pancakes

The Moderation Movement and Intuitive Eating

A few years ago I came upon a facebook group that was strictly non-diet, non-shaming and encouraged intuitive eating, enjoyable movement and being healthy at every size. Nothing is restricted and members are encouraged to exercise balance in every aspect of life and to listen to the messages from their bodies. Whether it needs feeding, watering, exercising or sleep.

I realised that I had no one to please except my own self and that eating good healthy food is something that should be enjoyable, not fraught with tensions and guilt. Every single dieter I have ever known becomes the worst version of themselves while they were on their mission to lose weight.

Whether it is becoming preachy and self-righteous about what is healthy or unhealthy or what others should and shouldn’t eat, it all goes to pot when they themselves fall off the wagon. The sad reality is that a diet is seldom a lifestyle change and returning to bad habits results in all those kilograms piling back on and more.

I much prefer not depriving myself of anything and eating fresh healthy food as often as possible, but only when I actually feel hungry. When I stopped the diet merry go round I discovered that I don’t particularly crave things like cookies, cakes, chocolate, crisps except when I have PMS. A big obstacle to good health is lack of adequate movement for many of us who have sedentary lives and jobs.

What I struggle with most is finding the inclination to make meals for myself and then eat it after I reach home. This requires effort and focused attention, so starting from the first of the week I am going to be preparing, cooking and eating a healthy breakfast, lunch and/or dinner daily, for 30 days (at least). I’m calling it the #EatHealthy30 and you can follow my daily creations on Instagram and Twitter.Cook and Eat healthy with tagliatelle with garlic and chili prawns made at home

How to cook and eat healthy for 30 days

The most important thing to remember during this challenge is the goal: to increase the consumption of healthy foods by eating home made meals where we know exactly what we put in.

I watched this video by Professor Tim Noakes explaining the reason why some people get fat from carbs. Even though I knew the headlines of what he was talking about, knowing the science behind it put it in a completely new light and gave me a greater understanding of how carbohydrate intolerance affects health and weight.

  • For 30 days prepare most of your meals from scratch (excluding stocks and the occasional rotisserie chicken) because I know it will be healthier and more economical than eating out or ordering in. The goal is to improve our general well being and health through simple and wholesome cooking and meal preparation and reduce our intake of processed foods.
  • Try to reduce food wastage by reusing leftovers and buying produce that can be utilized in many different ways.
  • Cook at least one new recipe every week to ensure we learn and share something new.
  • Try new cooking methods, cuisines or dietary regimes that I have little or no experience of (like Banting – low carb, high fat).
  • Get organised and plan the first 3 days meals before hitting the supermarket to stock up on fresh fruit, vegetables and your chosen proteins, snacks and treats.

Challenges to cooking and eating healthy for 30 days

  • The lack of motivation to change unhealthy eating habits is often the most active challenge to establishing long term healthy eating habits. Focus on why you want or need to make the change to a healthier way of living.
    • Do you have a family history of diabetes, high cholesterol or hypertension?
    • Are you at risk of developing these chronic diseases?
    • Do you have any other illness that would benefit from healthy eating and an anti-inflammatory diet?
  • I know how hard it is to eat healthy when you have deadlines and are used to self-sabotage or friends who love to eat junk food. Find a buddy (or two or three) to encourage you when you are feeling lazy or craving an unhealthy snack or drink a glass of herb and fruit infused water.
  • An active social life often means being exposed unhealthy food choices, especially when there are large family dinners with desserts and cakes. Moderation is the key so indulge in that slice of chocolate cake if you feel inclined and don’t feel guilty afterward.
  • The lack of money is often cited as a reason to delay healthy eating. Buying fresh foods on sale, frozen foods and re-purposing leftovers will make it last for multiple meals and will be cheaper than take out a few times a week. Stick to simple meals that do not require fancy or hard to find ingredients that you won’t use again.
  • Unexpected delays at work or sitting in traffic impact on the desire to cook at night after reaching home. Look at ways to address this in a useful and constructive manner, as it is something that impacts on the lives of most working women.
  • Eating out or indulging in too much fast food often means that you drown your taste buds in high fat and high carb options. It is often easier and more convenient to grab a meal or order a delivery but eventually you feel it in your pocket and on your waistline.
  • Skipping breakfast and/or lunch may leave you feeling like a starving zombie who can eat a horse. Resist the urge to go food shopping at this time because you may end up with a trolley full of food you don’t need.

Tips for cooking and eating healthy for 30 days

  • Eat only when you feel hungry. Listen to your body and give it what it needs when it needs it.
  • Incorporate healthy fats from avocado and nuts and eat proteins like fish and chicken. This keeps me satiated and reduces cravings for junk and processed foods.
  • Remove inflammatory foods like legumes, potatoes, wheat and sugar from your diet if it affects you adversely. For many on plant based diets beans, lentils and chickpeas are essential protein sources but they may result in an unwanted inflammatory response if you have an immune system disease.
  • Include eggs and cheese in breakfast or lunch as the protein is not too heavy and helps keep you fuller for longer than cereals or toast.
  • Have soup or salad to ensure lots of green leafy vegetables are included for your daily nutrient intake.
  • Have berries to snack on as they will reduce the sweet cravings during the day.

Click on the links below to help you cook and eat healthy

This post was first published on 28 January 2016 and has since been updated. 

If you want to join me in this challenge to cook and eat healthy for 30 days please use #EatHealthy30 on your social media posts. You are also welcome to submit your pictures of your #EatHealthy30 meals to the Facebook page.

If you liked any of the recipes above please consider rating the recipe and leaving a comment on the relevant recipe page or below this article. Also keep in touch on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram for more updates.

Don’t forget to share the recipes with your family and friends and #tantalisemytastebuds if you share one of my recipes that you made on Instagram!

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  • Reply
    August 19, 2019 at 10:44 pm

    This is a great idea and I would love to join the challenge. I badly need to start cooking and eating healthy. Thank you for sharing these tips. I can’t wait to get started.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      August 19, 2019 at 11:00 pm

      I did my first day yesterday and am already feeling better just by having breakfast every morning.

  • Reply
    Kristine Nicole Alessandra
    August 19, 2019 at 2:39 am

    Being a stay at home mom, I usually cook food from scratch, but there are days when my tasks are way too overwhelming that I end up ordering Chinese take outs. I am diabetic and I really should need to watch what I eat.

  • Reply
    Liz Bayardelle
    August 18, 2019 at 2:31 am

    I’m all about the common sense diet. It’s amazing how you can get way better results with something sustainable for the long term, even if it’s small.

  • Reply
    David Elliott
    August 17, 2019 at 10:10 pm

    I’m going to have to read more on what you did for the 30 days as this was a while ago. I am impressed you went to this kind of healthy eating plan. It’s difficult when you are working all day and have limited ability to meal prep. But I know I need to do it more. And have more nuts for snacks.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      August 17, 2019 at 11:09 pm

      I find that doing this challenge every now and then resets my routine and healthy eating habits. With summer holidays it becomes very convenient to eat out but my palate is feeling exceedingly jaded and I have done all my grocery shopping to start fresh from this week. Nuts, especially macadamias make great snacks but I also love little bits of cheese or berries. My all time favorite snack is the granola recipe that I have on the blog.

  • Reply
    Agnes Dela Cruz
    August 17, 2019 at 6:48 pm

    Every time I cook my goal is to prepare healthy, budget-free food. I always plan ahead and buy stocks so I know I can cook according to my prescribed plan.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      August 17, 2019 at 7:52 pm

      One of my downfalls is not sticking to the plan! Sometimes I even pack a lunch for work and by the time it comes to eat I feel inclined for something else.

  • Reply
    Melanie williams
    August 17, 2019 at 5:43 pm

    I need to also do this. I find it so hard and easily find myself dipping into those chocolate biscuits. Good luck with it hun xx

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      August 17, 2019 at 7:50 pm

      I find that when I have skipped breakfast and lunch and my energies start flagging the quick fix is usually a few cookies with my tea. My goal is to eat when I’m hungry and actually make the time to do so instead of working through it until I feel I’m about to faint.

  • Reply
    alexandra cook
    August 17, 2019 at 5:23 pm

    This looks and sounds great. I am so much more concerned with our health now than I used to be. So important for me that we at healthy food wether its breaksfast, lunch or dinner.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      August 17, 2019 at 5:27 pm

      Many of our modern day ill health issues result from our diet so we are the only ones who can make the changes that we need to be healthy and happy.

  • Reply
    Viano Dee
    August 16, 2019 at 10:53 pm

    This is quiet an interesting post. Truly, moderation is everything. I think eating more of fruits and veggies are helpful. I also tried dieting several times and even when I lost weight, it was only temporary. I figured it’s not necessarily about starving or completely cutting off some food, it’s about striking a balance. Not too much nor too little- moderate. And of course eating only when you’re hungry.

  • Reply
    Natalie Jones
    March 14, 2016 at 10:01 am

    This is a great plan, and I look forward to it. I have been eating healthy dishes like health drinks at Wagamama, Palm and others to keep fit.
    Will definitely try this.

  • Reply
    Molly Kumar
    March 4, 2016 at 7:06 am

    This is such an important challenge and I try doing it time to time too. Seriously, the biggest challenge for me is staying away from desserts. But I’m so proud of you to be able to stick to it for 30 days and the Olive oil tasting sounds like lot of fun.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 6, 2016 at 9:22 am

      I was very surprised at how much I enjoyed the olive oil tasting. Learning about the tradition, the manual methods and also the love the people have for the land.

      The manually milled olive oil is way more expensive, but the taste is incomparable. I thought it would be awful drinking olive oil, but it’s only awful if it’s yucky oil. My favorite had such a smooth mouth feel and lovely aroma that I drank more of it than I used with bread.

  • Reply
    February 29, 2016 at 11:17 pm

    I love seeing your healthy eats in my IG, FB and Twitter feed. You inspire me to make healthy choices too upon seeing them. It’s really important to somehow reboot ourselves after the holidays or a vacation. Keep it up, Razena 🙂

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 1, 2016 at 5:34 pm

      Thank you for your kind words. It has not been as difficult as I had imagined it would be (mostly because I was not very hungry after the first week).

      I have slipped on occasion, but not beating myself over the head about it, just starting the new day with the resolution to keep making healthy choices 🙂

  • Reply
    February 28, 2016 at 3:03 am

    It is so very important to spend time focusing on our bodies and the food we eat. I have really changed how I eat about 3 years ago. Lost 35 pounds and feel so much better. I limit white things – like flour and sugar. Made a huge difference

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      February 28, 2016 at 6:08 pm

      Since I’ve cut out the wheat flour and other refined carbohydrates from my diet, I feel so much better as well. If I eat anything carby, my head feels like it will explode, so I tend to avoid it now.

      However, with Dubai Restaurant week in full swing for the next two weeks, I am at the mercy of faceless chefs for at least 4 dinners. Thus far it hasn’t been too bad, and even the must have sugar confections at Social by Heinz Beck on Friday night didn’t leave me with too much of a sugar hangover.

  • Reply
    February 27, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    What a great plan – my husband and I just found ourselves having a similar conversation on our way back from a vacation where we definitely over-indulged. I hope that we can stick to our plan as well as you and I totally agree that these types of changes always work best with a buddy.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      February 28, 2016 at 6:05 pm

      Indeed, sticking to healthy eating is easier when there is someone sharing the journey and encouraging you. Everything of the best for your eating plan 🙂

  • Reply
    Manju | Cooking Curries
    February 26, 2016 at 12:27 am

    This is a great plan and looks like you have followed through pretty well! We try to eat very consciously here, as much as we can. But you are right, events like restaurant weeks and other things can really derail your plans 😀

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      February 27, 2016 at 12:25 pm

      Thankfully I managed to stay on track for most of the time, although the pasta class and restaurant week have caused a slight deviation from my low carb eating plan. It seemed such a waste to leave the beautiful Raspberry dessert consisting of 11 different textures/flavors of raspberry created by a 3 Michelin star chef… at least that’s what I keep telling myself 🙂

  • Reply
    February 24, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    This sounds like a great plan. Watching what we eat really helps a lot. It helped me get back to my pre-pregnancy weight. I have heard Cape Town is a beautiful place. I wish to visit it sometime.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      February 24, 2016 at 11:25 pm

      The plan worked out differently than expected in that I didn’t even want to eat as often as I imagined I would.

      Cape Town is beautiful… mountains and sea… the bluest blue skies and the most spectacular sunsets 🙂

  • Reply
    February 22, 2016 at 5:34 am

    Sounds very interesting. A motivation indeed to start eating healthier. I find myself popping a cupcake in my mouth everytime I bake them for others, a brownie here and there, and God knows what other sugar loaded stuff. Good luck to you and hope I’ll get started on this too.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      February 23, 2016 at 10:28 pm

      I love baking and although I have a wheat intolerance I love everything baked with wheat flour.. I had been hesitant to try other flours and if nothing else it has been good to experiment with wheat free baking. I found that I can get a pretty good loaf of bread using coconut flour, almond flour and psyllium husk. I’ll start experimenting with more cakes and desserts soon in shaa ALLAH 🙂

  • Reply
    February 19, 2016 at 11:01 am

    All the best for the endeavor. In sha ALLAH you will succeed.. I did use to eat healthy before but off late I am off the bandwagon.. Time to buckle up my shoes too..

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      February 19, 2016 at 11:19 pm

      Ameen. The first week was fun and I enjoyed making the salads, but the second week was a bit of challenge when my appetite faltered as a result of the low carb, healthy fat eating plan actually working. Alhamdulillah, I am getting accustomed to it now and getting used to eating when I’m hungry only, regardless of when that may be. Breakfast now is usually not before 10am.

  • Reply
    February 18, 2016 at 10:55 pm

    Great idea. I’ve been wanting to do something of the same but I find a reason every month why i can’t. Oh there’s this festival, or we are going on a cruise.. etc. I really do need to try harder

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      February 19, 2016 at 11:15 pm

      I only realised a few days into the month that it coincided with the start of Dubai Food Festival and I was invited to a few demonstrations and workshops at Eataly, so who could resist eating cheese and making pasta? For the most part I’ve been good, aside from the pasta and dessert offered after lunch on a weekend. It has been a challenge finding interesting food and trying to keep motivated when all I really want is a grilled cheese sandwich with real bread 🙁

  • Reply
    January 31, 2016 at 10:08 pm

    I have been enjoying your pics of beautiful SA on IG! Looks so much warmer than the UK atm lol. All the best for the clean eating, I totally agree, not eating out will definitely cut so many calories ; even if you go for a healthy option like chicken salad they can add so much oil amongst other things!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      February 1, 2016 at 12:30 am

      Cape Town was hot and windy for the entire 18 days or so that I was there, although it was a cooler with lovely breezes during the weekend in Paternoster.

      I really dislike when they add dressing to the salad and it tastes and looks all greasy. I much prefer my salad leaves untouched and if I feel inclined I’ll add some balsamic vinegar or a splash of lemon. My issue is mostly getting home too late at night to bother cooking, so I order delivery or don’t eat at all.

  • Reply
    January 30, 2016 at 2:29 am

    This is a great challenge, good luck 🙂 We eat pretty healthy around here already, but I like to set myself a new challenge every month to keep me on track. This month it was having a green smoothie every day, and it worked so well to curb my sweet cravings!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      January 30, 2016 at 3:23 pm

      I love smoothies for breakfast, and found that adding a handful of spinach or even parsley does wonders for my energy levels during the day. I think it’s a wonderful way to start any day.

  • Reply | Krystallia Giamouridou
    January 29, 2016 at 4:37 pm

    Well… this challenge sounds great! Believe me you will be 100% pleased at the end of it. My husband used to follow this food-lifestyle and now he has improved both his stamina and health. He also lost weight which was very important too. I will post your link to my fb page in order to urge other people to follow your steps… Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      January 30, 2016 at 3:22 pm

      I realized that although I love bread, I love being pain free more. I’m going to be experimenting with wheat free alternatives, for the odd occasion where only a sandwich will do. Thanks so much for your support 🙂

  • Reply
    Lindsey | Lou Lou Biscuit
    January 28, 2016 at 10:21 pm

    Sounds like a great plan! Good luck with it. I did the Whole30 2 years ago, and I felt amazing. Now I just try to avoid white flour, sugar, and most dairy. It’s hard and I’m constantly having to get back up on my feet, but it’s worth the struggle. After a while you don’t crave the bad as much.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      January 29, 2016 at 10:33 am

      I had done very well with the no sugar, no white flour and little dairy until the end of 2014 when our family suffered the loss of my mother. I went off the wagon completely during my visit home and although I haven’t been indulging too often over the past year, it has still had a negative effect on my health. I can literally feel the difference in my bones 🙁

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