The Whole Life Challenge is an 8-week health/fitness game. You can play, regardless of your age, weight, height, color, geography, or current diet. Thousands of people around the world are starting The Challenge September 15th. If you’d like to join our little group (currently at around 80 people), join this Facebook group, click “files” and read the signup instructions. Join us! It will change your life.
In the Facebook group a friend asked:
I wondering if someone might be willing to come up with basic list to stock a pantry with? I’m one of those “if it ain’t deep fried, it ain’t worth eating” type of folks so I could use a starter kit. A challenge, indeed.
In this post I’ll take this on. Please post your own additions or corrections in the comments.
I’d start this by taking a look at what you’ll be eating for the week. Let’s draw a very general picture before drilling in. First, a few suggested meals for each time of day. Feel free to mix/match a bit, and new meal suggestions are always welcome:
Eggs + Veggies: I do this a bunch of different ways: 2 egg whites + 1 whole egg + water well beaten and poured into the pan with some sauteed broccoli, 2 friend eggs with sauteed spinach, scrambled eggs over raw tat soi, etc. My go-to pre-long-run breakfast is simply 2 scrambled eggs + 1 banana about 3 hours before the run. This gave me plenty of energy without making my stomach groan, even in the LA Marathon.
Drink a salad: After reading Rich Roll’s “Finding Ultra” I’ve been starting the day with: 2 leaves kale, 2 tbsp hemp seeds, 1/2 banana, 1 date, 4 chunks pineapple, pinch salt, 1 cup water, 1/2 cup ice (from the Thrive Foods cookbook)
Other: Try this one (also from the Thrive Foods cookbook): 2 tbsp chia seeds, 3/4 cup water, 1/2 cup cashews, 2 dates, pinch cinnamon, pinch salt. Mix in a blender. Top with blueberries.
- Snack: Apple, carrots and celery + hummus
- Lunch: Veggies and a protein. I eat a salad from a local market salad bar pretty much every day, or if I find myself at a lunch meeting I always go for the simple salad + protein option with the dressing on the side (which I’ll often just leave on the side). But you could also make/buy something to last the week, like these Mini Salmon Loaves with Salsa I found in an issue of Runner’s World: Combine 3 5oz cans wild salmon or crab, 2 cups spinach or collards, 1 diced red bell pepper or asparagus, 2 tbsp chopped dill, juice from 1/2 lemon, 1/2 cup almond or hazlenut flour, 2 large eggs, salt and pepper to taste. Divide into 12 lightly greased (grassfed butter!) muffin tins and bake at 375 for 20 minutes.
- Dinner: Um, veggies and a protein, of course! Make your favorite protein and eat alongside something yummy made from cauliflower, sweet potatoes, broccoli, etc. Here’s one from that magazine in the Southwest airplane seat pocket: Oven-Roasted Cauliflower (thanks Mark Solon for the photocopy!): Preheat oven to 500 degrees, mix together 3 cloves garlic, 3 minced anchovies, 1/2 cup chopped parsley, 3 minced calabrian chilis, 2 tbsp crushed red peppers, 3 tbsp lemon juice, and 1 cup olive oil. Toss with 1 head cauliflower cut into florets. Roast until tender, about 10 minutes.
- Dessert: There are lots of great desserts if you want to go crazy, but remember, part of the challenge is KICKING the sweet cravings, not finding substitutes for it. My recommendation is to stick with REAL, WHOLE FRUIT for dessert and keep a jar of unsweetened apple sauce on hand. OR, just mindfully lose a point and eat something delicious! If you want to go crazier and not lose a point, check this mind-blowing-yet-WLC-compliant treat (from Crossfit Journal): In a blender: 1 cup coconut milk (milk, not water), 3 chopped and frozen bananas, 2 tbsp almond butter, 2 tsp cocoa powder, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/3 cup water. Blend and drink. Whu whuuuuuuut?! And if you want to go extra crazy try a Google search for “paleo dessert pinterest”. But be careful because honey is allowed in the paleo diet and not in WLC.
So given the above framework, here’s what a stocked fridge/freezer/pantry might include:
- Green beans
- Sweet potatoes
- Canned sweet potato puree
- Goji berries
Nuts and Seeds (organic, raw, sprouted where possible):
- Brazil nuts
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Chia seeds
- Canned salmon and tuna
- Fresh, wild-caught fish
- (whatever else you want — we don’t do other meat in our kitchen)
Staples and other stuff:
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Coconut milk
- Hot sauce (check the label!)
- Tomato sauce (again, check the label!)
- Lara Bars (compliant but crazy high in sugar — GO EASY)
And of course a big box of organic, grass-fed BUTTER.
Coffee! Treat yourself to homemade cold press! Splurge on beans from Heart or Sight Glass (Thanks @tara for the recommends!). So good you’ll forget about milk and sugar.
I refer you again to Ben Greenfield’s Food Pyramid, which IMHO is the best-researched diet available, the one based on current science, not fad, that encourages good balance and moderation. In my opinion this is the diet you should aim for in the off-season, and it’s likely to give you some great guidance on The Challenge as well. In particular, pay attention to the items which are WLC-compliant but in the “MODERATE” columns. You will likely have a tendency to eat too many of these foods on The Challenge. Resist!
Pre-packaged meals are also an option for the lazy/busy/self-proclaimed non-cookers (though you’re missing out on part of the fun IMHO). Every weekend I find a couple pre-made goodies from a place at the Mar Vista Farmer’s Market called Smart Simple Gourmet. I stumbled into a place in Austin which is elsewhere in the country (including the South Bay here in California) called MyFitFoods which has lots of Challenge-friendly meals. Also here in LA we have Brian’s Bowls. Do you know of any others? Do a search in your area and let us know what you find.
Or maybe now is the perfect time to sign up for your local Community Supported Agriculture delivery? We use one (of the many) here in Los Angeles called L.O.V.E. Delivery and they deliver to the Topspin office a big dose of fruits and veggies once a week. Chris Carlson chops and stores all the veggies in a big bin in the fridge and hungry Topspin employees are welcome to dive in at any time. The apples, pears and whatnot go fast, of course. Use this site to find a CSA delivery in your hood.
Books I love with plenty of recipes easily adapted to The Challenge:
Chris Carlson recommended this book, Well Fed, but since we’re still a “no meat in the house” household (fish allowed) I haven’t checked it out yet. Others in the Facebook group swear by it, too.
I hope this answered the question and was helpful…
What else ya got?