“7-Day No-Added-Sugar Meal Plan That’s Actually Doable” : Shopping and Meal Prep

“7-Day No-Added-Sugar Meal Plan That’s Actually Doable” : Shopping and Meal Prep

This is a continuation of my My Experience with a “7-Day No-Added-Sugar Meal Plan That’s Actually Doable.” Today’s post shall focus on the shopping trip and the meal prep, with my comments throughout.

They recommended that you start the process on either a Saturday or Sunday with the intention of starting the actual meal plan on the following day. Also, they warned you that it would take several hours on that first day of just prep.

This was a completely accurate assessment. I spent well over an hour at the grocery store. This was then immediately followed with several hours in the kitchen creating things that would hopefully make my week “easier.” We shall see.

The Shopping Trip

One of the things I appreciated the most about this particular meal plan was the fact that it came with a printable shopping list. Unfortunately, that shopping list was somewhat incomplete. If you are going to attempt this yourself, note that the snack ingredients are not included.

I added mangoes (which I ended up not using), dates, almond butter, and almonds to the list. I also crossed out items that I had already in my pantry. Oh, and I avoided all cucumber and eggplant. I find those things disgusting. Considering that I am an adult I don’t have to eat them!

Now, I also find kale disgusting. But I was willing to give that another try before I move it into the “never eating again” category. Cucumber and eggplant have already been permanently moved into the “never eating again” category. I am ok with that.

goodful 7 day No Added Sugar Grocery List
This is my modified shopping list. Printable version can be found here.

I spent around $100 for everything and by the end of the trip I was extremely fatigued. Although there are many in my disease community that swear by Instacart, I get just as sick putting items in a virtual shopping cart as I do putting items in a physical shopping cart. So when given a choice, I will always prefer venturing to the grocery story. I want to be the one that squeezes my avocados to check their ripeness.

After unloading all groceries (and resting), I was ready to start their recommended “smart prep routine that will make the week ahead even easier.

The Smart Prep Routine

BuzzFeed recommended that I prepare the following five things:

  1. Roasted Veggies
  2. Turkey Meatballs
  3. Brown Rice
  4. Two Different Types of Sauces
  5. Toasted Chickpeas

I thought I was doing well by printing out all recipes as I hate relying on a computer screen while cooking. Well, I almost had a huge oops moment. That printable PDF does not have page numbers! Catastrophe was avoided as I somehow managed to get all 16 pages in the correct order. I immediately numbered the pages following that incident.

While I appreciate that they tried to divide the the entire recipe list into logical sections such as “breakfast,” “lunch,” “dinner,” “veggie,” “sauces,” “protein,” “grain,” “misc,” and “snacks,” I would have much preferred them in order that you cook them. There was a great deal of jumping around (thus my page order incident), and items were not always labeled as I thought logical.

Below is each recipe I tried, along with my notes and modifications.

Roasted Veggies

Roasted Vegetables, no added sugar
Roasted Veggies, completed in all their colorful glory. Also, NO EGGPLANT!

They want you to do the roasted veggies first, as it takes the longest in the oven and you will be able to move on to other things while they are baking. There is a strong expectation for multitasking throughout the entire week.

Now, I have my own roasted veggie “recipe.” The reason for quotes is for the fact that it is not really a “recipe” with things written down. It is more of a “cook until done and looks good using whatever you have on hand.”

I decided to try to follow their instructions as a growing experience.

Yields about three pounds and requires the use of a baking sheet and an oven. Total prep time took about 15 minutes, but they took over an hour to cook.

  • 2 medium zucchini, skin on, cut into 3/4 in cubes
  • 2 medium eggplants (EW! I subbed yellow squash), skin on, cut into 3/4 in cubes
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (I think I actually used more…)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp kosher salt (I used Himalayan Pink Salt)
  • 7 Roma tomatoes (I used 6, because that’s how many they told me to buy!)
  1. Preheat the oven at 350°F. Line a large baking pan with aluminum foil.
  2. Chop zucchini, eggplant (squash!), onion, and garlic. Toss with olive oil and salt in a large bowl. (I accidentally grabbed a medium bowl to begin with… it was too small…)
  3. Place on pan and in the oven for a total of 40 minutes. Stir every 10 minutes.
  4. While those are baking, score an X on each tomato. Place in a large microwavable safe bowl and nuke for 7 minutes.
  5. Let tomatoes cool, and then peal and dice them. (I’m still undecided about this method of cooking tomatoes…)
  6. After 40 minutes, increase oven temp to 400°F. Add tomatoes and bake for an additional 25 minutes.
  7. Let cool and store in a container in the fridge.

I immediately knew that I was not touching eggplant. I prefer to not eat rubber in any form. I also typically use less olive oil when I roast my own veggies. Actually, I just use salt. Additionally, this was the first time I ever attempted to “roast” tomatoes.

My roasted veggies are typically squash, zucchini, carrots, broccoli, onions. I will be interested to see how their roasted veggies play into the rest of the week. As of right now, I think mine are better.

Turkey Meatballs

No added sugar Cilantro Lime Meatballs
Cilantro Lime Turkey Meatballs

In between stirring the veggies in the oven, they want you to prep the meatballs. I was frustrated at this recipe. Near the end, they just casually mention the breadcrumbs that you were supposed to have previously created. NO WHERE DO THEY TELL YOU TO DO THAT!

I had to quickly put the meatball making on hold as I followed their “miscellaneous recipes.” Don’t worry, dear readers. If you plan on following along this adventure for your own benefit, I am updating the instructions.

Yields either 8 / 10 / 20… I am actually unsure of the amount we were going for. Requires the use of a baking sheet and the oven. Total prep time took about 30 minutes, and then an additional 25 minutes to bake.

  • 2 to 4 slices of sour dough bread (can sub gluten free, if required)
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup minced green onion
  • 2 TBSP minced ginger
  • 2 TBSP minced jalapeño, seeded (I just used a single large jalapeño)
  • 2 TBSP minced garlic (about 4 cloves)
  • 1 TBSP lime juice
  • 1 TBSP finely chopped cilantro (I used dried)
  • 1.5 tsp kosher salt (I used pink Himalayan)
  • 1 tsp lime zest (I just used the zest of one entire lime)
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg, beaten (I did not beat it…)
  1. While your veggies are roasting at 400°F, throw four pieces of sour dough bread onto a pan and toast it in the oven. Be careful not to burn them. But stop when they are crispy. (THEY LEFT THIS STEP OUT!)
  2. Let bread cool and then place in a food processor to create crumbs (I used my smoothie maker). Set aside.
  3. Combine turkey, green onion, ginger, garlic, jalapeño, lime juice, cilantro, salt, lime zest, and black pepper and gently mix until just combined.
  4. Reserve 5 ounces of mixture (about ½ a cup), and store in the fridge — this will be cooked on Day Two for dinner.
  5. Add egg to the meatball mixture and gently mix to incorporate. (I used my hand. Yay for squishy goodness!)
  6. Slowly add just enough bread crumbs until mixture holds together.
  7. Roll into 10 meatballs, about 1 ounce each. (I used my cookie scoop and ended up with 20. Did not care.)
  8. Place meatballs onto a sheet tray prepped with nonstick spray and bake for 25 minutes.
  9. Once finished, let cool, then store half in the fridge, and half in the freezer for later in the week. (I just kept everything in the fridge.)

If we ignore the bread crumb annoyance, this was a fairly straight forward recipe to follow. There is an inconsistency in what they said it’ll yield though. On the PDF, I am supposed to get eight meatballs. On the website, ten. I ended up using my cookie scoop which gave me twenty. Oh well. That enabled me to sneak some after they were finished baking.

Y’all, these things taste DELICIOUS. I am excited to see where they are incorporated into the meal plan.

Brown Rice

No added sugar brown rice
Three Cups of Brown Rice

By this point, I was already around three hours into this cooking adventure. I was growing tired and annoyed. Why did they save this until now? I would have put this as the first thing to do. They also have this “complicated” recipe that did not match the instructions on the bag nor did they match the instructions on my rice cooker.

I decided to ignore all recipies and just cook three cups of rice in my rice cooker. Typically, I add butter and salt into the rice cooker. By this point, I could tell my energy was rapidly fading. I just did water and rice. The beauty of a rice cooker is it was a set and forget cook thing.

Greek Yogurt Tzatziki / Balsamic Vinegar Glaze

Although I paused for dinner after I started the rice cooker, I was growing incredibly fatigued by this point. I knew I was coming up on the end of the prep and I would be thankful when everything was done.

They phrased it as, “While the rice cooks, you’ll whip up two simple sauces for use throughout the week. First? A creamy Greek yogurt tzatziki.” I took one look at that creamy Greek yogurt tzatziki recipe and realized I had no desire to measure or mix anything. I could save it for the follwing morning.

As for the balsamic reduction? This annoyed me. My annoyance probably could have been avoided if I had paid more careful attention to the original shopping list, but I did not. You see, there are two ways you can get a thick balsamic glaze. You can either heat balsamic vinegar on a stove until it thickens. OR, with option two, you just buy the thickened glaze.

With the amount of caprese salad that I make every summer with fresh basil from my garden, I already had the glaze in my pantry! I was not about to stand over the stove to create something I already had.

balsamic vinegar and balsamic glaze
Nope. Not making the glaze when I already own the glaze.

I guess this section can be succinctly summarized as “Tired Amber did not follow instructions.” Honestly, I debated whether I had the strength to finish the last recipe. After another break, I decided to try to finish it, with slightly modified instructions.

Roasted Chickpeas

No added sugar roasted chickpeas

In one section, these are called “grilled chickpeas.” Another place, they are “toasted.” On the website, it’s “roasted.” I guess this is part of the drawback from getting cooking instructions from BuzzFeed. It is only slightly better than Pintrest.

Yields a little over one cup. Requires the use of a stove top and they recommend a 9 in cast iron skillet. Took me about 15 minutes to make.

  • 1 can (15.5 oz) of chickpeas / garbanzo beans
  • 2 TBSP olive oil (I did not measure)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt (I used pink Himalayan)
  • 2 tsp minced jalapeño
  • 1 TBSP chopped cilantro (I used dried)
  1. Drain, rise, and pat the chickpeas dry. (I did not have the energy to pat them dry.)
  2. Heat olive oil in the cast iron pan.
  3. Add chickpeas, salt, and jalapeño (or leftover lime juice, because why not?).
  4. Cook, stirring frequently, until chickpeas are brown and crispy. This took about 10 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and toss with cilantro.

I knew I was not going to be mincing anything else for the night. In doing so, I completely eliminated the jalapeño. But I did sub in the leftover lime juice.

I also snacked a little bit on these. They taste good, and it was fun watching them cook up and brown. I plan on keeping this recipe on hand as a simple high protein snack.

Concluding Thoughts

If I were to do this over again, I would split up the shopping trip and the meal prep recipe into two different days. This was too much for me personally to complete in one day. I ended up cutting corners (rice cooker, not making the sauces, subbing ingredients) and being absolutely exhausted.

But they promise me that this hard work will be rewarded! We shall see.

Again, my main goal was to reduce my unhealthy dependence on sugar. This was not a “diet” and I was not manipulating my food intake in order to drop weight. I want to have a healthy life-style, which is so much more than a number on a scale.

I want to remain Clearly Alive.

Amber Nicole is Clearly Alive