Why I decided to become a health-food “junkie” for two weeks and why it kind of sucks (spoiler: the food is great)

Medically, my family is a healthy bunch. For the most part, we have our weight in check, our blood pressure and cholesterol levels are close to perfect and we take our vitamins. But I was raised around a good amount of not-so-healthy food. My grandfather started a small chain of fried catfish restaurants, and my dad opened his own when I was in elementary school. His regular patrons choose to dine on all-you-can eat fried fish, fried chicken, fried okra, french fries, mac and cheese, hush puppies and more. And here in Texas, I had my fair share of tacos, cheese quesadillas and queso. Not to mention that we sure love corn dogs. And ice cream. And pizza with extra cheese.

I also love broccoli and carrots and lima beans — I never missed a serving of vegetables. My family just prefers comfort food. Who doesn’t?

A few years ago however, my migraine cycle began. I’ve gotten out of bed just to collapse on the ground or vomit in my wastebasket (gross). My symptoms are outrageous and I have racked up a nice collection of absences from school. The only “cure” I have found after all this time is getting more sleep, exercising and eating well. Crazy, right?
So I started eating better. I do my own grocery shopping for what I eat at home (no more frozen anything) and try to order the healthier options at restaurants. But a week ago, after reading a million reviews, I started a hardcore two-week-long meal plan (found on freaking Buzzfeed of all places). I chose to use this plan because it’s so well laid-out and all the food is delicious and easy to prepare. I’ll be writing a review at the end of the two-week period. The reason I chose to jump into a plan cold turkey is simple: it’s hard to commit to eating well if you do so sporadically.

Yet since I began, I have gotten nothing but what I perceive as negative feedback from my peers, and that makes it hard to keep it up.

I’m not dieting. I understand that most people who start eating well have that intention. But I have never said I wanted to lose weight. I don’t need to. I’m not trying to detox, as the Buzzfeed article states in the headline. Detoxing is a myth anyway — your liver cleans your insides for you. I’m not just following the crazy-popular kale and quinoa and hummus trend. I’m not trying to impress anyone. I’m definitely not rebelling against American culture (yes, I have heard that).

The thing that really sucks is that people assume that my “random” healthy diet equates to low self-esteem. People have been telling me non-stop “you’re perfect just the way you are.” And that “outer beauty doesn’t matter.” I hate it. For me, eating well is about what’s inside. I love healthy food and I love how it makes me feel. That’s it.

Once these two weeks are up, I’m going to P.Terry’s to eat a hamburger and a whole serving of fries. I won’t regret it. But I know that every meal I eat can’t be fatty and fried, and I don’t want it to be.

The real reason I chose to stray away from my family’s diet makes more sense than weight loss or fitting in with a new crowd. I’m trying to fix my skull-splitting headaches and upgrade my digestive system. I want glowing skin and endless energy. I want it to be easier to build muscle. It would be cool to run a marathon or something, but in order to do that, I need the best fuel possible. I’m not eating clean, I’m eating what makes me feel better.

I’m only 17; it’s still my time to grow outside and in. I need to stop stressing out about my health. The food that goes in my body is what I am made of. I want the best for myself. It’s not a statement, it’s just food.

So far, my favorite recipes from the challenge are:

Makes 1 serving
2 tablespoons Lime Vinaigrette (recipe below)
1 teaspoon tamari (can be substituted with soy sauce)
½ head napa cabbage, thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons raw almonds, chopped
4-6 ounces Roast Chicken Breast

Combine vinaigrette and tamari in a medium mixing bowl, and whisk together combine. Add
cabbage, carrot, and almonds to the mixing bowl, and toss until everything is evenly mixed and coated in dressing. Transfer to a plate or bowl for serving. While chicken is still refrigerator ¬cold, thinly slice the meat, and lay the slices atop the plated cabbage salad.

332 calories, 16.5 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 15.9 g carbohydrate (3.6 g fiber, 3.6 g sugars), 33 g protein, 462 mg sodium, 70 mg cholesterol

Makes 1/3 cup (save the leftovers for another salad)
juice of 2 limes, strained (about 1/4 cup)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon honey
¼ cup olive oil

In a small mixing bowl, combine lime juice, salt, and honey. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while
vigorously whisking the mixture with a small whisk. Whisk for an additional 30 seconds after all of the oil has been added.

Makes 1 serving
This recipe makes roasted cauliflower florets that you can save for the omelet recipe below.

1 head cauliflower
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon chopped parsley, for garnish
1 cup Lentils (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 450°F and line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the cauliflower head stem-¬side down on the cutting board and cut two 1 ¬inch ¬thick slices of cauliflower from the center (the biggest part), starting at the top and cutting through stem end. Set the steaks aside and break the remainder of the cauliflower into bite¬-sized florets, then transfer the florets to a medium mixing bowl. Rub the two cauliflower steaks with ½ tablespoon of olive oil (total, so ¼ tablespoon on each), transfer to the parchment-¬lined baking sheet, and sprinkle with ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast the cauliflower steaks for 10-15 minutes, then flip the steaks and roast for another 10-15 minutes. The steaks are done when they’re browned on the outside and tender on the inside. Meanwhile, toss the florets in the mixing bowl with the remaining olive oil, kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper. As soon as the steaks are done, transfer them to a plate, then put the florets on the parchment¬-lined baking sheet. Roast for 20-30 minutes, turning halfway through, until florets are crispy and dark brown (almost burnt) at the edges. Put the cauliflower steaks on a plate and top with 1 cup of the lentil mixture, then sprinkle with parsley. Let the cauliflower florets cool completely, then store in an airtight container in the fridge.

350 calories, 7.2 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 50.4 g carbohydrate (21 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugars), 22 g protein, 819 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol

Makes 2 cups
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium shallot, finely minced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 ½ cups water
¾ cup dry lentils, rinsed
2 tablespoons tamari, divided
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon honey

In a medium saucepan with a lid, heat oil over medium heat. Add minced shallot and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and starting to soften, about a minute. Add paprika, lentils, water, and 1 tablespoon tamari, and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, for 45¬55 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Remove pot from the heat and let the lentils sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon tamari, apple cider vinegar, and honey. Cool completely before storing leftovers. Lentils will keep for up to 5 days refrigerated in an airtight container.

Makes 1 serving
For this omelet, you’re using the roasted cauliflower florets leftover from the Cauliflower Steak with Lentils recipe.
½ head roasted cauliflower florets (everything leftover from Tuesday’s dinner)
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 large eggs for women; 3 large eggs for men
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
5¬6 basil leaves, torn
sprinkle of paprika
In a medium nonstick skillet, heat roasted cauliflower florets over medium heat until heated through, stirring occasionally. When the florets are warm, transfer them to a small bowl and wipe out the skillet.
Crack the eggs into a small mixing bowl with kosher salt, freshly ground pepper and ½ teaspoon water, and beat with a fork until thoroughly combined. Heat the olive oil in the non¬stick skillet over medium heat. Pour the egg into the skillet and cook for 1 minute. Spoon the cauliflower on top of the partially cooked eggs, then turn the heat to low and cook 1 minute more, until the bottom of the omelet is set and the top is only slightly liquidy. Carefully flip the omelet and cook 1 minute. Transfer to a serving plate, and sprinkle with paprika.

373 calories, 30.3 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 11.2 g carbohydrate (5 g fiber, 0.4 g sugars), 16.6 g protein, 783.3 mg sodium, 372 mg cholesterol