Sweet Breakfast Treats: A hearty slice of cake-like, fully sprouted Cinnamon Date Manna Bread slathered with made-from-scratch hazelnut butter and hemp seeds plus a side of organic blackberries.

Three weeks ago, thoughts of bathing suit season crept into my mind and I realized that I wanted to lose a few pounds before Memorial Day. My gut told me that dieting was not an option.

I had stopped counting calories, measuring food and going on ‘diets’ seven years ago, and was not about to get on that hamster wheel again. My jeans were undeniably snug. That was all the encouragement I really needed. But things began to get prickly when wanting to continue eating some of my regular comfort foods.

I knew I was eating well generally, while committed to a whole food plant-based eating style. I also knew that whole foods with added sugar were creeping into my meals routinely. Traditional junk foods – chips and cookies and chocolate-y spreads, as well as extra helpings of calorie dense, health-optimizing whole foods like nuts and nut butters were taking a toll on my jeans goals – namely fitting into them comfortably.

Being truly honest with myself, I realized that I was looking the other way with portions, calculating that a conservative handful of this, followed by a sliver of that, and just one of the other after dinner wouldn’t hurt. The ‘health halo’ surrounding many of the nutrient dense foods I was eating had caused me to not quite ignore, but pay little mind to the size of my helpings. The portions were in retrospect not huge, but they were left of mindful.

Traditional junk food categories with a healthful twist such as tortilla chips made from vegetable pulp, cookies made with garbanzo beans and ice cream prepared from the milk of coconuts covered my excesses. They checked all of my boxes for being food made purely of whole food, dairy-free, gluten-free ingredients you can pronounce. My all too forgiving black leggings were not telling the same story as the spring Capri jeans pulled out of storage. Some course correction on my healthy habits was overdue. Happily, my plant-powered pizza made from simple whole ingredients was not at risk.

Plant-powered Pizza: Gluten-free, dairy-free store-bought pizza dough topped with organic marinara, sautéed meatless beef, fresh basil and Smoky Vegan MOZZ from Miyoko’s Creamery.

Grabbing a shopping bag I began to pull items off of my pantry shelves that I knew were some of the ‘healthier’ culprits. A few favorites included stone ground dark chocolate-covered cashews and reduced sugar granola. These were better-for-you snacks which aided my transition from the highly processed junk food that produced unnecessary weight, to a lifestyle of measured whole food plant-based eating.

One week after I tossed the bag of pretty-good-for-you goodies out of eyesight, the New York Times published ‘Why Eating Processed Foods Might Make You Fat.’ In it, the journalist referenced a “small but vigorous” recent study on ultra-processed snacking (far more refined and lacking in nutrition than my own, but likewise, filled with added sugar, salt and fat) and pointed conclusively to a spike in study participant’s hunger when food choices included hyper-processed packaged foods. The conclusion of the study suggested that staying closer to eating more whole, minimally processed foods full of fiber, vitamins and minerals and other key nutrients was a preventive measure against tipping scales.

With a two pound per week weight loss on average, having stayed out of my bag of packaged goodies for three weeks, my plan has been to return one product from the bag to my pantry every week. A renewed respect for a conscious awareness of reading ingredient lists on the back of packaged foods, particularly the salt, fat and sugar which can easily trigger over-consumption has been essential.

Full disclosure, there are a few particularly tempting things left in my aptly named Time-out bag still, which are brought to the kitchen like a toy from a child’s toy box and returned to the bag following moderate consumption. This is not for lack of trusting in self. It is a conscious, slimming choice.

Bought myself some new bathing suits and there is a bit more room in my jeans for some swagger.

For these recipes and more unprocessed eating inspiration, visit my  Insta feed @WholeFoodieRonna​  

Instagram – Ronna Corlin