Daniel fast

Daniel Fast: What to do before you start

I’m following a Daniel Fast for the first 21 days of Lent. Read more about how I will (and won’t) be blogging about it here.

I’m a fan of meal planning. In fact, I’ll probably write more about my regular meal planning in a later post. It saves me time and money, and it keeps us eating healthy, filling meals week after week.

Meal planning is especially helpful for the Daniel Fast. It’s only 21 days, so if you’ve never tried meal planning before, now is a great time to start.

daniel fast resources.jpg

I used the meal planning sheet that comes with the Daniel Fast starter kit, which is free when you register here. It’s simple and straightforward. Here’s what mine looks like for Days 5-11:

daniel meal plan

You’ll see a lot of leftovers on this plan. I pack my lunch for school every day, so I usually make something on Sunday that will last as my lunches for the week. I continued this system during the Daniel Fast. It works for me, but if you like more variety in your meals, it’s easy to make one or two servings of something and change it up more often. It does mean more time in the kitchen, but do what works for your needs and your schedule.

I gathered and printed all of the recipes that sounded good to me and planned from there. As you can see, the potato and green onion frittata for breakfast and stuffed green peppers for lunch became fast favorites! And my dinners typically consisted of either what I’d planned or just grilled whatever-veggies-I-had over brown rice, like this:

veg over rice

When it comes to your first Daniel Fast grocery run, I suggest underbuying rather than overbuying. Produce can turn on you pretty quickly, and you don’t want to have ten sets of leftovers with Brussels sprouts and lima beans spoiling in the back of your fridge.

(Or do you? Full disclosure: love Brussels sprouts, lima beans…not so much.)

In all seriousness, it’s easy to buy too much and not be able to use it all before it goes bad, especially if you’re not used to buying this much produce. I think of myself as a pretty healthy eater; my meals usually consist of half fruits and veggies, half combination grains / meat / other protein. During the fast, that’s shifted to 3/4 fruits and veggies, 1/4 grains.

I think it’s worth it to make a midweek trip to the store to have fresh produce. If not, I’d be tossing what I didn’t have a chance to use and trying to stretch leftovers (and getting hungry and grouchy).

Next week, I’ll be sharing more about meal planning and recipes during the Daniel Fast. Until then, here are some other aspects to consider before you start:

Time
Consider the amount of time you normally spend in the kitchen. Then triple it.

I’m kidding (sort of). I usually cook for my husband and myself 3 times a week, with leftovers, one meal out, and Friday wine & cheese filling in the gaps, so I didn’t expect much to change during the Daniel Fast. What I didn’t think about was the fact that I would be cooking more vegetables, which require more preparation in terms of washing and chopping.

Maybe I’m just the world’s slowest vegetable-chopper, but that added to the time I spent in the kitchen.

I think it’s also important to consider time in terms of the convenience foods you normally eat. My regular breakfast consists of tea, eggs, and a toasted bagel half, all of which my husband prepares while I’m in the shower (thank you, dear). My Daniel Fast breakfast consists of the potato frittata, which I cook on Saturday and reheat throughout the week, and some fruit. My breakfast timing remains about the same.

But if you usually have a bowl of cereal, grab a muffin at Starbucks, or–my pre-marriage breakfast–take a granola bar to go, you will want to consider that before you start. There aren’t many convenience foods on the Daniel Fast, so it’s something to think about.

Cravings
Allow me to stand upon my soap box for a moment and tell you all about how I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. It’s true, gentle readers. I am not someone who craves chocolate or gets all excited in the candy aisle. I don’t ever feel like donuts or pancakes in the morning, and I can end a delicious meal with a fun cocktail rather than something off the dessert menu with “sinful” in the title.

Sure, it occasionally gets lonely on my high horse, but it’s the price I pay for having such willpower whilst being surrounded by lesser beings who suffer from sugar addictions.

Take everything I just said and scrap it. Scrap it, I tell you. I never worried about not having many dessert options on the Daniel Fast because the truth is that I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. But three days in I realized that I was craving–and I mean craving–something sweet. On the Daniel Fast, that means apples. Or strawberries. Or sugar-free peanut butter (which isn’t nearly as sweet as you think).

So that’s something to think about. What might you crave? What can you have on hand to combat those cravings? What is your plan for working through those cravings when they hit? (Mine involved a never-ending supply of clementines and Seinfeld DVDs. Laughter = sugar replacement.)

Caffeine
This was the warning I read over and over before starting the fast. While I wasn’t quite as full of myself and condescending as I was about not having a sweet tooth, I didn’t worry too much about this one. I’m actually pretty sensitive to caffeine, so I have a cup of breakfast tea in the morning and that’s about it. I do have the occasional Coke or coffee but not every day.

(Full disclosure again: I love coffee. I love it. But I only have decaf, unless I need to do something like dust / vacuum / mop or clean out our holiday decorations or build a ship. I’ve never done that last one, but if you saw me after I’ve had coffee, you’d agree that I probably could.)

Definitely plan to wean yourself off of caffeine before you start. Going cold turkey can mean headaches and such, and you don’t want that, right?

Health Issues
This is where I tell you that I’m not a doctor and you should consult your own before starting any changes in your diet, yes?

Really, though, take any health issues into consideration and talk to your doctor. I’m anemic, so I made sure to research iron-rich vegetables and include them in my meal plan. Think about your needs and discuss the fast with your doctor. You never want to jeopardize your health.

Others Eating
Think about who else you’ll be cooking for / eating with during your fast. My husband isn’t participating in the fast, but I didn’t want to leave him on his own while I planned and cooked meals for myself. It was easy to roast a whole chicken or bake some chicken breasts for him, which he would have with whatever vegetable and rice I was having. Problem solved.

Plans or Obligations
Look over your calendar for the 21 days you’ll be fasting. Do you have any social plans or other obligations during that time? Weddings, parties, family dinners? A standing coffee date with friends?

We didn’t have any obligations over the 21 days I chose to fast, and my plan for if something came up was to have water and a salad (no meat, cheese, or croutons, and oil & vinegar, please). I really didn’t want to make a big deal out of the fast or have to explain it to people again and again, and I didn’t want to come across as if I were making a big, public display of my fasting (that whole Sermon on the Mount thing, remember?).

If you can, avoid making any plans during your fast. If obligations are unavoidable, check out the menu ahead of time. Water and salad are safe bets.

Okay, that’s it for now. I’ll be back next week with recipes. If you have any questions or advice to share, please do!

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