Clean Plate Challenge Results: Whose Menu Will I Eat Tomorrow?

Outrageous experiments in sensible eating.
Feb. 10 2011 4:41 PM

Clean Plate Challenge Results: Whose Menu Will I Eat Tomorrow?

On Jan. 12, I asked readers to design a perfect eating day for me , since I seemed to be doing everything wrong. I set out some of the complaints readers had about the way I was eating (too much food! not enough food!) and some guidelines of my own (no meat! no fake foods!), and I promised that if someone designed a day that worked for me, I would eat their menu. The response was terrific. I got more than 60 comments, with everything from advice about how to plan and cook ahead, to specific menus and recipes with cost included, to admonitions that I am on the wrong path and suggestions that I should just eat out, to book recommendations, to advice on what kinds of cheeses to avoid. Someone thought I needed to get more fun in the form of waffles with whipped cream into my diet.

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Ellen Tarlin Ellen Tarlin

Ellen Tarlin is a former Slate copy chief and writer of the "Clean Plate" blog. Her essays have appeared in the Boston Globe, the Boston PhoenixBrooklyn Bridge, Bark, and  the RISK storytelling podcast. Follow her on Twitter.

Some menus I dismissed right away, either because they violated my guidelines (they included meat or fake foods), or they included a food readers didn't realize I didn't like (coconut) or a product I wasn't familiar with or didn't want to deal with (Whey protein powder, spirulina, acai).

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I was struck by the similarities in many the menus. Some of you advocated for eating a lot of eggs--up to four for breakfast and more for dinner. Many of you suggested a hot grain cereal with fruit for breakfast and some variety of vegetable salad for lunch. Lots of you mentioned hummus.

Overall, there were loads of great meals and ideas, including making a frittata and freezing it to eat all week (done!), eating quinoa with fruit for breakfast, blending a smoothie for a snack, trying mashed turnips, and making a white-bean puree (check!). And there were several entire days that could work for me. Here are some of my favorites:

kate_is suggested an intriguing onion, greens, and beans skillet dish for dinner.

Abby Dye offered a frittata recipe, a lentil soup recipe, and a dressed baked potato for dinner.

Rebecca gave a recipe for some great-sounding chickpea cakes for dinner.

kcar1 suggested sunflower seed butter as part of breakfast, leftover whatever for lunch, and included a black-bean soup recipe for dinner.

Jon had a nice simple menu of oatmeal for breakfast, spinach salad for lunch, and pasta for dinner.

Eric Stoveken included some of my favorite things: a caprese sandwich for lunch and fried rice for dinner.

MK Ryan had a great mix of whole grains, fruit, legumes, and even pasta with tomato sauce.

Megan Jacobs illustrated one way to get five servings of fruits and vegetables in a day.

Any of these menus would be doable for me.

But my favorite came from Danielle Ricci , because she happened to hit on a few things I love: arugula salad for lunch, chana masala for dinner, and homemade chapatti (which she promised is easy to make). So that's the menu I'll be trying tomorrow. I'm a little leery of eating black beans for breakfast, but I'm willing to give it a chance.

Thank you, everyone, for all your great ideas and in-depth comments! I'm sure I'll be drawing from them for a long time.

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