14-Day Healthy Kickstart Challenge – Home
It’s great to have you join the 14-Day Healthy Kickstart Challenge: two of weeks of healthy eating with a focus on high-protein, nutritious meals and regular exercise.
This is your challenge homepage, where you will find the guidelines, links to educational content and meal-planning ideas. You will also receive a few email check-ins from me during the challenge, so keep an eye on your inbox.
14-Day Healthy Kickstart Challenge Overview
A 14-day Healthy Kickstart is a free nutrition and fitness challenge. It’s very simple and hopefully easy to stick with. You have three goals during the challenge:
Goal 1. Focus on getting enough protein – aim for 100 grams or more a day divided between meals/snacks. This is the only thing you should track daily. Read this post!
Goal 2. Nutrient-dense meals – build your meals around nutritious foods and ingredients. Read this post!
Goal 3. Exercise every day – resistance training, cardio and active rest days.
My goal is to educate and motivate you guys, and to inspire you with high-protein, nutrient-dense meal ideas for these 14 days.
Your Nutrition Goals
Get Enough Protein
Focus on consuming more good-quality protein – animal and/or plant-based – which helps to avoid overeating, keeps you satiated between meals and is essential to maintain and build muscle, which in turn helps to increase your metabolic rate and lead to fat loss.
You will learn more about protein and how much you need during the challenge but to keep it easy to remember, we’re going to aim for about 100 grams per day, give or take, divided between meals and snacks.
Required reading material: What Is Protein, Why Do We Need It & How Much?
Build your meals around foods and ingredients high in nutrients such as good quality meat, fish/seafood, eggs, lots of vegetables and fruit, healthy fats, quinoa, legumes, nuts and seeds.
This is not an elimination challenge so you don’t have to avoid specific food groups like dairy or grains. However, if you would like to test out a gluten-free approach or you know that you can’t tolerate milk products, then you can tailor the meals based on those needs. I have plenty of recipes that suit both options on the website.
Required reading material: What Is Nutrient-Density + Top Nutrient-Dense Foods
Carbohydrates & Calories
Be mindful of carbohydrates and calories but don’t fixate on them! This is not a low-carb or keto challenge, nor is it a ‘count-every-macronutrient’ kind of approach.
However, you will find it useful to track your food and meals for the first few days to see how much protein you consume, as well as calories and carbohydrates. This will give you a baseline to work from. You might need to adjust certain ingredients or portion sizes of certain foods.
In terms of calories, you should be looking at an 1800-2200 calories range for women, and 2200-2500 calories for men depending on your size, age and muscle mass. This is the best calorie expenditure calculator to see how much YOU need (it also gives you some protein and carbs goals).
The focus should be on choosing useful carbohydrates, which provide additional nutrients, fibre and/or extra protein. For example, instead of sliced white bread, opt for sourdough or high-protein bread. Instead of wheat noodles, try buckwheat soba noodles. Legumes, quinoa and peas provide both carbohydrates and protein, as well as vitamins, minerals and fibre.
For this challenge, I recommend aiming for a moderate carbohydrate approach of around 150 grams per day. If you’re training, you might need more food and carbs (over 200 grams). If you’re more sedentary, you may benefit from lower calories and fewer carbohydrates (under 150 grams).
Having said that, my recommendation is to not focus on calories and carbs too much. Keep the challenge goal simple – higher protein intake while consuming nutrient-dense meals. If you consume enough, you will find that you are less likely to overeat in calories and you will need to load up on fewer carbs.
You Exercise Goals
When I say every day, I mean that your goal is to include movement every day. To get the most benefits from this challenge, I recommend the following format:
- Resistance training x 3 days
- Cardio x 2 days
- Active rest days – 2 days
This refers to workouts, exercises or sports that work your muscles. It could be a simple home workout using bodyweight exercises using Youtube, Instagram or TikTok, a gym workout using weights, pilates, yoga, climbing and so on.
Two sessions of 30 minutes or more of cardio where you elevate your heart rate and get that sweat on. This can be brisk walking, jogging, uphill hiking, spin class, swimming, rowing, cycling, dancing and so on.
Active rest days
Think of more leisurely activities like taking a long walk, gardening, house work, mobility exercises, stretching, gentle swimming, easy hiking, playing frisbee or ball in the park.
Do I Have To Follow A Meal Plan?
There is no set meal plan and no set shopping list. I will, however, provide you with some recommended macronutrient guidelines for building your own meal plan.
I will be sharing collections of meal ideas and recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks that come with information on protein, calories and carbohydrates per serving. You can use them or find your own meals to build your weekly menus.
Make sure to spread your protein intake throughout the day as your body can only utilize so much from one feed.
Meal Ideas & Recipes
How Do I Track Protein?
You can use a nutritional tracking tool like MyFitnessPal to input your whole meals or to track specific protein-high foods included in your dishes. You don’t need to be super accurate as long as you’re close to your goal number.
It could be as simple as Googling ‘grams of protein in XX amount of XX food’ and logging it in a notebook.
I recommend looking up ‘high-protein recipes’ and meal plans and see what’s available online. Most recipes come with nutritional breakdown, so you will be able to see which dishes suit your needs. Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest are also good sources of inspiration and ideas.
Lastly, refer to your Top Protein Foods list in the reading material.
Useful Tools & Resources
TDEE Calculator – use this if you want to find out how many calories, carbs and protein you need per day.
MyFitnessPal – use this to track protein, and if you wish, calories and carbohydrates.
A Note From The Author
My name is Irena Macri and I will be guiding you through the 14-Day Healthy Kickstart challenge. I am the founder of Cookedandloved.com, creating and sharing delicious and mostly healthy recipes. I am a qualified nutrition coach with an Advanced Diploma in Nutrition & Weight Management certified by the Association of Nutrition in the UK though I live in Australia.
I have created multiple programs and challenges over the years for individuals and groups who want to get healthier, lose or gain weight, or optimize their fitness training through appropriate nutrition tactics.
It is no secret that to be fit and healthy, you have to eat well and stay active. Sounds simple, right?
But, oftentimes, we over-complicate things when it comes to nutrition and workouts. We try different diets with many rules and guidelines, eliminate whole food groups, go on expensive cleanses and so on.
But when you look at research and what actually works for *most* people (*there are caveats for those with specific health conditions), it comes down to the following:
- Protein is essential and we often don’t consume enough! It keeps you satiated and you need plenty of it to maintain and build muscle, especially as you get older. More muscle = higher metabolic rate = your body burns more calories.
- Calories matter. This is a long-standing debate but the truth is if you consume more energy than you spend, it gets stored in your body. There are hundreds of nuances in regards to the source of calories, your health, age, lifestyle and so on, but at the end of the day it’s body chemistry and physics at work. You don’t have to fixate on calories but you might want to be mindful of how much you eat if you want to lose weight or gain muscle (in this case it may be more than you think).
- Nutrient density matters for your overall health and well being. Educate yourself on foods highest in nutrients and make them the bulk of your daily meals.
- ‘Low-carb’ isn’t for everyone. While low-carb and keto diets are beneficial and can speed up fat loss (at least initially), most of us, especially women, feel better with a few more carbs. Plus, our bodies love them as a workout fuel. This doesn’t mean it’s pasta every night, but a more moderate approach to carbohydrates might suit some people better. It’s more important to focus on choosing ‘useful carbohydrates’.
- Healthy gut, healthy you. Keep that microbiome in tip-top condition and the rest of the body will thank you for it.
- Resistance training is a great for fat loss, muscle gain and longevity!
- A bit of cardio is beneficial for the heart and produces endorphins for good mood. Do it!
- Rest days are just as important as workout days. Schedule them in.
- Sleep is underrated. Always prioritise it if you can.
- Make room for pleasure! This goes for food, fun, laughs and hugs.
These are some key points I took into consideration when creating the Healthy Kickstart Challenge.
I hope this little challenge educates and inspires you and creates long-lasting habits.