Healthy Eating

Whole30 Food Favorites

 photo C8ABA1BE-D1E3-4EB8-8EAD-995A7688ABAB_zpslgkgagmn.jpg Yesterday, I shared about our Whole30 experience. Today, let's talk FOOD FAVORITES!! I am happy to share some of my favorite recipes later, but for now, here are some of the staples we wouldn't want to have done without these 30 days.

  1. COFFEE. I love coffee. Even black coffee. In fact, especially black coffee. Prior to this challenge, I always put a tsp of real maple syrup and some half & half in my home brewed coffee before, and I opted for lattes at the coffee shops, but now, I can't get enough of a good cup of high quality organic brewed beans in my aeropress. Thank you, whole30, for letting me keep my daily joe.
  2. Ghee. It was nice to be able to make clarified butter from my Kerrygold and use it as a cooking fat.
  3. Fried Plantains. We didn't discover these until the last week of the program, but we LOVE THEM. Seriously, we are obsessed with salted plantains pan fried in coconut oil. Amazing snack.
  4. Almond butter. Yes, please.
  5. Toasted Coconut Chips. These are delicious and divine.
  6. La Croix. We didn't drink soda before, so we weren't replacing other carbonated beverages, but when you can't have any treats, there is something so refreshing and exciting about getting to have a flavored sparkling water.
  7. Lara Bars. Not for everyday use, but when you're in a pinch and need some food STAT, we loved having a few of these on hand. (Not all flavors are whole30 approved. Check for added sugars).
  8. Epic Bars. These were especially appealing when we were traveling. A little protein/meat boost is the perfect thing for a hungry traveler.
  9. GT's Kombucha. As if I didn't already love this stuff already. Every once in a while we treated ourselves to a GT's Kombucha because they don't add sugar to their brews. Our favorite flavors are Gingerade, Trilogy, and Gingerberry. Yum!
  10. Aidell's Chicken Apple Sausage. This is the only flavor I could find that was whole30 compliant, but it was a breakfast staple for us.
  11. Eggs. We have never gone through cartons of eggs as quickly as we did this month. We found that we were eating full breakfasts every morning, and eggs were a staple of that.
  12. Sweet Potatoes. In soup, as a side, for breakfast. Sweet potatoes all the time.
  13. Avocado. The yummiest of healthy fats.
  14. Spices. I am certain that eating lots of meats and vegetables does not mean it can't be full of flavor! Thanks to lots of garlic powder, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, Bragg's seasonings, allspice, etc.
  15. Nuts. Almond butter. Raw Almonds. Pecans. Cashews. Almond milk. Thank the Lord for nuts!

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Over the next few weeks, I will share a few more recipes that we have loved! If you are planning on trying the Whole30, be sure to follow @whole30recipes on Instagram! That was a really helpful resource for me.

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Things I Learned On My First Whole30

 photo 2E5E587F-612A-4293-BB20-F00904DCF656_zpsfs5ijzly.jpgAs of tomorrow, Jeremy & I will have completed our very first Whole30. The re-introduction process is slow, but today is our final day of super strict, read-every-label-or-start-over eating. Woo!

If you have never heard of the Whole30, it's a 30 day eating challenge that is "designed to change your life in 30 days." Basically, for the last 30 days we have eaten meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and eggs. And that's about it. No grains, dairy, legumes, or sugar of any kind (except fruit). As you are reading this, you likely have one of two responses. Either: 1. You've done this before or thought about doing it before and you are nodding your head in solidarity. 2.  You think we are crazy.

I have considered myself a healthy eater for many years, and over the past few years of marriage, I have learned so much about how to eat and feed my family well with whole, real, delicious food. We hardly eat any processed food, limit our grains, and eat lots of produce and fresh foods. I have developed a serious interest in and affinity for cooking and spending time in the kitchen. But, I have always been really skeptical of the Whole30. I thought, "I already eat healthy enough. Why deprive myself of all of those things for 30 days?"

But I am really glad I did it.

I am writing this post mostly for my own benefit and the benefit of others who are planning to try the Whole30 program. I want to recap our adventure and share some of the tricks I learned along the way. (I'm sure I will have even more thoughts and reflections after we complete the re-introduction phase of this process. I will keep you posted!) 

Let's start with the positive. Here are some of the benefits we experienced from doing the Whole30. 1. Energy and motivation. After I got past a few early days of exhaustion, I found that I had increased energy and alertness. I was accomplishing more and feeling overall more energetic and focused in my tasks. This is a huge benefit! While I can't say that I was never tired in the 30 days, I didn't get the draining afternoon lulls that follow grain and sugar filled meals.

2. My sugar cravings decreased. I may not eat bakery cakes, oreos, or Blue Bell ice cream very often, but I had become very dependent on the "healthier" versions of such treats. Almond flour cookies, coconut milk ice cream, and gluten free chocolate chip pancakes were regular treats in my weekly (ahem, daily) diet. My sweet tooth was the hardest to kick in the early days of Whole30, and I rolled my eyes that I couldn't even put honey in my wellness tea or have uncured bacon if it contained any maple syrup or cane sugar. But I'm happy to say that I don't have those same seemingly insatiable desires for just a bite of banana oat cookies that I once did. Although, I can guarantee, I will be making some coconut milk ice cream as soon as this is over.

3. We both slimmed down. I haven't weighed myself since the end of Whole30, but whether or not I've lost weight is not of huge significance to me. I look slimmer and I feel better. Jeremy's change was more noticeable than mine (isn't that always the way, though?), and he has definitely dropped a few pounds. Also, despite the fact that I have been inconsistent in working out this month, my muscle tone is more defined.

4. Overall feeling better. In addition to more energy, I just felt better overall. Better PMS symptoms (sorry, guys), fewer stomach aches. Also, I have been less stressed and overall just a little peppier.

5. I feel a sense of accomplishment. I didn't know if I could deprive myself of so many delicious things for 30 days...especially in the midst of business travel and appointments, but I did it! And I feel better for it! And I realized that food doesn't have as much power over me as it once did. I can say no...even to a fresh crab cake staring me in the face on the Florida coast that wouldn't have been that bad but still broke the rules. Yes, I did that. And I survived. If anything, this was a really good test of willpower. I feel like I won the game.

6. I learned new skills and developed new habits. I tried recipes I never would have tried. I learned to use ingredients I didn't usually use. I started cooking a big, healthy breakfast every single morning.

Now let's talk hard stuff. Here were the most challenging/frustrating things about the 30 days.

  1. Eating out and having to be that person. On week 2 of the challenge, I went on a work trip and I had to eat out every meal for 5 days straight...often at greasy spoon restaurants that I did not choose. I made it work, but there was some frustration at the hassle. Also, you know that person across from you at the restaurant who asks for every single thing to be customized? The "is there butter on that salmon? What oil do you use to cook the broccoli? Can I have that without soy?" girl. I was that girl.
  2. Having to carefully avoid things I know don't bother me. I haven't done whole30 before, but I have done similar, less strict versions of the paleo diet. I know that a little bit of grass fed butter or some honey in my tea or soybean oil on my Chipotle veggies isn't a big deal. So I had to curb the eye rolling and just suck it up and avoid those little, not such a big deal things. For the sake of the cause. It is also quite annoying to have to read every single label looking for small amounts of added sugar.
  3. My skin didn't really improve. I have struggled with not-awesome skin lately, and I was hoping 30 days of the cleanest possible eating would leave me with a glowing, blemish free complexion. Unfortunately, it seems, clean eating wasn't the ultimate solution to everything.
  4. HUNGRY. I feel like eating this way increases my metabolism almost too much. We found ourselves so hungry before meals...like we could barely wait to scarf down those vegetables and meat.
  5. Cost of food. We are budget people, and this month definitely stretched our budget. Partly because I was so concerned with feeding us well that I didn't pay as close of attention to money, but it's expensive when all you can eat is produce, meat, and nuts. Also, winter is a tough time of year because not very much produce is actually in season.

The truth is, I am so glad I finished the 30 days...despite the things listed above! Are our lives changed? I'm not sure about that, but they are certainly enhanced. I think this program really could change your life if you were starting from a more unhealthy place. But even as "healthy" eaters already, this program is definitely something I would recommend!

Tomorrow, I'll be back to talk about my food favorites from the month and share a few recipes.

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"Foodie Fridays" - 1 Step Easier Than Pie Homemade Almond Flour

I accidentally posted instead of scheduled this...a day early.. Not on a Friday. So pretend it's Friday. Thanks, guys :-) When we tried the Paleo diet a while back, I discovered a new favorite: almond meal (aka almond flour). While we haven't stuck to Paleo, we have kept a lot of the principles we learned while doing Paleo, and we have kept using almond meal. If you are gluten free, this is a great protein rich substitute. I know nuts are high calorie, so coconut flour is also a good alternative, but for the occasional treat, almond flour is wonderful.

At first almond meal may sound intimidating. What even does that mean? It's a flour substitute and I'm here to tell you how you can make it at home. Homemade Almond Meal It's that easy folks. That's it.

Almonds + a food processor = almond meal. No fancy ingredients. It is just ground almonds. You could use your ninja or vitamix if you don't have a food processor. It works great as a flour substitute, and the nutty flavor is just so satisfying. It's cheaper to make it at home, and you can make only as much as you need at a time. I buy almonds in bulk at Costco, and I use them in all kinds of recipes. When you are done, almond meal looks like this. almond meal Some of our favorite almond flour recipes for all you skeptics: almond flour pancakes Almond Flour Pancakes. We don't make regular pancakes anymore. I don't even want regular pancakes. These are just that good. Spread some peanut butter and top with strawberries and real maple syrup to take breakfast to a whole new level. Trust me on this one. Here is the recipe.

{source} Almond Flour Cookies

Almond Flour Cookies. These are always delicious, but the consistency is hit or miss. Sometimes they turn out flat, sometimes they are perfectly gooey. I don't know what the trick is, but I like them every time. Almond Flour Fried Zucchini Coconut Oil Fried Zucchini with Almond Flour. This is an original recipe, but it is similar to this recipe. Zucchini, sliced 1 Egg, beaten with a small amount of water Almond Flour Salt Pepper Garlic Powder Paprika Any other spices of your choice.

I mix the almond flour with spices until I think it is good (this is not an exact science). Then I dip the zucchini in the egg and then into the almond flour mixture and pan fry in coconut oil. Delectable.

Have you ever tried almond flour? Did you buy it at the store or make your own?

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The First Week of Paleo: Recipe Ideas

We still have a lot to learn about eating Paleo, but I thought I would still share some links to the recipes that we tried last week. Eating healthy takes more time, but taking the time to plan and prepare meals makes them even more enjoyable. Dinners

Monday - Enchilada Chicken Stew with Avocado  photo enchilada-stew2-610x300_zps44f48f0f.jpg

Tuesday - Trader Joe's Pre-Seasoned Pork Tenderloin (This was delicious and so easy! Highly recommend it!) Oven Grilled Asparagus Mashed Cauliflower  photo mashedcauliflower_zpsef3fc0d0.jpg

Wednesday - Jeremy's Special Seasoned Burgers Without Buns (Secret Recipe. For now :-)) Cubed sweet potato with olive oil & seasonings Fresh Watermelon  photo 0B3CF586-2E67-4DF4-BE97-5724006759F7-2477-000002B0E2D89379_zps6cb189b6.jpg

Thursday - Spaghetti Squash & Italian Sausage Meatballs with Spaghetti Sauce Cubed sweet potato  photo spaghettisquash_zps7022db1a.jpg

Friday - Leftovers

Saturday - Burgers, sweet potatoes, and watermelon again. It was just so yummy the first time.

Sunday - Leftovers again.

Lunches -

For lunches, we mostly ate leftovers from our dinners and salads. I also boiled a few chicken breasts and we packed them with bbq sauce.

Breakfasts -

Most mornings, we enjoyed eggs and chicken sausage, and I made a smoothie with a variety of fruits and vegetables. Delicious AND nutritious. I also drank coffee with almond milk.  photo 2380F45A-D7DD-4460-8D0C-1CFE359DAB4C-2477-000002B0F18FFA91_zps7941802d.jpg

Snacks and other treats -

We satiated our desire for something sweet with bits of all natural dark chocolate and Silk Dark Chocolate Almond Milk. We switched from cow's milk to almond milk months ago, and this dark chocolate version was the perfect way to satisfy our sweet teeth after dinner.

An easy and delicious salty snack to munch throughout the day is Vegetable Root Chips. We love the Trader Joe's version. It is a combination of vegetables like sweet potatoes, parsnips, taros, and batatas.  photo CAA05C20-FA52-42E2-B1F7-3755170FECB0-2477-000002B0DF1F09DD_zpsed5da4a8.jpg

We also tried a recipe for Sweet Potato Chai Paleo "Muffins." They were worth the try, and not half bad, but also, when you are used to regular muffins, these don't make you want to jump up and down or anything. But they almost made me feel like I was eating carbs. And that says something.  photo sweetpotatochai_zpsb827240c.jpg

Thanks to all of the other bloggers who have experimented with Paleo recipes and made our week easier. I hope this helps someone who wants to go on the journey as well!

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The One Week Paleo Challenge: It's Only The Beginning

 photo 43E39E32-6C70-4387-9E66-D8191A70BC77-1320-00000212E9564BFA_zps2eceaac7.jpgWe made it for a week, and we don't want to stop! The week of Paleo was a success! Some of you warned me that I would love it, and that I would want to keep going, and you were right! Jeremy and I are going to be a little less strict from now on. We have weddings coming up, and you better believe we are going to have some wedding cake. I will probably even eat grains several times a week, put cheese back on my salads, and order a pizza every now and then, but I really have discovered that I enjoy Paleo, and I want to continue cooking Paleo meals, cutting way back on grains and dairy, and focusing our diet around veggies, fruits, meats, and nuts. Our goal is to eat (mostly) Paleo at home but be flexible when we are with friends and eating out. Today, I wanted to recap the effects we have felt from the diet, and I will be back later this week to share a few of the recipes we enjoyed so far.

A few of my revelations:

1. The first few days were rough. Our bodies were detoxing from carbs, and that translated to cravings, feelings of hunger, and a few short tempered spats. We were also learning what to eat on the diet. I used to be fine with just a fruit and veggie VitaMix smoothie in the morning until lunch, but since I wasn't snacking on carbs to "fill me up" between meals anymore, I realized that eggs and chicken sausage in the morning made a big difference in feeling satisfied throughout the day. I still made my smoothie and put it in the fridge at work as a snack in between meals.

2. Cooking Paleo at home is easier than it sounds. Every dinner consisted of just a good meat and two or three vegetables. We packed leftovers for lunches. It's amazing how much I didn't miss carbs in our dinners. Mind you, when I saw a billboard for cheese dip or smelled the fresh bread at the grocery store, that was a different story. But since all we had at home was things we were allowed to eat, winning was easy.

3. I discovered that some people eat dark chocolate on Paleo, and we indulged in a little bit every day. It kept us sane. Commence the judging :-)

4. Things I would miss the most if I ate strictly Paleo for the rest of my life: cheese, dinner rolls, cereal, rice for Asian food (Sushi and Hibachi especially), black beans, and peanut butter.

Things Jeremy would miss the most if he ate strictly Paleo for the rest of his life: sugary drinks like sweet tea and lemonade (good 'ol Georgia boy right there), ketchup, bread, cheese, pizza.

5. Shopping Paleo ain't cheap. Meat and produce are some of the most expensive things at the supermarket. I believe eating healthy is worth it, but it is something to consider.

6. We ended our week of Paleo with a date night to Cheesecake Factory and celebrated our success by breaking all the rules (bread, rice, cheese, and tortilla chips all included). I could automatically tell a difference in the way I felt after one splurge meal. Was it worth it for delicious food and a fun date with the hubby? I think so. Does it make me want to go back to eating that way all the time? No way, Jose.

Health benefits we noticed this week: 1. No more 3:30 slump. I used to get so tired in the afternoon at work, but I noticed more energy throughout the day. I didn't get tired until the evening when it was time for bed, but I would be ready to get up and go in the morning earlier than usual. It's like my body knew when to sleep and was on the correct schedule for the first time in a while.

2. I wanted to work out. The energy translated to a renewed interest in overall fitness.

3. Toward the end of the week, I started craving things that were good for me rather than things that would harm my body. I was running late and unable to make a smoothie before work on Friday, and all I could think about during the day was that spinach, grape, and pineapple smoothie that would be waiting for me at home, and that  is all that I wanted for dinner.

4. Even when I got full, I didn't feel a heavy fullness that carbs give, I simply felt extra satisfied.

5. Jeremy noticed an overall peace of mind and confidence knowing that he was putting good food into his body. I agree.

Thanks for following our little newlywed journey. Love you guys!

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The One Week Paleo Challenge

I feel a little wimpy. I know a lot of people take the "lifetime Paleo challenge." A big fist bump and a thumbs up to you. You are a stronger person than I. And perhaps I will get to that point, but for now, Jeremy & I are cleaning out our systems with a week of Paleo eating. Moving and a hectic schedule has added up to a few too many restaurant meals, frozen pizzas, and a carb heavy diet. My system is tired, and it's time to get back on track.

Next week, I will document the recipes I tried over the course of our strict one week of Paleo.

We are a pretty healthy couple. I don't buy many processed foods, we eat lots of fruits and veggies, lean meats, free range eggs, organic foods, whole grains and very little dessert as a general rule. I try to keep our home pretty free of foods that are toxic for our bodies. We are not totally strict, and I have been known to indulge from time-to-time. I believe in moderation and not letting your diet (healthy or otherwise) run your life.

But, this week, we decided to be extreme and go Paleo or go home. For those of you who don't know what a Paleo diet consists of, here is a Paleo food pyramid which I found here.

paleo food pyramid

Paleo comes from the word Paleolithic. Think of it as a cave man diet. The overall concept is to eat foods that we were created to eat; things that we could farm or raise. No grains of any kind. Nothing processed. No dairy. Basically we will be eating fruits and veggies, meats, nuts, and spices.

Last night we feasted on the leftovers and foods that we can't eat next week.  Then I created a meal list and went to the grocery store.

I am hoping a week of eating like this will rub off on us, and we will be able to continue incorporating this kind of diet into our life with a little more flexibility. Be back next week with a recap of our adventures--and hopefully some recipes!