Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Paleo Chicken Minestrone Soup

When I was growing up, my family would go out for Sunday afternoon meals every week. Many of those meals would be enjoyed at Olive Garden. I loved ordering minestrone soup as my soup or salad choice. What a comforting bowl of veggies, pasta and beans (definitively not Paleo). And what's better than using a buttery, garlicky breadstick to soak up the last bit of soup?

Answer: Paleo [chicken] minestrone soup with Paleo Herb Crackers!

I can't take all the credit for creating this soup. Even though I grew up eating Olive Garden's minestrone soup, I had a Paleo version at Mmm...Coffee back in January. They were my ultimate inspiration for this soup.

Paleo Chicken Minestrone Soup
Rating: 10 clubs
Serves: 8

2-3 T. olive oil or fat of choice
1 onion, diced
4 celery stalks, diced
4 carrots, diced
2 zucchini, diced
1 yellow squash, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
6 oz. can of tomato paste
28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
5-6 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade)
3 T. fresh basil, chopped
2 t. dried oregano (or 2 T. fresh)
2 t. dried parsley (or 2 T. fresh)
1 t. dried thyme (or 1 T. fresh)
2 – 2 ½ cups chicken, shredded
A few large handfuls of spinach
Sea salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste

  1. Heat your fat of choice in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add onions, carrots, zucchini, squash, garlic and mushrooms to the pot. Season with sea salt and pepper. Sauté for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally (I use a wooden spoon), until veggies are tender.
  3. Add the tomato paste and diced tomatoes. Mix well to distribute the tomato paste.
  4. Pour in the chicken broth and mix.
  5. Add in all the herbs. Mix. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and let simmer, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes, stirring a few times.
  6. Add the chicken and spinach. Cook until spinach is wilted and chicken is warmed through, stirring frequently.
  7. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.
  8.  Ladle into bowls and enjoy! 

Questions for today: Do you have any childhood memories of eating out with your family? What were some of the restaurants you and your family frequented? In addition to Olive Garden, we often went to Red Lobster and the MCL Cafeteria (all 5 of us could eat for $20 at the cafeteria). I have many fond memories of going out for Sunday afternoon meals with my family.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Paleo Chicken Noodle Soup

I could probably count the number of times I've eaten chicken noodle soup in my entire life on my two hands. It wasn't a staple dish in our house growing up. My mom occasionally made chicken broth or chicken soup when one of us kids were sick. Other than that, I honestly can't remember eating it much. 

This recipe was a spontaneous creation. I was walking through Vitamin Cottage (which I often do during my lunch hour). I was just wandering the aisles, looking at every product on the shelf. You never know what you may discover. I ended up in the refrigerated section and noticed the Kelp Noodles. I've seen other recipes using them, but have been hesitant to try them. As I put a couple packages into my hand cart, I immediately thought of the homemade chicken broth and chicken in my fridge. I could make chicken noodle soup! Yum! It's a basic recipe. I didn't add much seasoning to the soup, since I had cooked the chicken in the crockpot with plenty of seasoning and made the chicken broth from the leftover cooking liquids, bones and veggies). You could definitely add more seasoning, if you have plain cooked chicken. I also think minced garlic and/or ginger would also taste great. After making this soup, I plan on creating some other recipes around kelp noodles. They're actually quite tasty and add a really great dimension to the soup. 

Easy Paleo Chicken Noodle Soup 
Serves: 4
Rating: 9.5 clubs

6 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
4 carrots, peeled and diced
4 celery stalks, diced
1 onion, diced
2-3 cups diced/shredded chicken (I made a whole chicken in the crock pot)
1 12 oz. package of kelp noodles (see note below)
1 t. poultry seasoning
1 t. garlic powder
Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the chicken broth to a boil over medium high heat in a large sauce pan. Add in veggies. Lower the heat to medium and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until veggies are soft/tender. Add in the cooked chicken and seasonings. After following the directions on the kelp noodle package, add them to your soup. Stir everything together and allow noodles to heat through (about a minute). Ladle into bowls and serve immediately.

Note: Kelp noodles can be found in the refrigerated sections at Whole Foods, Vitamin Cottage and many other specialty/health food stores around the country. I buy Sea Tangle brand. 

This is a pretty light soup, but great for a cold winter's day. It could be served with a side salad, Paleo crackers, or Paleo biscuits (I make them with coconut oil instead of butter). 

Questions: What are your favorite soups? Do you prefer broth-based or creamy soups? I grew up loving creamy soups. I still like creamy soups, because they're comforting and hearty. I really like my Chicken minestrone soup (yet to be written) and Creamy Tomato Soup with Spinach and Grass-fed Ground Beef

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Paleo Lasagna

I actually grew up not liking the traditional tomato-meat sauce lasagna. It's strange. I remember when my family would eat at Italian restaurants, one of my brothers would always order lasagna. To this day, I'm pretty sure it's still one of his favorite foods. I, however, would always order Fettuccine Alfredo. When I was a teenager, my mom found an awesome Vegetable Lasagna that I fell in love with. I don't remember the recipe exactly, but it had a homemade cheesy sauce (cottage cheese mixed with parmesan + sauce with Italian 5-Cheese Blend) with assorted veggies sandwiched between layers of no-boil lasagna noodles. Yum! 

When I graduated college, my husband bought me The Complete Pasta Cookbook for either my birthday or Christmas. It was a fantastic cookbook for a person who followed the Standard American Diet (SAD). I ate a lot of pasta back then. The new lasagna recipe used a meat sauce and a cheddar cheese sauce in between the pasta layers. Such a delicious and decadent dish. 

Do you see the trend? I liked cheesy sauces in my pasta dishes. 

I converted to Paleo in June 2012. One of the foods I missed were my pasta dishes. I started thinking about lasagna. Besides, meat sauces are easily made Paleo. I had to figure out what to use for the layers in place of pasta. I also wanted some sort of creamy sauce to replicate the sauce from both the vegetarian lasagna and cheddar cheese sauce of the lasagna I loved in my Pre-Paleo days. I already knew how to make an alfredo sauce out of cashews. It had to work! The layers I came up with: butternut squash, zucchini and yellow squash. All can be sliced pretty thin. It's not quite the same as your SAD Lasagna using pasta, but I love it. It's one of our favorite dishes and full of so much flavor. We've had friends make this recipe and they loved it too. 

Paleo Lasagna
Paleo Rating: 8 clubs
Serves: 8

Meat Sauce

2 lbs. grass-fed ground beef
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage
1 onion, diced
4 carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
3 garlic cloves, minced
28 oz. can diced tomatoes, partially drained (otherwise, you’ll have really soupy lasagna)
6 oz. can tomato paste
2 T. fresh basil, chopped
1 t. dried oregano
sea salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste

Cashew “Alfredo” sauce
2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 6 hours
8 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup nutritional yeast
2 t. sea salt

1 butternut squash
2 zucchini
2 yellow squash

Soak the raw cashews in water for at least 6 hours.

Make your meat sauce first. Add the grass-fed ground beef and sausage into a large pot. Cook over medium-high heat until no longer pink. I suggest draining off some most of the fat, reserving a couple tablespoons in the pot. Using the reserved fat rendered from the meat, sauté the onions, carrots, mushrooms and celery (keep the meat in the pot). Once veggies are tender, add the garlic, diced tomatoes, tomato paste and seasonings. Bring to a boil and let simmer, stirring occasionally.

While the meat sauce is simmering, prepare your butternut squash. Easiest way to prepare it:
1) Cut the top and bottoms of the squash, so you have flat ends
2) Cut it in half lengthwise
3) Scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff.
4) Peel both halves.
5) Slice the solid parts into relatively thin sheets/slices. These will be your layer. The bottom parts can be reserved for another use (such as roasted maple butternut squash).

Prepare your zucchini and yellow squash. Slice them lengthwise into thin slices. This can be done by hand, but works best with a mandolin.

Next, make your cashew sauce. Drain and rinse your raw cashews. Add the cashews to your blender (I use my Vitamix). Add enough cold water to cover the cashews. Blend until creamy and smooth. Sauté the minced garlic in the olive oil in a small frying pan until golden. Add oil and garlic to the cashew sauce. Add sea salt and nutritional yeast. Blend again until incorporated and smooth.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Now, you’re ready to put together the lasagna. Add a little bit of meat sauce on the bottom of a large baking dish (I used an 11x13). Drizzle a bit of cashew sauce over the meat. Add a layer of butternut squash sheets. Do not overlap them. Add a layer of meat sauce and cashew sauce. Then add your yellow squash slices. Add another layer of meat sauce and cashew sauce. Add a layer of zucchini slices. Top with more meat sauce and the rest of the cashew sauce. Bake in the preheated 350°F oven for 30 minutes.


I've made this dish a number of times. One time I tried it without the butternut squash, but both my husband and I like it best with the butternut squash included. If you didn't want to spend the time layering the lasagna, you could just make a lasagna casserole. You could chop up the zucchini, yellow squash and butternut squash. You could mix the veggies with the meat and alfredo sauces and bake. It's a forgiving recipe. If you wanted to use a different veggie to layer (such as eggplant), you could definitely do that. Hope you enjoy this dish as much as we do. It's definitely a dish you want to make on the weekend (or prep on the weekends and you could put it together fairly quickly after work). 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

9News Segment Recipes Are Here!

Good evening to 9News viewers and new followers of The Paleo Network!

This morning's live news segment on Denver's local NBC affiliate, 9News, was a lot of fun! A huge thank you to Corey Rose for putting together such an incredible video! There is one thing I wanted to add that I neglected to mention in the story. Our triathlon coach, Sonni Dyer, is the person who suggested this lifestyle. He has coached my husband through 3 Ironman races and myself through 2. He's an incredible athlete himself. Please like Studio 7 Multisport on Facebook and check out their website. Sonni will coach you virtually from anywhere in the country. Tell Coach Sonni you were referred by me.

During today's segment, I made baked egg casserole, banana bread French toast sticks and chocolate doughnuts dipped in coconut sugar.

Banana Bread French Toast Sticks
Courtesy of Civilized Caveman (please go like him on Facebook and subscribe to his blog as well)

I followed his bread recipe closely, but had a couple minor tweaks. My only changes: baking soda + cream of tartar in place of the baking powder and I added vanilla extract in the egg batter (about 1 teaspoon). Instead of French toast, I cut my bread into sticks. They're great for dipping into 100% pure maple syrup.

  • 4 bananas, ripe
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 4 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch of sea salt 
      Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. I blended the bananas, eggs, almond butter and coconut oil in my Vitamix blender (could also use a food processor or hand mixer, but it will take extra time). I then added my dry ingredients and vanilla to the blender and blended until smooth. I greased a metal loaf pan with palm shortening (could use coconut oil as well). I baked the bread for about 40 minutes. It cooled for 10 minutes before I took it out of the pan. To make the french toast sticks, I sliced the bread into slices and then cut the slices into long strips. 
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of sea salt
  • oil of your choice for your pan, I used coconut oil
  • ¼ cup canned coconut milk
Mix together all egg batter ingredients in a pie pan or shallow dish, with the exception of the oil. The oil will go into your frying pan for cooking the French toast sticks. 

To cook your French toast sticks, heat coconut oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Dip the French toast sticks into the egg batter flipping them so all sides get coated. Add to the hot pan, turning every couple minutes so all sides get cooked (tongs work best). Serve with 100% pure maple syrup. 

Next up: Chocolate Doughnuts

The doughnuts are actually Chocolate Almond Butter Banana Doughnuts dipped in Coconut Sugar, but that's a mouthful, right? So let's just call them Chocolate Doughnuts. I found this recipe from another amazing Paleo blogger, PaleOMG. Juli makes some incredible desserts, so go on over and like her Facebook page and subscribe to her blog as well. I made some minor changes from her recipe: baking soda + cream of tartar instead of baking powder, added a handful of mini Enjoy Life chocolate chips and dipped the doughnuts in plain coconut sugar (no date sugar).

Chocolate Doughnuts

  • 1 banana, ripe is best
  • 10 Deglet dates, pitted (if you use Mejdool dates, you may not need as many)
  • ½ cup almond butter
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 heaping tablespoons coconut flour, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 heaping tablespoon coconut oil (softened or melted will work)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup of Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips
For the topping:
  • 4 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon raw, local honey
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a doughnut pan with coconut oil or palm shortening. Puree the banana, dates, almond butter and honey in your food processor (or blender). Add in eggs, vanilla extract and coconut oil. Process until smooth. In another bowl, sift together coconut flour and cocoa powder. Add baking soda, cream of tartar, cinnamon and salt. Mix with a whisk or spatula. Add the wet ingredients from food processor into the dry ingredients. Stir until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Bake for about 18 minutes. Let cool in the doughnut pan for about 10 minutes. At that point, they'll be easy to take out of the pan. To make the topping, melt the honey and coconut oil together in a small bowl (I just microwaved it for 30 minutes). Put the coconut sugar in another bowl. Dip the cooled doughnuts in the honey-coconut oil mixture and then into the coconut sugar. Enjoy! 

Next: Baked Egg Casserole

I came up with this combination based on what I had left in my refrigerator. Egg casseroles can be made with a variety of veggies or meats. Here's my take on baked egg casserole.

Sausage & Veggie Egg Casserole

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 yellow squash, diced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, diced
  • 8 oz. sliced mushrooms
  • 18 eggs
  • 1 ½ pounds sugar-free pork sausage 
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease your baking dish with coconut oil or palm shortening. Cook the sausage in a frying pan or skillet over medium to medium-high eat until fully cooked, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Remove the sausage from the pan. Cook the vegetables in the sausage grease until tender (5-7 minutes). Cool in a bowl before mixing with the eggs. Whisk the eggs in a large mixing bowl. Add the sausage and cooled veggies to the eggs. Pour into prepared baking dish and bake for 45-50 minutes or until set. 

Note: This makes a large dish of casserole. You could definitely cut it in half to make a smaller amount. My husband and I can usually eat the entire pan in a week if we eat it for breakfast daily. 

I saved the best for last... my version of Paleo granola! You may have noticed the granola in a few clips of the story and when Gary Shapiro and Kyle Dyer were previewing the story. 

Basic Paleo Granola
1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1 cup almonds, roughly chopped
1 cup shredded coconut
½ cup raw sunflower seeds
½ cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/3 cup almond meal
½ cup creamy almond butter
¼ - ½ cup raw, local honey
1 ½ t. cinnamon
2 t. vanilla extract
Dash of sea salt

Note: I buy my nuts, seeds and almond meal from the bulk bins at Sprouts. It's one of the most cost-effective way of purchasing nuts and seeds. 
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Add nuts to food processor and pulse a few times to roughly chop them. You don’t want to process them too much, or else you’ll end up with a flour consistency. You may have to do this in batches, depending on how large your food processor is.

Pour nuts into a large mixing bowl. Add shredded coconut, sunflower seeds, pepitas, almond meal, cinnamon and sea salt. Mix everything together.

Lastly, add almond butter, honey and vanilla extract. Stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to combine it all together. It will be a sticky mixture. Spread onto a large baking sheet and try to separate it so it’s not one big clump.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes, stirring a few times so it doesn't burn. Let it cool on a baking rack (keeping it on the baking sheet) for 15 minutes. The mixture will harden up a bit as it cools, making it more like traditional granola. Enjoy with almond or coconut milk and berries. You could also just eat it plain. I prefer mine with assorted berries and canned coconut milk. 

Please share The Paleo Network with your friends and family. I would also love if you would pin the granola and egg casserole recipes on Pinterest. There is a 'Pin It' button at the bottom of this post. I will also be pinning these to my pinboard 'The Paleo Network Recipes.' 

Please let me know if you have any foods you'd like me to Paleoize. I would be more than happy to take a stab at turning your favorite comfort food dish into a Paleo version. I look forward to sharing delicious Paleo foods and recipes with you on a regular basis. 

Recipes will be posted tonight!

Welcome 9News viewers! Most of you are looking for the recipes from today's show. I will get them posted tonight. Please subscribe to my blog on the right so you will receive an email when new content is added. I appreciate your patience. Please check back tonight (or subscribe and get them delivered to your inbox).

In the meantime, for those of you who may have missed it, you can review the story and watch the live clips. 9News did fantastic work putting everything together!

Here are the recipes I will be posting tonight:
  • Egg Casserole
  • Paleo Granola
  • Chocolate doughnuts
  • Banana Bread French Toast Sticks
My Paleo Lasagna recipe will be posted this weekend.

I look forward to sharing these fabulous Paleo recipes with you soon. Stay tuned...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Creamy Tomato Soup with Spinach and Grass-fed Ground Beef

It's winter. The temperatures are chilly. Soup warms the soul. I've become quite fond of soups. I used to think soups weren't very filling. This one hit the spot. In my Pre-Paleo days, I used to make a creamy tomato pasta soup using heavy cream (or half and half), mini pasta and lots of parmesan cheese. I had to make some adjustments to the soup. I wanted to make a heartier soup, but still have tons of veggies. I threw together the below recipe and loved it. My husband commented how it was much better than the Mexican food (cheat meal) we ate the night before.

Creamy Tomato Soup with Spinach and Grass-fed Ground Beef

Serves: 5-6
Paleo Rating: 9 Clubs


  • 2 T. olive oil or coconut oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade)
  • 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 2 T. fresh basil, torn into small pieces
  • 1 - 1 1/2 cups cashew cream (instructions below)
  • 3 large handfuls of spinach
  • 1 1/4 pounds grass-fed ground beef
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Saute veggies until tender and onions are translucent. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. 
  2. While the veggies are cooking, brown the ground beef in a separate pan, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. 
  3. Add chicken broth, diced tomatoes and basil to the veggie mixture. Bring to a boil. 
  4. Puree the soup with an immersion (hand) blender or blend in batches in your food processor or regular blender. 
  5. Add the spinach and ground beef to the soup. Allow the spinach to wilt. 
  6. Add the cashew cream and stir. 
  7. Ladle into bowls and enjoy! 

To make the cashew cream:

You'll need 1 cup of raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 6 hours (you could do this the night before or the morning of and leave it all day). Drain and rinse them. Put them in your high-speed blender (I have a Vitamix) and cover with cold water. Blend until smooth. That's all there is to it. You may have a little extra, but it can be used in your morning omelettes. Just mix it with some nutritional yeast to give it a cheesy flavor. 

This soup would be delicious with some Paleo Herb Crackers or Paleo bread. My personal favorites are Against All Grain's Grain-Free Sandwich Bread or Real Sustenance's Flaky Biscuits (I used coconut oil instead of butter). 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Secretive Eating and Breaking the Cycle

You may or may not know that I became an endurance athlete as an adult (started with half/full marathons in college [2003-2006] and graduated to triathlons in 2009). It's the complete opposite of where I was as a child and early teen. I despised exercise. I remember complaining that we were walking too far when we were at Arches National Park. I stopped and sat on a giant rock. It's not that I was out of shape at that point in my life (almost 13 years old). I just hated exercise. That's only one example of the many hiking excursions of my pre-teen/teen years. Funny how things change, right?

I contributed to the childhood obesity epidemic (if it was happening in the early-mid 90s). It's not that my parents fed me unhealthy foods. In fact, they did a wonderful job of cooking and preparing foods considered healthy under the Standard American Diet guidelines. I place no blame on my parents for my struggles with being overweight. It all falls on me. 

I was thin at one time... when I was 7 years old (in 2nd grade). I started to gain some weight in 3rd grade. I'm not sure why I gained weight at that point. 4th grade was when I really packed on the pounds. Thankfully, I've always been a tall person. Even at 9 years old, I was nearly 5 feet tall. That definitely helped a bit, but I couldn't hide the extra weight. 

What were the reasons to my weight gain? Secretive eating. There are multiple facets to this. 
  1. Next to my elementary school was a soda shoppe. I would frequent the soda shoppe with a few classmates after school. We'd eat fresh-cut curly fries and I typically would drink a chocolate milkshake or green river (phosphate drink). We all know how calorie-dense fries and shakes are. These after-school escapades occurred at least once per week. After indulging there, I would walk the few blocks home and eat dinner (and sometimes even dessert, if my mom made something). There was one rule in our house surrounding our diet: Only one dessert allowed per day. A glass of soda was considered dessert. We never could drink a soda and then a milkshake.
  2. In 4th and 5th grades, I would ride bike with neighborhood friends (one being part of the soda shoppe group above, but she stayed super thin the whole time) to a local place called The Pie Pantry (now closed), the drug store or Noble Roman's pizza. The Pie Pantry served ice cream, cookies and other baked goods. I'd sometimes buy a bag of 6 (large) chocolate chip cookies and get a dish of ice cream (no, I didn't eat all the cookies at one time). At the drug store, I'd buy candy to eat and take back home. Fun DipNips, and all kinds of other junk food. I would hide the candy in my closet at home and snack on it when no one was around. At Noble Roman's, my friend and I would typically order breadsticks with cheese and tomato sauce. I could easily eat 2-3 breadsticks with dip. Again, I would go home and eat my regular meal at home. 
  3. I hinted above that I would secretly eat candy and such at home. One of the things that I think put on most of the weight was my addiction to chocolate and peanut butter. I'm a little embarrassed about what I did. I would melt chocolate chips and mix it with a large scoop of peanut butter. I would then go hide somewhere in the house and eat the concoction with a spoon. I would wash the dishes before anyone else got home and put everything away. 
My parents never knew about any of these things. They just knew I was gaining weight. At my peak halfway through 6th grade, I weighed 158 pounds at 5'2". Something had to be done. Second semester of 6th grade, my mom put me on a diet. She made me write down all of my food intake into a food journal. I had to measure my food, as I could only eat serving sizes. I also continued to get taller, helping thin out my body. I ended up losing 30 pounds from January to May that year. I finished 6th grade weighing 128 pounds, which was a much better size for my height. 

My height is now 5'9". I've stayed healthy since middle school. I've never been "thin" or "skinny". I've always had a little bit of insulation in the mid section. My hips, thighs and stomach (below the belly button) tend to hold onto a little bit of fat. 

I still find myself eating secretively (or thinking I am). I will sneak something out of the fridge and be eating in the kitchen, only for my husband to ask what I'm doing. Why do I still feel the urge to be secretive about my eating? Am I ashamed about what I'm eating? My husband isn't going to take the food away from me. I have to make the decision myself on whether I'm going to eat something or not. It's my choice. Just like it was my choice to eat all that junk food when I was a kid. 

We all have the choice. I recently completed a Whole30. Yes, I complained a bit about the strictness of the program. I succeeded though. I went 31 days sugar-free (in addition to already being grain-, dairy- and legume-free). I ate a little bit of fruit, which is approved on the challenge. 31 days. I am amazed. It's incredible to see how far I've come since I was that overweight child. I had a sugar addiction my entire life. I craved sweets. I believed my day wasn't complete unless I had a dessert. Whole30 broke that addiction. It changed my taste buds. I don't crave the goodies like I used to. Not even Paleo goodies. I will probably experiment with some Paleo goodies, since I'll be creating recipes this year for a cookbook. I'll be sharing those goodies with others though. I don't have the desire to eat them. I'd like to provide others with dessert options, if they so choose. There's nothing wrong with indulging every once in a while. Paleo cakes, brownies, cookies, coconut milk ice cream, etc. Life still happens. We celebrate birthdays and holidays. Those generally involve some sort of sweets. 

I still enjoy food, but in a different way. I look forward to my meals. Steak. Sweet potatoes. Salads. Soups. Casseroles. Roasted chicken. Fish. Bacon. Sausage. Eggs. You get the picture. There's something extremely satisfying about roasted veggies with meat. It's nourishing. I'm fueling my body for optimal performance now. The decisions I make are going to affect my wellness in either a positive or negative way. I would prefer to be at my best. You can be too. You may think it's too hard. It may be a challenge in the beginning. Look where I came from though. I've been there. I know what it's like. It can be done. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Whole30 Recap and Where Do I Go From Here

Happy Friday!

I'm feeling a lot better today than I have been. I'd say I'm about 80%. I was finally able to get back into my routine today. Over my lunch hour, I ran for 30 minutes on the treadmill. Total distance was 3.57 miles. I ran the first 5K in 25:35 and then took it easy for the rest of the time (6.1 mph at 3% incline). I really needed that run. It makes me feel more confident about my running fitness. Only 4 weeks until my half marathon. 

You may remember I provided measurements way back on Day 1. 

Starting weight and measurements
Height: 5'9" (just as a baseline)
Weight: 159 lbs.
Biceps: 11"
Chest: 36"
Waist: 26.5"
Hips: 39.5"
Thighs: 23.5"

Here's the update.

Ending weight and measurements
Weight: 155 lbs.
Biceps: 10.5"
Chest: 35"
Waist: 25.5"
Hips: 39"
Thighs: 23"

I lost 4 pounds and 3.5" total. I'm pretty happy with that. I exercised consistently the first 25 days - up until I got sick. I rode bike on the trainer, ran and we even went hiking up Lookout Mountain once. Everyday, I did 100 squats, 100 sit-ups and 25 push-ups. I built some muscle and lost a bit of fat during the month.

What were my thoughts of Whole30? It was a positive experience. I was anxious in the beginning, thinking I'd be hungry or wouldn't know what to cook. I've been Paleo since June 2012, so I'm not sure why I was so apprehensive about it. I made something different for every dinner. We ate outside the home five times. Two times we ate at Mmm...Coffee and also took home soups for lunch the following day. The way it works at our house is we take leftovers for lunch the following day. Since I didn't cook dinner those nights, we needed lunch. The fifth outing was Whole Foods. I made a salad from the salad bar. My husband bought a piece of rotisserie chicken from the hot food bar and made a small salad.

There were a couple times when I craved a treat. I think about food a lot. Food is a passion of mine, so I'm constantly thinking about it. I'll be eating breakfast and already thinking about lunch or dinner. It's incredible how much life is centered around food. I was able to pin Paleo treats and not crave them. There were social situations where temptation was sitting right in front of me and I said no. I stayed compliant. I held myself accountable. Others were trying to bring me down, but I didn't let them. Our minds are more powerful than we realize.

The biggest thing I gained from doing a Whole30, sugar doesn't have a hold over me. My sugar addiction has been broken. I no longer need sugar on a daily basis. It used to feel like my day wasn't complete until I ate a dessert. I've mentioned it previously that I grew up in a house that always had homemade goodies. My mom is an awesome baker. She made from-scratch pie crusts, pies, cakes, cookies, etc. She baked cakes for everyone's birthdays. She even would bake her own Spice Cake with Coffee Buttercream Frosting. One of my brothers always requested black raspberry pie. I typically had my mom make me chocolate cake with buttercream frosting for my birthday. To this day, I actually can't remember/don't know what my other brother's or dad's favorite is. One of my favorite desserts that my mom made was key lime pie with graham cracker crust. Yum! It always reminds me of our Florida vacations as a child. We went to Florida at least once, and sometimes twice, per year while I was growing up.

Tonight, my husband and I broke the Paleo rules and went to our favorite Indian buffet, India Oven. They have a nice selection of main dishes and sides. I haven't had Indian food in quite a while. I used to eat two plates of food in the past. I could barely finish my one plate tonight. I still walked out feeling stuffed like a piñata. I ate a samosa, veggie pakora, basmati rice, sweet potato masala, chicken tikka masala, seasoned green beans, naan bread, and a little warm carrot "pudding" (Gajar Halwa). I hadn't tried the carrot dish before, but really enjoyed it. It's made of carrots, a creamy sauce, dates and walnuts with some spices (cinnamon, for sure). I think I could make a Paleo version using canned coconut milk.

While eating, we discussed Whole30. Both of us felt really awesome during the month. Neither of us really struggled (my husband mentioned missing his warm beverage such as hot chocolate or honey and tea when it was cold - instead during Whole30 he drank plain green tea and actually started to like it) and thought all of our meals were delicious. They weren't far from our normal Paleo meals. The big difference came with breakfast (no Paleo waffles/pancakes with maple syrup or microwave breakfast cakes). We enjoyed eating clean. We believe it's something to do every 6 months, so we'll do another Whole30 in late August... after my birthday on August 14th. We's decided we will eat two clean meals out of our three daily meals moving forward. That'll give us a little flexibility to have Paleo granola (honey or maple syrup-sweetened) for breakfast or have chicken and Paleo waffles with maple syrup for dinner. We don't have to have sweets if we don't want, but the flexibility is there. I think we might indulge two or three times in a week at most. I've been enjoying omelettes and eggs for breakfast. I just have to keep finding different ways to make them. We may do stretches of 7-10 days completely sugar-free, depending on how we're feeling.

There's another thing I'll be focusing on moving forward: watching my portions. I definitely need to control them. Even if I cut my portions back by at least 10%, I will easily be able to drop the additional body fat I would like to lose. Do you struggle with portion control? It's such a simple concept, yet difficult to do. I'm focusing on one thing at a time. Since I broke the sugar addiction, I can now focus on portions. I may need to buy smaller plates. How do you manage your portions?

Well, I'm off to bed. Hope you all have a great weekend!