WIAW #14: Whole30 – Been There, Done That!

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Well, that’s a wrap!  Yesterday marked day 30 of the Whole30 challenge.  That’s 30 days without sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, and dairy…and we survived.

Sounds like borderline torture, right?

Wrong.

No, really.  I actually kind of liked it (after the initial shock wore off).  I swear I’m not crazy.

Seriously, once we got past about the 10 day mark, things really started lookin’ up.  Sure, it was hard when people around me were eating pizza and cookies and ordering out…all I wanted to do was dive right in and treat myself like I normally would, but since there was an end in sight, that helped me stay strong and committed to the challenge.

Here are a couple of the meals we ate during the last week, to keep things interesting.  There are plenty more where this came from but I’m trying not to make this the longest post in the history of blogging, so stay tuned. 😉

Sausage, Sweet Potato, Egg and Kale Bake

DSC02005Ingredients:

  • 4 sausage links or breakfast sausage (Whole30 approved, or not if you aren’t doing the challenge)
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 2 large handfuls of kale, or more
  • 8-12 eggs, depending on how much you like

Directions:

Cook the sausage on the stovetop while you roast the sweet potatoes in the oven for about 20min (until tender) at 450 degrees.  You can also saute the potatoes, I just prefer the texture of them roasted.  Place kale into baking dish, pour the sausage, potatoes and eggs over the top and bake in the oven on 350 degrees for about 20-30 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked through and the kale is wilted.

Easy Taco Salad

DSC02014Ingredients

What you see above!  The taco seasoning doesn’t include any sugar and is basically a mixture of several spices.

Directions

Chop pepper and onion and saute in olive oil, or you can cook it right along with the meat.  Add salt/pepper and taco seasoning and you’re done!  Add a little red wine vinegar, olive oil and avocado/guacamole and it’s a super easy, healthy and delicious taco salad!

DSC02016So, why do this you ask?

First of all, I want to emphasize that my intention for this challenge was not to lose weight.  Although I eat healthy 80-90% of the time, I was interested to see how my body would react when I removed processed foods, sugar, etc. all together, without any treats or cheat days.

The result?

We feel great!  We don’t feel lethargic or bloated after meals and we have more energy overall.  Until this challenge, I don’t think we really realized how certain foods affect our bodies.  After week two, I even noticed my post-meal sweets craving had all but disappeared, which I never thought would happen.  I’m interested to see how I think sweets taste after 30 days without them.  Honestly, a cheat meal doesn’t even sound that appetizing to me right now.  Who am I??

I only lost 3 pounds, which was a good thing.  I dropped that much in the first week of the challenge and to be honest, if I dropped any more I was going to think about quitting the challenge all together.  Instead, I tried increasing the size of my meals and that helped me stay even for the rest of the 30 days.  Matt, on the other hand, lost 12 pounds!  He looks and feels great, so I’m proud of him for sticking to the plan with me.  I’m sure some of the weight will come back on once we start introducing certain foods back into our diet, but this challenge was a good jump start to an even healthier lifestyle that we can hopefully maintain.

Now what?

Matt and I both agree that we really like the way our bodies feel with minimal sugar and processed foods, so our plan is to continue to eat this way….most of the time.  It will be nice to have the pressure of the challenge behind us, so if we are running late or just don’t have time to prepare, we can grab a protein bar, smoothie, or order out.   During the week, I’ll cook meals like I have been for the past 30 days and I’m sure we will treat ourselves every once in a while on the weekends.   And dangit, give me my dark chocolate! 🙂

Thinking about trying the Whole30?

Stop thinking about it and just GO FOR IT!  The whole idea of giving up so much for 30 days can seem really intimidating, but not if you do your homework.  If I can give one piece of advice, it’s prepare, prepare, PREPARE.  That is the absolute key to successfully completing this challenge and doing so with your sanity intact. 🙂  I constantly searched for new (and easy!) recipes that would keep things interesting and that I could prepare on Sundays for the entire week.

In the end, I’m SO glad we did it.  #1 it’s a great sense of accomplishment when it’s over and #2 I think it has opened up our eyes to an even better lifestyle (NOT a diet) that now we know we can can have.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a glass of wine calling my name….

As always, thanks to Jenn for hosting the WIAW link-up!

WIAW #13: Whole30 – Week 2

Hey hey!

Well, we are knee deep in the Whole30, 16 days down, 14 to go!  No turning back now.  Week 2 was much more tolerable than Week 1. No breakdowns and only minor panic attacks.  I kid, I kid. 😉

Both Matt and I are feeling good, we have more energy and aren’t really having too many cravings, except for the ever-present chocolate for me.  Not sure that will ever go away…and I’m ok with it, because a life without chocolate is a life without living.  Let’s be honest.

I switched it up a lot this week and made sure to have different meal options – something other than just chicken, veggies, salmon and eggs.

On the menu:

Breakfasts and snacks have pretty much stayed the same: almond butter, apples, berries, dried fruit, nuts, veggies, guacamole, etc. LaraBars have been a saving grace at times too, although they are supposed to be used as more of an emergency food, according to the “rules”.  I like to have them as a pre-workout option.  I usually break off part of it before heading to the gym in the morning.  It’s a much better option than a hard-boiled egg and/or almonds at 5am. For me, that’s less than appetizing. 🙂

Sweet Potato Chili  (SO delicious, you won’t even miss the beans!) I paired it with kale salad…which isn’t as good without the Stevia, I have to admit.

DSC02012Baked Cod (dipped in egg, covered in almond flour and baked at 400 for about 20min.), paired with avocado and veggies.

DSC02013Paleo Beef and Broccoli with cauliflower rice

DSC01998Beef & Broccoli

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb flank steak
  • 2 heads broccoli
  • 1 small onion, chopped*
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped*
  • 3 tbsp coconut aminos
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground red pepper
  • 1/2-1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • salt/pepper

*I used garlic, onion and shallots already chopped from Trader Joe’s

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Directions:

Cut broccoli into florets and steam, set aside.  Heat the olive oil and saute the garlic/onion for about 1 minute, add the steak and saute until almost cooked through.  Add remaining ingredients and stir until combined then mix in the broccoli florets.

Cauliflower Rice

Ingredients:

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1/2-1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Directions:

Cut the cauliflower into florets and pulse in a food processor until it looks like grains of rice.  If you don’t have a food processor, you can probably use a blender or cheese grater.  Saute the onion in the olive oil, add the cauliflower and saute until soft.  Add the spices of your choice.

As always, check out Jenn’s blog for more WIAW posts!
 

More recipes coming your way soon, including a new breakfast casserole!

Have a great day!

WIAW #12: Whole30 – Week 1

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Matt and I have been talking about doing the Whole30 challenge for a few months.  Now that the holidays and a few weddings have come and gone, we decided it’s now or never.  My friend Kate and her husband have done the Whole30 twice now, and I remember thinking they were crazy the first time they did this.

What? No wine? No sugar of any kind? #cray

Since then, I’ve been making an effort to incorporate more unprocessed and whole foods into our diet and making paleo meals at times, so the thought of cutting back just a little more didn’t seem so daunting.  We don’t even realize the negative effects that certain foods have on our bodies, sometimes because we are just used to it, so I am interested to see how I feel after 100% cutting out these foods and pressing that “reset” button.  Like they say on their website, it’s only 30 days.  Yes, it might feel like torture at times, but it will be over in 4 weeks and your body will thank you for it!

So what is the Whole30?

The Basics: It’s kind of like Paleo on crack.  Paleo is the “hunter-gatherer” diet…although I don’t like to call it a diet, more like a lifestyle.  Meat/Seafood/Poultry (natural/grass fed is preferable), vegetables, healthy fats (EVOO, avocado, coconut oil, etc.), fruit, and nuts in moderation are all a-ok.  No grains, no legumes (aka beans, peanuts), no dairy, no processed foods, no refined vegetable oils, etc.  And for the Whole30, also NO SUGAR.  This is essentially a sugar detox.  That means no honey, no maple syrup, no Stevia, nothing, nada, zip. I didn’t think it would be all that hard but seriously, you would be surprised how many things contain sugar, and food that you would even expect (bacon?).  Luckily, they provide you with a shopping list that outlines Best/Better/Good options to help you make your way through the grocery store.

I spent most of the day last Sunday stocking up on Whole30 “approved” food and prepped most of our sides and snacks for the week.

Snack Meal Prep: Hard-boiled eggs, apples, almond butter (no other ingredients except almonds and maybe sea salt), raw/dry roasted nuts, dried fruit (unsweetened/unsulfured – Trader Joe’s has a few good options and Costco had dried bananas only sweetened with fruit juice, which is ok by Whole30 standards), LaraBars in moderation

Breakfast Meal Prep: Roasted sweet potatoes/turnips/rudabega/butternut squash

Sides Meal Prep: Cauliflower rice, roasted veggies, veggies for salads, fruit

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I found this timeline on the Whole30 website and I have to say, it’s pretty spot on so far!  It actually made me feel better about the way we were reacting to this challenge.

Day 1: Piece of cake.  We’ve got this.  Eat our normal meals and cut back on the snacking, or only snack on “approved” food.

Day 2:  Panic.  Well, almost.  When I realized that we were going to run out of the food that I had spent alll that time prepping in t-minus 1 day, the thought of having to prep even more meals in the middle of the work week was certainly not ideal, and not to mention exhausting.  Matt and I both felt pretty tired, but it wasn’t from lack of sleep.  It all made sense after reading the timeline.  Maybe our Sunday all-day bender was the culprit.

DSC01989(Not Pictured: Burgers, fries and lots ‘o soda)

I also found this waiting for me when I got to work….

IMG_20140218_091602If there was a Whole30 hell, I’m pretty sure this is what it would look like.  It’s not like if it were a normal day I’d eat a dozen of these things, but not even one little bite?? (or three)

Day 4:  Near breakdown.  I was doing ok except for the lack of my usual snack options at night, which was making me very cranky. Matt on the other hand, not so much.  Unlike me, he can’t eat the same meals on repeat day after day.  After day 2 of eggs for dinner, he looked at me and said “why don’t we just order something?”.  You have no idea how tempting that was.  But we resisted and powered through. 🙂

DSC01990Example Week 1 dinner: Salmon (with smoked paprika- yum!), roasted asparagus and cauliflower rice.

DSC01994Example Week 1 lunch: Shredded chicken, roasted broccoli and avocado.

One idea I was borderline terrified of was drinking coffee without Stevia.  I have to say, it really isn’t bad! I’ve been using my usual coffee but with canned coconut milk instead of almond milk and Stevia, and I think I’ll keep doing that even after the 30 days are up.

DSC01993Now it’s Day 10 and I think we are finally getting into our groove.  I did a better job of meal planning and prepping this weekend so I think we are pretty set for the week with Whole30 approved (and delicious!) meals.  I’m excited to share some of them with you!

Overall, I think we are going to really see the benefits of completing this challenge.  I think the hardest part for me is all of the things that I “can’t” eat.  I’ve always been a big proponent of everything in moderation and I’m not usually one to deprive myself of anything. So avoiding the yummy snacks and treats like the plague has been hard for me.  Having said that, I think this challenge will show me how much willpower I really have!  Once we got through the first week and over that initial hurdle of the “detox phase”, both Matt and I feel pretty good and have seen a change in our bodies for the better.

Today, I thought I would share the recipe for Plantain Chips, one of my new favorite (and simple!) snacks.

DSC02002Ingredients:

  • 2 plantains *
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
  • pepper

* If your grocery store has them, they will be next to the bananas.  They look like bananas but are larger and more green.

Directions:

Cut off the ends of the plantains and slice it longways 3 times, then carefully peel off the skin.  The skin is pretty tough, so you might have to use a knife to help get it started.  Unlike bananas, the less ripe the better.  The more ripe they get, the sweeter they get.

DSC01999Now, you can either slice the plantains with a knife, or if you have a food processor that’s what I used and it made it much easier to slice the chips thin and evenly.

Toss in the olive oil, salt and pepper.  Spread out the chips evenly on a baking sheet that is sprayed with olive oil.  Bake at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until they start to brown.  Be careful because they will go from almost done to over done quickly!

DSC02003It’s best if these are eaten within a day or two of baking because they can become chewy and I would suggest storing them in a glass container like a Pyrex dish, which might keep them crisp longer.

These are good plain and I really like them dipped in Wholly Guacamole.  Post Whole30, these will be great with hummus. 🙂  A great substitute for store bought chips!

More Whole30 recipes coming soon!

As always, checkout Peas and Crayons for more WIAW goodness!

Healthy Valentine’s Day Treats

I’m not sure if you would really call these recipes Valentine’s Day themed, per se, but they involve strawberries, strawberries are pink and VDay is all about pink….so Valentine’s treats it is. 😉

The first is a Chocolate Covered Strawberry Protein Smoothie.  Who doesn’t love chocolate covered strawberries?! And if I can blend them up and drink them out of a straw for breakfast, I’m all for that situation.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/2 c frozen strawberries
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (you can eliminate this if you use chocolate protein powder)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • handful of spinach

Directions:

Blend and enjoy!

DSC01969The next treat is a new one for me.  Davida over at The Healthy Maven is hosting a linkup for health-ified Valentine’s Day baked goods. As soon as I heard the idea, I knew I had to participate.  #1 I L.O.V.E. baked goods in all shapes and sizes. #2 I also love taking those baked goods and making them in a way that doesn’t make me feel like I need to eat it while simultaneously running on the treadmill.  I stumbled across a recipe for strawberry/chocolate paleo bread from You Fresh Naturals on Instagram and knew I had to try it. I made a couple of adjustments of my own to create Strawberry Chocolate Pecan Paleo Bread!

Strawberry Paleo BreadYes, I’m aware it looks like a dog treat. The picture really doesn’t do it justice, plus I’m not good at taking fancy food blogger pics like Davida. 🙂  It was delicious and even Matt was impressed!  Wife-win. I haven’t made paleo bread before, but I’ll definitely be trying this concept again!

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 c coconut flour
  • 3 tbsp canned coconut milk
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • pinch baking soda
  • 1/4 c chopped pecans
  • 1/4 c chopped strawberries
  • 1/4 c chocolate chips (for true paleo, use a brand like Enjoy Life)

Directions:

Place all ingredients except strawberries, pecans and chocolate chips in food processor.  Blend until combined.  Fold in remaining ingredients and pour into greased bread pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

 

Sending virtual hugs to everyone on this Valentine’s Day!  Have a great weekend!

WIAW #11: Butternut Squash Chili

Time for another round of What I Ate Wednesday! I’ll apologize in advance for the lack of photos this time around…it’s all the same, right?

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Breakfast

Scrambled eggs with more roasted breakfast “potatoes”. This time, the mix included sweet potatoes and turnips….I never thought I would like turnips, but they are quite tasty!

I also grabbed a sugar-free caramel almond milk latte (that’s quite the mouthful, isn’t it?) on the way to work. I stayed pretty full until lunch, but also grabbed a small handful of trail mix mid-morning.

DSC01963

Lunch

I went to lunch with some co-workers and my boss at Crazy Bowls and Wraps, where I ordered a chicken fajita bowl, sans rice…along with a few tortilla chips.  It was really good but a little heavy on the beans and cheese, which I wasn’t expecting. No pics this time. Didn’t want to freak my co-workers out. 🙂

Dinner

Dinner was the highlight of my day. I found this recipe for Paleo Butternut Squash Chili and had to give it a try, especially since we are dealing with yet another snow day around here….is it spring yet?!

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Paired with a kale salad, it was a delicious meal…oh, and a piece (ok, two) of THIS deliciousness. Ohmygoodnessgracious this stuff is no joke. Sorry for the blurred pic. I blame the chocolate.

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I only made a couple of small changes to the recipe, but here’s how I made the chili!

DSC01961Ingredients:

  • 1 lb grass-fed ground beef
  • 1 lb steak, cubed
  • 3 cups butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 15oz cans fire roasted tomatoes with green chiles, diced
  • 1 6oz can tomato paste
  • 1 15oz can beef broth
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp Texas chili powder (recipe calls for Chipotle but I couldn’t find it)
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • salt- the recipe doesn’t call for it but I added some to my bowl (I’m a salt lover and my husband, not so much ;))

Directions:

Chop all vegetables. Brown meat in a skillet for about 5 minutes, add vegetables and cook for another 5 minutes, or until veggies are cooked about halfway.  If your roasted red peppers aren’t already diced, add them to a food processor or blender and pulse until diced (do not drain). Add the remainder of ingredients and meat/veggie mixture into a pot and simmer for 1 hour, or until the squash is tender.

Again, I do not always post every single thing I eat throughout the day, just the noteworthy meals.  I don’t want to bore you too much to death… 😉

 

Make it a great day!

 

WIAW #10: Putting That Meal Prep to Work!

It’s been a while since I have posted my daily eats as a part of What I Ate Wednesday, and today I wanted to feature the benefits of my weekly meal prep. In order to keep myself sane, I have to make the extra effort on Sundays to make some of the food I know I will use during the week in advance.  Less cooking during the week = a much less-stressed Christa.  Trust me, it’s better for everyone involved.

As always, I post most of what I eat throughout the day…aka it doesn’t include the random handfuls of trail mix, extra bites of this or that, and the ever present chocolate. 🙂

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Thanks to Jenn for hosting!

Breakfast

Meal Prep #1: Breakfast “Potatoes”

For the past couple of weeks, breakfast “potatoes” have been #1 on my list of meal prep items. I’ve been trying to change up my breakfasts from the standard eggs and fruit or smoothie to something a little more hearty, yet still healthy. Usually, I make some kind of combination of sweet potatoes, butternut squash, turnips or parsnips.  Today, it was just butternut squash. Chop ’em up, toss in olive oil, salt and pepper, and then roast them at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown.  Then you have an easy and healthy option to heat up quickly in the morning.

DSC01947Of course, I love my coffee and almond milk in the morning; can’t leave the house without it! Target came out with a new flavor that is a MUST try.

DSC01942Paired with my new favorite mug (love the vintage Tiger) and a little vacay reminiscing, and the morning wasn’t allll bad. 😉

DSC01948Snack

Do I even have to say it? Apple and almond butter, naturally.  Have you tried Justin’s almond butter yet? Delish!

DSC01949Lunch

Meal Prep #2: Crock-pot chicken

On Sundays, I make chicken for the week in a crock pot. It literally could not be easier…7 frozen chicken breasts, cook on low for 6-7 hours and then shred. Sometimes I add in salsa or just olive oil, salt and pepper. It’s so nice to have chicken already made for both Matt and I for the week.

Today added the chicken to a salad and topped it with chickpeas, carrots, zucchini, chopped almonds and chicken.  Dressing was homemade and simple – olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and stevia.

DSC01951I also had a few of these. Trader Joe’s for the win, always!

DSC01950Snack

Meal Prep #3: Protein Bars

I’ve changed my usual recipe up, eliminating the oats and experimenting with more of a paleo-esque  approach. I’m still making tweaks, so I’ll share the recipe when I think it’s worthy. 🙂

DSC01954Dinner

Mahi Mahi with roasted broccoli and topped with avocado. Avocado is a great healthy fat that I’m going to try and incorporate into my meals a little more. It’s so good!

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That’s it for today! Have a great one!