Friday, March 20, 2015

Whole 30 Wrap-Up

On February 16, I started Whole30. I gave up all sugar (except that naturally occurring in fruit), all grains, all legumes – of course, I was already dairy-free. Basically I’ve be eating fruits, vegetables, meat and nuts. The first two weeks I ate eggs too, but they were making me congested, so I gave those up too. I also haven’t eaten food from any restaurant since February 15 either. It was intended to be a 30-day challenge, then see what direction I wanted to go from there with my eating. Here's what I've learned: 

1. I don’t think I could do the Paleo diet full-time. I’m tired of meat. Without eating eggs or beans, its pretty hard to eat meat-free and still get enough protein. *Note: Eggs are allowed on Whole30, but I am sensitive to egg whites. 

2. I don't miss sugar that much. Carrots taste sweeter now. Apples and clementines are great. A bowl full of berries with nuts make a good "dessert." I wish cantaloupe was in season.

3. It’s also been tough to enjoy social events with friends not eating out at restaurants. Physically I can handle this kind of restrictive eating plan, but mentally it is a challenge. I got a little depressed towards the end after turning down several invitations to go out with friends. I did go out with family a couple times and just drank water, but that was also hard. Especially when they want to linger and chat and all I can think about is the fact that I haven't eaten and my food is elsewhere.

4. Planning ahead is integral. Optimal eating requires setting aside time every single day to plan and/or prepare meals. Weekend prep helps a lot - bags of cut veggies, shredded, cooked chicken, browned ground beef/turkey/bison in the fridge ready to go and an assortment of nuts in the pantry helps a lot, but every day I still had to plan the next day out and make sure I had plenty of options. It is tough to find quick options at a convenience store - nuts are about the only option. I found keeping serving size bags of almonds in the car to be very helpful on long days out running my daughter around. Fruit would be good too, but that wasn't an option for me because it was below freezing for much of the last month. Half frozen produce isn't very appetizing.

5. Whole, clean eating is not cheap. Organic produce is expensive. Quality, grass-fed meat is expensive. My grocery budget was blown out this past month - good thing I wasn't spending anything at restaurants! I also had to shop a lot more frequently because I used fresh produce almost exclusively and had to go to the store at least once a week.

6. Reading labels is harder than you may think. This wasn't really new information for me. I've fallen into the trap of making sure something was dairy and/or egg free and completely missing the gluten. One day a couple weeks ago, I wanted some trail mix. Several kinds had added sugar and I got so caught up in looking for sugar that I didn't realize it had peanuts until I opened it. Fail.

My future plans are to continue to eat as much whole food as possible – cooking from scratch – and continue to try to eat less sugar, especially refined. But I will not be as restrictive with the ingredients I use in meals. I will be adding legumes, brown rice and quinoa back into my diet, in a little more moderation though, limiting these foods to one meal a day. 

 It’s been an education in willpower and food planning and how I choose the foods I eat.

One last note, I did lose 7 lbs over the 30 days as well, but I doubt I'll start weighing myself often enough to really track this.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Whole 30...and so it begins

I started Whole 30 on Monday and finding foods to eat hasn’t been as hard as I thought it might be. I don’t really miss my morning shakes (yet) and I’m still having fun with finding new recipes. I have had a headache everyday so far, but it sounds like that’s pretty normal. Today was the first day I didn’t feel too hungry though.
Here’s what I’ve eaten so far:
Breakfast – Diced chicken breast and avocado; banana
Lunch – meatloaf muffin, baked red potato with coconut spread, steamed broccoli
Dinner – Taco salad with ground turkey

Breakfast – Potato, steamed spinach + kale, scrambled egg, mixed berries
Lunch – Taco salad
Dinner – Stir fry with steak, baby bok choy, mushrooms, bell pepper, onion, snap peas and garlic.

Breakfast – Hard-boiled egg with dried dill, cashews, blueberries, ½ banana and clementine
Lunch – baked sweet potato with coconut oil, steamed broccoli, raw bell pepper and about 3 oz of leftover steak
Dinner – Chicken breast, tomato soup

Breakfast – scrambled egg, potato, steamed spinach and kale
Lunch – tuna & avocado salad lettuce boats, orange
Dinner – Sauteed cabbage with mushrooms, onions, bell pepper, and ground turkey.
I also discovered the wonderfulness that is a banana with almond butter and coconut flakes (and a sprinkle of cinnamon).

Friday’s plan:
Breakfast – leftover cabbage and ground beef + hard boiled egg
Lunch – chicken breast and artichoke tomato salad

Dinner – meatloaf, roasted red potatoes and green beans

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Chilly outside, Chili inside

Have I mentioned I love soup? It doesn’t have to be winter, but warm, brothy soup on a cold day is pretty nice. It’s snowing and windy out tonight, so some chicken soup was perfect. I’ve had chicken chili on the menu for awhile, but ran out of chicken (great planning, huh?). I finally bought some chicken breasts yesterday so I was able to make the soup I’ve been craving. 

This is a quick soup that uses some prepared items, but it could easily be made from scratch too if you want. I got four chicken breasts yesterday and I decided to go ahead and baked them last night to use for multiple meals – lunches and dinners.

Easy Chicken Chili
2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jar mild salsa verde (tomatillo salsa)
1 15 oz can white beans
1 can diced tomatoes
4 cups chicken broth
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp dried oregano
Olive oil

Heat about a couple teaspoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and stir until onions are transparent. Add cumin, coriander and oregano. Stir about another minute. 
Add remaining ingredients: cooked chicken, salsa, beans, tomatoes and broth. Bring to low boil. Lower heat to simmer. Simmer over low-medium heat for about 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend.

Serve with tortilla chips. You can garnish with shredded cheese, sour cream or avocado if desired. About 6 servings.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Curry, curry everywhere

I love me some curry. Any kind. I’ve had Thai curries, Indian curries, Caribbean curries…and some combination of spices that may or may not have been a “curry” in some Egyptian and Pakistani feasts that coworkers used to bring in to break their fasts during Ramadan.

I traveled to Jamaica last fall and stayed in an apartment where we made most of our meals. The grocery stores weren’t as robust as the ones I’m accustomed to at home, so I had to get somewhat creative with some of our meals. I ended up with several rice and bean dishes that I’ve been continuing to make back at home. Here’s one of my favorites that can be made with a few items quickly. It can be made thicker to serve over rice, or add a little chicken broth to thin it out, mix the rice in and serve it as a soup.

Curried Chickpeas
1 15 oz can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
1 15 oz can coconut milk
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
1-2 cloves garlic, minced (one is sufficient, but I really like garlic)
Diced bell peppers
Diced onions
Curry powder, about 2 Tbsp (I used Jamaican curry, but any curry would work)
1 tsp coconut oil (or other oil of your choice)
Prepared rice  - I like baked brown rice

Heat oil over medium heat in a saucepan. Add bell peppers, onions and garlic. Saute about 5 minutes. Stir in curry powder and heat until fragrant (about a minute). Add tomatoes, chickpeas and coconut milk. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer. I like to let it cook down a little and thicken. Usually about 20-30 minutes on low heat. Serve over rice, or stir rice in. If desired, add about a cup of chicken broth to make it more like a soup.

I can think of other ways to improve this, but it would also require more ingredients and I like that this is a really easy recipe with ingredients many people have on hand.