We’re Back! (and back in balance)

teeter totter

Sorry it’s been so long since we’ve posted an update. Much of our online time has been occupied getting ready to launch our self defense site ondefence.com, which should be ready to go any day now.

In the meantime, Dave and I have traversed the landscape of diets, literally – from the meat-centric paleo diet, right to full-fledged vegetarianism. We even flirted with eating vegan and raw for a while. Crazy, right?

So, the last time we posted we had just finished the Whole 30. For those who don’t know, the Whole 30 is a squeaky clean dietary challenge where you eliminate sugar, processed foods, grains, legumes and dairy for a full month. Prior to that, we’d been following the primal/paleo path, which initially resonated with us because it seemed to be aligned with our ancestry and it’s based on whole foods. But as it turns out, we just weren’t ready to give up grains forever. And that’s not all…

I think the paleo diet can also be very acid forming. I’m a believer the body should be slightly alkaline and that most diseases flourish in acidic environments. Meat is one of the most acid forming foods we can eat. And the paleo diet tends to advocate a lot of crappy meat, like bacon, which I just don’t think is a clean source of fuel for the body.

Paleo advocates claim they model their diet after cavemen – and therefore it’s better suited to our unevolved guts. And I admit, at first that rang true because I know cavemen didn’t have processing plants or 7-11s. But then again, do you really think cavemen ate meat THREE TIMES A DAY? Or do you think maybe they gorged on meat when they had a kill, then starved and ate berries for days in between?

The other issue with such a meat heavy diet is that it’s not sustainable. Meat production is killing our planet. The amazon is being destroyed at some crazy ass alarming rate just to plant soybeans to feed the cattle to try to meet the demand for meat, in order to feed our growing population – many of whom are trying to emulate the North American meat-heavy diet.

So, having said all that, we decided to try vegetarianism.

For about four months we changed our diet completely. I borrowed a pile of books from the library, dusted off my copy of The Thrive Diet and started experimenting with soaking & sprouting and raw food recipes. During the summer months it was actually quite nice – refreshing even! My stomach felt lighter, my poops were abundant, I had lots of energy. And the best part? My once debilitating menstrual cramps became tolerable. For the first time in 15 years I got through my cycles without pounding pills and/or weeping like a baby on the floor!

But after a while, eating became a chore; food became a source of stress. What to eat, when to eat, what to prepare. All our old standbys were off the table and meal preparation lost its fun and freedom. I also started gaining weight – lots of it. What a bummer. Here I was doing something to help my body and I felt like it was turning on me. “Don’t you know this is good for you dammit?!” I asked my body as I watched my the number of clothes I could fit into become fewer and fewer. I had to wonder what was happening and if my body was getting everything it needed.

Ultimately however, it was once again the food stress that really made us reconsider vegetarianism. We love food and I love to cook. But it felt like I was trying to paint with a limited palette and that eating and cooking just weren’t fun anymore. Dave would come home and stare into the fridge, frustrated. We found ourselves repeating the same meals and getting bored, not wanting to go out or share meals with friends. We think food should be a celebration and with this way of eating, it had become a chore.

So, we started adding more animal proteins back in to our diet. And now, as circuitous as it seems, it looks like we’ve come full circle. Back to a happy middle ground where balance is the key. Just like any journey though, we didn’t come home empty handed. We picked up a few new tips and tricks we’re looking forward to sharing with you, like including raw foods each day for enzymes and energy, and drinking a green smoothie full of easily digestible super foods (which I’m pretty sure was the secret to conquering my cramps – more on that in another post).

So what are we eating now? Real, whole food in a balanced way. I am trying to incorporate protein into each of our meals; lots of fresh raw veggies; clean, conscious carbs, including whole grains in as close to their natural state as possible; and healthy fats. In fact, I’ll do a few posts on putting it all together, some sample menus and new recipes in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, let us know what you think? Have you ever spent time on one of the dietary extremes?  What works for you?

Dheana & David

Advertisements

Coffee…friend or foe?

I had my first coffee in over a week this morning – a delicious cup of organic espresso with coconut milk. It was yummy, but MAN! was my heart RACING after about a half hour! Crazy! I’d never noticed the effects of caffeine before. I put it to use during my workout, but not sure I actually like the feeling anymore…Anyone else give up coffee and glad you did – or could never IMAGINE life without it?

Dear Sugar, Please stop hiding in stupid places…

e

I’ve found sugar in some pretty crazy places: sausages, soup broth and even salsa. But the other day I realized the Italian seasoning I grabbed while in a hurry at the grocery store is full of the stuff! I’m actually a little embarrassed to show you the bottle because I usually do a better job of label reading, but really…it’s Italian seasoning – I figured it’s going to contain rosemary, marjoram and oregano – you know, the usual suspects. Guess again! Try salt as the number one ingredient (egads!) and all sorts of crap like cornstarch, yeast extract and sunflower oil. Ugh! Never again…

In the meantime, Sugar, if you’re listening, please stop hiding in these stupid places. And food manufacturers, please stop pumping your products full of this crap.

Oh, and for the record, I’ve since started making my own broths and salsa – guess I can do the same with the spice mix!

Where’s the craziest place YOU’VE found hidden sugar?

Planning = Success: our weekly menu plan

I’ve been trying to plan and track our meals and cooking schedule each Sunday so we’re never at a loss for what to eat. Nothing thwarts your good intentions faster than finding yourself with an empty stomache and an empty fridge at the same time. What’s not shown on the board are the left-overs planned for post-workout meals, which I’ve been taking to the gym with me and eating right in the change room as I dry my hair and get ready to go back to work. These meals are typically 1/2 cup of yams and 4 oz of whatever protein we cooked the day before. Dave and I are a family of two, but we always cook larger portions of food because left-overs are essential to keeping us on track and minimizing kitchen time.

Tonight we put a few good hours prepping food. Dave made a dozen green salads, I made our favorite Meat-lovers Breakfast and we had some pretty tasty (albeit fatty) Dry-rubbed Beef Short Ribs from Food Lover’s Primal Palate for dinner. The spice rub is incredibly tasty, but I think next time I’ll boil the ribs first to cut down on the fat. If you’re into paleo eating, you’ll know that fat’s not a problem when you’re eating good meat. And this was – local and drug free, but it’s just not our preference.

As the week progresses, We’ll snap some photos and share more recipes. In the meantime, what’s on your menu this week?

 

Whole 30, Days 29 & 30 – It’s a Wrap (but hardly over)

Hard to believe, but we’re at Day 30 of the Whole 30 Challenge. Was it challenging? Oh yeah. Rewarding? Absolutely. And honestly, now that it’s over not much will change. We’ll probably turn down a glass of red wine, I’m definitely having a coconut bliss bar and Dave will likely tear into a bag of rice chips, but then really, we’ll be back to Whole 30 eating.

This whole experience was really an introduction to eating primal for us – and we love it. Neither of us have any intention to reverting back to old ways of eating. We’ve learned a lot about our cravings and what they mean. We’ve organized our food shopping and prep to minimize time in the kitchen. We’ve come up with a gaggle on new most-loved recipes and we feel better than ever physically. Will we never indulge again? Of course not. We’re human and we love food. But our attitudes have definitely changed.

I knew this for certain when I moved the stove out the other day to sweep behind it. I’m a bit embarrassed to tell you what I found – a Christmas cookie. And not a home-baked, so good your eyes roll back in your head, to-die-for cookie. Just some store bought processed piece of white flour and sugar junk. It made me realize that while there may be cookies in my future, they won’t be this kind. If I am going to put something in my mouth I know full well won’t support my health and fitness goals, it damn well better be the most delicious, decadent, divine version of whatever it is. It better nourish my soul and my senses if it’s not going to nourish my health. And for me, I think that’s the biggest reward of all, coming to this new place of thinking about my diet.

Now where’s my corkscrew…?

Whole 30, Days 27 & 28 – Spice Rubbed Roast Chicken (yes, it’s local)

roast chicken and veg

What says Sunday Dinner better than a roast chicken? Black cardamon is the secret that gives this recipe a nice smoky barbecue flavor, while the liberal rubbing with coconut oil crisps the skin up nicely. Since it’s an organic chicken  raised without hormones or antibiotics, I feel good about eating the skin. It’s when your protein is commercially raised you want to steer clear of the fatty stuff. If you’ve never cooked with black cardamon before you’re in for a treat. It lends a lovely smoky, almost bacon-type flavor to your dishes. Awesome in meatballs, burgers, chicken fingers and all sorts of things. Hope you enjoy!

Spice Rubbed Roast Chicken & Veg

  • 4 – 5 large carrots
  • 2 large onions
  • 3-4 large cloves garlic
  • coconut oil
  • garlic powder
  • chilli powder
  • paprika
  • black pepper
  • salt
  • black cardamom
  1. Preheat oven to 425
  2. Chop vegetables and put in bottom of roasting pan
  3. Pre-mix spices in a small bowl
  4. Wash & pat dry bird
  5. Rub chicken with coconut oil, inside, outside and under the skin, coating generously
  6. Pour spice mix over, inside and under the skin of the chicken; rub in well
  7. Place bird breast side down in over, uncovered for 15 – 20  minutes
  8. When nicely golden, flip bird over
  9. Roast for another 25 – 35 minutes until legs wiggle easily and internal temp reaches safe range (180)
  10. Let cool before slicing

Whole 30, Days 23-25 – Pre and Post Workout Nutrition

pre workout options of muffins or chicken and avocado, and post workout options of a protein shake or beef and yams

It’s been a few days since we’ve posted. No, we haven’t been stuck at the bottom of a pint of hagan daz. Truth is, thanks to bulk cooking and a handful of reliable high-yield dishes, our daily meals are down to a sweet science – which is good since both our schedules have kicked up into the decidedly hectic range. But now that we have B, L & D under control, what about pre and post workout nutrition? Well as it turns out, this is an area where the Whole 30 approach flies in the face of conventional wisdom.

In traditional body-building circles, pre-workout meals are mainly complex carb, often from grain or fruits, plus a little protein. Think cottage cheese and fruit, a whole grain muffin or oatmeal and egg whites.

Whole 30/primal pre-workout meals on the other hands are smaller snack size combinations of protein with a little fat. Think sardines in olive oil or chicken with avocado. Choose easy digesting foods and allow enough time so you’re not working out while you’re still digesting.

Post workout, old-schoolers will tell you to get an easily absorbed protein and a quick sugar into your body after training – and most do it via a protein and fruit or juice “recovery shake”. The idea being that quick absorbing simple sugars help shuttle protein into your muscles.

The “new school” approach agrees on protein, but differs when it comes to fruit and simple sugars. Instead, the Whole 30 Success Guide recommends eating a meal size portion of easily digesting protein and a fist size portion of a carb-dense vegetable like yams within 15 – 30 minutes of training. They say relying on fruit as your primary carb source post workout is a mistake because fructose is processed exclusively in the liver, which means the  “fuel tanks” in your liver get filled before the “fuel tanks” in your hungry muscles.

I’m going to be honest, as important as Dave and I both know pre and post workout nutrition is, we sometimes find it a challenge to get these meals in. For one, I find my paleo meals fill me up and I’m not hungry for another meal before my workout. Poor excuse, but there it is. Our workouts also falls within an hour or so of a regular meal, so that last meal essentially becomes our  “pre-workout” fare. On the other side of the coin, we also sometimes launch right into another regular meal post workout and miss the benefits of getting that extra nutrition to our hungry muscles right away. To be clear, your post w/o meal is a ‘bonus’ meal. You should still be eating your next regularly scheduled meal 60 to 90 minutes afterwards.

We know it’s a challenge to schedule these meals; we struggle sometimes too, but we still can’t emphasize enough how important it it to optimize your training. If you’re working out hard, and you should be, it just makes sense to get the most out of it.

What’s your strategy for pre and post workout fueling?

Whole 30, Days 21 & 22 – Sunday Cook-off & the Superhero Salad Dressing

four photos: salad dressing, broth in a pot, stew in a crockpot and baked eggs in containers

Here’s what we managed to get done & checked off the list today:

  • kale chips
  • beef & venison stew
  • meat lover’s egg bake
  • delicious citrus salad dressing
  • cucumber salad
  • tomato salsa
  • chicken broth
  • whipped butternut squash
  • clean berries
  • cut & marinate chicken

By the time the end was in sight, I realized we really didn’t have food ready for tonight, so I whipped together an impromptu omelet (would you call that I brinner?) with pan fried Portobello mushrooms and spinach, topped with the salsa I just put together, side of coriander spiced butternut squash and wedge of purple yams. Yum.

plate with omlette, yams and whipped butternut squash

Of all the things we made, I’m particularly excited about the salad dressing, not only because it tastes absolutely delightful, but also because I used Carlson’s Orange Flavored Cod Liver Oil, which makes it a Double Agent: part condiment – part nutritional super-hero. I love double duty foods.

Delicious Citrus (“Super-hero”) Salad Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1/2  cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¾ cup Carlson’s orange flavored cod liver oil

Instructions:

  1. Place the ACV and spices in a food processor and blend;
  2. Drizzle in the oil slowly while the blender is going;
  3. Adjust spices to taste; and
  4. Pour those yummy Omega 3’s all over your salad completely guilt-free!

Whole 30, Day 20 – Shopping & Menu Planning Made Easy!

Produce section of grocery store

It’s Saturday, so that means grocery shopping at our house. Before embarking on this Whole 30 Challenge, we often found ourselves stopping by the grocery store 4 or 5 times per week. Sometimes more. Thanks to some necessary planning head however, we’ve now got it down to one big shop per week, plus a trip to the butcher.

Before we left the house today, I used my white board to create a list of what I want to cook for the next week, looked at what I needed, compared it to what we already had on hand and made my list accordingly. Here’s what it looked like:

Day Item to Make Ingredients I have Ingredients I need
Sunday Stew Beef, venison, onions, garlic, rutabaga, carrots, yams, broth, spices Turnips, parsnips
Salsa Tomatoes, green peppers, onions, apple cider vinegar, tomato paste Jalapeno pepper
Salads Grapefruit, peppers, carrots Lettuce, fennel, peas, cabbage
Egg Casserole Eggs, portobello mushrooms, spinach, turkey sausage, ground turkey
Dressing Apple cider vinegar, walnut oil, Dijon, spices Apples, avocado
Kale chips Olive oil Kale
Monday n/a
Tuesday Chicken fingers Chicken breast, coconut, coconut milk, spices
Cucumber salad Cucumbers, ACV Light olive oil (to make fresh batch of mayo)
Wednesday Sheppard’s pie Carrots, broth, coconut flour, spices Cauliflower, *ground beef, beans, peas
Egg Casserole *ground beef
Thursday n/a
Friday Fish *fish
Saturday n/a

there you go, the last column became our grocery list for today and the table itself goes on the fridge for easy refernce when cooking. Handy, since I rarely follow recipes.

The beef I’ll get at the butcher on Tuesdays (when it’s freshest) and the fish I’ll buy fresh on the way home that night, but otherwise we’ve managed to pare our shopping trips from shopping 4 – 5 times per week, with cooking and cleaning every night, to shopping once a week, cooking 4 and having a full 3 nights out of the kitchen, while still having a fridge full of tasty Whole 30 approved meals whenever we’re hungry. We think it’s brilliant. You can use the framework of our plan. Fill in your favorite dishes and customize  your own menu plan and grocery list.

Do you have time-saving tips to help make eating healthy easier? We’d love to hear them!