The Magic Pill is Real Food – So you’ve decided to be healthy. Now what?

So much information, so little time. We all want to be healthier, but with so many experts telling you what you should be eating or what supplements you should be taking it can be confusing. I say strip it down to the basics. Just eat real food.

What is real food as I define it? Sustainably raised meat, poultry & eggs, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts & seeds. What isn’t it? Processed food like bread, pasta, cereal, or pretty much anything with a label. Most of what’s in the grocery store actually. Typical SAD (Standard American Diet) food. Does it mean you can never have a treat again? No. Once you make improvements in your health, you can have occasional splurges. For me personally, my digestive health and overall wellbeing improved so much typical SAD food isn’t even tempting. I’ve become a much better cook and I’ve learned to genuinely enjoy whole food based treats.

I’m not a nutritionist and have no medical credentials, so what I offer here is not in any way medical or nutritional advice. I think of myself as a whole food facilitator. When you have decided to make improvements in your diet, it is hard work. Most of us are so entrenched in our food preparation and eating habits we don’t even know where to start. I’ve been down the path and regained my health. I no longer rely on allergy medicine, heart burn medication, Nsaids or acetaminophen to feel operational. My migraine frequency continues to diminish.  So I want to help you if you want to try it out! If you are ready…dive in.

STEP 1: Clean the crap out of your kitchen. Box up unopened SAD food and take it to the food bank. If it is opened, throw it out. This includes cereal, bread, crackers, chips, anything with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, vegetable oils-canola, soy, safflower, corn, etc. JUST GET RID OF IT! This is not negotiable. If it is in your house, you will eat it. Set yourself up for success.

STEP 2: Meal plan. This includes making shopping lists and cooking several meals for the week. Plan on at least five hours to get yourself set up for the week. The upside is you’ll have free time during the week because you’ll have planned so well. No need to spend a bunch of money on cookbooks to start off, there are plenty of free resources to get you started.  Here are some great links for recipes and information on real food eating:

http://www.thepaleomom.com/    http://everydaypaleo.com/    http://theclothesmakethegirl.com/                                                   http://nomnompaleo.com/recipeindex

STEP 3: Sleep. At least 8-9 hours a night. This is not negotiable. Get a sleep mask and earplugs if it helps.

STEP 4: Get more sunshine & increase your activity. Find a walking/workout buddy. If that isn’t an option, use a website like http://www.meetup.com to find other people in your area that have the same health and fitness goals. Make plans, not excuses.

That’s all I have for now.  Hope it helps! If you have questions or need tips or encouragement, e-mail me at: haclife@outlook.com

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Cheese Free Snack Plates

Sometimes I miss cheese. That is a fact. However, I also do not miss the tight, achy feeling just above my belly button the day after I eat cheese. I call this a dairyache. This is an invented word, but directly reflects the truth. I don’t have a stomach ache, because it is not in my stomach. It is further through my digestive tract. This is what makes food intolerances so tricky; sometimes you don’t feel the effects until a day or three after you eat a particularly offensive food.

How have I come to understand what exactly is causing my symptoms? Through food elimination protocols. Is there a magic pill? NO!! If you want to be healthy you need to eat real, unprocessed, whole foods (meat, fish, poultry, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, fats) for at least 30 days exclusively. And that is just the beginning. Then add one food at a time back in to see what adversely affects you. For example, have a small amount of dairy for three days after not having it for a month and see if you notice any ill effects.

So when you’ve had a long day at work and really just want some cheese, crackers and wine to relax with, what do you do?  I put together a rather delicious plate of dill pickles, uncured salami & macadamia nuts. And some red wine, which through the elimination process I have learned is okay if I stick with sulfite fee selections.

The good news is that even if you can’t eat all the processed crap that is pervasive in our grocery stores, there are alternatives that still feel like treats. Here is a picture of my deliciousness from last night:

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The Breaking of the Gluten Fast

beignet

Let me start by saying I saved myself for New Orleans beignets. For two years my fear of migraines, heartburn and bloating have made it easy to not eat anything with gluten. I’ve been “gluten free” with cause since 2008, but would periodically (several times a year) ignore the need and indulge in real pizza crust or a doughnut or California Rolls. When my migraines began creeping back to a regular frequency (monthly) I decided it was time to get serious and cut out gluten permanently. I have a whole dairy story too, but let’s just say I can’t cheat with that either. For the most part I honestly never feel like I’m missing out when it comes to food, because I eat so well and I don’t have cravings. Okay, sometimes for wine and dark chocolate, but in reasonable amounts. Long story short, I’ve been planning a beignet binge for the better part of six months and thought I would share my results with you.

We were in NOLA for a wedding last weekend and I can report it ranks in at a solid second place after my son’s wedding as far as fun goes. It was on Saturday night, so I waited until Sunday for my Café du Monde excursion afraid I might end up with a migraine, gluten baby or horrible congestion. I indulged in three gloriously fresh fried, powder sugar encrusted dough bits and enjoyed them tremendously. Every greasy, sweet, chewy bite. And while I felt full, I was fine. I also had nachos and enchiladas that day. Quite frankly I was shocked that I felt normal. So now I can go out and binge all the time!!! Just kidding, I know better.

The moral of this binge on gluten from my perspective is this; if you want real healing to occur in your gut, you have to eat real food, have good sleep and stress relief hygiene, and move. Walk outdoors and lift heavy things and surround yourself with good people. You have to do this for a long time before you “cheat.” Maybe a year, maybe two, maybe three. I was forty when I found out I was gluten and dairy intolerant and had what I now know was the beginnings of autoimmune issues. Real food, real activity, real sleep is a lifestyle, not a diet. You are kidding yourself if you think one Whole 30 is going to fix you forever. It is a stepping stone to get you on track for having a better quality of life. You have damaged your gut over a lot of years and you need to honor yourself enough to give it time to heal. Use the wealth of free information on sites like www.Robbwolf.com , www.thepaleomom.com, www.marksdailyapple.com, www.everydaypaleo.com, and www.radicatamedicine.com to get started. Check out the books links in my resource section for help too. You don’t have to pay for meal plans or shopping lists, because people who live this way (like me) want to help you. Recruit family and friends to do it with you and have planning dates and batch cooking parties. It is work, but it is beyond worth it. If you put in the work, down the road you can have some of the celebratory treats on special occasions. If you still want them 😉

Inspiration from popular_paleo on Instagram

broccoli

My daughter-in-law recently turned me on to popular_paleo on Instagram and today she posted about her leftover rotisserie chicken that she mixed in with her Brussel sprouts. I thought, “Hey! I have some broccoli salad and leftover chicken breast!” So I made a delicious, quick meal out of both after mixing them together with a half of diced avocado. It took me about dos minutos to mix together and was yummy.  What is my point? Find people on social media to get inspiration when you need it and share what you make as well. This real food journey we are on is revolutionary! People are out there that don’t know how to survive without processed food and have no clue that whole wheat sandwiches with low-fat, vegetable oil mayo is not good for them.  Be a real food messenger and promoter.

Paleo Shepard’s Pie

As usual I modified what I’m sure was a delicious recipe in order to suit my particular tastes, available resources and food intolerances. The 30 Day Guide to Paleo Cooking by Haley Mason & Bill Staley of http://www.primalpalate.com has a ton of great information, meal plans and shopping lists. If you are a person who likes to have plans, lists and tasty recipes, buy their cookbook.

I have three, 6’2″, 210+ lb males that frequently require feeding in my life. All eat paleo and in addition to that I am gluten, casein and nightshade intolerant. Why is this important? Because it means I have to find satiating, delicious, high volume meals that occasionally allow me to leave the kitchen. This Shepard’s Pie fits the bill. Although, next time I will be doubling the quantities to have leftovers.

As always, read all the directions before you start. This is a skill I’ve only gained in my 40’s. Whether it is recipes, knitting or sewing instructions. READ ALL THE DIRECTIONS BEFORE YOU START ANYTHING. Trust me, life will be easier.

Shepard’s Pie– Ingredients: ground beef, zucchini, yellow squash, onion carrots, cauliflower, marjoram, thyme, salt, pepper, granulated garlic, Worcestershire sauce, ghee (or other cooking fat)

2 lbs. grass fed ground beef (lamb or buffalo would work too)

2 tsp. marjoram

1 tsp. thyme

1 Tbls granulated garlic

1 Tbls Worcestershire sauce

Mix above ingredients into meat (if this grosses you out wear clean, rubber kitchen gloves while mixing), pat into  9 x 13 pan, bake for 35-40 min at 350 degrees

SP Saute

1 ½ cups each coarsely chopped zucchini, yellow squash & carrots

1 cup chopped yellow onion (Medium sized onion?)

-Saute the veggies in 2 Tbls ghee or grass fed butter

-Put sautéed veggies on top of cooked meat

1 Large (or 2 small) heads of cauliflower

Boil a large head (or two small heads) of cauliflower in water (or bone broth if you have it) until tender (about 15 minutes). Drain, cool a bit and place cauliflower into a food processor. You need a food processor. It will change your life. Puree until creamy and season to taste. Meaning, put ghee, salt & pepper as needed. Spread this fake mashed potato creation on top of your meat & veggies and proceed to browning your cauliflower topping. About 15 minutes on a high broil setting. Watch it so it doesn’t fry to a crisp. Slightly brown is perfect.

This is an ugly picture, but it is a realistic expectation. It may not look fantastic, but it tastes great!

Shepards Pie Finished

Enjoy!

Paleo Is Not A Diet

What I like most about eating real food is that it has impacted other aspects of my life. Leading me to the decision to write about the fact that paleo is not just about the food. It has made me a more mindful person when it comes to the lifestyle choices I make, the importance of my food sources and the people I listen to.

Lifestyle adjustments are important. You must make a conscious effort to lead a life with as little stress as possible. This means learning to say no. I am a giver, fixer and problem solver. In years past I would over extend myself (constantly being busy) thinking it was a good thing. It’s not. I thought volunteering for booster clubs, helping friends in crisis on top of going to college and raising my family was just the way it had to be. I’ve learned in middle age that other people (including employers) not planning well in their own lives is not my problem. I’ve learned that taking care of myself first helps me be better for the people I love the most. For me what is important is my family and friends and being able to spend quality time with them. Material things are not what nutures our spirit. What matters are the relationships we build. This “paleo” lifestyle has taught me to expend energy in a way that fosters relationships. Group dinners and gym potlucks, coffee or workout dates with friends are examples. Reach out to those around you and plan events that improve your health and help you connect with your community.

Where your food comes from matters. I do my best to buy local organic vegetables, pastured eggs and grass-fed meat. I grow what I can during the summer in my own garden which provides me with healthy doses of Vitamin D and joy from digging in the dirt. If you don’t have your own room to garden check out community gardens in your town. Some schools or local farms have gardens that will exchange produce for weeding time. It is a way to connect to the land and teach yourself and your children about where food comes from. It also offers the opportunity to try new fruits and vegetables in the real food recipes you are making. If gardening is out of the question, find your local farmers market and make it a weekly excursion.

What inputs you allow into your head are important. We are saturated in media these days and it is vital to find sources rooted in solid science when it comes to our health. I have read voraciously over the past six years trying to expand my knowledge of nutrition and have listened to many health lectures that were way over my head. To be honest I rely on people with a background in science to decipher it for me. Chris Kresser, Sarah Ballantyne, Aglaée Jacob and Robb Wolf are people I trust to give me honest information, because they have scientific backgrounds and understand how to look at the efficacy of a scientific study. They also will adjust their nutritional and lifestyle advice based on current research. Be a skeptic when it comes to nutritional advice. Educate yourself and never assume what you are hearing or reading is fact, because every study can be funded by someone with their own agenda or a desire to protect their money. Ideal health comes from doing your own research and determining what your optimal diet is through elimination and reintroduction of foods.

Be selfish when it comes to your wellbeing, because in the end it makes you healthier and happier for the people that matter the most.

Paleo Crockpot Pot Roast

It is an exciting time in the paleosphere! Recent research reports in the media are reaffirming the importance of healthy fats in reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, improving autoimmune conditions and diabetes through eating real food, as well as the important message that activity and movement throughout the day is imperative for longevity and health. If a person desires reclaiming or maintaining their health, the information is out there and it is free. Eating the right food is but one piece in having health. You must also get exposure to daylight, sleep, exercise and movement throughout the day to be the specimen of vigor we seek. All the best to everyone in their pursuit! If you don’t know where to start and want a mentor and guidance, reach out to someone in your life that has started down the path already. It can be scary to start what might be a drastic change in your life, but people (like me) want to help. Just ask!

Paleo Crockpot Pot Roast

(Please note that my method is not a traditional one and chefs everywhere would disapprove, but it works.)

I took a frozen 7-bone pot roast out of the freezer, put it in my cast iron skillet and threw some salt, pepper and garlic granules on top. I heated the oven to 375 degrees and put the frozen roast in for 30 minutes and then flipped it for 10 more minutes.

APotRoast

From there I placed the roast in my crockpot on low and covered it with a couple cups of bone broth, yams/sweet potatoes, carrots, celery, kale & onions. I cooked it on low for 6 hours before serving. As I had already seasoned the roast and bone broth with salt, pepper and garlic I didn’t add any additional seasonings. However, I sometimes throw in a tablespoon of Italian seasoning or rosemary if I need to.

Here is a before & after:

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No Bake “Paleo” Chocolate Treats

paleotreat

Sometimes you just want a little treat. My taste buds have changed considerably over the past few years as I’ve switched to real food and dessert for me is very different from it used to be. I’m a former sugar hound of the worst variety. I could make a batch of chocolate chip cookies during commercial breaks, down two or three old fashioned donuts in an afternoon and eat three pieces of pie at Thanksgiving. Now sugar just doesn’t do it for me. Like Pavlov’s dogs, my response to looking at dessert is physical. I actually can feel the heartburn I’ll get and it is so not worth it anymore. I’m sure knowing how toxic sugar is helps me stay away from it. If you want to completely ruin sugar and carbs for yourself, start researching the connection between sugar and cancer, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease and let’s not forget, obesity and diabetes. And no, you can’t exercise away your high carb and sugary food choices. It just doesn’t work that way.

While I no longer devour any and all things sweet, I still occasionally have a “paleo” dessert. Which for the purposes of this post just means gluten, dairy and legume free. My daughter-in-law sent me a recipe she had tried and I modified it today to accommodate what I had in my kitchen. I love the texture of this treat as it feels crunchy and is creamy at the same time. I chilled it in the fridge and threw the rest in the freezer to save for later. Here’s what I did:

No-Bake Chocolate Nut Treats

  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup chopped macadamia nuts
  • 1/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

-Mix the above ingredients in a bowl and set aside

  • 1/3 cup sunflower seed butter
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips

-Melt the above over in a pan over medium heat and when melted and mixed thoroughly pour into the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir until blended.

-Scoop mixture into cupcake papers in a muffin pan and put in the fridge or freezer to harden.

These make a nice, not too sugary alternative to try. Enjoy!

Carbohydrate Reality Check

Carb_Curve_x

Chart credit:   http://www.marksdailyapple.com/how-to-succeed-with-the-primal-blueprint/#fitness

All the way back in 2008 I found out I was gluten and casein (dairy) intolerant and eliminated both from my diet completely for 3 months and after that about 95% of the time. I dropped one size immediately and had no migraines for seven months. After reading Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution in 2010 I went full on paleo and dropped a couple more pounds, was exercising regularly, but couldn’t seem to get rid of my muffin top. Then I saw the chart above, incorporated the information and over three months I lost another two full pant sizes. It completely got me off of “counting calories” and rid of the idea that you can out exercise bad food choices. I was eating great tasting, nutritious, filling food and improving my body composition. What a concept. I also haven’t had to take antibiotics since I made this change. Glean what you want from that. Sugar/bad carbs? No bueno.

Over the past few years I’ve read extensively about diet and exercise and know for me the 80/20 rule is true. Eighty percent of your health, weight and body composition is your diet. You need to quit thinking you can eat whatever you want and then go exercise it off. You are either feeding & healing your body or damaging it. If you are fat, diabetic, suffering from arthritis or generally sickly you need to give your body real food. You can’t medicate away bad food choices. You need to heal your gut and regain control over your health.

There are so many great websites and books for you to use for resources. Here are a few:

Digestive Health With REAL Food by Aglaée Jacob is an awesome, easy to read book about digestion, food and health. She also offers a food challenge and support and will answer questions through a private FB page during the challenge. Invaluable resource! http://radicatamedicine.com/

Have you heard of It Starts With Food? Here is the website http://whole9life.com/

Robb Wolf author of The Paleo Solution has so much great info and tons of podcasts on his site: http://robbwolf.com/

Want encouragement? Have questions? Leave me a comment 🙂

Paleo Is Not All About Meat

frittata

One dietary challenge for me is eating enough vegetables. Meat and other proteins (eggs, fish, poultry) are easy as they are quick and satiating. I have come up with a few ways to sneak more greens like spinach, kale and broccoli into my everyday eating and the frittata is one of them.

I like frittata’s not only because my granddaughter calls them “tata’s”, but because they are quick and easy to make. I use my cast iron skillet to sauté the meat in veggies in before I pour the eggs over the top and slip it into the oven. Easy one pan nutritious breakfast.

Here is the recipe without amounts,  because I want you to exercise your intuitive cooking abilities. You do have them. Flex those cooking muscles and experiment!

Breakfast Frittata

  • Breakfast meat of your choosing chopped. I like bacon and some kind of sausage.  Cut and cook in your oven proof pan.
  • Onion, garlic, kale, spinach and broccoli. Cut in small pieces and sauté with the cooked meat until tender.
  • Scramble your eggs with salt and pepper and dried herbs and pour over the evenly distributed meat and veggies.
  • Bake in the over at 325 degrees for 20 minutes.

These keep well and can be made ahead and pulled out as a quick leftover meal when you are in a rush. You can cut up and freeze if you want to do a large batch.

Enjoy 🙂