Halfway There!

July 1. Today marks the halfway point of my year-long journey of sticking to a paleo diet. Wow, can’t believe 6 months has already gone by. I can’t say it’s been easy to make it this far, but it’s been much easier than I anticipated. It has truly been a learning experience and I have noticed some significant changes in my body. Here are a few things I’ve noticed, learned, and am grateful for from these past 6 months:

1. I’ve rekindled my love for cooking. Finding new recipes online, or just creating my own, has been so much fun and has really brought me joy over the past 6 months. I cook all 3 meals everyday for my boyfriend and myself (except when we occasionally go out to dinner), so that’s 3 times a day that I get to be creative and and try new things…it’s almost like a science experiment.

2. I’ve realized, and come to terms with the fact, that bread and other starchy “food” should not, and will not, ever be a part of my diet ever again (ok, except maybe one treat every few months or so, after this year is over of course). The things that these starch bombs contain harm my body far more than I enjoy them, and it’s not worth it. Gluten, skyrocketing insulin levels, phytic acid…bad.

3. I’ve realized how strong I am. Not in the “I can bench 500lbs” sense, but in the willpower arena. If I had a dollar for every time somebody offered me something non-paleo, or even pestered me about it, I’d have at least enough money to go on a significant shopping trip. Since I’ve committed to this diet, I’ve flown out of state twice and have gone on numerous overnight trips out of town, and haven’t broken my commitment to myself. I’ve packed multiple days-worth of food for myself to ensure that I stick to my diet. I’m not saying that I haven’t been tempted a few times, because I have wished with all my might that the pizookies at BJ’s Brewhouse were paleo (to no avail), but have overcome my moments of weakness.

4. I’ve learned that people generally aren’t judgmental about this lifestyle, they are genuinely curious and want to learn more. I get questions from friends and family members all the time about my diet. At first, I would answer defensively, afraid that they were judging my choices. With time, however, I learned that they were curious and really wanted to learn about nutrition (and they valued and trusted what I had to say, which means a lot to me!). So I have explained, in detail, to many people the why’s about this diet, and people seem to think it’s a great idea and even consider (if only for a moment) to jump on the bandwagon and try it out themselves. I enjoy being asked questions, and it prompts me to research things I haven’t thought about or considered about nutrition. It’s a beautiful two-way (learning) street.

5. I’ve seen some awesome changes in my body, inside and out. Before beginning this diet, I had digestive problems, fell victim to the daily 3pm energy crash, and had a little extra pudge I wanted to get rid of. I’m happy to say that my digestive system, and my gut in general, are happy and healthy now. I no longer experience an energy crash in the afternoon, which is awesome because I don’t have to rely on caffeine to keep me awake now. I’ve also toned up and lost some fat, which I am incredibly proud of. If you follow me on Instagram, then you’ve seen a few progress pictures from my journey. I’m going to share a little progress with you on this blog, too! Along with diet, this year I’ve been doing CrossFit and other weight-lifting, and the past 6 weeks I’ve been doing P90X (which has been awesome!) in preparation for an upcoming vacation to Cabo San Lucas.

 

Day1

January 1, 2014 – 120 lbs

6months

6 months later – 111 lbs

 

What does your journey in 2014 look like? I’d love to hear what you’ve accomplished and learned over the past 6 months. Post in the comments below! 🙂

Looking for Some Bikini Body Motivation?

Hey everyone! This post is aimed towards the ladies out there, but gentlemen, feel free to keep on reading if you please. This week was the launch of the annual Bikini Series hosted by Tone it Up. It is an 8 week (7 weeks left) fitness program that takes us all the way to the first day of summer…June 21.

Each day, the trainers Karena and Katrina post a new workout as well as tips and tricks to staying on track towards your goals. They have various fitness videos on their website and on YouTube, which seem pretty easy, but as with most workouts, you get what you put into it. I love mixing up my fitness routine once a year when their Bikini Series comes around. It’s always a great motivator to prepare for summer.

If you’re interested in joining a community of ladies who share a common goal of getting fit, you should definitely check this out. It’s not too late to join! Click here to find out more.

Tone-It-Up-BIKINI-SERIES-2014-karenakatrina

 

Remember to stay active and moving! This should be increasingly easier now that the weather is warming up.

Well, I’m off to the lake to get in a little wake boarding this morning. Until next time!

Crunchy Kale Chips

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Crunchy. Salty. Healthy? Healthy is not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of chips, but not all chips are created equal. This is especially true with kale chips. These crispy little bits of goodness offer a variety of nutrients (iron, potassium, and Vitamin A, just to name a few) and are very low in calories. Although there are some great brands out there that can be found in grocery stores, nothing beats making them yourself at home for a fraction of the cost.

While walking through a farmer’s market this week, I saw one vendor with tons of fresh organic kale for only $2 a bunch. That’s much cheaper than normal, at least where I tend to shop. So I figured I’d pick some up and finally make these kale chips…I’d been wanting to see what all the fuss was about.

Man, oh, man! These chips pleasantly surprised me…maybe just a little bit too much. I ate the entire batch in less than 24 hours…oops! At least this was a guilt-free snack packed with tons of good stuff. On to the recipe!

Crunchy Kale Chips

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 1 tbsp. avocado oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika (or your favorite seasoning…cayenne is yummy too!)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Wash and THOROUGHLY DRY kale. (This recipe will not work if your kale is wet)
  3. Cut kale into 1-2 inch pieces, cutting the leaf away from the stem. Discard stems, put them in your compost pile, or save them for a salad.
  4. In a mixing bowl, combine kale with oil and toss with fingertips until kale is evenly coated.
  5. On a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, lay kale out flat making sure there is space between each piece.
  6. Bake for about 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn! They cook up quickly.
  7. Once you remove chips from oven, sprinkle with salt and your seasoning of choice.
  8. Enjoy!

 

Paleo Protein Powders?

Paleo protein powders…where do I begin? Just the phrase “paleo protein powder” seems to contradict itself, considering the fact that processed foods are not considered paleo in the slightest. So what gives? Recently, many of these new companies and products have been popping up and increasing in popularity, but I have to ask: should they deserve the recognition of being ‘paleo friendly’? Let’s find out.

Most protein powders are made from whey or casein, which is no new information to anyone who has used protein drinks and powder supplements before (especially since it says it right on the packaging). Another bit of information that is common knowledge in the health and fitness community is that both of these ingredients (whey and casein), are made from milk. Out of all the protein in cow’s milk, 20% is whey protein and 80% is casein protein, just in case you were curious.

In general, the paleo diet excludes all dairy. In short, this is because lactose (the sugar found in dairy) causes extreme spikes in insulin levels that increases inflammation, dairy contains active cow hormones which alter human hormone levels when ingested, and it can cause a leaky gut, just to name a few (for more information on why dairy is excluded in a paleo diet, check out this post on ThePaleoMom.com.) A percentage of people involved in the paleo movement do allow grass-fed organic butter in their diets, because they feel that the fat found in dairy is extremely nutrient dense, and the positive nutritional aspect outweighs any negatives associated with the lipids in dairy (my favorite paleo guru who endorses grass-fed butter consumption is Stacy from PaleoParents.com).

With all that said, why would anyone who makes an effort to follow such a nutritious diet as the paleo diet willingly spend ridiculous sums of money on protein powder, especially those derived from whey or casein??

Protein powders and other similar “dietary supplements” are a joke…they are a way to squeeze unreasonable amounts of money out of people for a completely unnecessary product. They claim to be the fastest-absorbing protein, which is why body builders and athletes flock to the protein-shelves at their gyms, but in reality the protein in these supplements can take 1-3 hours to absorb on an empty stomach, which is not much faster than egg or chicken protein absportion. There are plenty of quick and easy sources of protein in whole-food form. If you want an easy and fast absorbing form of protein for immediately after your workout, hard boil a couple of eggs and throw them in a lunch box with an ice pack, and they will be waiting for you in the car for after your “gym sesh”…bam! Just as easy as making a protein shake and it tastes way better anyways. Real food is always better than man-made alternatives.

But, if you are driven by unyielding curiosity about “paleo protein powder,” check out this post on the Paleo Hacks website written by Casey Thaler. I’ve listed below some of the products he mentioned in the post.

Paleo Protein®: The new kid on the block is actually mainly sourced from egg protein, not dairy. While in theory this sounds better, you have to begin to think about where those eggs are coming from, and how they are processed. Are they pasture raised? Not likely.

Are they processed through damaging high heat methods? Likely. As you will come to see in almost all protein powders, an artificial sweetener, in this case, Stevia, is present.

Stevia is has been scientifically proven to augment insulin release from islets incubated in the presence of 7.0 mM D-glucose. So – despite the fact that you aren’t consuming sugar, your body still somewhat reacts like you are. Not a good thing. Overall though, if you have to select a protein powder, this is a solid choice.

MHP’s Paleo Protein®: Another somewhat new product is MHP’s. An interesting wrinkle in this product is the use of ‘hydrolyzed beef protein isolate‘ as the main protein source.

Now was this beef grass fed? Where did it come from? How was it processed?

The answers to these questions are not likely going to be favorable. We are also getting maltodextrin (processed corn starch), emulsifiers (a small truckload) and an artificial sweetener (Stevia). Whole9 has an excellent write up on why these ingredients are bogus. Thumbs down on this one.

Reserve Age® Organic Grass Fed Whey: This is the next one our list, and if you’re looking for a whey protein powder, this is actually an excellent source. Real food is still better, but their protein is minimally processed, undenatured, and grass fed. There also almost no other ingredients. Don’t forget the problems with dairy, but choose this if you want the effects (and detriments) of whey.

Mark Sisson’s Primal Fuel®: This is another interesting product. Going with coconut milk as an interesting addition to the typical protein powder formula, the rest of the mix is less favorable, loaded with sugar, maltodextrin and guar gum. Original formula, if not entirely ideal. Worse choices for sure, but why not just have a can of coconut milk and a piece of chicken?

Progenex®: This is a very popular ‘recovery’ powder. Despite it’s widespread popularity in the CrossFit® community, Progenex is probably the worst formula available, since it contains fructose, sucrose and soy. The epitome of why eating some chicken and a sweet potato are preferable, post-WOD.

Casey Thaler

Casey is a NASM certified personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, as well holding a bachelor of arts degree in the field of film production. He runs a nutrition and fitness consulting company called Eat Clean, Train Clean.

 

 

In summary: skip the protein powder and stick to whole-food sources of protein. Eggs, chicken, fish, meat…batch cook up some chicken breasts and keep them in the fridge for post-workout. Easy and much cheaper than buying these unnecessary protein products!

 

Spicy Cajun Turkey Meatballs (paleo!)

Turkey meatballs. Need I say more? These little balls of deliciousness are some of the easiest and most versatile dishes to make on the paleo diet. Whether you want to wrap them in bacon, have them smothered in tomato sauce, or just eat them by themselves, they are sure to deliver an excellent amount of nourishment (be sure to buy your poultry pasture-raised and organic if you can! This ensures better Omega 6:Omega 3 ratios!). Organic pasture-raised lean ground turkey offers ample amounts of vitamin B3, B6, selenium, and protein! It is also known to keep insulin levels in a desirable range after your meal is over, which is especially important if your goal is weight loss. If you’re curious about the role of insulin in your body, I suggest you read this article written by Sarah Ballantyne, PhD on her blog ThePaleoMom.com. Anyways, on to the recipe!

spicycajunturkeymeatballs

Spicy Cajun Turkey Meatballs

Servings: about 18-22 meatballs, depending on size

Ingredients:

 

  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. Cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  • In a bowl, mix together all ingredients. To ensure meat is mixed thoroughly with spices, onion, and garlic, use your fingers to mix and incorporate all ingredients.
  • Using your hands, form meatballs about 1-1.5 inches in diameter, and place on baking sheet.
  • Bake meatballs for 20 minutes, until golden brown on top and cooked through thorougly.

These meatballs go well with tomato sauce. A variation I like to do on these is add ground organic pasture-raised chicken livers to the meatballs for an extra punch of excellent nutrients. You can’t taste it, but the benefits are amazing! I add anywhere from .25-.5lb. of chicken liver to 1lb. ground turkey. Yum!

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=125