4.30.2014

turkey-stuffed sweet potatoes [whole30 / paleo]

First things first: if you are interested in doing the WHOLE30 or adopting a paleo lifestyle, you will need to become best friends with sweet potatoes. I seriously eat them everyday, and in everything! I add them to my morning hashes, I incorporate them into salads, I turn them into snacks and I even use them as a centerpiece in my dinners. They keep my meals interesting and satisfying, and a baked sweet potato pairs well with almost any protein and vegetable for an easy well-rounded meal. 

With that being said, our Monday night dinner (Day 4 of my WHOLE30) this week was Turkey-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with a side of Grilled Zucchini. Every day I am more amazed at how delicious food can taste when you simplify and focus on whole foods in their natural state, without added sugar, grains or dairy. 


INGREDIENTS
1-2 pounds high quality, free-range ground turkey // I cook up 2 pounds so I have leftovers for next day's lunch!
1 large onion, diced
Your favorite taco seasoning // Be sure it is WHOLE30 compliant or make your own
1 medium to large sweet potato per person, cleaned and scored across the top
Side of your favorite vegetable (preferably green!)
1-2 TBSP coconut oil
S+P to taste

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees // On a foil-covered pizza stone or baking sheet, place scored sweet potatoes and bake until tender throughout, approximately 30-60 minutes depending on size

2. With 15-20 minutes left, sauté diced onion in large pan or dutch oven in coconut oil; add S+P

3. Once translucent, add ground turkey and cook through, breaking it up and adding S+P as it cooks

4. Once cooked through, add taco seasoning of choice

5. Prepare vegetable by steaming, baking or grilling

6. Remove baked sweet potatoes from oven, cut open vertically and use knife to separate sides to allow room for filling

7. Stuff baked sweet potatoes with turkey & onion filling until slightly overflowing

8. Season as needed & enjoy!

bullseye taco salad [whole30 / paleo]

I made this bullseye taco salad for the first time on Sunday night, Day 3 of my WHOLE30 journey. It was so easy to put together and SO delicious. I wasn't sure how much I would like it since I couldn't have cheese or use chips with it (like I normally would on my taco salads), but honestly I didn't miss a thing! The taco meat was hearty and full of flavor, the lettuce was crisp, the olives were rich and the guacamole, well ... what more needs to be said, it's guacamole. 


This is a super simple meal that you can put together in no time and customize to your preferences!
Bonus: it makes a great lunch for the next day!

Ingredients:
Ground beef or turkey [grass fed] // I cook up 1-2 pounds at a time and then eat it for leftovers!

Your favorite taco seasoning // Be sure it is WHOLE30 compliant. If you're unsure, make your own! Almost every taco seasoning includes sugar, so be sure to read labels!

1 head of romaine lettuce, washed and chopped

1-2 Tomatoes, diced // Or pick up the "mild salsa" from Chipotle like we did!

1/4 cup Cilantro, chopped

Black olives, sliced thinly

Your favorite guacamole // Be sure it is WHOLE30 compliant. Make your own or just pick up the best guac in the entire world, again from Chipotle (it's compliant!!)

Directions:
1. Thoroughly cook ground beef or ground turkey in coconut or olive oil in large sauté pan or dutch oven, adding taco seasoning to taste.
2. Prepare all ingredients -- wash and chop lettuce, assemble tomato salsa (chopped tomatoes and cilantro), slice black olives, etc.
3. Start with a bed of romaine lettuce, add meat, guac and olives.
4. Garnish around the edge with tomatoes or your favorite salsa.
5. Enjoy!

4.29.2014

eating habits & your baby | week 4


Each week this month I have been sharing about topics related to your baby's eating habits. Today's post is the final week of this series and in it, I will be discussing the importance of protein and healthy fat in your baby's diet. I will answer some common questions associated with those food groups and also share a list of foods that contain protein and healthy fats which are easy to incorporate into your baby's diet. 

Week 3: Fish Safety & Your Baby

Both fat and protein are extremely vital parts of your baby's diet. A baby should be eating protein at every single meal, just like an adult. Many parents feed their child fruits and vegetables on a consistent basis but forget the most important parts: fats and protein. One third of a baby's daily calories should be made up of fat -- monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat, or what most people refer to as "the healthy fat." One third of you baby's daily calories should also be made up of protein.

PROTEIN

Why is protein so important?
Protein is needed by everyone -- for every cell in your body -- but it is especially important for babies and toddlers because protein supports growth and development -- something they are constantly doing! The amino acids that make up protein are the building blocks of a body's cells. Our bodies can only produce 13 of the 22 essential amino acids, so naturally 9 of them must come from food.

Skimping on protein can slow growth, decrease immunity, weaken the heart and lungs and zap the energy that babies need to learn, play and explore. Every cell in the body contains protein and it makes up enzymes needed for chemical reactions. Protein is needed for proper bone and muscle growth, as well as hair, skin, and all other organs. The body also uses protein to produce hemoglobin that carries oxygen in the blood.

Finally, at no other time in a child's life will he or she experience such rapid growth and development. Good nutrition in general -- and especially adequate protein -- is the key to ensuring that growth and development proceeds optimally.

Why isn't breast milk enough?
Often, a baby's body weight (from birth) doubles by age 6 months. Breast milk supplies all the protein a baby needs until 4-6 months, however when you introduce solid foods, you must also introduce protein. Because a baby's body cannot store protein the way it stores fat and carbohydrates, they need protein every day, at every meal.

How much protein is required?
Because protein is so essential for infants' tissue replacement and growth, more protein is required for infants (per body weight) than for older children and adults. During the first year of life, on average the DRI for protein ranges from 9-13 grams per day.

Healthy Sources of Protein for Your Baby
Cooked Egg Yolk // Contains choline, which is crucial for brain health and development

Fish -- especially salmon and cod // Read more about fish & your baby here

Poultry // This includes free range turkey breast and free range chicken breast

Grass-Fed Beef // Red meat provides an easily absorbed form of iron for your baby (iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen to cells throughout the body and is important for brain development)

Lentils // Find our favorite lentil recipe here

Avocados // Avocados have the highest protein content of any fruit and are rich in monounsaturated fat

FAT

Why is fat so important?
Fat supplies your baby with energy for their liver, brain, and heart. It ensures proper growth and brain development, provides energy and promotes wound healing. It also helps your child absorb certain vitamins. Fat also supplies more calories than protein and carbohydrates and because of rapid growth, a baby needs those calories for energy. Getting all the calories they need without fat would be almost impossible, simply because their small stomachs can't hold that much food!

How much fat is required?
The current recommendation for infants under age 1 is to consume a minimum of 30 grams of fat per day. This amount is often provided in milk produced by a mom and consumed by a regularly breastfed infant. If your baby is no longer breastfeeding or it has decreased significantly, it is even more critical that they get fat from food.

What types of fat are important?
Essential fatty acids, or EFAs are types of fat that are essential in the diet because they cannot be produced by the body. These fats help build cells, regulate the nervous system, strengthen the cardiovascular system, build immunity, and help the body absorb nutrients. EFAs are also vital for healthy brain function and vision.

Types of Essential Fatty Acids
Omega-6 essential fatty acid (linoleic acid) // found in breastmilk

Omega-3 fatty acid (linolenic acid) // Also known as DHA -- docosahexaeonic acid
DHA plays a critical role in neurological development and visual acuity. DHA can be integrated both into your baby's diet and into your own diet if you are breastfeeding. Examples of foods high in DHA (omega-3 fatty acid) include salmon, halibut, walnuts, and flaxseeds.


Healthy Sources of Fat for Your Baby
Real butter // Add this to purees for an easy way to sneak some healthy fat into your baby's food

Avocado // Olivia eats a whole avocado every morning -- Find our power baby breakfast here

Coconut Oil // I add this to almost every food Olivia eats! A great source of high quality fat and delicious too!

Kale // Full of omega-3 fatty acid // We introduced kale to Olivia around 10 months of age and she loves it!

Nuts + Nut Butters // When age-appropriate (especially walnuts for DFAs!)

Unhealthy Sources of Fat for Your Baby
Obviously, the type of fat your baby is getting matters. Your baby cannot get too much of either of the EFAs, but he can have too much fat overall if the fat is the wrong type. Avoid both trans fats and saturated fats. Trans fats -- often identified as "partially hydrogenated oils" are often found in fried foods, baked goods, margarines and shortenings; they may be found in some dairy products as well. Saturated fats come mostly from animal sources -- fatty meats, lard, and some cheeses.

Final Thoughts
1. Be sure your baby is getting protein at every single meal -- this is critical to proper growth and development!

2. If your baby can't chew on meat (lack of teeth // refuses // etc.), simply puree it. We have been pureeing meat and fish for Olivia since 6 months with her vegetables. Just because they don't have teeth doesn't mean you shouldn't offer meat!

3. If you are intimidated by pureeing beef or chicken/turkey, start with fish. Both salmon and cod are easy to bake, easy to flake and therefore super smooth when pureed into vegetables. The majority of Olivia's protein comes from her favorite fish!

4. Adequate fat should be offered to a baby every day. Add a little bit of butter or coconut oil to their food on a regular basis. Integrate an avocado into their meals. Once they are older, nuts and nut butters are also excellent sources of fat.

5. Avoid trans and saturated fats and instead focus on omega-6 and omega-3s found naturally in food.

6. Take it one day at a time -- I've learned what Olivia likes and what works best for us through trial and error. Be patient with yourself and with your baby. Every day is a new day to try a new food or technique. By investing time into what you're feeding your baby, you are investing into their health, growth and development!

If you have any questions from these four weeks of Eating Habits & Your Baby, feel free to send me an email and I'll do my best to help! 

4.27.2014

DAY 2 WHOLE30 RECIPES

If you've been following my blog for awhile, you will know I am all about simplicity. If it's too complicated, I'm not interested because most days I am juggling 10 things, none of which even relate to my meals! Today was Day 2 of my WHOLE30 regimen and the meals I ate, just like yesterday, were all so delicious. The best part? Simple was their middle name!


POST-WORKOUT SNACK // Raw Almonds & Free Range Organic Hard Boiled Egg

I got up at the crack of dawn on Saturday morning to fit a hot yoga class into my busy weekend and not only was it so wonderful to get up to see the sun rise, but it also felt great to start my day off with so much energy after sweating like crazy! It's amazing how exhausting hot yoga can be and afterward I was hungry so I enjoyed a snack I could pull together with one arm, while Olivia was in my other.


LUNCH // Sunflower Chicken Salad & Spicy Mustard Lemon Vinaigrette

The salad -- composed of only four ingredients -- was so light and refreshing. The sunflower seeds added the perfect crunch and flavor and the chicken provided lean protein that filled me up. I whipped together the dressing at a moment's notice with what I had on hand and to my surprise, it was delicious! I should say, though, I am a mustard-lover. If you don't like mustard, delicious probably won't be the word you would use to describe it, but if you DO have a heart for mustard...give it a try!


SALAD
Green Leaf Lettuce // I love leaf lettuce in this salad because it is a bit more tender and light than Romaine
Shredded Carrots // These add the perfect amount of sweetness and a great contrast to the tangy dressing
Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast [Cooked + Sliced] // I seasoned mine with garlic powder and black pepper and threw it on the grill
Roasted, Unsalted Sunflower Seeds // Approximately 1/4 cup

VINAIGRETTE
1-2 TBSP Spicy Mustard that is WHOLE30 Compliant // I like Gulden's Brand
1/4 cup light tasting olive oil // I prefer a LIGHT over an Extra Virgin in this particular dressing
2-4 TBSP water // Add this to tone down the mustard flavor as needed
A good squeeze of a fresh lemon

Mix all ingredients together, whisking briskly. Add S+P as needed and adjust to your preferences. If the tang from the spicy mustard is too much, simply add more water. If you want a spicier dressing, add crushed red pepper flakes. When I initially tasted it off a spoon it had a bit more of a bite than I hoped for, but once I added a little water and put it on my salad, it was perfect to round out all the other flavors! I was amazed at how easy and delicious my last-minute lunch turned out to be!

DINNER // Steak + Sides 

My husband and I both love a good steak, and when you're talking a grass-fed filet accompanied by delicious and healthy sides, I don't know how you could ever feel deprived! Be sure to buy high quality grass-fed beef; if it isn't grass fed, it cannot be considered gluten free because often, the cows have eaten grains (and who knows what else!). It is a bit more expensive but we don't buy it often (1-2 times per month) and we use coupons at our local health foods store when we do buy it. Pair it with your favorite fresh sides for a filling and tasty meal.


1 grass-fed filet per person
Roasted Cauliflower // Recipe available here
Steamed green beans

Simple as that!
Happy Sunday! Xo.

4.26.2014

day 1 whole30 recipes

Yesterday was Day 1 of my WHOLE30 challenge and I have to say, the food I ate was incredible! I haven't had a breakfast that yummy and satisfying in months and my lunch and dinner were packed with lean protein and veggies and were so delicious. I didn't even notice that I was eating paleo. And yes, I realize it was the first day but I'm so optimistic and excited for the rest of my journey. 

And I would be doing all of you a disservice if I didn't share my first three WHOLE30 recipes, so here goes!

Bell Pepper & Sweet Potato Hash [Paleo]

This power breakfast is packed with delicious veggies and tasty sweet potato pieces; top it with an over-easy egg and let the yolk run over it all for an amazing way to start your day!


Ingredients
1/2 cup diced bell peppers of choice // I did red & yellow since the sweet potatoes are orange
1/2 cup diced sweet potatoes, partially cooked and cut to the same size as bell peppers
>> I prepped these in advance by peeling them, cubing them and steaming them for 5 minutes; store in fridge in glass container and use when ready <<
Extra Virgin or Extra Light Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
1 Egg
Cast Iron Skillet // Small frying pan

Directions
1. Put 1 TBSP of your favorite olive oil in cast iron skillet and warm
2. Add peppers and sweet potatoes to skillet and cook until tender // I like when the peppers start to blister
3. In a separate small frying pan, fry an egg // I love mine over easy so I can break the yolk over the hash but you can prepare it any way you like 
4. Add S+P to hash as desired and top with egg
5. Enjoy!

Confetti Tuna Salad [Paleo]

A fun and colorful take on traditional tuna salad, this fresh and healthy meal makes for a quick and easy light lunch packed with vegetables and lean protein; a nice kick comes from the spicy brown mustard and garlic salt adds an extra layer of flavor.


Ingredients:
1 can high quality wild caught yellowfin tuna in spring water
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1/4 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup finely diced celery
1-2 TBSP Spicy Brown Mustard [WHOLE30 approved]
>> I like Gulden's Brand; it contains vinegar, mustard seed, salt, spices, turmeric <<
S+P // Olive Oil to Drizzle if Desired // Garlic Salt if Desired

Directions
1. Open tuna and drain slightly but not fully
2. In large bowl, mix all vegetables with tuna, flaking as needed
3. Add 1-2 TBSP spicy brown mustard (or regular mustard if you prefer that) and coat mixture lightly
4. Season with S+P or Garlic Salt to taste // My favorite here
5. Enjoy!

Chicken Puttanesca over Zucchini Spaghetti [Paleo]


Ingredients
1 Large Onion, sliced thinly
1-2 cups sliced mushrooms // Any kind will work but we love baby bellas
1 large green zucchini per person
1 boneless skinless chicken breast per person
Garlic Flavored Olive Oil (Our favorite here)
1 Jar of Puttanesca Sauce from Trader Joe's [Any jarred Puttanesca sauce that contains WHOLE30 compliant ingredients would work but TJ's brand is my fav or if you're really ambitious, you could make your own!]
[Ingredients: Whole Italian tomatoes, tomato puree, olive oil, black olives, capers, kalamata olives, red wine vinegar, garlic, anchovy paste, basil, parsley, onions, white pepper, crushed red pepper, oregano]
Garlic Powder // S+P
Spiral Vegetable Slicer // Our favorite here

Directions
1. Prepare zucchini spaghetti using the spiral vegetable slicer; set aside

2. In dutch oven, heat garlic olive oil; once warm, add sliced onion and cook through

3. Add sliced mushrooms and cook through, adding S+P

4. Season chicken breasts with ground pepper & garlic powder

5. Grill chicken breasts using an indoor grill pan or outdoor grill

6. Once mushrooms and onions have cooked through, add puttanesca sauce to desired consistency // For the two of us for one meal, I used about half of a large jar

7. In separate pan, heat garlic olive oil and warm zucchini noodles through, tossing to coat and cook lightly, about 4-6 minutes on medium heat; overcooking will lead to mushy noodles

8. Once sauce and noodles have both heated through, assemble your plate: zucchini spaghetti on the bottom, sliced chicken on noodles & top with your mushroom & onion puttanesca sauce

This was one of the most satisfying & delicious meals I've had in so long! It's hard to believe all it is is vegetables and lean protein! And honestly, I haven't eaten a real bowl of spaghetti in over 5 years, and having the long zucchini noodles made me feel like I was eating spaghetti; it was so fulfilling! This dish would also be great with ground turkey or ground beef in the sauce instead of grilled chicken, and you can add any veggies to the sauce that you like. We had mushrooms on hand and I love the meatiness that they add to any dish! This will be on the menu many more times before my WHOLE30 is over! Enjoy!

4.25.2014

whole30 | from the beginning

I recently decided I was interested in trying the WHOLE30 -- an eating plan in which you eliminate certain foods (and food groups) from your diet because of the negative effects they may be are having on your body & mind. You may not even realize the effects they are having. In fact, you may be going about your life feeling fine, thinking you are in general, "pretty healthy." 

But once you take a step of faith & courage to eliminate said foods you will likely begin to see how great you really can feel. You will likely start to live feeling the way God intended for us to feel and live -- healthy and whole, without ailments and pain, conditions and health concerns, and with energy and a passion for life.


I am speaking from some experience, as a few years ago I completely eliminated both gluten and dairy from my diet after discovering a considerable amount of physical issues I had related to both but gluten especially. When I did, I felt like a new person. Over time, I have slowly integrated those back to a lesser degree than before, but they still exist in my diet and while they don't bother me most of the time, there are days I wake up and feel pretty crappy because of something I ate the day or night before.
Side note: Have you ever eaten a piece of toast or a bowl of cereal before bed and woken up the next morning with a stuffed nose or sinus headache? Or eaten some icecream after dinner and woken up congested and thought you were coming down with a cold? Yup. Me too. That is one small example -- and one of the most common ways I see it in my own life -- of the negative effect those foods have on the human body.

 Most of the time I feel pretty good. I consider myself healthy and fit, and while I don't have excess weight to lose, I am always up for gaining more muscle, toning, and being healthy head to toe, inside and out. SO that brings me to where I am at now. 

After finding considerable recipe inspiration online and through instagram, I brought it up to Dustin that I was interested in doing the WHOLE30 and that I wanted him to do it with me. I am weird in that I didn't want to start until the 1st of May -- I like to start goals at the beginning of the month to track my progress in line with the dates. But I got so excited (seriously!) about doing the WHOLE30 that I just couldn't wait. 

I spent most of this week planning meals and jotting down notes after reading and doing some research. I know for me it will be all about planning and preparation. I plan the meals I want to eat and I spend time prepping them in the kitchen so I have everything cut, washed, ready to go. I want this month to be easy in the sense that I don't have to stress out about what I will eat or how much time it will take to prepare it. With an 11-month old who is always on the move and seemingly never tires, I want easy meals that require little thought but that nourish both my body and mind.

So today is Day 1 of my WHOLE30 Challenge. Each day I will be journaling a little about what I ate that day, what I enjoyed and what I struggled with and then at the end of each week I will post it on here. I also plan to post my meals on instagram and my favorite new WHOLE30 approved recipes on my blog on a regular basis.

Below is more information for those of you who are interested in learning about WHOLE30. The book "It Starts with Food" by Dallas & Melissa Hartwig is an incredible resource if you are considering trying the WHOLE 30 or adopting a PALEO lifestyle (available here). It is a New York Times Bestseller and I dove into it this week and had trouble putting it down! 

What Is WHOLE30?

It is an eating plan in which you strip certain food groups from your diet because of the harmful effect they have on your body. These effects may be any of the following: low energy levels, general aches and pains unrelated to injury, difficulty losing weight or maintaining weight loss, skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis or acne, digestive ailments, infertility, seasonal allergies, asthma, etc. Often, the suggested remedy for these conditions is medication. But the WHOLE 30 plan suggests (and I agree 100%) that is is your food that is contributing to these conditions and no amount of medication will fix them if you don't change your diet. 

For a full 30 days, you need to cut out all the psychologically unhealthy, hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting, inflammatory food groups that are negatively impacting your body. The goal is to let your body heal and recover from whatever effects your diet has had on your body. This program is designed to change the way you think about food, change your tastes, change your habits and curb your cravings. It may even change the emotional relationship you have with food and with your body. 

WHOLE30 Guidelines

>> EAT REAL FOOD <<
Eat protein // meat, seafood, eggs
Eat vegetables // any and every kind and lots of them!
Eat healthy fats // avocado, nuts, seeds, oils
Eat fruit // in moderation


>> AVOID HARMFUL FOOD <<

Do not consume added sugar of any kind, real or artificial // No maple syrup, agave nectar, honey, coconut sugar, Splenda, Equal, Nutrasweet, xylitol, stevia, etc. 

Do not consume alcohol in any form, not even for cooking

Do not eat grains // This includes but is not limited to wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, millet, bulgur, sorghum, amaranth, buckwheat, sprouted grains, quinoa, bran, germ, starch, etc.

Do not eat legumes // This includes beans of all kinds (black, red, pinto, navy, white, kidney, lima, fava, etc.), peas, chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts. No peanut butter either. This also includes all forms of soy -- soy sauce, miso, tofu, tempeh, edamame, and all the ways soy is snuck into foods (like soy lethicin)

Do not eat dairy // This includes cow, goat or sheep's milk products such as cream, cheese (hard or soft), kefir, yogurt (even Greek), and sour cream...with the exception of clarified butter or ghee

Do not eat white potatoes // This includes white, red, purple, Yukon gold, and fingerling potatoes

Do not consume carrageenan, MSG or sulfites // Carageenan is often found in almond milk as a binder; monosodium glutamate is snuck into many foods and sulfites are present in many processed foods, often found in wine, dried fruits, and dried potato products 

Do not consume Paleo-ifying baked goods, desserts or junk foods // While some products may be "WHOLE 30 APPROVED," meaning they do not contain any of the ingredients or foods you must avoid on this program (such as coconut milk ice cream, almond-flour muffins, or banana-egg pancakes), these should be avoided during this challenge. Don't try to replicate junk food during your 30 days because that misses the point of the WHOLE30 entirely.

The Final Rule
The WHOLE30 Program states, "You are not allowed to step on the scale or take any body measurements for the duration of the program. This is about so much more than just weight loss, and to focus on your body composition means you'll miss out on the most dramatic and lifelong benefits this plan has to offer." // They encourage weighing yourself before and after if you are interested in seeing a tangible result, however during your WHOLE30, do not count calories or take measurements. Instead focus on how you are feeling and not on the numbers.

FOODS THAT ARE EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULE

Clarified Butter or Ghee // This is the only source of dairy allowed during your WHOLE30. Plain butter is not allowed, as the milk proteins found in the non-clarified butter may have a negative impact. 

Certain Legumes // Green beans, sugar snap peas and snow peas are all allowed

Vinegar // Most forms of vinegar, including white, balsamic, apple cider, red wine, and rice vinegar, are allowed. The only exception would be malt vinegar, which has added sugar and contains gluten.

My Personal Thoughts & Goals

In general, I don't consume cow's milk (I drink almond milk and have exclusively for years) and I only consume very limited gluten. The grains I do consume include brown rice, corn, and quinoa. The dairy I consume includes cheese, butter and icecream. 

I eat an adequate amount of vegetables but I am challenging myself to double the vegetable portion I have grown accustomed to eating. I also want to amp up the protein I eat. 

One of my biggest goals is to let go of my thoughts of "what typical breakfast food is" and "what typical dinner food is" and instead just view each meal as that -- a meal. I want to eat vegetables at all meals, especially breakfast, because that is a habit I have never really developed. 

I also want to find ways to be creative in the kitchen without overthinking it. It is great to plan new meals and snacks and have fun with it, but I don't want to lose sight of the goal of simplicity. A dinner of grilled chicken & grilled veggies with a small side of fresh fruit is so easy and meets all the requirements. 

For my WHOLE30, I am choosing to focus on the following 6 Principles:

Planning // Plan meals ahead of time so that I am not caught in a pinch or stressed out when it comes time to eat

Preparation // Consider my meal plan and prepare foods accordingly; maybe that means washing and chopping veggies before bed after Dustin and Olivia are asleep, or maybe that means preparing grilled chicken or hard boiled eggs before a busy weekend; whatever it is, I am going to put in the prep time so that during the day -- when I am hungry and have a little girl at my feet -- I am not scrambling to pull something together.

Peer Support // I am really excited to get to know other women via instagram and the blogging community who have completed the WHOLE30 or who are just starting alongside me. I have already found so much support and so many great ideas, as well as meal inspiration just from seeing beautiful photographs! I believe one of the best ways to succeed in anything is by having support from those around you and I hope to offer the support to others while also drawing my own from those who have already experienced it.

Positive Mindset // Do I even need to address why this is included? Positivity makes all the difference in the world and I want to keep a positive mindset throughout my WHOLE30 because I know it will benefit me in so many ways.

Persistence // Although some of the WHOLE30 eating habits may not be new for me (milk, gluten), others are. I want to focus on being persistent every day -- having enthusiasm and courage to keep going and to not give up even if I have a weird day where my meals don't come together or I try a new recipe and it totally fails.

Passion & Pleasure // A really big thing for me is that no matter how or what I am eating, I do not want to feel deprived. I don't want to feel like I am giving up my favorite foods in favor of something that tastes like cardboard. SO I want to be passionate about what I am eating and take pleasure in it! As I spent time writing out meal ideas this week, I seriously was SO excited! I love a good challenge and I am passionate about finding healthy ways to make my kitchen and my diet more fun. Take pleasure in your food, because God gave it to us so that we may enjoy it! Focus on what you are gaining and not what you giving up. Through the WHOLE30, I am determined to find delicious foods that I am passionate about eating so that I never feel deprived. 

A lot of what you will see over the next month on my blog will be WHOLE30 related (in addition to all of my regular series and all the fun posts that are to come about Olivia's 1st Birhthday party!).
I'd love for you to follow along and let me know if you've done it, are doing it, or hope to do it in the future. I welcome any success stories, feedback or tips you may have and of course I am always interested in hearing your favorite WHOLE30 approved recipes! 
Email me or leave a comment below.

Finally, let's kick this weekend off to a delicious start by discussing how AMAZING homemade sweet potato chips are. I made them for the first time last night because I was just so excited to start my WHOLE30 and I couldn't believe (1) that it took me 24 years to try them and (2) that I've been buying store-bought chips for years! Seriously, give these a go and you'll be hooked!

Easy Sweet Potato Chips // WHOLE30 Approved
Thinly slice organic sweet potatoes (skin on) using a mandolin or sharp knife; on my mandolin, I have it set on the thinnest setting. 

Spread sweet potato slices onto a baking sheet (I line mine with tin foil) and coat lightly in Extra Virgin Olive Oil and S+P. 

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes // 
Chips should be crisp, but not burnt.
Some may be chewy, which I LOVE!

Add extra seasoning as desired and enjoy! 




RESOURCES
The Whole30 Program Online // Available Here
The Whole30 Program for PDF Download // Available Here
8 Steps if You're New to the WHOLE30 // Available Here
WHOLE30 Versus Paleo // Available Here
Paleo 101 // Available Here
What About Calcium? on the WHOLE30 // Available Here
Learning about Butter for the WHOLE30 // Available Here
Common Foods that Contain Sulfites // Available Here

OTHER
Jenna's Kitchen: Meal Inspiration // Instagram Here
Lauren: Eating Whole // Blog Here & Instagram Here
Tara Eats Whole // Instagram Here

4.21.2014

our easter

Yesterday we celebrated Olivia's 1st Easter & it was simply wonderful. She had so much fun taking apart her basket and looking over all her books and new toys (read about what we put in Olivia's basket here) and I had so much fun taking pictures of her! We enjoyed time together as a family and also time relaxing. Isn't that what Sundays are for?

In the morning we went to church and heard a great message and some wonderful music. Olivia was all dressed up in her Easter best, with a new cardigan and one of our favorite headbands yet (Available here).

After church, we had a big family brunch with my parents and Grandma Bea. Pancakes, potatoes, honey baked ham, and all other things yummy. Afterward, it was nap time for V which meant time to lounge for us adults. 

In the afternoon, we celebrated my Grandpa's 83rd Birthday with my entire extended family that lives out of state. And of course, indulged in more delicious food. It was so much fun for Olivia to see all her family that she normally doesn't spend time with and watch her learn to walk and interact with new faces. 



It isn't necessarily traditional for adults, but Dustin and I have been exchanging Easter cards & gifts since we began dating, so during Olivia's nap time, we did that. I chose a new shirt for him for Spring, bought him some new headphones for his workouts and ordered a book for him that he has been wanting to read (Available here). Dustin gave me a new black lulu sweater that will be perfect for every day wear around the house and equally as great dressed up with jewelry. 


Olivia's favorite parts of her basket were her books (of course) and her peg puzzle.  The first book she opened and looked through was Peter Rabbit Pull & Play (available here). Such a classic. She was in awe looking at all the plastic eggs around her and loved sitting and banging them together to make noise. In her basket at the last minute, I also snuck in a pink "first brush" baby toothbrush (available here) and it has barely left her hand since. The sweetest thing was that Olivia sat on our bed with her basket and took each item out one by one, looked it over, set it down and took out the next. It was so methodical. She is definitely my daughter. 


A day of good food (my favorite key lime pie ever!), great company & new memories...I hope your Easter was just as special as ours! Ultimately, Easter is so meaningful to us because it represents that Christ our Savior is Risen! Because of Christ's death on the cross, we are forgiven, saved and promised eternal life. What a wonderful thing to celebrate! 

4.19.2014

the outback salad

One of our favorite salads -- and the one my husband requests most often -- is so easy and so delicious. Inspired by a salad we ate years ago at Outback steakhouse, we've put our own spin on it to make it just the way we like it. Side note: We pretty much put our own spin on everything. That's what makes cooking & eating so much fun. So this my friends, is our "outback."


The outback salad pairs crisp, hearty romaine with tender shredded carrots and sliced green onions that offer just the right amount of 'bite' you crave when eating a salad. With rich blue cheese crumbles running through it and topped with cinnamon sugar pecans, this salad is the perfect balance of sweet and savory. It's so good you won't even realize there's no meat. Top with garlic croutons and you'll wish you could eat this 7 nights a week!

INGREDIENTS
1 Head of Romaine, washed & chopped 

1/2-1 cup shredded carrots, depending on preference

3-4 green onions, sliced thinly

1/2 cup cinnamon sugar almonds

1/2 cup high quality blue cheese crumbles 

Your favorite blue cheese dressing or blue cheese vinaigrette

Freshly ground pepper

Your favorite croutons // We get ours straight from Outback! 




DIRECTIONS
1. Prepare all vegetables and lettuce // be sure lettuce is dry before adding other ingredients and dressing

2. Mix carrots, green onions, blue cheese crumbles and cinnamon sugar almonds with lettuce

3. Coat lightly in your favorite dressing // I like straight up traditional blue cheese and my husband likes blue cheese vinaigrette (of course)

4. Top with freshly ground black pepper and your favorite croutons
Bonus if they're cheese & garlic! 

5. Savor every perfect bite.

4.17.2014

eating habits + your baby | week 3


Each week this month I am sharing on a different topic related to your baby's eating habits. Healthy eating habits can and should start as soon as your baby starts eating solid food around 6 months of age and this series is meant to provide relevant information and build knowledge that will help you encourage healthy eating habits. I'm an RN (BSN) by degree and while these opinions are my own, they are based on 5+ years of college education, both personal and professional experience and significant research.

Find the previous two weeks of this series below:
Week 1: Avoiding Rice Cereal & Alternative Healthy "First Food" options // Available here

Week 2: Foods to Avoid Before Age One // Available here

This week I'll be sharing about fish safety for your baby as well as some basic fish preparations and our favorite types of fish to feed Olivia. 


Fish is probably the most "untraditional" baby food that Olivia eats, but it's also her absolute favorite. My husband and I have always eaten a lot of fish, and I ate wild caught salmon almost once a week throughout my pregnancy, so it's no surprise that we offered it to Olivia at an early age and that she enjoys it as much as we do. Even now, Dustin and I eat fish 2-3 nights a week. It is packed with so many nutritional benefits -- low in saturated fat, high in Vitamin D and many of the B vitamins and high in protein -- and there are so many easy ways to prepare it! So while it's not traditional, it contains so many brain-building nutrients that your baby will benefit from, that if you haven't tried it yet, I suggest you try it soon!

It is widely known that a child's health and behavior are affected so significantly by what they eat. However, for many years, fish was missing from most babies' diets. Parents just didn't seem to think that fish was a "baby food." Unfortunately, the protein that babies need is often missing from their diet also, and instead is being replaced with sugar-filled fruit and high-carb grains. My number one recommendation no matter who I am talking to or what age their baby is: feed your baby protein at every meal! Fish is a great source of protein and as long as it is properly sourced (wild caught), a baby will benefit immensely! 

When choosing which fish to give your baby, there are a few things I recommend considering:
1. The safety of it // aka: the mercury level
2. The nutrients it contains
3. How easy it is to prepare
4. The cost to purchase it wild caught

Omega-3 fatty acids -- the type found in most seafood -- help promote infant brain development as well as boost immunity and vision. In fact, these fatty acids are good for nearly every organ -- including skin! Even moms can benefit: the latest research shows that mothers who ate adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids during their pregnancy were less likely to suffer from postpartum depression. Further, fish contain all 9 amino acids -- meaning that fish is one of the few complete sources of protein and since our bodies do not make amino acids, we must get them from the food we eat.

What types of fish are best for baby? Salmon is by far the best source of DHA* - the star of the omega-3 world which is vital for brain and eye development; almost all seafood contains omega 3s, just be sure to choose varieties that are lowest in mercury.

When should you introduce salmon? Once you've introduced solids to your baby (avocado, sweet potato, cooked egg yolk, etc.), try salmon -- around 6 months of age. The sooner you introduce it, the more likely it is your baby will like it. Two weeks after Olivia started solids, we began giving her salmon. We mixed it with sweet potatoes and she went crazy for it!

What kind of salmon (fish) should you buy? Regardless of the origin (the body of water it comes from), be sure your fish is always fresh/wild caught and never farmed (to keep it simple, farming has negative effects on both the fish and the environment)! Our favorites are Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon & Wild Pacific King Salmon and Wild caught Alaskan cod. Keep in mind that when salmon says "fresh" it does not necessarily mean wild caught! Our local grocery stores often sell "Fresh Norwegian Salmon" but in tiny letters below it reads: "Farmed"

What is a serving? For an adult, 4-6 ounces of fish is a serving // For a child, 1-3 ounces is appropriate depending on age; Olivia eats about 2 ounces of fish per meal a few days a week: Usually salmon for 2 days (4 meals) and cod for 2 days (4 meals)

3 Basic Preparations of Fish:
>> Bake it & Puree it with other favorite vegetables // Add coconut oil, olive oil or real butter to cooked fish before pureeing
Our favorites with salmon are sweet potatoes and butternut squash
Our favorites with cod are roasted red peppers & cauliflower or carrots, parsnips & butternut squash

>> Bake it & Puree fish with olive oil, lemon and basic herbs

>> Poach or Steam fish & Puree it with baby's favorite vegetables

Low-Mercury Seafood Options:
Cod // Pollock // Catfish
Salmon: Coho, Sockeye, Chum (Keta), Pink
Canned chunk-light tuna
Sardines -- Yes, you read that right: one can of sardines boasts roughly 1.9 grams of omega-3s, even more than found in a similar portion of salmon! Fresh sardines are available during summer months but there are great canned options available for year round; our favorite brand is King Oscar

Off-Limit Fish: 
Shark // Swordfish // Tilefish // King Mackerel 

Other Fish to Avoid: 
Farmed Atlantic Salmon // Wild striped bass // Red snapper // Tuna steaks and albacore canned tuna //  Atlantic halibut 

What next? Where do you go from here?
Start by choosing a fish that is mild in flavor, such as cod or salmon, that can be prepared easily (such as by baking) and that flakes well and therefore will blend well with other vegetables. 

Introduce it in a small amount mixed with one other vegetable. Continue to offer it and see the response you get. Honestly, the first time my aunt (an RD) recommended salmon for Olivia, I thought it would be so weird to give my 6 month old pureed fish. In fact, I was a little disgusted. Turns out, it was one of the best food decisions I made. 

Try fish with different foods and experiment. Have fun with what you cook for your baby and don't be discouraged if you have to offer it a few times before they get hooked. Dustin and I even love the purees we make for V -- especially cod with carrots, parsnips and butternut squash. Even just cod with a little bit of real butter on it...it's so yummy and like a dessert for Olivia! 

Finally, buy your fish when it is on sale; we stock up on ours when the prices are at their lowest. Lunds & Byerly's often offers BOGO on both wild caught sockeye salmon filets and wild caught alaskan cod filets every few months. They also often reduce the price on a regular basis (such as $5 off per pound). When sales happen, we buy a lot. We freeze it all and I take it out as I need it. I bake it in the morning and prep it for Olivia's lunch and dinner during her nap time. Pay attention to the ads at the stores you shop the most at, and don't be afraid to ask the fish mongers when the sales are coming. They often know what their supply will be in the coming days and I always ask about sales before I buy at full price. In fact, I rarely ever buy at full price because I always stock up during sales!

If you have any questions about fish preparation or fish safety, consult your pediatrician or a registered dietician. I am happy to answer any questions to the best of my ability as well. I would love to hear if you introduce fish to your babe and how it goes, as well as your favorite fish food combinations! 

Other Resources:
Fish For Your Health | Learn about fish consumption guidelines state by state | Available here
Vital Choice | A trusted source for buying wild fish & other seafood | Available here
Wholesome Baby Food | Fish Baby Food Recipes | Available here
NRDC | A list of fish by mercury content | Available here

4.16.2014

the simple pleasures

As a mom, life is busy. Often days can be long & exhausting. Something that really helps me through each day is finding ways to appreciate the simplest pleasures, the smallest acts of kindness, and the tiniest details that make the "every day" special. 

Yesterday morning I was able to spend time at our church in my weekly women's bible study. The new Spring display in our church atrium was a simple pleasure I was able to photograph and admire with Olivia. I fell in love with the yellow umbrella display on the ceiling & couldn't get over how beautiful all the flowers were. Hydrangeas are some of my absolute favorites. 

Afterward, I went to the grocery store. I had V in her stroller and my hands were quite full, so one of the cashiers offered to carry my bags to my car for me. It's amazing how much a small act of kindness can do so much for someone's day. 

 On Monday, I treated myself to getting my hair cut + colored after 5 (yes, five!) months of waiting; once the beginning of Spring hit, I finally caved. Having a few hours of pampering felt so incredible (1) because I had waited so long and (2) because I rarely put myself first now that I am a Mom (more on that later...)

Afterward, I enjoyed lunch by myself at one of my favorite places - Panera. I had the most delicious soup & salad. Seriously, it was divine. I sat next to a warm fireplace which was absolutely perfect with the windy chill in the air outside. Instead of focusing on the cold weather, I focused on the warm & cozy spot I had. It's amazing how quiet time by yourself and a good meal are so good for the soul. And how if you just shift your perspective, there is so much to appreciate.

Finally, last night my husband brought home a new candy bar for me to try -- Pistachio Chocolate. I am pretty much crazy about pistachios (to put it lightly) and pistachio-flavored anything (find my all-time hands down absolute favorite icecream here). Food gifts always make me feel so loved, especially when they are from him. So simple yet so lovely. 

All of this is just meant to encourage you to find simple pleasures in your day that you can be grateful for, that you can appreciate and that you can savor. Train your mind to notice the small details; to shift your perspective and to realize that all the little things are really what make up the big things. 

Some of the simple pleasures I have been thankful for lately:
 a front row parking spot
fresh flowers
sweet texts & emails from friends
finding new recipes to try
a happy baby
a hot shower
seeing progress in our renovation
new hand soap in the bathroom
frozen blackberries for a sweet treat // seriously though, best. thing. ever.
planning V's 1st birthday party
reading in bed at night with a candle burning
opening the windows & feeling the breeze
watching Olivia "furniture walk"
running into a friend unexpectedly
finding a coupon for something I need
choosing a paint color for our new laundry room
counting down the days until my 1st official mother's day
seeing Olivia in cardigans
watching this commercial 
& reading books with V all day while she so sweetly and purposefully turns each page

Every day, I consciously seek simple pleasures to appreciate and enjoy. Maybe the day doesn't go exactly the way you planned or hoped it would. Maybe from the minute you get out of bed, the day is chaotic and stressful. Amidst the busyness and stress, the plans and to-do lists, stop and find something to savor. Our days are made up of thousands of tiny moments. When I lay in bed at night, I don't usually think about the "big stuff" I did that day -- instead, I reflect on what Olivia laughed at all afternoon, how delicious our dinner was, or how funny a story was that my husband shared with me. I think about how beautiful the weather was that day (or how beautiful it will be tomorrow), how good it was to see a friend, or how much a certain passage in my devotion spoke to my heart. Those are the little things that make my days special. 

And lately I've been noticing that the big stuff isn't what God uses to bless me the most; often, my biggest blessings are found in the smallest details of my day, the simple pleasures hidden in plain sight. And maybe that's how God works... or maybe that's just because I choose to see it that way. 


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