The Paleo Diet – Day 28

There are only three days left of The Paleo Diet challenge! Tonight I made one of my “finale” recipes: Paleo spaghetti! The noodles in this recipe are actually the insides of spaghetti squash.

The ingredients for this recipe are: spaghetti squash, tomatoes, olive oil, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion, and ground beef.

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The Paleo diet recommends using grass fed beef whenever possible. This is difficult because most chain grocery stores don’t carry grass fed beef. You can order your beef through a local farmer that grass feeds or go to a specialty grocery store, but it’s quite expensive (around $7 per pound).

The reason Paleo recommends grass fed beef is because the cows are raised humanely (they are free to roam the pasture and eat as they please), they’re not typically given hormones or antibiotics, and they aren’t given grains or corn to “fatten” them up in a short amount of time.

I haven’t bought grass fed beef during the past few weeks of Paleo because it’s so expensive, but I thought I’d try it tonight to experience the quality and see if there’s a noticeable difference in taste (more on that later).

So the first thing you do to start this recipe is cut the spaghetti squash in half.

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The spaghetti squash was incredibly hard to cut into, so I asked Kevin for help :).

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The inside of spaghetti squash is similar to a pumpkin. You have to scoop out the “guts” and the seeds. Once the insides are cleaned out, rub on some olive oil and put both halves in a 400 degree preheated oven and bake for 40 minutes.

While you’re waiting, cook the ground beef and throw in some chopped onion. Once the beef is cooked, drain the fat and season with Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Once that’s done, put both cans of tomato paste in a sauce pan and add some chopped tomato. When it’s warm, add the sauce to the beef and mix it up.

When the spaghetti squash is done baking, the insides will come apart easily with a fork and form what looks like spaghetti noodles :).

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Spread your “noodles” on a plate, top with the meat sauce, and you’ll have Paleo spaghetti. 🙂

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It looks just like regular pasta! I was pleasantly surprised by the taste. Spaghetti squash doesn’t have a lot of flavor on its own, so it paired nicely with the meat sauce. The texture was similar to regular noodles. They were a little thinner and slightly chewier, but overall they served as a great alternative!

I thought the grass fed beef was flavorful and tender, but until I can afford it I probably won’t go out of my way to buy it again.

Next time I’ll have to try a different way of making the sauce because the tomato paste was a little too sweet and plain tasting. I ended up adding more garlic salt which helped, but I think it could still be improved.

I would highly recommend trying this recipe. If you like spaghetti but want a low-carb or gluten-free alternative, this is perfect :).

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The Paleo Diet – Day 27

Today I wanted to research why The Paleo Diet is adamantly against consuming grains. Growing up I was told that eating whole grains was healthy. In health class teachers raved about the benefits of whole grains. You want energy and a healthy heart? Start your day with a bowl of oatmeal or whole wheat toast.

I never questioned if grains were good for the body, until I started The Paleo Diet. I’m going to divide this blog into three parts: Pro-grain, Anti-grain, and Conclusion.

Pro-Grain

First, I want to make a case for grains. Here’s what I found on Mayo Clinic’s website (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/whole-grains/NU00204):

1) Grains are low in fat

2) Grains contain important nutrients such as: selenium, potassium, and magnesium

3) Grains are a good complex carbohydrate source (complex carbohydrates = more energy)

Those are the three reasons Mayo Clinic endorses the consumption of whole grains. What about the heart, though? Aren’t whole grains essential for a healthy heart?

WebMD published an article supporting the correlation between grains and a healthy heart based on a study in which men were followed for 14 years and their diet and health records were recorded (http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/news/20041229/whole-grains-help-your-heart):

  • “Eating just 25 grams of whole grains a day reduces the risk of heart disease by about 15%, new research shows.”
  •  “11 grams of bran daily also reduced heart disease risk. The risk reduction was 30% compared with men who added no bran to their diet.”

This is great, but then the article states:

  • “The only factor that might skew their data, researchers say, is the overall high-fiber diet. The men who ate more whole grain also tended to be those that ate lots of fruits and vegetables, which also lower heart disease.”
  • “Also, lifestyle factors like exercise and stress reduction, seen more frequently in the men who eat more whole grains, affect heart disease risk.”

So if the men ate a diet that was rich in fruits and vegetables (i.e. high-fiber), practiced stress reduction techniques, and exercised, they would have a healthier heart anyway.

What is it about grains that make them “good” for the heart? Fiber. Fiber helps lower cholesterol and maintain digestive health. All of these factors play an important roll in heart health.

Anti-Grain

Grains contain a lot of nutrients, but did you know they also contain antinutrients? Phytic Acid is a mineral blocker that is naturally found in grains. Your whole wheat toast may provide you with magnesium, but the Phytic Acid is going to make it difficult for your body to absorb it. This is possibly why the United States is one of the leading consumers of milk, but osteoporosis is at an all time high.  People are consuming a lot of calcium, but if they have a diet that is high in Phytic Acid, their body isn’t properly absorbing the nutrient.

Grain consumption also leads to a spike in insulin production. If too many grains are consumed, cortisol and adrenaline are released to help manage the overload. If your insulin levels are out of control for too long, your body loses the ability to control it and you can become diabetic.

Grains also contain gluten and lectin, which can break down the microvilli in the small intestine over time and allow particles of food to leech into the bloodstream. This can cause allergies, digestive disturbances, and autoimmune problems. Some common autoimmune disorders are: rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel disease.

People started eating grains at the start of the agricultural revolution, which was about 10,000 years ago. Paleo argues that from an evolutionary standpoint, our digestive systems haven’t had enough time to catch-up to our technological advances and properly digest grains without them doing more harm than good.

Source: http://nourishedkitchen.com/against-the-grain-10-reasons-to-give-up-grains/

Conclusion

I’ll first say that I’m not a doctor or nutritionist and this is only information I found on the internet. I understand that every body has different needs and it’s important to weigh your options before cutting out food groups.

In my opinion, I’m in favor of limiting grains. I feel that anything you can get from a grain, you can get from another food source (and not have to deal with antinutrients, glutens, lectins, and insulin spikes). Grains contain a lot of fiber? So do fruits and vegetables. Grains help you stay full? So do foods that are high in protein. Grains provide you with vitamins and minerals? So do other food groups (and they won’t impair your body’s ability to absorb them).

There is a massive, massive market for grains in our society. I don’t see the FDA refuting their “goodness” anytime soon. I’ll admit I’m a little sad to read that grains have a downside. I like how grains taste and how convenient they are to add to a meal.

This wasn’t a very picture-heavy post, but here’s what I made for Kevin and I today for Sunday breakfast :). Blueberry Paleo pancakes, grapes, and diced red pepper, onion, tomato, and ham wrapped in an omelette. Thanks for reading!

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The Paleo Diet – Day 25

I’ve entered the fourth and final week of The Paleo Diet challenge! I have one week left and I’m planning to end this diet with a couple “grand finale” recipes. Well, I shouldn’t say I’m completely “ending” The Paleo Diet after this month, but I’ll be tailoring it to my body’s needs and reintroducing foods like cocoa, legumes, and grains like quinoa.

One “grand finale” recipe I’ll be trying this week is Paleo spaghetti with meat marinara sauce. I’m excited for this one because the spaghetti “noodles” are actually the baked insides of the spaghetti squash plant. This dish will supposedly look and taste just like regular spaghetti. I’ll be the judge of that ;).

The other “grand finale” recipe I want to try is a turkey and shrimp burger on a baked sweet potato bun. I’ve never been a big seafood person but I’m willing to step out of my comfort zone because this recipe sounds amazing.

Once the final week of The Paleo Diet has concluded, I’ll write a series of posts about food reintroduction and how I feel when I try adding back foods like grains, dairy, and, of course, SUGAR. I think food reintroduction is important because you truly get a feel for how your body responds to consuming the once-eliminated product. After not having refined sugar for a month, I’ll have a pretty clear idea of how my body tolerates it once it’s reintroduced. I’m expecting the usual sugar crash, but I’d also like to see how it affects my mood, appetite, ect…

In the past few days I’ve made some simple meals and tried a few news ones too. For breakfast one day I made steamed asparagus over a bed of eggs and ham.

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For lunch the next day I had fajita-style vegetables (from Whole Foods) over a turkey burger with a side of asparagus, salad, and coconut water. It’s funny because I love coconut oil, milk, and flour but could not stand the taste of coconut water. I couldn’t even finish it because I thought it tasted like sour milk. I’ve been told coconut water is an “acquired” taste. I definitely think it is.

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Kevin told me that Jimmy Johns makes an “Unwich” where they wrap one of their subs in a big leaf of lettuce. I was intrigued by this and decided to order it for lunch yesterday. The sub I ordered was: turkey, ham, tomato, cucumber, and Dijon mustard. It could have used a little more meat but overall it wasn’t bad. I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to get it again though because it costs $6 :(. Sorry for the visual of the half-eaten sandwich, just wanted to give an idea of how it looks! 🙂

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For dinner last night I made Paleo chicken chili. This chili does not contain beans or corn. The ingredients are: chicken, red, green, and yellow pepper, stewed tomatoes, salsa, onion, garlic powder, and chili powder. I would normally also add cumin powder but I was out. This chili turned out pretty well! I like beans in my chili but skipping them this time wasn’t too bad.

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I’ve been wanting to make Paleo pumpkin muffins for awhile now. I found this recipe on cindystable.com (http://www.cindystable.com/?s=paleo+pumpkin+muffins) . The muffins include: a can of pumpkin, coconut flour, coconut oil, eggs, vanilla, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking powder. One thing I loved about the muffins was how moist they were! One thing I didn’t love was their plain flavor. Next time I’ll add a little more cinnamon, nutmeg, and throw in some raisins. Then they would be perfect :).

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As always, thank you for reading! I’ve had so much fun sharing this adventure with you over the past three weeks. Stay tuned for lots of new posts in the week to come! 🙂

The Paleo Diet – Day 22

Today I wanted to try making homemade Paleo mayo. I’ve been putting off this recipe for weeks because it seems like it would be super easy to botch. I mean, if mayo were easy to make wouldn’t people be making it at home all of the time? Mayo is just one of those things I can’t imagine coming in any other form than a jar.

Well, I decided to give it a try. Sarah Fragoso includes Paleo mayo in a lot of her recipes, like the tuna stuffed avocado I wanted to try today. I assembled all of the necessary ingredients: olive oil, apple cider vinegar, eggs, cayenne pepper, salt, and yellow mustard.

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I followed the directions and beat every ingredient together with my hand mixer on its slowest setting. You’re suppose to beat the olive oil in as slowly as possible at the end (which I tried to do), and this is how my mayo turned out:

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That is not mayo. That is way too liquid-y to ever even be considered mayo ;). I have no idea where I went wrong while trying to make this, but I ended up wasting a lot of ingredients in the process.

After my mayo-catastrophe I was still hungry and needed to use my ripe avocados so I figured I would just use the light mayo I had in the fridge. The mayo I used is not Paleo-approved because it contains preservatives and refined oils such as canola oil. I will admit I felt guilty for using the light mayo. I know I shouldn’t be too hard on myself but if I’m going to do The Paleo Diet strictly for one month, I want to do it to the best of my ability.

Despite using the wrong mayo the tuna stuffed avocados still turned out very well. I mixed mayo, tuna, dill pickles, celery, and garlic salt in bowl, scooped the contents in to half an avocado, and topped with grape tomatoes.

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I was thinking about why I’m so attracted to adapting Paleo as a lifestyle and incorporating whole foods into my diet and I believe this quote, from Sarah Fragoso’s Everyday Paleo, describes it accurately:

“Are we really meant to work from nine to five, come home, flip on the TV, warm up some plastic-wrapped, chemically laden meal in a box, kiss the kids good night as they stare at their video games, then get up and hit the repeat button? … Once I changed my eating habits and began to feel better, I decided to give up those old habits that our family had pretended were real life. It’s amazing to think this life-changing decision was prompted by simply changing our nutrition.”

My past eating habits prevented me from feeling my most alert, healthy, and energized. I truly was consuming too much sugar, fast food, and packaged junk food. In the past few weeks some people have asked me “Why are you on a diet? You don’t need to lose weight.” One of the biggest misconceptions about The Paleo Diet is that it’s meant solely for weight-loss. Weight-loss is only part of The Paleo Diet because it happens naturally as a side-effect of cutting out excess sugar, carbs, soda, ect… I like the Paleo Diet because you replace processed foods with whole foods and in turn prevent potentially harmful chemicals from entering your body.

I’m not saying I’ll never eat another bowl of ice cream again, I just believe there are benefits to eating this way most of the time. I know you only live once and chocolate is too tasty to pass up all of the time ;).

The Paleo Diet – Day 20

I wasn’t able to blog much this weekend because I was up north visiting family and picking out my maid-of-honor dress for my friend’s wedding in September :). Here is the bride-to-be, Steph, and I:

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We had a fun time picking out our dresses Saturday afternoon. Afterward we had dinner at The Great Dane then finished the night off with some drinks.

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Eating out and sticking to The Paleo Diet was a challenge, but I did okay. For dinner I had a slice of meat loaf, steamed vegetables, sweet potato fries, and some warm cinnamon apples. The meat loaf had BBQ sauce on it though, which most likely wasn’t Paleo-approved. For drinks I stuck to one glass of hard cider with dinner and remained the DD for the rest of the night. As much as I love eating out with friends it feels good to be back home feeling more in control of what I eat (while I’m finishing out this diet, that is).

Do you remember my blog post about Whole Foods not carrying coconut flour? I asked the girl at the service desk if they carried it and she said it wasn’t listed in their inventory. Turns out they do carry it and I found this out after I ordered two bags of it online. I paid shipping and handling for nothing but at least I have coconut flour now! 🙂

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As soon as the coconut flour arrived I whipped up a batch of Paleo banana pancakes which turned out amazing! They aren’t exactly the fluffy IHOP variety but they still have a great texture and flavor. The recipe makes about 8-9 pancakes (depending on how big you make them). The ingredients are:

2 bananas

4 eggs

1 teaspoon of vanilla

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1/3 cup of coconut flour

You simply grease a skillet with coconut oil, mash your bananas, beat all of your ingredients together, and cook them up! The pancakes shouldn’t be larger than the head of your spatula. The smaller they are, the easier they’ll be to flip. You also have to cook each side of the pancake for about 4 minutes on medium-low heat to insure they cook thoroughly. They’re worth the wait though!

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For dinner tonight I made an almond chicken bake. I dipped raw thin-sliced chicken breasts in egg and then rolled them in a mixture of almond flour, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder. I baked the chicken breasts at 400 degrees for 12 minutes and then flipped them over for another 12 minutes. I also cooked some Brussels sprouts in olive oil as a side.

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This was a pretty good meal! The chicken had a little kick to it from all of the spices, but it wasn’t overbearing. The almond flour also gave the outside of the chicken a bread-like texture, which I liked.

For dessert I made fried banana pudding from Sarah Fragoso’s Everyday Paleo. I loved this recipe! It was the perfect warm comfort food for a frigid winter night. You cut up a couple bananas, fry them in coconut oil over medium heat until they soften, pour in 1/4 cup of coconut milk, and gently stir for a few minutes. Once everything is warm and bubbly you scoop the contents into a bowl and top with raisins, chopped nuts, shredded coconut, and cinnamon. I bet this would be delicious topped with chocolate chips! 🙂

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The Paleo Diet – Day 16

Yesterday I made meatloaf and wasn’t too impressed with the results. This was my first time making meatloaf so maybe I just have to tweak the ingredients and the cooking process? I used ground beef, ground pork, onion, garlic powder, two eggs, and almond flour. I tossed it all in a bowl, mushed it together, spread it into a bread pan, and cooked it at 375 degrees for an hour. I was surprised by how greasy and heavy it was. Maybe I need to buy leaner meat next time? I roasted some sweet potatoes to go with it.

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This morning I made an excellent smoothie for breakfast. I added one frozen banana, a couple tablespoons of almond butter, a half cup of unsweetened coconut milk, 3 ice cubes, and a dash of cinnamon to a blender. I highly recommend trying this one!

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Just in case you’re wondering what unsweetened coconut milk tastes like, it’s surprisingly plain. It kind of tastes like a thicker version of water with a hint of coconut. It’s not bad, just different. It worked very well with the smoothie and isn’t awful on it’s own. I drank it plain but added a little cinnamon to it to give it more flavor. Here’s the brand I bought:

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The Paleo Diet – Day 14

I have not had chocolate, refined sugar, bread, or dairy in two straight weeks! I can’t believe how fast the past two weeks have gone.

What are the major upsides I’ve noticed so far? I’ve had more consistent energy, felt more alert, and felt less hungry throughout the day. I attribute the increase in protein in my diet to feeling fuller longer.

What have been the downsides? The time and patience it takes to come up with meals, resisting cravings for unhealthy foods, and the occasional stomach upset from my body adjusting to new things.

I’m halfway done with the four-week-long Paleo Diet challenge, so where will I go from here (and afterward)? I’ve decided I’ll continue sticking to the strict version of this diet for the remaining two weeks and then slowly start adding back some healthy non-Paleo foods. I really miss legumes (beans, peanuts, etc…) and don’t think I’ll cut them out forever. I don’t really miss bread as much as I thought I would. I miss the taste but I don’t miss how consuming it made me feel. I’d still like to eat bread on special occasions, but I’d be okay cutting it out most of the time.

One thing I’ve missed every single day of this diet is chocolate. I love chocolate’s rich, creamy texture and comforting flavor. I’ve missed sugar in general but I’ve made up for it with some of nature’s natural sugar sources like maple syrup, honey, and fruit. There’s no replacing chocolate, though.

Lately I’ve been drinking a lot of tea. I love Zen green tea and Passion tea from Starbucks. Adding a cinnamon stick gives the Passion tea nice flavor.

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Today I made a breakfast frittata. It contains Italian pork and chicken sausage, diced onion, grated sweet potato, and eggs. It turned out really well! I had to stop myself at two slices ;). Here’s the recipe from Sarah Fragoso’s everydaypaleo.com: http://everydaypaleo.com/easy-and-delicious-sausage-frittata/

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For dinner Kevin and I had leftover Paleo pizza with a side of pear salad. The salad turned out wonderful, although I think I’ll skip the sweet onion next time. The onion flavor became a little overwhelming toward the end. The salad was easy to make, it contains: baby spinach and salad greens, diced pear, pecans, olive oil, sweet onion, and balsamic vinegar dressing.

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For dessert I made Paleo coconut candy balls :). These are quite sweet so a little goes a long way. They contain unsweetened coconut flakes, coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. You mix all of these ingredients together, roll them into balls, and chill them in the refrigerator for about an hour. If you’re craving something sweet, these will do the trick. I actually like that you serve them cold. They taste refreshing when chilled. Here’s the full recipe: http://thischickcooks.net/2012/10/25/coconut-crack-quickno-cook/

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The first half of this challenge hasn’t been too painful. Here’s to a successful second half!