Tag Archives: nutrition

Nothing is for Everyone

6 Apr

As you may have read in my previous blog posts, I have been on the Paleo Diet for Lent this year.  I did so because many friends, clients & family members have asked me about it and want to know “Is this a good diet?” and “Should I go on this?”  My answers came from a limited knowledge base, and the more I heard about the buzz of the Paleo Diet, the more I wanted to see about it for myself.  It has been nearly 40 days (the duration of Lent) and I can honestly say that I have never felt better.  It did take a LOT of research, reading, digging, and self-teaching before I realized exactly how this “diet” would work for me.  I learned that the Paleo Diet is simply a blueprint or outline of a lifestyle that aims to mimic that of our caveman (and cavewoman) ancestors.  Just exactly HOW closely each person follows the blueprint is up for their own deciding.  Depending on what a person’s fitness/health goals are, different foods may be included or excluded in their diet.  It took me about a week and a half to get my personal blueprint just right.  Within 2 weeks I’d shed 5lbs [body fat, NOT muscle] and felt leaner, stronger, faster & tighter than ever before.  I was eating nutrient rich foods and felt full even though I was consuming food less often.  My experimentation with the Paleo Diet coincided with the start of my triathlon training.  I was initially somewhat concerned that without starchy carbohydrates I wouldn’t have enough energy to get through my long workouts.  But this was not the case at all.  I simply consumed enough lean animal protein, healthy fats, and fruits/veg that I was fueled up enough to do whatever my workout required.  Another great thing about the Paleo Diet is that I managed to cut WAY down on my caffeine intake.  Instead of 2 cups at home in the morning plus a Starbucks run or two while at work, I have cut down to my 2 cups before I leave the house.  If I get a craving to take a field trip to Starbucks, I get myself a decaf tea.  I discovered that for me, it was more about the routine of taking a break and going to Starbucks than it was actually about getting some more caffeine in my body.  Subsequently, I have been sleeping better.  My body is appropriately tired at the end of my long days and I am able to get to bed at a reasonable hour.  I am getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night which seems to be exactly what my body needs.  On the odd night I get 6-6.5 hours of sleep, I definitely feel it the next day, so I make every effort to avoid this.  I also have become very specific about my alcohol intake.  I do not normally drink a lot at all, but I decided to narrow my choices to tequila (because it comes from the agave plant) and wine (because it comes from grapes).  I have cut out beer (with the exception of my Colorado trip) and all other types of alcohol.  I don’t drink with much regularity, especially now during triathlon training, but I opt for the Paleo friendly choices when I do have a drink.

All in all, I am VERY satisfied with the Paleo Diet.  I plan on continuing this lifestyle even after Lent is over.  For me, it has worked great.  I can honestly say that I feel the fittest, strongest, and BEST I have in my life.  My skin is clear, my energy is up, my workouts are stellar & I’m ready to take on the challenge of triathlon season!!  Now, let me say that the key parts of the above sentence are the words “For me”.  I know that the Paleo Diet works for me because I have tried it and have felt the results.  That being said, I still stand by the notion that nothing is for everyone.  No single workout, diet, approach, plan or lifestyle will work for everybody.  It just won’t.  While the Paleo Diet has been a tremendous success for me, it has turned out to be just the opposite for others.  

My sister, Jessie, has found this out the hard way.  With her sister and boyfriend totally immersed in the Paleo Lifestyle, Jessie gladly jumped on board and tried experimental dinners, snacks, and other Paleo recipes.  She made the switch from skim milk to almond milk, started eating more nuts and fruits for snack, cut back on cereal and bread & was always up for Paleo pizza as a Friday night treat.  What also happened during this time was that Jessie was having stomach issues which grew in severity.  She originally thought she ate something at a party that disagreed with her but the symptoms lingered a little too long.  She couldn’t figure it out; she was hydrated, eating all the same foods I ate, and took her daily vitamins and probiotic pills.  The symptoms continued for a month or so, sometimes getting a bit better but worsening at other times.  Finally, Jessie went to the doctor and had a CT scan of her stomach.  She was diagnosed with Diverticulosis.  Her doctor told her that she must avoid nuts and nut butters [SO much of Paleo Diet has to do with these things] and eat a high-fiber, low-fat diet.  Turns out the Paleo Diet was making her sick; she is a perfect example of someone who does NOT do well on this particular diet.

There are many exceptions such as this for any fitness program, diet or workout there is out there.  Just because it works for your friends, colleagues, family members or the folks you see on TV, does NOT mean it will work similarly for you.  When starting something new- diet, exercise or otherwise- make sure to read, research and educate yourself on it as much as possible.  Talk to your doctor about the changes you are considering, especially if you have a medical history that is significant of anything which might be affected.  When you DO make significant changes to your workout and/or diet, be aware of how your body reacts.  Do you feel ill, run down, bloated, uncomfortable, sluggish, or unfocused?  Or do you feel energetic, strong, and healthy?  Are you able to sleep? Is your skin clear or blemished?  Your body has many ways of telling you whether or not you’re putting the right things into it.  Pay close attention.  And remember: nothing is for everybody; find the blueprint that is right for YOU!

Paleo PLEASE!!

4 Apr

colorado snowboarding

I was in Colorado last week for a bit of snowboarding, a fitness conference, and to visit one of my best friends.  The long weekend trip was planned a while ago- before I started my Paleo challenge- and I built-in an exception for myself for this trip.  I decided that while in Colorado I would allow myself a little Wiggle Room with the Paleo diet; I would allow myself to drink beer and eat a small amount of Paleo Prohibited foods.  And so when I went out there that is exactly what I did.

Since Denver has the highest number of microbreweries per capita of our country, and since I am a HUGE fan of beer, I had a beer or two each day I was out there.  I didn’t consume in excess but tried lots of new brews that were yummy!  I “cheated” in small amounts here and there: a bit of cheese at one meal, some french bread at another.  I didn’t go off the deep end in any respect; I stuck mostly to the Paleo rules, but was definitely much more relaxed about marinades, sauces and the possibility of the wrong oils being used to prepare my food.

The trip was so much fun all around but I found an enormous amount of value in taking those few days to “Cheat” a bit.  What I found was that my body was very sensitive to eating even the slightest bit of bread, potato, or beer.  I definitely enjoyed having some local Denver brews but I could absolutely feel the difference in my body and energy level.  I felt a bit bloated [this tends to happen when I go out to eat anyway] and sluggish.  It didn’t take long for the “tight” feel that became my baseline to escape me.  Truthfully, I was shocked that my body had become so used to the Paleo Diet foods over a few short weeks & was surprised that the re-introduction of some Paleo no-no’s shocked my system so much.

I came home from my trip and was very happy to resume a strict Paleo menu for myself.  It definitely took me a few days, though, to get rid of the cravings for beer and bread.  I hadn’t had any trouble with cravings previously, but I found that once I had just a taste of those forbidden foods, I wanted more.  Scary.  And crazy!  I made sure to keep my promise to myself; when I returned from my Colorado vacation, it was back to strict Paleo, cravings or not!!

With Lent coming to a close at the end of this week, I must say that I’m thankful I tried this Paleo Challenge.  I definitely plan on continuing along with it [I will be doing another blog about this soon] because it makes me feel the best I’ve felt in a LONG time!

Paleo Diet: “What do you eat?!”

13 Mar

For Lent, I decided to try the Paleo Diet and am blogging about my experiences with it.  With a few weeks under my belt, I finally have stabilized my weight and have a good grasp on what foods to eat, and how much of each food works for me.  I have incorporated this all successfully into my daily routine and now Paleo is second nature to me!

A question I have been getting from a lot of people is this: What the heck do you eat?!  As I stated in my first blog post, I have given up all dairy, legumes and grains.  What does that leave me with?  Well, I am eating a lot of lean animal protein, healthy fats, and a ton of fruits and veggies. 

PROTEIN

Things like chicken breast, grass- fed beef, fish and eggs are the main sources of my protein.  I have omitted my post-workout protein shake and now simply have some real food after I exercise, if I am feeling hungry.  I make sure to take in plenty of protein to keep myself satiated during the day.

HEALTHY FATS

In the absence of any carbohydrates from grains, my body requires healthy fats to burn as fuel.  I include a fat source with every meal.  Nuts, nut butters, avocado, olive oil and almond flour are my primary sources of fat.  This is, in addition, to any fat I get through my meat intake.  Generally, I eat very lean beef and chicken, so the fat source isn’t significant.  I have been using olive oil, primarily, but have read a lot about coconut oil.  I think this week I will buy some and try cooking with it in lieu of olive oil. [Olive oil goes rancid above 400 degrees Farenheit, so I want to try to save olive oil for room temp use, such as salad dressing].

VEGGIES AND FRUITS

I eat an enormous amount of vegetables and a considerable amount of fruit.  Since I prepare my food each Sunday for the week, I often will prepare a tray or two of roasted veg to have for the week.  Broccoli, asparagus, carrots, mushrooms, and even sweet potato.  [The sweet potato was one of those foods that I decided for myself would stay in my diet.  Some folks choose to omit them when on Paleo.  It’s whatever works best for each individual!]  I also love to sautee kale, baby bella mushrooms & shallots with a bit of oil and white wine on the stove top. 

Salads have always been a staple in my diet, and they continue to be with the Paleo diet.  I jam-pack my salad with things like: baby spinach, tomato, carrots, mushroom, red pepper, avocado, walnuts, chicken, tuna, salmon, etc.  I have made my own dressing out of olive oil, balsamic vinegar & lotsa spices!!!

As for the fruit- I have found that the decision to include or exclude fruit on the Paleo diet is very specific to the individual and her/his goals.  After doing a lot of research and reading from trusted sources, I decided to incorporate fruit into my diet.  This is mainly because I am not trying to drop a considerable amount of body fat and because I am engaging in intense exercise frequently.  Eating a moderate amount of fruit allows my body to get the natural sugars it needs to produce the energy my workouts require.  For other folks who may not be as active and who may be trying to lose body fat, the strategy would be different.  They would limit their fruit intake or omit it altogether.

CAFFEINE/ALCOHOL

These two topics were up for debate and personal “tailoring” in many of the articles, blogs, and websites I’ve visited.  I decided that it is not reasonable to cut out 100% of my caffeine intake but I have made strides in reducing it significantly.  I have 2 cups of coffee in the morning with some almond milk, and try to stick to decaf herbal tea for the rest of the day.  In the event I need a caffeine boost mid-day, I opt with caffeinated tea rather than coffee.  I am also limiting my alcohol intake to red wine or Tequila, and am allowing myself to drink on a limited basis.  This is for many reasons- the Paleo diet and triathlon training among them. 

These decisions were made by me, for me, with consideration given to my lifestyle, schedule, and realm of what I could expect of myself.  I know it is different for many folks, but for me this feels like a good happy medium.

PALEO RECIPES

Through talking with other folks on Paleo and reading blogs/websites, I have come across some Paleo-friendly recipes for treats that have been both yummy and satisfying!

Paleo Muffins
3 eggs
1 cup of pumpkin puree
2 cups of almond flour
1 tsp of baking power
1 tsp of baking soda
1/2 cup of honey
1 tbsp of allspice

Mix all ingredients without the eggs first, then mix in eggs and put in muffin tray.
350 for 20-30 min depending on your oven.   Top with nut butter, or enjoy with a piece of fruit.

“Oatmeal” Minus the Oats
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 tbsp ground flaxseed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 banana, mashed
1 whole egg & 2 egg whites

1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (add more if desired)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk together egg whites and almond milk and then stir in walnuts, ground flax, banana, vanilla extract, and cinnamon; blend well.
In a medium saucepan, warm the mixture on the stove, stirring frequently, until the “oatmeal” reaches the desired consistency; this should only take a few minutes.
Top with berries, nut butter, seeds, or whatever you choose!

I took the Paleo Plunge!!!

5 Mar

If you read my last blog, you know that I decided to take the “Paleo Plunge” for Lent this year.  I committed to adhering to the Paleo Diet for 40 days and am doing so for several reasons. 

[If you are unfamilliar with what the Paleo Diet entails, here it is in a nutshell: omit dairy, legumes, grains, processed foods from the diet.  Eat lean meats and fish, veggies, fruits and nuts.  The pyramid picture above gives a basic visual idea.  For more detailed info about the Paleo Diet, click on the link !]

Many friends and clients have asked me about The Paleo Diet, and what I think about this approach to food.  I have been able to answer them in a limited fashion, based on what I have read about it and what I have experienced second-hand from other folks on this diet.  I wanted to get a deeper understanding of what, exactly, it meant to “go Paleo” and learn more about how it would affect my body.  Another reason I decided to try the Paleo diet is because it was Lent time and I needed a challenge that would not be detrimental to my health/wellness/fitness, as well as something that I might decide to stick with even after Easter Sunday.  Going Paleo seemed like a great idea, so I started my research and as of Ash Wednesday (nearly two weeks ago), I have been Paleo.

I plan on doing regular blog posts which document my progress and journey; I hope that it will spark discussion, answer questions, & create new questions and thoughts.  Whether you are for or against the Paleo diet, have no idea what it entails, or are on the diet yourself, I encourage you to leave your thoughts, ideas and comments below!

My First 2 Weeks on the Paleo Diet

Week 1 on the Paleo Diet was very interesting, to say the least.  While my pre-paleo diet did not differ drastically from what I’m consuming now, I got a lot of education on what IS and ISN’T paleo.  The major changes I’ve made are omitting dairy [skim milk and Greek yoghurt], grains [Ezekiel bread and any crackers, quinoa, pasta, rice] & legumes [beans, hummus].  It might sound like a big adjustment, but truthfully I eat a LOT of the same foods each week and most of them are Paleo-friendly.  What I found to be the most valuable and interesting part of my first week was trying to educate myself on what “is Paleo” and what “isn’t Paleo”.  It seemed that the more articles I read, the more people I spoke with, and the more I dug for information, the more I realized that there was not one straightforward answer. 

At first, it frustrated me because I wanted to make sure I was doing it “right”.  I am a very competitive person and when I commit to something, I want to make sure I do it perfectly.  But I couldn’t figure out whether or not I was “allowed” to have sweet potato, Kombucha, honey, or a small serving of Greek yoghurt.  I had heard of some people who included these things into their Paleo Diet for different reasons.  But on the other hand, others staunchly said NO! 

What I finally learned was that there is not one simple Paleo Blueprint or Bible to follow.  Instead, it’s all about understanding and following the principles of the Paleo Diet as closely as possible and tailoring it to fit your lifestyle.  One thing that stuck with me, which I heard in an interview was “Don’t get caught up in the minutiae.”  This set me at ease because all I need to remember is that sometimes a situation will be out of my total control and all I can do is make the BEST decision possible in the moment.  Since hearing that, my stress about what exactly is on/off-limits for me has decreased tremendously.  I make most of my meals for the week, so I’m able to use the ingredients of my choosing.  But when I dine out, I no longer freak out if my steak tips were cooked in an oil that is not Paleo friendly. 

There have been noticeable changes in my weight.  Within the first week alone, and almost through to the 2nd week, I have had consistent weight loss.  I generally weigh in somewhere between 138-141lbs.  After one week of Paleo, I was down to 131-133.  This scared me a bit, as I wondered if I was losing muscle mass and questioned whether or not I was getting enough of the proper nutrients.  I have been keeping very close track of my weight (I usually don’t weigh myself every day, but am now monitoring it) as well as making sure I am taking in enough protein and healthy fats throughout the day.  I have kept my normal workout regimen [and will start Triathlon training this week, YAY!] and it seems that my strength is still there.  I think that as long as my weight stays where it is now- 132/133lbs- and my strength remains the same, I find that acceptable. 

I do feel more lean, cut and much less bloated in my stomach.  I am never overly hungry; I eat when I feel hungry, and stop once I feel satiated.  I have removed protein drinks from my post-workout regimen and have started eating regular food instead.  I think that overall, I’m eating LESS food; I’m eating things that fill me up, so I don’t need to eat as often.  I have also cut back on the amount of caffeine I’m drinking.  I have limited myself to 2 cups of coffee on the Keurig machine in the morning, and then for the rest of the day its tea and water. 

It’s been an interesting journey so far…  Nearly 2 weeks in, and I feel great.  I am certainly learning a lot and am looking forward to reading/learning even more!  I welcome your feedback, questions, and comments!

Kale Chips Recipe!!!

15 Feb

Hello Lucky13’ers!

If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know that I am a HUGE fan of kale (Swiss chard, and collard greens work too), as it has the most nutrients per calorie of any food!! I have prepared it several ways…my most favorite is sauteing it in a wok with some onions, mushrooms and string beans.

But last week I was itching for something new, so I decided to try making Kale Chips.  They were delicious and So easy to make.  Try it out and tell me what you think!

Kale Chips

Ingredients:

1 bunch kale, I used black kale but you can also use Dinosaur kale

1 Tbsp olive oil

Sea salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Farenheit.  Remove kale from stem, and chop into large pieces.  Put into bowl and toss with olive oil and sea salt.  Lay pieces of kale in a single layer on a baking sheet. (Use two sheets if need be; don’t put layers of kale on top of one another).  Bake for 20 minutes or until crisp.  Let cool and then enjoy!

New Recipe!! Mexican Stew

31 Jan

If you’ve ever read my blog (or met me for 5 minutes), you’ll know that I LOVE to cook yummy, delicious, healthy recipes.  And you’ll also know that I’m always looking for new things to try, as well as encouraging my Lucky13’ers to share recipes amongst our ever-growing “family”. 

One of my dedicated Beacon Hill Athletic Club Bootcampers passed along this recipe, which I thought I’d share with you all (Thank you Amelia!!).  This particular recipe is great because it can be cooked in a crock pot [read: minimal chance to screw it up!! AND minimal work involved]

 It sounds delish and I can’t wait to try it!

slow cooker

Easy for a crock pot….  It’s one of my signatures.  If you aren’t really into cooking, you really can’t screw up a crock pot. 
Mexican Stew
1 can black beans
1 can corn
1 can kidney beans  
2 cans diced tomatoes  (with chiles if you want or jalapenos) 
1 large onion diced
1 packet taco seasoning
1 cup of tomato sauce
2 pieces of chicken breast
Mix all ingredients in the crock pot except the chicken.  Place the two chicken breasts on top.  Cook for 6-7 hours on low.  Take the chicken out of the crock pot and shred with a fork.  Mix the chicken into the stew.  Cook for one more hour.  The time depends on the crock pot, so just keep an eye on it. 

 

Don’t let the Holidays turn into a Holidaze!

9 Dec

Its HERE- holiday season!!! Thanksgiving, to me, is pretty much the kick off to the Holiday season every year.  No sooner have we stuffed our faces full of turkey, trimmings, wine, pie and egg nog than we’re up and out the door at 4am for Black Friday shopping!!  Everywhere you look: Christmas decorations and lights, overflowing parking lots, long lines at stores and charitable donation solicitations galore.  Between the holiday parties, shopping for gifts, decorating, preparing for family and friends to gather & all the other NORMAL responsibilities of life, time for fitness might seem pretty sparse.  In fact, its prime time for folks to fall out of their exercise and healthy eating routines.  I have blogged about this “Holiday Workout Hiatus” before, and provided some tips on how to keep up your workout routine during the holiday season.

Today I want to focus on how to stick to healthy eating habits during the holidays.  This can be a VERY daunting task- the holidays are all about imbibing & enjoying yummy food with loved ones.  Much of the holiday food/drink is chock full o’ calories, fat and sodium.  This “comfort food” gives us the cozy feeling of wanting to curl up on the couch after eating, NOT hit the gym.  That means double trouble.  Tons of food + zero exercise = HoliDAZE.  It’s not long before you feel sluggish and cloudy; your normal alert, fit feeling goes out the door with the end of the year.  

How, then, to enjoy the holidays without sacrificing your healthy habits??

Top 5 Tips for Hanging onto Healthy Eating Habits Over the  Holidays

1.  Don’t show up to a holiday party famished.  Eat something with protein and fiber, such as an apple & peanut butter, before you arrive and you won’t be tempted to attack the finger foods with a vengeance.

2.  Keep the booze consumption under control.  Tis the season for Egg nog, Kahlua drinks and hot toddy; they will likely be offered to you over and over.  Keep in mind that they contain just as many calories as some meals!!  Instead opt for a light beer, glass of wine or vodka & soda water.  My personal favorite is to make my own wine spritzers by filling 1/2 or 3/4 of my wine glass with soda water & then filling the remaining part with red wine.  This allows me to drink 3 or 4 “glasses full” without consuming 3 or 4 glasses of wine.  AND I stay more hydrated!

3.  Eat as MANY veggies & fruits as you want.  If you fill your plate with veggies (that aren’t covered in cheese or heavy cream sauce) there will be less room on your plate & in your belly for unhealthy things!  When dessert comes around, allow yourself ONE small treat and then stick to flavored seltzer, tea, and fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth.

4.  Remember that there is always tomorrow.  Don’t treat each holiday party, gathering and meal like it’ll be your last.  Keep in mind that this is holiday SEASON and you will likely find yourself at several more similar settings in the upcoming weeks.  Don’t feel the need to try it all, splurge on dessert & have an extra drink at every party you attend.  Pick one event at which you enjoy dessert.  At another one, have a cocktail or two.  At a third, allow yourself to try a small portion of a “treat” appetizer. 

5.  Eat extra clean during the week.  It is often one weekend holiday party after another that do us in.  Inevitably there will be some level of splurging, or at least deviation from your normal eating routine.  So during the week when you have control of your meals, make them as HEALTHY and CLEAN as possible!!  Omit any treats, alcohol & dessert during your everyday meals.  Save your splurges for the times when you don’t have total control of your food/beverage selection.

The holiday season is meant to be enjoyed with family and friends.  It often revolves around eating and drinking in a group setting, which can lead to major healthy habit sabotage.  But, sticking to these tips can help you do some serious damage control and keep you on track toward your goals!

Do you have any other tips on staying healthy over the holidays?? I’d love to hear them!