5 Ways My Diet Has Changed Since My Foray Into The Paleo Lifestyle

Almost 2 months ago, I wrote about my decision to incorporate the Paleo lifestyle into my diet for a couple of weeks to see how my body and mind felt on it. You can read my full post on why I wanted to give it a go if you’d like, but basically, after a lot of research and time spent learning about the Paleo diet and its scientific backing, I was intrigued and I’m willing to try just about anything new to see how it works with my body. I’m a curious person by nature and, since health and fitness are so subjective, I think it’s always best to try things out for yourself rather than listening to other’s opinions.

Periodic Table of Paleo Food
source

For about 2 or 3 weeks, I followed the Paleo diet strictly and didn’t eat any grains, dairy, legumes, etc. In addition to cutting out these items, I also incorporated a lot of “new-to-me” things into my diet like bone broth and palm oil. I even started making my own almond milk! Like I said in my original post, I didn’t make the decision to try the Paleo lifestyle because I was experiencing any health issues, but simply because I always have the desire to optimize my health. Ultimately, after the 2 or 3 week period, I decided to not practice the diet strictly 100% of the time, but I have incorporated a lot of the practices I learned and felt had a positive effect on my health and mindset. I don’t think there’s any ONE diet that works best for everyone – I think we have to just get out there and see what works for us! Here are some practices and things I’ve incorporated into my diet since my foray into the Paleo lifestyle:

1. I’ve lowered my intake of wheat and grains. To be honest, I’ve never been someone who has eaten a lot of wheat (pasta or bread) in the first place. I never make myself sandwiches for lunch simply because I don’t really find them appealing. I’d rather have something a bit “jazzier” and more exciting for lunch and sandwiches and salads usually tend to bore me. If I do get a desire for bread, 99% of the time it will be an open faced sandwich where I only use 1 slice. Despite not having a huge craving for things like bread or pasta, I do love me some brown rice and it was usually an integral part to many of my lunches and dinners throughout the week. While I do still incorporate rice into my diet, I’ve switched a lot of it out for cauliflower rice recently which, depending on how you cook it, is just as yummy and has a lot of nutrients. If I for some reason want pasta, I’ve been using spaghetti squash or zoodles instead.
Making Zucchini Noodles2. I buy higher quality meats and fruits/veggies. The Paleo community places a large emphasis on buying high quality food if and when possible. Throughout the years, I’ve always tried to do this but, due to budgetary restraints, this would fall to the wayside a lot of the time. I think the #1 worst thing that we as a society do to our bodies is putting unnecessary chemicals and toxins into it. Health and fitness professionals tend to focus a lot of their work and teachings on calories or macronutrients, when really the first thing someone should focus on when switching to a clean diet is ridding themselves of all the chemical-laden food they’ve been eating. Instead of letting this fall to the wayside like I was, I’ve been prioritizing it more and cutting corners in other areas of my life.
Grilled Curry Shrimp & Cabbage Slaw3. I’ve upped my vegetable and healthy fat intake. When I first heard about the Paleo diet at my former Crossfit box, I immediately thought it was a ludicrous diet followed by stupid guys justifying their desire to eat lots of meat and potatoes. I thought to myself “Well, that doesn’t sound healthy or balanced at all.” After learning more about it, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The Paleo community strongly emphasizes eating an array of vegetables, healthy fats, fruits, and meat. This was a relief to me because I really feel like the main components of any diet should be vegetables and fruit since they provide so many nutrients to our bodies.
Chorizo Cauliflower Casserole

PaleOMG’s Green Chile Chorizo Cauliflower Casserole

4. I’m more likely to try new foods that I would have otherwise shied away from. Before trying this out, there is no way you would have been able to convince me to sip on bone broth or put coconut oil and butter in my coffee. I would have looked at you like you had 20 heads. But, since I was giving this new lifestyle I go, I decided to embrace all parts and try things even if I didn’t think they were for me. The only way to know is to try, right? I ended up finding lots of new things that I’ve loved and have since incorporated into my diet. I’ve already mention a few of these, but some new items I now include my diet are: coconut aminos, bone broth, homemade coconut milk yogurt, homemade almond milk, kombucha, cauliflower rice, and zucchini noodles.
Homemade almond milk5. I get inspiration for recipes from cookbooks and blogs more often. On my iPhone, I have a bookmark tab called “Recipes” where I place any recipes from blogs that I’d like to try. While I do end up making some of these recipes, a lot of them I never end up looking at again. When I first transitioned to Paleo, I sometimes was unsure of what types of things to cook if I wanted a dinner that was a bit more complex or fun than just chicken and a vegetable. I bought three cookbooks in order to get ideas and I have loved every recipe I’ve made from all 3! There’s a reason certain people make cookbooks – because they’re awesome cooks and make amazing food – so, instead of getting stuck in a rut, I tried out so many new recipes that I loved. Practical Paleo is great because it gives you an overview of the Paleo diet and the science behind it in addition to recipes. Nom Nom Paleo has a ton of unique, asian-inspired recipes that I would have never thought to try! Make it Paleo also has unique recipes like their Coconut-Nested Eggs, but also features some basic recipes that anyone following the diet would like to know how to make – like their recipes for almond milk, coconut milk, and cauliflower rice. In addition to these cookbooks, I’ve also made a few recipes from PaleOMG and Elana’s Pantry that have all been equally as amazing.
CookbooksTo sum it up – Do I still eat brown rice with dinner sometimes and have my Ezekiel bread with mashed avocado on occasion? Yes. What can I say? I like it and I haven’t noticed any adverse effects to my health from it, but I have toned it down quite a bit. If there comes a point in time where I do notice negative side effects, then I’ll stop. Until then, I’m really glad that I’ve exposed myself to something I otherwise wouldn’t have and I’m happy I was able to take things from it. I, by no means, know it all when it comes to, well, just about anything. The only thing I can do is what I feel is best for me and my body.

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This Week’s (and Last Week’s) Eats: April 5th-18th

I’ve been pretty bad when it comes to taking pictures of my food over the past couple of weeks. I just get too excited to eat, then don’t remember until my plate is almost empty. And who the heck wants a picture of a half eaten plate where you can’t even recognize what the food is anymore? No one. So, here are some of the yummy things I’ve eaten over the past couple of weeks that I did manage to take pictures of. There was even better stuff too that isn’t pictured because it was just too delicious to wait. Like the egg burrito I ate for breakfast yesterday morning, for example. Oh, and the AMAZING grilled cheese with bacon I had on Wednesday. Now, I’m hungry again. Unfortunately, between Happy Hour after work and a much needed frozen yogurt trip (yes, the frozen yogurt was NEEDED), we didn’t do our weekly Friday grocery shopping, so the pickings are pretty slim. Going to go see what I can scrounge up for lunch now!

Breakfast

Brunch at ELAOkay, so this one clearly doesn’t count as a recipe I made, but it was too awesome not to share. Brunch at ELA in Philly last weekend – we both shared the Short Rib Eggs Benedict and the Hot Chocolate Cookie Dough French Toast. Ugh, need this again. Right now.

Hot Multigrain Cereal & BaconTrader Joe’s Hot Multigrain Cereal with a side of bacon
For the hot cereal, I combined 1 serving of cereal with 1/2 mashed banana, 1 cup almond milk, cinnamon and vanilla extract in a saucepan over medium high heat. Once the cereal almost completely absorbed the almond milk, I added 2 egg whites in for about 1 minute, then took everything off the heat. I add the egg whites in for an extra kick of protein and it adds creaminess (they don’t change the taste at all).

Tropical SmoothieTropical Smoothie
Combine 1/2 cup almond milk, 1/2 cup coconut water, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, 1/2 cup greek yogurt, and 1 serving frozen mixed berries of choice (I used strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries) in a blender and blend until smooth. Top with cute umbrella for added fun :).

Lunches

Shrimp Cauliflower Stir Fry & Lentil Soup Meal PrepShrimp & Cauliflower Rice Stir Fry and Curry Lentil Soup

Meal 1: Shrimp & Cauliflower Stir Fry (Paleo)
Makes 4 servings – steam or saute 16oz uncooked shrimp until no longer translucent. Remove from heat. Place 1 head of cauliflower florets into food processor with grating attachment to make cauliflower rice or use cheese grater and grate florets into rice. Dice 1 bell pepper and 1 yellow onion. Combine, shrimp, cauliflower rice, pepper, and onion into pot with 1 teaspoon cooking oil of choice over medium high heat. Once cauliflower rice, pepper, and onion have almost fully softened, add liquid aminos or coconut aminos to taste and remove from heat.

Meal 2: Curry Lentil Soup (Vegan)
Makes 4 servings – In a crock pot, combine 1 cup uncooked lentils, 4-5 cups vegetable broth, 1 cup diced onions, 1 cup diced celery, 1 cup diced carrots, Trader Joe’s Healthy 8 Chopped Veggie Mix, 2-3 tbsp curry paste, 1 tsp cayenne pepper (more if you like it really spicy – I do!), 1 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp curry powder, salt and pepper to taste. Stir and cook on low for 8 hours.

Turkey Zoodles & Enchilada Bowl Meal PrepGround Turkey Marinara Sauce, Zoodles, Enchilada Chicken, Black Rice, Sauteed Peppers and Onion

Zoodles – Use a spiralizer to spiral 4 medium zucchinis. Once spiraled, place in microwave for 2 minutes on high. Once cooked, season with salt & pepper.

Spicy Ground Turkey Marinara Sauce – Brown 1lb ground turkey. Combine with 28oz crushed tomatoes in pot over medium heat. Add salt, pepper, chili flakes, and cayenne to taste. Remove from heat once combined.

Enchilada Chicken – Cube 1 lb chicken breast. Combine 1/2 tsp cayenne, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 paprika, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. Coat 1lb of chicken with spice mixture. Place chicken in nonstick pan over medium high heat until fully cooked through.

Black Rice – cook according to instructions on bag

Peppers and onions – Slice 1 medium bell pepper and 1 medium yellow onion. Place in pan with cooking spray until onion is translucent. Season with salt & pepper.

Dinners

Steak QuesadillaSteak Quesadilla
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. For one serving, cook 5 ounces shaved steak in pan over medium high heat until fully cooked. Place 1 soft multigrain tortilla down. Top tortilla with shaved steak, cheese, diced peppers, & diced onions. Place another tortilla on top. Place in oven until cheese has melted fully (checking even 3-5 minutes).

Spinch & Cream Cheese FrittataSpinach & Cream Cheese Frittata (Vegetarian)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Crack 9-10 eggs into mixing bowl and whisk together with 2 tbsp parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper to taste. Take a handful of spinach and rip up slightly. Line (oven safe) pan with spinach leaving some gaps. Some low fat cream cheese into gaps in pan. Pour egg mixture in pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

As Porky Pig would say, “Th-Th-That’s all, folks!”

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Bust Your Hump Humpday Workout

As women, I think we all have at least one problem area we’d like to work on. And, truthfully, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to improve your body. Obviously, there can be a point where it becomes unhealthy or obsessive, but I think it’s natural for people to want to improve all aspects of their life including their body. While I think your main goal with eating healthy and exercising should simply be to become a healthier person, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the nicer figure that comes along with all that hard work.

My (self-diagnosed) problem area? My glutes/ thighs. Since the New Year, I made one of my goals to focus on targeting and improving this area. I promise I had other (less vain) goals also like to drink at least 64 oz of water a day, exercise a minimum of 3 times a week, donate to at least 1 charity a month, and to work more on my blog. See? Not all superficial.

In either case, I make it a point to really focus on this area at least 1-2 times a week during my strength training. I only have one “scheduled” leg day at the gym but, if I want to get in another lower body workout that really works my butt/thighs during the week, I’ll do something like the one below at home. It’s only 10 minutes, will get your heart rate up, and doesn’t require any weights (only a chair)! Wins all around.

Bust Your Hump Humpday Workout (8)Single Leg Glute Bridge
Squats w/ side leg lift
Chair Step-Ups w/ kickback
Donkey Kicks
Bulgarian Split Squats
Plank w/ flutter kick
Toe Taps
Superman
Back Kicks

Be sure to stretch and/or foam roll afterwards because your butt and thighs will be sore! Happy Hump Day!

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Subaru Cherry Blossom 5k

Cherry Blossom 5k T-shirtThe Subaru Cherry Blossom 5k in Philly was my first official race of the “season” (I have at least 4 more on the books from now through the middle of July). Ed and I didn’t originally intend on running any races prior to the Broad Street run at the beginning of May since we wanted to focus solely on training for that, but when my sister said her company was sponsoring it so we could run it for free, we decided to go for it since Ed has been itching to see what his current pace for a 5k would be. In order to fully recap how our race on Saturday morning went, we should probably start with our Friday night first.

After an absolutely horrendous winter, I think Spring is FINALLY here in Delaware and I am terribly excited for it. After being cooped up all winter, when the temps hit close to 80 degrees on Friday, all I wanted to do after work was enjoy the weather outside with a nice drink in my hand and yummy food in my belly. So when Ed picked me up from work, I convinced him to head on over to Trolley Square for happy hour at Kelly’s Logan House. Well, I didn’t actually need to convince him since he’s usually just as down for drinks and delicious food as I am. We met up with some friends there and hung out until a little after 8pm when we decided it was probably a good idea to head to Trader Joe’s and do the grocery shopping we had originally planned to do that night. After a quick trip to Trader Joe’s, we headed back home where we both decided we wanted to enjoy the nice weather a little longer and made some cocktails to enjoy on the front porch. Probably Definitely not the best idea to do the night before a race. Despite our early wake up time of 5:30am, we didn’t actually end up heading to bed until well past midnight. Clearly, we were going to be VERY prepared for this race.

When my alarm went off at 5:30 in the morning on Saturday, it took every ounce of willpower I had to actually get out of the bed. I’ll admit, I was slightly hungover on top of the fact that it should be illegal to wake up before 8am on the weekends. Seriously. Luckily, Ed had somewhat prepared our gear the night before so we didn’t need to frantically search for anything last minute. After KT taping my knee, getting dressed, and grabbing a couple of bananas, we hit the road to Philly at around 6:20ish since the registration was set to open at 7am and we planned on meeting my sister and Luis at that time.
Cherry Blossom 5k tentsThe race began directly in front of the Please Touch Museum, so we parked on a street near there where we immediately saw my sister, Luis, Quin, and Max (Quin and Max were also running the race with us since the event allowed for dogs!).
Angie, Luis, & Ed Pre-5kSince it was a smaller race (only about 200 people) registration only took a couple of minutes and we found ourselves standing around until the race began at 8am. Despite the fact that the high for the day was close to 80 degrees again, it was only about 50 degrees that morning. To me, this is kind of an awkward temperature to dress for when racing because it’s too cold to wear shorts and a tee shirt when you’re standing around before the race, but if you wear long sleeves you’ll be too warm when you actually start to run. Catch 22. Because I’m a wuss and I hate to be cold for any period of time, I decided to wear my running jacket and capris. Boy am I glad I did too because I was FREEZING my butt off as we stood around waiting for the race to start.
Ed and Me Pre-5kWhile we were waiting for the race to begin, we chatted, used the porta potties, and Ed and I ate the bananas we brought with us from home for some fuel.
Pre-5k BananaAt around 7:55, the announcer called for us to begin to line up at the start line. After I got in line (I stood at about the middle of the pack, while Ed went closer to the front and my sister and Luis went closer to the back since they had the dogs), I made sure my iPod shuffle and Garmin were ready to go.
In line Pre-5kDespite knowing it was coming, when the gun went off to begin the race, I felt completely caught off guard for some reason. I began to run (you know, since everyone else was doing it), but felt really off. When I looked down at my Garmin a minute or so into the race, it read “8:00”. Since the race was set to begin at 8am, I foolishly thought this was the time and fidgeted around with it for a minute before realizing that it was, in fact, not the time but was actually the pace I was currently running. Oops, stupid mistake. Once I realized my faux pas, I immediately slowed down my pace since I clearly cannot keep an 8 minute per mile pace for the entire race. Since I haven’t run a 5k in a while, I didn’t have an exact goal time in mind, but I knew I at least wanted to run it in under 30 minutes. In order to do this, I had to keep my pace at around 9:30 minute/mile. After getting into a groove with my pace, I found 2 other girls who seemed to be running at a similar speed and made it my goal to try to keep up with them. Does anyone else do this? I think it motivates me to keep going when I feel tired if I do this.

Truthfully, I don’t remember ANY of the race course. Not even a lick of it. I was so focused on keeping pace and trying not to die that I forgot to take in what a beautiful path we were running on. As a matter of fact, after the race my sister asked, “Did you see the Cherry Blossom trees? Weren’t they pretty?”. My response: “Huh? Cherry Blossoms? Where were they?”. I guess I should have been looking out for them since we were running the Cherry Blossom 5k after all. I suppose my mind thought not dying was a better thing to focus on at the time.

The course was somewhat hilly at times, but nothing too crazy luckily. Although I had made it my goal to keep up with the 2 girls I found running my pace, at one point after going over one of the hills, I had to stop to take a quick breather and they ended up running ahead of me. I was running at a quicker pace than I’m used to and my lungs just needed to relax for a minute. After a quick 30 second walking break, I picked my pace back up again and found another couple (a guy and a girl) and decided they would be my new motivation. After getting up the last hill on the course, we turned the corner and I could finally see the front of the Please Touch Museum again. I decided that once I got closer to the finish line I would sprint the last minute or so and give it everything I had. And, man, did I ever. I could see Ed waiting for me at the finish line ready to take a picture as I crossed and I told myself to try to look like I wasn’t dying in the picture when he took it. Complete fail there because I look utterly exhausted in all of them!
Me crossing 5k finish line (2)When I crossed the finish line, I could see the timer just hit 29:00. Since I knew my actual chip time would be slightly less than this, I was happy with my time since it was under my goal of 30 minutes.

After sitting on the sidewalk for a minute to catch my breath and drinking some water, Ed and I positioned ourselves near the finish line to take pics of Angie and Luis as they finished with the dogs! The dogs did awesome and happily panted as they crossed the finish line!
Angie & Quin at finish lineLuis & Max at finish lineAfter getting them hydrated with water, we ventured over to the tents where I grabbed half of a bagel with light cream cheese since I was pretty hungry by this point. Although we would have loved to spend some more time in Philly, Ed had to work that morning, so we hit the road immediately after thanking my sister for signing us up.

Once home, I ate a poached egg with a couple of slices of bacon and decided to check the site to see our official time results. Ed’s official chip time was 22:55 with a pace of 7:23, while mine was 28:51 with a pace of 9:18.
Cherry Blossom Race ResultsI’m pretty happy with our results! Although, I do think we may be able to do slightly better if we don’t go to the race hungover on 5 hours of sleep next time! We have another 5k planned for the middle of June, so we’ll see if our time improves then!

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Sweet Potato Sliders topped with Mashed Potatoes & Bacon

My boyfriend is a cooking god. Seriously. Pure genius. If I ever forget why I date him, someone please remind me of this fact (just kidding obviously…well, kind of). Oh, and remind me that I date him because he’s the only one willing to put up with my crap.
photo 4The other day I was on my computer shopping for a bag for my new laptop and probably a doing a million other unproductive things. He had been in the kitchen cooking dinner for a while, so I decided I would be nice and get up to offer to help him since I wasn’t doing anything productive anyway (as per usual). Thinking I was doing something nice, I walked into the kitchen and was promptly met with a “NO! It’s supposed to be a surprise!” and was rushed out of the kitchen . Well, okay. Hmmph.

Prior to being scurried out of the kitchen, I did get a tiny glimpse of mashed potatoes and a few slices of bacon. From this view alone, my mouth began to salivate. Anyone who knows me will tell you that mashed potatoes are my favorite food. Well, them and pizza. But seriously, if I was on a desert island and I could pick one food to have for the rest of the time, it would be one of those two. I never get sick of them.
photo 1In addition to the mashed potatoes and bacon, I knew the meal would also revolve around the ground beef we defrosted earlier that morning. Has Trader Joe’s always had grass fed beef options? I don’t remember seeing them before, but a couple of weeks ago I randomly noticed them in the frozen section and got really excited. We typically trek to Whole Foods if we want grass fed meat but, in addition to it being farther away from us, it’s also more expensive there. Granted, the meat at Whole Foods is fresh and not frozen, but I’ll deal for the lower price point and less driving.

After waiting for what seemed to be forever (in actuality it was only like 10 minutes, I just get extremely impatient when it comes to food), he came out of the kitchen with this masterpiece. And I do mean masterpiece. It’s like he took all the yummiest foods and combined them into one dish. Oh, and it’s Paleo/Primal friendly too for those who practice! Seriously though, this was amazing. A great combination of flavors and very hearty. Plus, since they’re sliders you feel less guilty eating a ton of them! Win-win.
photo 2Sweet Potato Sliders with Mashed Potatoes & Bacon
Serves 2-4

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. In a bowl, combine 1lb ground beef with 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 tsp cayenne, salt and pepper to taste. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes.
3. While meat is marinating, peel and cube 2 large red potatoes. Place in pot and cover with water. Boil until potatoes are soft. Once soft, drain from water and combine potatoes with 1 clove garlic, 2 tsp butter, splash of almond milk, salt and pepper to taste. Use a hand mixer to blend ingredients until smooth.
4. While potatoes are boiling, slice 1/4 thick slices of sweet potato. Lightly spray sweet potato discs with coconut oil cooking spray and season with salt and pepper. Place in oven for 15 minutes or until tender flipping halfway through.
5. Fry 2-3 slices of bacon.
6. Form beef into 1.5oz patties and grill until desired temperature.
7. Once everything is done cooking, form into sliders placing sweet potato disc on bottom and topping with burger patty, mashed potatoes, and bacon.
photo 3Enjoy!

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