I think we are finding our stride with this paleo diet. I meal plan one week but then get lazy the next. It works though because we have found some easy to prepare paleo meals (baked fish, grilled sausages, Instant Pot meals, egg frittatas) so when I don’t meal plan we can whip something together. I’ve figured out what we do eat and what we don’t and with that in mind keep some recipe staples in the pantry and fridge, even if I have not done any meal-planning, I keep these items on hand:
- sweet potatoes, a variety of onions (pre-chopped and whole), butternut and/or spaghetti squash, plantains, Brussels sprouts or asparagus
- bacon (sugar-free), sausage, ground beef (grass fed), pork roast, fish filets and chicken (organic if possible)
- apples (eaten with almond butter), raspberries and grapes for snacking and lemons for cooking with
- pre-boiled & peeled eggs for a quick breakfast to-go
- almond milk
- cans of flavored sparkling water, cold brew coffee we make ourselves, unsweet tea
I’m cooking more than I ever have in the past and now feel comfortable making meals on my own without Kenny’s help (although we do work together on most recipes). I’m snacking a little less than I used to so that is also good and just not having tempting non-paleo foods in the house makes it easy to stay on track. If I get hungry and Kenny is not around, I can cook up a quick meal of bacon and fried eggs or sausages and a quick side of some sort. For the occasional sweet cravings, we keep a couple of pints of paleo-friendly Coconut Bliss ice cream and we always have some sort of berries on hand to snack on. I’ve limited trying to bake paleo sweets since they may be compliant but they too still have to be eaten in moderation. And one of the bigger changes is that I went from eating out every day at work to bringing my lunch almost every day. Now I only eat out at work about once a week on average and even then, I still eat paleo. It helps that most recipes have more than two servings so most meals we cook for dinner have enough for leftovers for several days after. That means we really only have to cook about 3 major meals a week. We can live the rest of the week off of leftovers, quick small meals and eating out (typically on the weekend when we are out running errands).
So, paleo has become just another part of our daily routine. Is it a little more tedious than lazily eating like we used to? Sure it is but not so tedious and difficult that it was hard to integrate into our current lifestyle once we got into the swing of things. The key to making it work for us I think is having some flexibility and like I said above, finding some quick meals for the inevitable times when we were tired or had a busy week. The food is also tasty and filling and I am enjoying the benefits. I look forward to seeing more results in the future too. I have my annual physical exam next week and I hope my doctor is happily surprised with the weight loss!
My dear friend Sherry’s recent blog post inspired me to write this post. She talks about the reality that not everything we will eat will be 100% paleo. Her husband EJ also writes about “cheat days” and I liked how he refuses to call them cheat days. Both of their posts resonated with me because if you get it in your head that you must be 100% compliant, you are doomed to fail. Every bite that passes your lips will most likely not be all compliant and that is perfectly OK.
That being said, this does not give you the leeway to go off course in radical ways. Rather, you can adjust and make the best choices possible. Our trip to Las Vegas proved to me to that I had the tools to do just that. We had some some non-paleo meals (and cocktails) but we did not go completely overboard. We had reasonable portions and made better choices (wine & cider vs. sugar loaded cocktails) that may not have been strictly paleo but aligned with some of the same concepts. If you are sticking on the diet pretty strictly most of the time, you can have these non-paleo treats without major consequence and it helps satiate some cravings.
Let me clarify though: don’t treat these meals as rewards but rather occasional treats. Treating these as rewards is not the right mindset. Eating paleo should not be seen as a chore or punishment, therefore following your paleo lifestyle should not involve a treat-based reward system. Eating paleo should simply be part of your healthier lifestyle and non-compliant meals are just the reality of living in a world that is not all eating paleo like you are.
Just as you should not call these non-compliant meals “rewards”, I agree with EJ that they should also not be called “cheats”. The term is negative and does not help in your mindset. It sounds like you have lost control but you don’t have to. Like I said above, you can make better choices and mitigate the consequences of the non-compliant meal. Ways to do this include:
- Make sure the rest of the meal is as compliant as possible and don’t let the entire meal be non-complaint.
- Think about how rare a treat this is. Is it a unique meal or food you can’t get anywhere else? If not, maybe resist the temptation for another day.
- Add extra activity (for example, we walk way more than we typically do when we are on vacation).
- Limit your portions or quantities – have one cookie or glass of wine, not several.
- Have just a couple of bites or share the dessert/appetizer instead of eating the whole thing.
- When you go non-compliant, try to follow some paleo rules like eating freshly made food with high quality ingredients you can still pronounce.
- Avoid back to back non-compliant meals or treats.
Finally, never say never. If I had to say “I’ll never eat this”, I’d be pretty discouraged. Now, I don’t say “never” but rather “some day”. This helps me be way more patient and it helps me make better choices knowing that if I stay the course, I can take a paleo-break every now & then. For example, I miss popcorn at the movies but have not given in yet. I will someday though, as a treat. *
* I’ll let you in on a secret – I love candy corn which is the embodiment of everything paleo is not. I have allowed myself ONE piece of candy corn a week through Halloween. And I savor every tiny bite, LOL.
Hi everyone! Sorry it’s been a few weeks since my last check in! I am still doing well. I hit a 20 lb weight loss but I don’t want to count it as official yet since I can’t seem to stay at that weight – I keep stubbornly hovering around 189-191 (188 would be 20 lbs). The pic to the left though was taken a couple of weeks ago as I shopped for new exercise pants. I was happy to be able to purchase Large instead of XL!
Either way, I still feel good and am still eating paleo* as much as possible. I don’t meal plan as much as I should be but I’ve been stocking the pantry and fridge with enough paleo staples that we can whip together a good meal without too much issue. All of our meals at home are paleo and I am still bringing my paleo lunch to work 4 times a week most weeks (I try to go out once a week with a co-worker but then I still pick paleo lunch options). I am also still going to my Pilates class twice a week.
This past week I have gone more off-paleo than normal (maybe even more than when we were in Vegas?) because I really didn’t have any options and I was hungry. I had a lady finger and a biscuit at a garden club meeting (we were tasting teas and it was part of the experience) and at a work luncheon yesterday the chicken meal they offered had a risotto side that I ate about 2/3rds of. I also ate the berries off of the dessert with a little bit of whipped cream and some type of syrup. So yea, those have been my worst non-paleo choices and to be honest, I was still moderate about those.
Oh – and does ONE candy corn count too? :O
Despite that – and I know it sounds like I was being nit-picky about those minor transgressions – I know these choices will not derail me. The “bad” choices were pretty darn small when 97% of everything else I am eating is compliant *.
I also wanted to share some of these “quickly whipped together meals” we have had when we didn’t meal plan:
- sausage with Brussels sprouts & bacon
- scallops cooked in butter with cauliflower au gratin side dish (non paleo recipe I made with paleo ingredients)
- spaghetti squash spaghetti using sugar-free compliant bottled pasta sauce & ground beef
I have a bunch of posts sitting in draft mode because I do have lots of thoughts to share so please be patient with me. Upcoming topics will be about paleo shopping at Costco, paleo recipe substitutions, eating out while paleo, thoughts on Pilates, paleo pantry staples, more info on our version of paleo (see note below) and even another recipe or two. I will work on getting them out of draft mode and actually make them published entries!
* I wanted to take a moment here to define our version of paleo: potatoes are allowed but are limited; cheese is also allowed as a garnish but it too is limited and we choose artisanal cheeses while avoiding the more processed cheeses. We use honey and maple syrup. We use store-bought unsweetened vanilla almond milk (I pick a brand that has the least amount of additives) in moderation. We also do still drink alcohol at social occasions but choose red wines and sugar-free ciders if we do decide to drink.
I’m not quite there yet – but I’m so close to the 180’s!! So close!!! When I do that will be 18 lbs down. My next goal is 20 lbs down by Halloween which should be completely doable. After missing Pilates while I was traveling in Las Vegas and then missing my first class back because I was sick, I am back at it.
Nothing much new to report here but did want to share a few recipes I’ve enjoyed making recently…
- If you are from Texas or live in Texas, you might recognize the name Luby’s. It’s a regional cafeteria chain and if you know me in person, you know my very personal connection to it,. This is a paleo version of one of their more popular fish dishes so I had to try it,
- This was tastier than I had expected.
- I didn’t have sliced almonds so I had to pick out whole almonds from a nut mix I had. I will use almond slices next time.🙂
- I used fish that I already had in the freezer which was tilapia. I know this is not the best fish so I have bought arctic cod for my next attempt.
- The lemon zest gave it great flavor.
- I topped it with sweet potatoes instead of potatoes. It was good but the amount of butter in the original recipe was too much for the sweet potatoes so I will use less next time.
- I also added chopped celery (2 stalks) since we had some. I thought it was a great addition.
- The recipe was not difficult but it took a lot of time – not counting the prep time, sauteing and browning time, it needs 40 minutes to simmer and another 20 minutes in the oven. This was tasty enough to make again but I think I’ll do it on the weekend instead of after work. Buying pre-chopped onions did help a little.
Hopefully next time I report in I’ll be at another milestone! Till then…
We just got back from our first vacation since starting eating paleo and I was a bit worried. We went to Las Vegas and rules were broken several times… The first couple of days were for a work conference and the lunches brought in were not paleo friendly. But, I did the best I could. I resisted the pizza and the mid-day snacks (all sugar heavy candy bars, protein bars, cookies and rice crispies), I took apart the sandwich, burger and hot dog to avoid the bread and buns, I skipped on the pasta salad, and I avoided soda. Breakfast was the only course where I had no issues – I readily enjoyed the scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and fresh fruit.
Once the work aspect was done, I still worked on choosing as best as I could. Here are some of our meals:
- Had an exceptionally good Parmesan crusted pork loin and crispy Brussels sprouts & potatoes appetizer (malt vinegar aioli dipping sauce was not paleo but was yummy) at the Yard House.
- Had a great wild mushroom & goat cheese omelet (the mushrooms were cooked in truffle butter) with breakfast potatoes in downtown Vegas at a place called Glutton (with an amazing seasonal watermelon salad)
- Enjoyed escargot (with a slice of dinner bread), French onion soup, filet mignon and french fries at Mon Ami Gabi
- Had a yummy bacon appetizer and another great filet mignon with roasted asparagus at HEXX
- Enjoyed a delicious mushroom soup and grilled salmon at Mercato della Pescheria in The Venetian.
- I focused on the seafood at Rio’s Carnival World Buffet – but cheated with a taste of some creme brulee & some delicious mango gelato
Alcohol – here is where I just cheated. I chose ciders or wine more often but did give in to a few cocktails like something called a Blue Envy, a margarita from the Flamingo and the Alexxa at HEXX.
Additional cheats – we were hungry so we had a fruit-only smoothie at Jamba Juice and I did pick a couple of chocolates at the Jean Philippe Patisserie in the Aria. But those were bite-sized and were all dark chocolate so I don’t even count them as cheats.
So what was the damage? Believe it not, I actually lost weight! I am 0.4 lbs lighter than when I left on vacation! Woohoo! But how?
Well – we walked. A lot. Like my Apple Watch usually only tracks about 2500 steps for me on a regular day and it tracked between 8500 to as much as over 18,000 steps one day. That is over 3-4 times more activity a day than average. Just walking to the parking garage was about 1/2 a mile. We spent one afternoon at Valley of the Fire State Park, another day visiting Hoover Dam and walking between casinos and up and down the Strip can add up.
So even though we had some cheat meals and we did drink, the extra activity helped ensure that the cheats did not hit me too hard. And I’ve learned that even though I still have to make some good dining choices, the extra activity inherent in vacationing that involves sight-seeing helps keep those cheats off the weight scale.
So, after a few weeks of stalling on the weight loss despite no major changes on how I ate, something happened and I started losing again which resulted in reaching my 3rd goal of 15lb. lost. Woohoo! Clothes is noticeably looser too.
Tomorrow though, I leave for my 1st trip/vacation since we started eating paleo and my first week away from home-cooked meals. For the next six days, meals we have to be eaten at restaurants, in Vegas much less. It is a much needed vacation and I will be having a cocktail or two but I hope to not go too crazy and will work to pick the best entrees possible – I’m thinking steaks and seafood. Hopefully walking around more than usual will help too. The first couple of days will actually be for a work conference so it should be interesting to see what they will offer for lunch. I may have to give in and have a sandwich if that is my only option.
Wish me lunch and I’ll check back in when we get back and share how things go!
Here is another one of my modified recipes using bits and pieces from a couple of other butternut squash soup recipes – this one and this one to be exact. Using the InstaPot makes this super easy to make and will be perfect for the fall and winter. An immersion blender lets you blend it right in the Instapot (but a blender will work too).
I love the crisp taste of ginger and think the few slices of fresh ginger in this recipe gives it a wonderfully subtle flavor. Kenny also noticed the nutmeg and I think these two flavors work really well together. I hope you like it too.
BONUS TIP: We had some leftover shredded chicken from a store bought rotisserie chicken that we added to make it a heartier meal when we had it for leftovers.
- 1 butternut squash, ~4 lbs
- 1 white onion, diced
- 1 tbsp olive oil or ghee
- 1/2″ fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1 sprig of fresh sage, chopped
- 2 tbsp herbs de provence
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 can of coconut milk, full fat
- salt & pepper to taste
- Peel butternut squash, remove seeds and cut into 1/2″ – 1″ chunks.
- Use the saute feature on the Instapot and cook the onions in the olive oil or ghee until they are translucent.
- Add the butternut squash and all the other listed ingredients.
- Stir to mix things up, making sure to get the onions at the bottom mixed in as well.
- Now use the soup feature on your InstaPot. It should cook on high pressure for about 30 minutes.
- Once complete, use an immersion blender (or pour into a standard blender) to puree and blend the contents till the mixture is smooth.
- Serve! You can garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds or chives if you’d like.
I’ve been getting braver with my recipes… and today I took inspiration from a handful of frittata recipes to create my own version using what we already had on hand. I’m posting here my version to share and for me to remember my modifications for future reference.🙂
- 1 lb spicy Italian sausage
- 1 white onion, diced
- 2 cups of mushrooms, sliced
- 1 tbsp. fresh basil (mine came from my garden), chopped or cut into strips
- 1 tbsp ghee
- 8 eggs
- 1/4 cup almond milk
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese or 4-cheese blend (use fresh)
- salt & pepper to taste
- Pre-heat the oven to 400F.
- Saute the onions in ghee in an oven safe skillet – preferably a 10″ cast-iron skillet.
- Start browning the Italian sausage in a separate skillet.
- Add the sliced mushrooms to the onions a couple of minutes later.
- Cook the onions & mushrooms on medium heat until the mushrooms are cooked through – about another 5 minutes.
- While the onions & mushrooms cook, whisk the eggs, almond milk, cheese & basil in a bowl. Salt & pepper to taste.
- Add the browned sausage to the onions & mushrooms (be sure to drain the oil before adding).
- Add the egg mixture to the onions, mushrooms and sausage mix already in the oven safe skillet.
- Place the skillet into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.
- If you’d like to brown the top, switch to the broiler setting and broil it for another 3-5 minutes.
I did follow Sherry‘s advice though and I bough these great silicone muffin cups online (less than $7 for 24!) since she warned me that the various paleo flours when baked tend to stick to regular liners more than regular baked goods. These things have worked perfectly and I love the bright colors!
My first attempt at paleo muffins were these Lemon-Blueberry Paleo Muffins. Sorry I didn’t get a picture of them. The texture was different than standard muffins due to the almond flour and they were almost a bit too moist – I might try less lemon juice next time but the flavor was good. I did add a few more blueberries than the recipe called for. I also tried the “sprinkles” topping (lemon juice & coconut sugar) but felt it didn’t really add anything to the muffin so I’ll just skip it next time. So, yea, the recipe is a keeper and will stay in my recipe book.
My second attempt were these *delicious* Paleo Chocolate Banana Muffins. I did take a photo of these! I brought some to work so I don’t end up eating all of them myself and they were well received. Be warned though – you can taste the banana in these so I don’t recommend these if you don’t like bananas.
I must confess – I did use semi-sweet mini morsels instead of more paleo friendly dark chocolate ones because I still had some in my pantry. Next time I bake these I will use the dark chocolate ones. Although, to be honest, the mini morsels were a perfect size (vs. regular size chocolate chips) and I don’t think I have ever seen dark chocolate mini morsels. Also, the topping wasn’t paleo, but again, it’s what I had in my pantry. If you feel like breaking the rules a bit too, I recommend Hershey’s Triple Chocolate Dessert Topping. It was perfect for these muffins! These are also staying the recipe book but will only be made as an occasional treat since they were rather decadent but oh so good!
Well, so far so good. I am down *almost* 11 lbs (10.8 to be exact) and I’ve stayed pretty true to the paleo diet. I know we can now have honey but I am working on not using it too much (limiting it to baked goods and a tbsp or so in recipes every now & then) and same with dairy (no yogurt, no milk, limited cheese). I have had a couple of sugar-free apple ciders but really can’t recall outright and deliberately cheating on the diet (do semi-sweet chocolate morsels instead of dark chocolate ones in some paleo muffins count?). A few things may have snuck in inadvertently due to eating out but I’m trying!
I hardly lost any weight this past week (0.2 lbs) but it wasn’t a gain either. I’ve adjusted my snacking habits and am slowly adjusting to this new way of life. Just this past week alone I’ve avoided birthday cake (red velvet and strawberry), donuts, chips & queso, buttery garlic bread rolls and Mexican coke.
My personal triumph at this time is I am down one pant size. I had kept a few pair of favorite dress slacks that were one size too small and had gotten too tight for me. I can now wear them again (some size 14s!) and today I am even wearing the only pair of brown slacks I own. These had gotten so tight they gave me a bad case of camel toe and they were uncomfortable but not today! I’m also wearing some shirts again I had avoided because they had gotten a bit tight across the stomach. It’s nice having some new wardrobe options without having to buy new clothes. Small victories, I know.
Some habits I have changed:
- I now drink my coffee black or with almond milk. Also drinking cold brew coffee over ice that we made at home.
- I drink unsweet tea too – with lots of lemon! And sparkling water with fruit essence.
- I stopped drinking fruit juices (we always had OJ in the fridge). I do miss it.
- I also stopped drinking my daily glass of milk with Ovaltine (I have had a glass of chocolate milk every morning since I was a child so this was a big deal).
- We now cook a LOT more at home.
- I myself actually cook a meal about once a week and help Kenny more in the kitchen. I’ve baked a couple of paleo muffins too!
- Pinterest is my new BFF again – it’s invaluable in helping me pin recipes and meal plan.
- I am bringing my lunch to work almost every day when I used to actually eat out every single day. We fill the dishwasher with a lot of to-go containers.
- We go grocery shopping on a weekly basis when before we only went every few weeks with quick stops at Target for some staples (like milk).
- Not paleo related but still a new habit – Pilates class twice a week. I haven’t missed since starting!
Thanks to all of you who continue to encourage and support!