Paleo Strawberry Salad

My favorite go-to #paleo salad recipe:

  • Organic lettuce – I like romaine and bibb lettuce the best.
  • Organic sliced carrots
  • Organic sliced strawberries
  • Uncured cooked bacon – I will cook up several slices at a time, let them completely cool, then chop it up and place in a BPA free plastic sealed container to use throughout the week.
  • Organic sliced baked chicken – Coat in 100% pure olive oil (my favorite is California brand), Real salt, and fresh ground pepper. For 1lb. bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Check that the temperature inside the chicken is above 165 degrees with a meat thermometer.
  • Olive Oil & Vinegar – I like to shake up some olive oil with red wine vinegar before drizzling on the salad.

The carrots and the strawberries add a little sweetness. The bacon adds a little saltiness. And the olive oil is your good source of fat that doesn’t overpower any of the other flavors when mixed together.

What are your favorite #paleo salad ingredients?

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Primal reflection – 2.5 years in

I wrote about my switch to a primal lifestyle and diet almost 2 and a half years ago. It’s been an incredible road since then finding out what foods work best for me. Eliminating certain foods at one time seemed such a daunting task. The psychological, emotional, and physical hurdles that are presented to you are not easily conquered. However, with patience and diligence (and non-judgment!), I do wholeheartedly believe that anyone can do it. And that’s brings me to the topic top of mind for me today – why we eat. Just as Socrates says, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” it follows that you must truly know why you eat to be able to jump some of your eating habit hurdles to achieve great health.

Hurdle #1 – Eating as an event

Where there is a party, there usually is a bountiful spread of  grain & sugar-laden foods. One of the reasons for this is that chips and queso are cheap and lots of carbs are good to have around when there are copious amounts of alcohol. (You know, to “soak up” that alcohol as people usually say.) Examining why we drink copious amounts of alcohol is another hurdle for another day. (However, eliminating that would also eliminate the need for any foods to do the “soaking up.”)  But back to the party. We have to break our usual practice of eating as an event if we are ever going to get at the root of why we eat. For this hurdle, this is just a habit. It’s an easy way to get people together. But do we really need to be in “feast” mode every time we get together friends?

Hurdle #2 Life is and always will be stressful

My wonderful husband reminded me the other day of a phrase I used to say all the time, “you’ve got to play hard to work hard.” Many of us have extremely stressful, demanding lives – work, family, money, civic involvements, etc. They will never stop being hectic, but our approach to that can change. I’ve had to learn that being on top of my game at work, doesn’t mean that I have to have everything together all the time. I’m not a person where moderation comes easy. Most often in life, I’ve had an all or nothing view. However, I have seen first hand that moderation can be learned and is actually preferable. The moment that I forbid myself from doing something, I immediately want to do it more than ever before. But if I rationalize and allow myself to make a conscious decision on why I do something, I usually end up making the better choice and within a happier frame of mind.

Hurdle #3 The psychological and emotional side of it all

One of the most profound things I have learned in the last few years is that the mind and the body are not separate entities. You can’t master one without affecting the other. For myself, I had no clue that I was eating to make myself FEEL better. I think that often you hear something life that, and you immediately think of someone who is depressed or overweight or someone who has made lots of bad decisions in life. But in actuality, we all can do this (sometimes very subtly) in our daily lives. “I haven’t cheated once this whole week, so tonight I’m going to treat myself.” “It was a really stressful day at work and things happened completely out of my control, so I could really use something comforting to eat right now.” “I am really tired, and I already skipped out on doing some exercise so I’m just going to sit and enjoy some really good food.” The list of reasons goes on and on……. Then guilt sets in. We begin thinking extremely negative thoughts about ourselves. Judging ourselves. And then we feel worse than we did at the beginning when we decided to “treat ourselves.” It is an incredibly vicious cycle that can’t be stopped until a conscious, present decision is made to deal with the feelings of disappointment that started it off in the first place.  Let me be the first to say that sometimes dealing with those feelings at the beginning is opening a pandora’s box of all kinds of other things you had no clue were even bothering you, but with patience and non-judgment, those things can be dealt with just like anything else. Once you get at the root of the problem, the cycle begins to break down on it’s own. You’ve already taken the hardest step, chosen the long road, didn’t reach for that “quick fix,” and it only gets easier after that.

Tackling “why we eat” is an incredible undertaking, but the rewards far outweigh the difficulties. There is never a point in life where you can say, “Well, I figured it out so now I’m done. I’m going to just sit back and relax from here on out.” We’ve never got it figured out. We may know as much as we can for a time, but there will always be something else to understand in the future. So let me close by saying this – stop judging yourself, right now in this moment and in every moment in the future that judgment creeps in. Just allow yourself to understand – don’t force it. The mind is a brilliant and sometimes deceptive machine, but it has sustained mankind for many years and will continue to do so for many more. Respect your intellect and let it guide you. Don’t compare yourself to others because they can’t help you figure this part out. No two people can possibly think or experience thought in the exact same way. Only you know what is truly best for you – that is if you been “examining your life.” 🙂 Trust that you can and will make the better decisions.

In Response to Mark Sisson’s Post – “Women and Intermittent Fasting”

I’ve been following Mark Sisson’s (of MarksDailyApple.com) blog post series about intermittent fasting.  Today’s post titled “Dear Mark: Women and Intermittent Fasting” brought two things to my attention: 1) I have my own experience to share on the topic and 2) We need more posts from a primal woman’s point of view. So…..I’m combining those two now.

Over the years I have experienced varying degrees of fasting, from several days to eating just 1 meal or a few small meals during a single day.  What I have learned can really be summed up in a phrase “listen to your body.”  That may sound too simple, but I’ve found that the harder you try to fight your body, especially when it comes to hunger, the worse the outcome.  Think about the hungriest you’ve ever been, then throw in some irritability and extra adrenaline. What are you going to do the moment you get your hands on food? Yep, eat like there’s no tomorrow. You may think you’ve done something good for your body by fasting, but then you’ve undone it all during the overeat. However, where I think fasting does make sense is when you really don’t feel hungry (or hungry for a full meal – I feel this often.)  If I eat just a very small portion of something sustainable, such as a small portion of protein and veggies – I’m talking a few bites of each, it seems to jive better than going without food at all for a long period of time.

So it sounds like I might be saying “eat several small meals per day,” but I’m really not. I do find it less time consuming and more fitting for digestion to eat reasonable sized meals 3 times a day for the most part. However, interspersing very small meals here in there or prolonging the period between one meal to another has proven for me to be very effective. More over, that whole “eat breakfast” thing people are always talking about….well I’ve found it to be beneficial in helping stabilize eating throughout the day. I do keep my breakfast to a small portion as well. I have found that overeating on breakfast or brunch can make my day almost worthless.

Another behavior that I think primal people try to stray away from is snacking. I believe this to be short-sided for reasons I’ve mentioned above. Mindless eating is of course not good, but you are less likely to mindless eat when you’re filling your body with protein and vegetables.  I have found that having a small snack in the mid-morning, afternoon, or shortly after getting home from work can go a really long way in sustaining you until your next primal meal.

So to sum it all up, eat reasonable meals when you’re hungry and don’t eat when you’re not hungry. Sound simple? Awesome. My job is done. 🙂 (Of course, this is just my own experience. I encourage you to explore your own and then share how it goes!)

My paleo staples

After reading Mark Sisson’s post “How Important Is Food Variety,” inevitably it made me think about my regular paleo eats and how often I have to switch it up to ward off food boredom.  I do believe that food boredom is something everyone experiences whether you stick to a particular diet plan or if you eat willy nilly as well as if you eat out a lot or cook at home. Growing up, my family ate out a lot, so we would eat at the same restaurants within in fairly small radius. I continued eating in that fashion even after I ventured out on my own. I worked in restaurants through high school & college and usually brought home leftovers, so cooking for myself consisted of grilled cheese, french toast, soup out of a can and eggs. I may be the exception more than the rule here as going primal opened up a whole new world of food options for me. I also cook more meals now than ever before, and by “cook” I mean actually cook with pots and pans, usually from scratch & without involving the microwave.

Crazy thing is, my life certainly hasn’t gotten any less hectic in the last year, but I’m able to find the time to cook more. I think my “usual paleo eats” have a lot to do with this. I have refined my favorite paleo foods and found ways to make them even simpler. And it’s your lucky day because I will share them all with you! (Note: It is likely that you will not share the EXACT SAME tastes as me, so please modify as you see fit.)

Mornings

My morning staples are usually coffee and either  a smoothie or leftovers. The key to a good smoothie is a good blender. My favorite is the Ninja, partly because of the name, partly because it’s a blending badass.

Here are my favorite smoothie ingredients:

A combination of fresh and frozen berries (strawberries & blueberries are my favs)

Unsweetened So Delicious coconut milk (from the cold section at the grocery store)

Fresh ground almond butter (just almonds, no oil or salt)

I’ve tried coconut milk from a can and find it disgusting in a smoothie. I have tried every type of berry possible, but the sweeter berries usually work out the best. There are a lot of almond butters out there that have all kinds of crazy oils added to them. Therefore, I just stick to the freshly ground stuff from Earthfare. I think it tastes the best too.

Lunchtime

With so many varieties, you can’t really go wrong with a salad. Leave off the cheese (unless you get some raw milk cheese) and throw on some oil & vinegar or lemon and you’re set!

Here is a list of my favorite salads when going out:

Panera – Greek salad with grilled chicken or Grilled Chicken Cobb Salad

Bravo – New Balsamico Chicken Cobb Salad – leave off the cheese & pasta strips

Gourmet Market – Greek salad with grilled chicken or Market Salad with grilled chicken, their tuna salad is also pretty rockin’.

Lenny’s – Grilled Chicken Philly Salad w/ everything but no cheese

Dinner Specialties

Dinner is where I will mix it up a bit. I always cook with organic grass-fed or pasture raised meats. Most often I choose a grass-fed helping of ground sirloin or pasture raised chicken. Spices are what make these meals great. I most often use chili powder, fresh garlic, sea salt, ground pepper, red pepper flakes, dill, oregano, tumeric, cumin, or cinnamon. You can’t really go wrong with dashing your food with spices. I try to keep cooking simple by always having good veggies on hand like spinach, brussel sprouts, broccoli, celery, or asparagus. I’ve finally learned it’s more important to use REALLY good ingredients than spending 1-2 hours on a really fancy dish. You wear yourself out trying to cook like that all the time.

Caveman Cookies and Larabars

Recently I have stumbled across some new paleo treats that I wanted to share. I have been preparing for vacation (out of the country) and looking for some snacks I could take that would be packable and a good alternative to a non-paleo meal I may be presented. Both of these you’d want to eat in moderation, but after trying them this past week, I’m happy to say that they are delicious paleo treats that you don’t have to cook!

Caveman Cookies

A friend of mine passed along the Caveman Cookies website to me, so of course I had to buy some. I went ahead and got all three flavors to test them out.

My favorite is the Original. It tastes similar to an oatmeal raisin cookie, just not nearly as sweet. This is actually a plus as your taste buds become more sensitive when you cut out sugar on the paleo diet. The Tropical were also delicious with a sweet coconut flavor. The Alpine are definitely named well as a winter treat with their hazelnutiness.

Beyond the cookies tasting great, the online purchase experience was top notch. I replied to the order confirmation email I received when I realized that it didn’t give me the discount they were advertising on their Facebook page, and someone emailed me back almost immediately to say they had changed the total for my order. Very nice people making some delicious cookies.

Larabars

I posted on my Facebook wall that I had discovered Larabars and that they were “Flippin awesome…..and paleo friendly,” only to be quickly warned by one of the lovable CrossFit Ktown coaches to be careful with these. You really do have to look at which ones you get. The Apple Pie and Blueberry Muffin seem to be two of the lowest in sugar content which is from a natural source, but you definitely want to eat in moderation. These bars are all natural made from fruit and nuts. I picked up the Apple Pie kind at a local Target and was pleasantly surprised by how good and filling they are.

Paleo Challenge Day 42

 

There are so many things that I’ve learned in just a little over a month on the paleo challenge. The last two weeks have been great for me. People are starting to notice that I look leaner – many of whom know that I’ve been doing the challenge, so they know it has a lot to do with the way that I’m eating. That makes me more excited than anything. I know that when I’ve seen people who look lean or healthy, I wonder what their secret is. Are they just naturally that way? Do they work out for hours on end every day? Do they ever eat junk food? I can honestly say that the results I’ve had come from no secret formula – just strict paleo eating and regular exercise. It can be that simple.

 

I’ve been thinking more and more about lifestyle maintenance and balance. I do believe that the most important thing in daily living is a life that is balanced – meaning there isn’t just one thing in life that is your entire life. I think American culture teaches us to often be laser-focused on a goal and work only to achieve that goal in as little time as possible. Not that there’s anything wrong with having goals and working toward them. However, working just to achieve a goal and not taking in everything that happens along the way including changing direction somewhere, could mean missing out on something great.

 

Along with CrossFit and the many outdoor activities I enjoy, I have been practicing yoga since I was 12 years old. Only when I reached my 20s did I actually receive in-depth personal instruction, but the years of practice before then helped me to understand some of the central values of yoga practice. I know a lot of people hear the word “yoga” and instantly think of granola people in hemp sandals and use words like “man” and “dude” a lot. I am sometimes mistaken as a “tree hugger” because of my yoga-practicing-outdoor-loving ways. But that’s okay, because I love so many things about yoga. Yoga teaches you to be present, to release yourself from judgment especially self-judgment, to face challenges bravely because they are essential to life, to always strive for balance, and to not take yourself too seriously (definitely good to smile during yoga practice).

 

The balance I feel in my life at the moment comes from many things – but especially through the things I’ve learned from yoga, CrossFit, and a paleo lifestyle. I feel so very blessed and full and look forward to many more things later in life that may come my way.

Paleo Challenge Day 31

Today marks a full month into the challenge. I’m feeling so good at this point. I wake up between 6:00-6:30 every morning including weekends, and I have enough energy to work or play all day. People everywhere have been asking me how the “paleo thing” is going, and I love it!  That’s exactly what I was hoping for by blogging my way through the challenge. I know how the power of a community can change you and keep you accountable everywhere you go.  So thank you to everyone who has been reading and asking me about it!

For the most part, I’m not missing many of the old foods I used to eat, except for all of the delicious cold summer treats like ice cream. But I think I have to give more credit to the community I’m part of than my own will power. Not only has social media & the blogosphere helped keep me motivated, but the community at CrossFit Ktown is unlike any other. Every time I step into the gym, I’m greeted with happy, smiling faces and encouraging words. I workout with coaches who not only teach this lifestyle, but live it themselves. I’m taking advice on how to eat better paleo meals from someone (rather, a group) who is eating that way too.  It doesn’t feel weird inside the walls of CFKT like it does sometimes when I get that lovely “you’re crazy” look quickly followed by, “What?? You don’t eat any bread?”

I think I’ve heard the phrases, “Oh, I could never do that,” or “There’s no way I could give up bread, cheese, or sugar,” about 100 times. Then today I hopped on over to Mark’s Daily Apple blog. The post is about “The Blame Game” and how easily we opt ourselves out of changing because it’d be too hard. The post starts with an insightful quote,

“The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.”

Albert Ellis, psychologist

I found this post particularly inspiring today because I’ve used every excuse in the book to talk my way out of making a real change at different points in my life.  I’m sure I’ve missed out on many really good things because the cost of changing was too high. But I realize now that when you’ve got a community of people behind you who care about you, it makes a world of difference. It doesn’t seem so difficult anymore.