My Verdict on Whole 30

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was starting out on a food challenge known as Whole30. A quick recap–it’s an elimination diet that excludes most inflammatory foods like grains, dairy, sugar and most starches. It’s very Paleo-like.

The whole point of this (for me) was to overcome some tummy upset I had developed after a necessary round of meds, lose that bloated feeling and hopefully improve a few areas like energy, PMS and skin health.

So how did it go?

Overall, I was really happy with the program and results for me. I had two major improvements. First, the tummy issues went away rather quickly. I had been dealing with the fallout of antibiotics and my belly was grumbling at everything. So taking out foods like gluten and sugar and uncultured dairy for a time, while enjoying my probiotic rich coconut milk kefir, did wonders for digestion.

kefir

Second, I had a ton more energy. Which was especially helpful since we were in that time of year when you’re trying to wrap up school, there are a thousand performances to attend, and there’s a ton to do outside.

But to give you the nitty gritty of my humble opinion, I thought I’d do a little pro and con list for you.

The Pros of Whole30

If I had to pick the biggest perk of this eating plan, it would have to be the veggies. If you’re doing it right (and not having bacon as the center piece of every meal) then the bulk of what you’re eating involves vegetables. I had veggie fritters and salads and slaw. I ate seared cauliflower and sauteed zucchini with pasta sauce and grilled peppers and onions. I made sweet potato hash and butternut squash fries.

I ate a LOAD more veggies than what might normally cross my plate. Lots of vegetables that deliver a ton of benefits. More vitamins and minerals from real food sources. More fiber. Less bloating bulk. And I begin to think that some of the results that I (and others) have on this diet aren’t so much from the things you don’t eat, but from all the new things you are eating.

I also believe that the uptake in energy had a lot to do with the increase in vegetables. Usually, if I go without my beloved multi vitamin for more than a few days, I feel a significant decrease in my energy. But while I was on this eating plan, I frequently forgot, with no loss at all.

slaw prep

Other positive things I noticed:

  • The skin on my face cleared up
  • I slept a good bit better
  • My moods were more even, probably because the meals kept me fuller, longer and evened out my blood sugar.
  • My sugar cravings went significantly down.
  • I lost a few pounds (and I didn’t really have the time to exercise much)
  • Some PMS symptoms were a little better (though I’m figuring you’d have to do a whole lot more than a month to see long term changes there)
  • I was a lot more mindful about what I was eating. No mindless noshing on whatever is closest, whether I’m hungry or not.

 

The Cons

But to be completely honest, there were a few drawbacks for me.

  • Having to plan, plan and plan some more. It became a little mentally draining to have to think that hard about what I ate constantly. I suppose for folks who eat this way all the time, it become second nature.
  • Making separate food for me. The entire family was not eating this way. And although I tried to plan dinners that were easy for me to adapt, I was still doing an extra step a lot of the time.
  • The detox period. You have to weather the first few days when your body is crying out for sugar or wheat or whatever. I had a non-stop splitting headache for about four days. Now, I think a detox is good for all of us every now and then. None of us need to be addicted to certain foods. But you should just be aware that it can be rough at first.
  • Not baking! I LOVE to bake, and the Whole30 program discourages you from baking even Paleo versions of your favorite baked goods. The idea is to have you stop associating a certain treat with the way you feel. So even if it’s a brownie sweetened with honey and made with almond flour, it’s still out for a time. Fortunately, I was still baking for customers who ordered bread and for my kiddos. Cause yes, I have a NEED to bake. (And no, I didn’t sample.)
  • The price tag. I know there are people out there who say that healthy diets don’t have to cost more. But in reality, they usually do. Coconut milk costs more than regular dairy. Meat costs more than beans and rice. And a cart full of veggies (even in season ones) will usually run more than pasta or sacks of flour. I did a number on my grocery budget that month, and it was only one of us eating this way. Yes, your health and quality food is worth the investment. But the bottom line is the bottom line. And if you only have so much in the bank, then that’s what you’ve got to work with. (To that end, I’m putting together a little post of the biggest bang for your buck veggies.)

dinner

So, was it worth it? I’d say, yes. Yes it was. It was very good to break the sugar cycle, remind myself to eat mindfully and to increase my veggie intake. And everyone loves it when their jeans are a little roomier.

What I’ll keep in my back pocket are lots more meals of grilled veggies (after all, grilling season is in full swing!), salads from the garden and saving the sweets for special occasions. (Unfortunately, getting the kids in bed does NOT constitute a special occasion.)

What about you?

Ever done an elimination diet? What was your verdict on the experience?

 

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Lemon Blueberry Muffins (with gluten and dairy free options)

*This post is linked up with Gluten Free & DIY Tuesdays at Allergy Free Alaska and Jeanie of the Baking Beauties. Check it out!

I was having a bit of a diva in the kitchen fit that Saturday. I had declared the night before, in no uncertain terms, that I was NOT going to bake anything in the morning. I was tired. My feet hurt. And it was time (I again declared with great flare) that the children learn to do for themselves a bit more at meal times.

So there. I sure told them. (Hangs head in shame.)

I got up the next morning and made my coffee. I threw together a pan of scrambled eggs (cause I was hungry, mind you–and note there was still no baking).

But then the blueberries in the frig caught my eye. And the wheels started spinning. I remembered the leftover lemon glaze in the frig from a scone order I’d made. The NEED started building. Cause sometimes a girl needs warm fluffy muffins studded with fresh blueberries and lemon zest. Yes need.

So I looked up a few recipes and found one that I had all the ingredients for (Yay!) and I could adapt for my daughter’s food allergies. (It wasn’t totally about me.)

 

blueberry muffins 1

 

This is the gluten/dairy free version I made that morning. For the fluffiest and yummiest texture, I really recommend the flour ratio I used. If you have some other gf mix you’d like to use, feel free, just note that I can’t say for sure what it will be like.

(This recipe is adapted from this one at Heavenly Homemakers. While I’m at it, I’d highly recommend you check out this blog. Super encouraging, practical, and everything Laura makes is real food and tasty!)

blueberry muffins 2

Lemon Blueberry Muffins (gluten and dairy free)

blueberry muffin thumbnail

  • 1 1/2 cups flour (I used a mix of 1/2 cup almond flour, 1/2 cup sorghum flour–millet would work well too–and 1/2 cup tapioca starch. Couldn’t even tell it was gluten free!)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 melted coconut oil (or butter)
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk (I buy this brand) + TB lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup blueberries
  • Zest 1 Lemon, plus the juice
  • powdered sugar (enough to make a glaze, about 1 cup)

In a large mixing bowl, whisk all the dry ingredients (including the lemon zest) together until well blended. In another, smaller bowl, whisk together egg, melted oil (make sure it’s not too hot) and coconut milk plus the TB lemon juice. Add the wet into the dry and mix well. Gently fold in the blueberries. Divide the batter among the muffin tins (makes 10-12 muffins). Make sure they are well greased or use paper liners. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until tops begin to brown slightly and a toothpick comes out clean. (Keep in mind that gf baked goods don’t often brown as much as wheat.)

Carefully remove the muffins to a cooling rack after they’ve baked. Juice your lemon into a small bowl and whisk in enough powdered sugar to get a thick, but pour-able glaze. Once the muffins have cooled completely, drizzle with the glaze. Allow the glaze to harden up a bit before serving–but I have to confess I didn’t posses the self control to wait that long!

So, yeah, I ended up baking anyway. Which no one was really all that shocked about. And now we will enjoy these muffins repeatedly while the fresh blueberries are in season. And I promise I’ll try to be a little nicer :). 

 

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Our Favorite Afternoon Treat–Almond Banana Chocolate Pops

 

popsicle

This post is part of Gluten Free & DIY Tuesday at Allergy Free Alaska and The Baking Beauties. And also at Pennywise Platter Thursdays at The Nourishing Gourmet.

It’s getting hot out there folks! We’ve been practically living outside the last couple weeks. And with all this heat and activity, my people need a cool, refreshing, and filling snack. I’d like it if it were on the frugal side and super low in added sugar.

This little treat fits the bill. You can make it allergy friendly. Whips up incredibly fast. Creamy and it’s surprisingly sweet even though we don’t add any sugar to it!

It’s more of a method than an exact recipe, so play with it until you find the perfect version for your family!

Almond Banana Chocolate Pops

  • 1-2 frozen bananas, broken into smaller pieces (I probably end up with a total of 1 1/2 bananas, but I just pull chunks out of the freezer that I’ve put in there previously. Great use for over ripe bananas!)
  • 2 rounded tablespoons of almond butter (or nut butter of choice)
  • 2 rounded tablespoons of cocoa powder
  • tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • milk (dairy, coconut or almond)

Break out your blender and add all ingredients except the milk. Pour in the milk until it’s nearly 1/2 to 3/4 the amount of other ingredients (The amount of milk you’ll need depends on how powerful your blender is. You’ll want something in the end that’s really thick–like a stiff milkshake–but still pour-able. If you’re blender is on the wimpy side and you have to add more milk to get it moving, don’t worry, it will still be great!)

Blend on high until it’s moving around in there pretty good and all the ingredients are well combined. Give it a taste. We find that it gets plenty of sweetness from the banana and vanilla. But if it’s not quite enough for you, feel free to add a drizzle of maple syrup or stevia powder and blend some more.

Adjust the flavors to your hearts content!

Pour the mixture into popsicle molds (Don’t have any? These are a good buy.) Freeze for a few hours and then enjoy!

And totally off topic…I thought I’d be totally real and show off the piles of yard sale stuff in the background of my daughter’s picture. Your welcome.

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Me On Whole30

*I’m not associated with the Whole30 program, nor am I a health profession. Just someone sharing my story. Please consult a doctor/use care when starting any eating program.

Last week, I started an eating program/elimination diet called Whole30®. You may have heard of it. Loads of folks took up the challenge after the New Year, in hopes of hitting the dietary “reset” button after a season of holiday treats.

So why am I doing it now? Several reasons, actually. I’ve got a serious (I mean SERIOUS) sweet tooth problem right now. You might have seen me, in one of my weaker moments, grabbing several bags of Easter candy in the Aldi check out lane. Then, you would have seen me (in several other weak moments) polishing off nearly two bags in a week’s time. (My husband, in an effort to be helpful, reminded me that he helped with the candy eating. But let’s be honest. It was mostly me.)

As for other reasons, my system is a mess after my recent fight with laryngitis/bronchitis and the antibiotic and prednisone that followed. Milk was bugging me (antibiotics are a major culprit in lactose intolerance). Nearly every time I ate I had stomach pain and bloating. And all the yogurt and probiotics weren’t touching it.

And there are a few other pesky problems I’ve been dealing with over the last few months. Skin stuff and hormone stuff (sorry fellas) and energy slumps.

Whole30® is one of those elimination programs (like GAPS or SCD) that’s designed to *hopefully* help with some of that. You remove inflammatory foods from your diet for 30 days to allow your body to do some healing, break the sugar or bread addiction and (when you reintroduce things) pinpoint foods that may be triggering your symptoms.

It’s not nearly as restrictive as GAPS or SCD, nor is it for as long. As far as my limited knowledge takes me, those programs are better suited to folks who have some MAJOR issues that require a much longer period of healing. (Like Crohns, ulcerative colitis, celiac or other serious autoimmune issues.)

What I’ll be eating

I’m still working through the material (you can find a quick guide pdf here), but the basic gist of this diet is Paleo based. (I’m not a subscriber to the philosophy behind Paleo…but that’s for another post.) The creators of Whole30® don’t push the caveman thing anyway–but focus on studies and client results.

(I do find all the science really interesting and plan on finishing the rest of their book, It Starts With Food.)

whole30

(Amazon affiliate link)

What that all means is that I’ll be eating plenty of unprocessed, real protein (hot dogs and most cold cuts are out), loads of veggies, some fruits and lots of real, nourishing fat.

What’s off limits? Grains, white potatoes (sweet potatoes and winter squashes are okay), starches, legumes, dairy (OUCH–I do love my cheese), and sweetener of any kind, natural or otherwise. These are actually the foods that most often make my tummy grumble, so I can’t argue with the list.

(Oh, and I do realize the great irony of me giving up bread for 30 days after I announced to my local Facebook friends that I’ll be selling loaves of sourdough. But at least I still get to bake!)

I’ve done enough research and experimenting (on myself) to know that these types of clean, easy to digest diets really do go a long way to reducing inflammation and restoring balance to the body. You’re doing more than putting a ban on certain foods. By taking them out of the equation, you’re also removing any processed, fake foods from your diet. Veggie (and therefore nutrient) intake goes up by default.

In the short term, I expect some impressive headaches (and perhaps some crankiness) as my body cries out for its daily sugar fix. Sad, when you think of it.

I seriously debated sharing my plan with anyone…cause then I’m accountable. Keep me on track, will ya? And over the next month I’ll give you updates here and there on how it’s going and what I’m eating, if you’re into that.

And now I’m curious?

Ever done an elimination diet? Was it helpful for you?

 

 


Mexican Beef Stew

stew

Stew meat is one of those great, economical cuts of meat. We usually end up with quite a bit after hunting season. Whether yours is beef or venison, the long braise in lots of flavor filled liquid gives you tender, moist, meaty goodness.

We’re big fans of the traditional “beef stew” with a gravy like broth and loads of carrots and potatoes. But sometimes you want a little variety. So we came up with this. Sort of a chili, or Mexican inspired stew. All that acid in the tomatoes tenderizes the meat beautifully.

We like to make a big pot of it and serve it along side Spanish rice, refried beans and fresh, warm tortillas for a Mexican feast!

mexistew ingred

Mexican Beef Stew

  • Servings: 6 large portions
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 to 2 lbs. of stew meat (beef or venison)
  • 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 medium onion, 1 bell pepper, 3 cloves garlic–chopped
  • 3 – 4 rounded tablespoons of flour
  • 2 TB chili powder
  • TB cumin
  • TB dried oregano
  • couple shakes of crushed red pepper (or to taste)
  • Salt to taste (I start with 1/2 tsp. It depends on how salty your stock or tomatoes are.)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • fat for browning meat (olive oil, palm shortening, meat drippings)
  • Other optional add ins like corn or black beans
  1. In a large heavy bottomed stock pot or dutch oven, melt or heat the fat/oil over medium high heat. Once it’s hot, add the stew meat to the pan. Sprinkle with a little salt. (You might have to brown it in a couple of batches. If you over crowd the pan, the meat will just boil instead of searing.) Stir it once or twice so it gets mostly brown, but don’t fiddle with it too much.
  2. Remove the seared meat to a bowl. (It won’t be cooked all the way through, that’s okay.) Add a little extra fat if needed and add the onions and pepper to the pot. Sprinkle with a little salt. Sauté for a couple of minutes, until they start to soften, and then add in the garlic.
  3. After a couple more minutes, sprinkle in the flour and stir to distribute evenly. Add a little more fat to the pan if it seems dry. Stir and cook the flour/veggie mixture for just a couple more minutes.
  4. Add in the seasonings and tomato paste and stir. (A note: I use rather inexpensive spices. You might not need quite so much, especially if your chili powder is rather spicy. You could start with about half as much if you’re using high quality spices and add more depending on how you like it.)
  5. Slowly stir in the stock. Use a wooden spoon to work the lumps out of the broth and scrap the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. You could also use a whisk here to keep the flour from lumping up. But if you keep it moving and pour the broth in batches, working it smooth until you add more, it should be fine. (This is a good place to taste the broth–before you add undercooked meat back in–and adjust your salt level.)
  6. Add in the canned tomatoes and bay leaves and the stew meat. Stir to combine.
  7. Bring it to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer on low for 1 hour or more, stirring occasionally. (Or, if you’re pot is oven proof, you could put it into the oven on 325. Another option is to transfer the whole thing to the crockpot on low if you’re going to be out for a while.)

Make plenty of tortillas and rice to sop up all the rich, spicy broth. ENJOY!


One Family, Different Diets

It’s not uncommon, these days, to meet a family with different dietary needs all under one roof. A child with a dairy allergy. Another who’s sensitive to wheat. An adult who has to follow the SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) because of other issues. Everybody has different (legitimate) needs.

For the cook/meal planner of the household, it can be confusing, expensive and exhausting to meet these needs. But it doesn’t have to.

For about 7 years now, I have been on that road–finding the root of different allergy and skin conditions for my youngest. First we were told no wheat (or any gluten grains), dairy or peanuts. I dove into about every source I could find for gluten and allergy free baking. The peanuts were fairly easy to avoid.

Fast forward a few years and she also went through an especially ill period where she tested allergic to oats (which I had been using like crazy as a substitute for wheat flour), corn (in EVERYTHING) and all the old culprits as well. Time to revamp her foods…again.

In that time, I’ve done a few other elimination type diets either on my own for different health reasons, or with my daughter so she doesn’t feel all alone. Meanwhile, the three other members of the family are sitting there with their loaf of bread, block ‘o cheese and peanut butter–ready to eat whatever, whenever.

So what do you do to keep your sanity in tact and budget under control? These are some strategies I’ve developed for us.

Make dinners friendly for everyone

IMG_2386Meatloaf! We all love meatloaf 🙂

For the most part, our dinners are what we call “Ella friendly.” That means, when I plan our weekly menu, most of our dinners are wheat, corn and dairy free. We can all enjoy beef stew, chicken pot pie, meatloaf, chicken fried rice, salmon patties, and a ton of other dishes with no trace of the foods that set her off.

The key is to focus on what everyone can have, instead of lamenting what you might be missing.

Keep some meal parts in the freezer and pantry

For the meals where this strategy won’t work, like pizza night, I keep the allergy free components on hand, in the freezer. I’ll make a batch of gf pizza dough, slice it up, and put it in a freezer bag. That way, all I have to do is pull out a few pieces, top and bake. I do this with her biscuits, too.

In the pantry, I keep some rice pasta for spaghetti nights. It’s not too much trouble to have two pots of pasta boiling at once.

Sometimes, everyone can eat allergy free

I know I just said that I’ll keep different meal parts handy so Ella can enjoy pizza night or pasta night, too. But sometimes, it’s just easier if everyone eats the same thing. For instance, we all eat the gf banana muffins for breakfast. When I make graham crackers for everyone, then everyone is eating allergy free. And I’ve found a gf buckwheat pancake recipe that we all love.

IMG_2305gf banana muffins with chocolate chips

As a bonus, the entire family is reaping the benefits of varying our grains, getting a wider variety of vitamins and minerals. And the coconut oil I so often bake with (to be dairy free) is full of health benefits for all of us.

It’s a matter of balance. Yes, it costs more if we all eat allergy free. Gluten free flours and coconut milk are always going to cost more than wheat flour and dairy. So sometimes, to save money, I save the gf pasta for her. Or I’ll make a separate batch of crackers.

But it’s a trade off on my time and sanity as well. I CAN’T make two of everything. I just don’t have that kind of time. The thing to do is decide for yourself. What is your time worth and what do you have in your grocery budget? I think we land somewhere in the middle.

It can be daunting to suddenly have to cook for those with special food needs. Some choose to overhaul the entire kitchen and the whole family’s diet. Some serve those special foods only to the one individual. I don’t think there’s one RIGHT way to handle it. Do what you need to in order to keep your family safe (where deadly allergies are concerned) and keep it balanced.

At the moment, since my daughter’s health has improved, we’re hoping to try out some spelt and sourdough wheat to see how she does. But I fear we’ll always have to avoid the dairy and peanuts.

Ever had to cook for different diets? How do you handle it?


Toll-House Style Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies (Dairy Free Option)

IMG_2370

I’m becoming a convert–to almond flour, that is. I had resisted it’s tempting call for a while. Well, sort of resisted. I’ve got a ton of almond flour recipes bookmarked in my files. I’ve bought a few small bags to use here and there. And I had to admit it. It’s good stuff.

It’s not that I didn’t like almond flour. But it’s rather pricey compared to other gluten free flours. Even more so than coconut flour. But if you’ve done much gluten free baking, you know that some gf baked goods come out a little gritty. Crumbly. Dry. But not almond flour. I’m finding that subbing out a bit of my regular gf flour blend in a recipe yields remarkable results. Chewy. Moist. Crisp on the outside. Like these cookies.

These are by far the closest thing I’ve ever tasted to the much loved Toll House cookies of my childhood. Gluten and dairy free to boot.

I will warn you though, other than the fact that these are gluten free, I wouldn’t exactly call them a “healthy” cookie. But I’m alright with that. For heaven’s sake, it’s a cookie. Eat a salad for lunch and indulge without fear. (I did, however, cut back on the original amount of sugar.)

Here’s the recipe…

In a medium bowl, whisk together:
1 cup almond flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup potato or tapioca starch
tsp. xanthan gum
tsp. salt
tsp. baking soda
 
In the bowl of a stand mixer or large mixing bowl…
Cream together:
1 cup palm shortening or butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar (could substitute sucanat for all the sugar, or evaporated cane juice for the white)
Mix in:
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
 
Slowly add in the dry ingredients into the wet. Mix well. Add in 2 cups chocolate chips and mix on low until evenly distributed. Drop by spoonfuls onto parchment or baking stone. Bake at 375 for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. (It depends on the size of your cookies.) 
 

Now go find your self control. Cause these are addictive.