Life After the Paleo Challenge

A few months ago, I was frustrated with my body and how I felt.  I’m a firm believer in the idea that your diet can affect how you feel about yourself. So I decided I wanted to try to do a 30 Day Paleo Challenge.

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Remember that?

Yeah I had a terrible time and ended the challenge after 14 days.  It’s funny because I was miserable but that post has become one of the most popular posts on my blog (after Samoas Bars and Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash).  Paleo really wasn’t for me, and I came to terms with the fact that I need to listen to my body and NOT force a lifestyle on myself just because it’s popular.

Today, I went to lunch with some co-workers to 118 Degrees.  It’s a raw, vegan restaurant.  Afterward, another co-worker who didn’t go with us, asked me what I thought.  I said it was tasty.  He suggested I try a vegan diet for 30 days.

I said no thanks.

I’m not against vegans.  As a former vegetarian, I’m ok with meat-free meals.  But the real reason I said no is I think I’ve finally figured out what works for me.  So I figured I’d go ahead and tell you a little bit about how I figured it out.

Note: this is just what I’ve found works for me.  I’m not a nutritionist or advocating you eat the way I do.  I’m just sharing what works for me in hopes it’ll help you figure out what works for you. 

It’s All About Balance

This is going to sound cheesy, but what works for me is balance.  I know you’ve heard it a million times, but really, being able to have everything in moderation keeps me sane.  So just to give you a little bit of a breakdown, this is what an average day look like:

Breakfast:

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Green Smoothie: 1/2 frozen banana, 5-6 frozen mango chunks, handful of spinach, handful of kale, protein powder, water and ice.

After I did my search for the best protein powder, I bought some Garden of Life Vanilla protein.  Then Garden of Life was nice enough to send me some Raw Fit to try, it has more protein and green coffee bean extract and a bunch of other stuff.  That stuff is seriously amazing.  Flavor-wise, the vanilla raw protein is better tasting, but Raw Fit seriously keeps me full for 4-5 hours.  And that’s even after crossfit.  I’m amazed.  I hate to sound like an ad for Garden of Life, but I’m definitely buying the Raw Fit as soon as I run out.

Lunch:

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I rarely ever buy lunch.  Honestly, most weeks I eat the exact same thing for lunch everyday, just because I cook once per week and eat leftovers.

When putting together my meals, I try to keep this ratio in mind: 2 parts vegetable, 1 part whole grain, 1 part protein.

So here are some examples of lunches I’ve been having recently:

  • Tilapia with cumin and paprika, with Quinoa Salad
  • Kale salad (just kale with olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper) with ground turkey cooked in spices with bulgur wheat
  • Kale salad with rotisserie chicken and rice
  • Kale salad (can you tell I’m obsessed) with a veggie patty

Honestly, I eat a lot of kale salad because it holds up well and there’s no cooking involved.  I can throw it together in the morning, put dressing (really just olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper) on it and it’s not soggy and gross like other salads would be by lunch.  Also, I just think it tastes good, which is important.  Lunch should be fun, even if it’s healthy.

Dinner:

meatsauceoverpolentaOk I wish this was my dinner all the time but yeah right.

Especially now that it’s been hot, the last thing I want to do is cook, but I’ve been trying.  Either way, the fact that breakfast and lunch were so healthy makes me feel better about eating a banana with peanut butter and ice cream for dinner.  Not that I recommend that, but baby steps right?

But I’ve been working on it.  Recently I’ve made:

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  • Grilled Pizza and grilled corn
  • Grilled Tilapia

Now that it gets cooler, I’ll concentrate on making more stews (which I’m a huge fan of). Like:

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Caldo de Pollo

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Coconut Curry

In a Nutshell…

Overall, I feel better about life.  And honestly, making sure I go to Crossfit at least 3 times a week really helps.

But in terms of diet, I’ve found a few key things:

1. More protein early in the day helps keep me fuller longer.  Raw Fit has 28g of protein per serving.  That’s a lot.  I’m thinking of trying two scoops of the raw protein when I run out of Raw Fit to see how that tastes/feels (that would be 32g of protein, woah! too much?).

2. Whole grains help keep me full and satisfied.  I still try not to eat too much bread, because that’s processed but I’ve been having of whole grains like quinoa, bulgur, and barley.  But even then, I usually only have about 1/2 cup at a time.  Moderation is key.

3. I like eating a lot of vegetables.  If I concentrate on having 4-5 servings of vegetables per day, I feel great and usually end up eating pretty healthy.

4. Snacks aren’t essential and actually discouraged.  I can’t really snack.  Once I start, I have a hard time stopping the consumption process until I’m full.  I’d rather just eat meals.  Might not work for everyone but works for me.

5. Nothing is off limits.  I’m more likely to eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full when I don’t feel like I can’t have a certain food.  On the Paleo challenge, I remember I was constantly thinking about what I could eat.  Lately, I just haven’t found myself worrying about that, which is great.  I mean, let’s be honest, as a foodie, I constantly think of food, but now it’s things I want to make, as opposed to thinks I want to eat.  That said, I am conscious to not over eat certain things.  I always want to eat 3 pieces of cake and 4 slices of pizza, but I stop myself because I can always have more later when I’m hungry if I still want it.  So while I can have everything, that doesn’t mean stuff my face to the point of feeling ill.  I’m definitely guilty of doing that at times, but I’m trying to keep it under wraps.

In retrospect, I’m still glad I tried Paleo for a few weeks (despite how miserable it was).  I still think if you haven’t found what works for you, you should definitely give it a try, because it could be amazing for you.

I just found that lots of vegetables with some grain and protein is the best strategy for me.  No labels, just real food.  Overall, I try to eat well 70-80 percent of the time.   That helps keep me happy and healthy.

The other 20-30 percent of the time involves things like this…

IMG_8958Oh wait, that was only true when I lived in Italy.  Now it looks more like this…

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Because Bacon = ‘Merika!

I’m sure I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to eat less of that stuff, but I guess that’s the lifelong struggle of a sugar addict?

Have you figured out what works for you? Do you love paleo? Is a vegetarian or vegan diet what keeps you happy or healthy? Are you still figuring it out?  Tell me where you’re at!

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Vanilla Coconut Protein Pancakes

Brunch is totally mainstream these days, but I don’t think that was always true.  In the past ten years, we’ve become very familiar with brunch, sort of akin to how “googling” something or someone is totally normal.

I love brunch, the wonderful marriage of breakfast and lunch that often involves a tasty libation.  I’m totally on-board.  What I wish would gain great popularity is Brinner.  I have no idea if that’s actually a term, but let’s go with it.

Brinner, the happy marriage of breakfast and dinner.  AKA Breakfast for Dinner.  It should most definitely be a thing.

But you should probably know I have this thing where I think breakfast should be healthy.  It’s the first meal of the day and you should probably start it off on the right foot.  For me, it’s usually a smoothie with banana, mango, spinach, kale and protein powder.  I drink it on my way to work, and it keeps me full for a long time without feeling sluggish.

So if we’re having breakfast for dinner, that doesn’t mean we have to go crazy and eat tons of bacon, pancakes and eggs drenched in maple syrup.  That’s ok sometimes, but for days like today, let’s keep it light and full of protein.

Now, all that aside, what is more beautiful than a stack of pancakes?

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Well… a stack of these pancakes…

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Vanilla Coconut Protein Pancakes

2 tbsp spelt flour
2 tbsp almond meal
3 tbsp protein powder (I used Garden of Life Raw Vanilla Protein)
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp chia seeds
1 tbsp shredded unsweetened coconut
1 egg
2-4 tbsp almond milk

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Then add wet ingredients (start with 2 tbsp of almond milk and add more accordingly.  Every protein powder is different so to avoid getting batter that’s too thin, adjust accordingly) and stir together. 

Heat a pan and spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Pour 2 tbsp of batter to form each pancake.  Cook a few minutes. Once it starts to bubble on top, flip and cook an additional minute or two. 

You’ll get exactly 4 pancakes if you measure (and use a spatula to scrape the bowl). Serve with you toppings of choice. 

I served it with some extra coconut and a maple syrup/yogurt combo (2-3 tbsp greek yogurt + 1 tbsp maple syrup + water to thin it out).  Deeeelish.

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Nutrition-wise, they’re not too bad either.

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There’s almost 30 grams of protein in there!  Note: these stats are only for the pancakes, not any of the toppings. The fat comes mostly from the almond meal and coconut.  But don’t be scared of fat!  It does a body good.

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Ok so please tell me you’re going to help me make Brinner a thing and tell everyone about these protein pancakes.  Yes!

Do you ever do breakfast for dinner?  What’s your favorite Brinner item?

Peanut Butter Bacon Rice Crispies

I’m going to go ahead and let you know that after this post, all you’re going to want in life is a rice crispy treat.  If there’s bacon in it, that’s going to be an added bonus.  But rice crispies are going to be on your brain and I’m not even sorry.

The past few weeks have been the most insufferably hot weeks ever.  It’s like I forgot that I grew up in a desert-like region where 100F+ is normal during the summer.  100F in Costa Mesa is hell (without AC).  As a result, I refused to turn on the oven.

Frying bacon on the other hand, no heat could stop that.

When I was trying to think of what to make for dessert for a potluck, I could only think of making something that did not involve turning on the oven.  So of course I had a brilliant idea, and I made it a reality

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The world can pretty much thank me for this.

Peanut Butter Bacon Rice Crispies

3 slices of thick cut bacon
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter (I used Peanut Butter & Company Crunch Time)

4 cups mini marshmallows
6 cups puffed rice cereal

In a large pot, fry bacon.  Once cripsy, remove from pan and pour off the majority of the grease (it’s ok if some stays on there).  Allow bacon to cool completely, then chop.  Add peanut butter and marshmallows to pot and melt on low heat.  Once melted together, add rice cereal and bacon.  Stir to combine.  Press into a 9×13 baking dish lined with parchment paper.  Allow to cool completely, slice and serve!

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These were tasty.  Next time, I’ll drizzle some chocolate on them, because I’m intense like that.  Also because peanut butter, bacon and chocolate are an awesome combination.   Did you forget about the Chocolate Pudding with Peanut Butter Mousse and Maple Candied Bacon?  In case you did, here’s a reminder…

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Peanut Butter and Bacon is absolutely a thing.  If you haven’t tried it yet, you should.  And seriously, this couldn’t be an easier way to do so.  No baking, just a bit of stirring, pressing and slicing.

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Get on it.

What’s your favorite sweet bacon combo??

Chronicles of the Busiest Weekend Ever

This weekend I averaged about 4 hours of sleep, with the exception of Sunday night where I slept like a goddess for 11-12 hours.    You see, this was my EPIC weekend.  Let me tell you about it.

It all started on Thursday night.  Jesse and I drove to LA for a concert at the House of Blues on Sunset.  In case you’re wondering, we saw Bajofondo, here’s one of their songs:

That got us home at about 1:00AM, at which point I was dying (because I had been up since 5:30am).  After getting home at 1:00am ish, I was up at 5:00am to take my sister to the airport.  I skipped crossfit and came home and napped for another half hour, then headed to work.

After work I braved traffic and made it to Downtown Disney to pick up my race number for the Disney 10k the next morning.  This is where it starts to get good.

I picked up my number, met up with a friend, had dinner and went to sleep around 9:30.  All was well in the world.

The next morning we were up at 4:30am for the race!

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Oh hey look it’s me running and looking like a hot mess.  Why yes that’s the previous night’s make up.  How could you tell? Cute, I know.

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Oh hey there I am checking the time…

Overall, it was super fun! Disney races aren’t really the type of races you do for speed.  They’re more fun.  And luckily I had some awesome running buddies with me!

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While we all didn’t run together the whole time, it was fun to know that someone else was doing it with you.

After the race, I rushed home and took a shower and headed to LA to photograph a wedding.

You heard that right: photograph a wedding.  Remember way back when I wanted to try out something new?  Well it’s photographing people, not just food.

Let me tell you… photographing a wedding is hard.  It looks easy, but it’s stressful and long.  And for God’s sake, when you get married, walk slowly down the aisle!

So after a long day of photographing (I’ll show you some pics once I get them edited), I got home around 12:30pm (luckily this wedding didn’t run too late).  I crashed into my bed, only to wake up at 7:00am for work the next morning.

I told you I got a second job to pay for crossfit and my camera, right?  Well, that involves me waking up early on the weekends.  It’s all good.

I left work at 3:00 ish and was pretty much starving.  I should also mention that this is probably the weekend I ate the least I’ve eaten in a long time, just on a count of being busy.

So I got myself to Baja Fish Taco (seriously I love this place. If you’re in OC, try it), got a Baja Bowl with grilled fish and headed to my sister’s house (where I was house-sitting) to sit in AC and be a sloth with her cat who doesn’t bother to come near me.  I ate, watched Julie and Julia (which by the way I’m still not a fan of, but I was too tired to ever search through the channels) and took a nap.

Later, Jesse came over as I was mid way through A Walk to Remember.  It was really a day of gems for me (I had completely forgotten how bad that movie is).  I fell asleep at about 9pm and didn’t open my eyes until about 8:30 or 9 the next morning.  It was fantastic.

Thank goodness for Labor Day.  I’m not sure how I would have made it without this holiday.

Labor Day was spent doing some much needed cleaning, watching Catfish (I’m obsessed), grilling burgers and drinking beer.  Jesse and I also saw Elysium, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

And now, after a day of crossfit at 6:00am and work.  I just enjoyed an egg sandwich on leftover hamburger buns and a few dates with peanut butter.

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I’m excited for this week.  I have a potentially awesome treat planned to share with you later this week, and hopefully the cooking/baking can get back into full swing.

How was your Labor Day weekend??  Tell me what exciting things you did!