Week 7: Menu & Receipt

Lately, I’ve been able to stretch my 7 day meal plan and shopping to 8 or 9 days. Whether it’s because I just don’t have the time or I’m force-feeding leftovers to the family, I’m grateful since we’re still in a tight financial spot, as so many of us are, and need to conserve every penny.

That being said, the 4-year-old who named this blog, turned SIX on February 23rd and her younger sister turned 5 yesterday. We aren’t outrageous with gift-giving but when the yearly “Birthday Extravaganza” comes around we celebrate our daughters from one birthday to the next, as any proper celebration should play out. 30(ish) days of extraordinary fun! The little extras add up fast and I’m honestly looking forward to re-tightening our pocket.

photoThis week’s menu was thrown together just for the blog. I went shopping Tuesday morning while my little one was at preschool. Upon my husband’s request, I picked up a roast, I also went for the organic chicken club pack which cuts the cost per lbs from $7.99 to $6.99 and includes portions for 2 dinners instead of one. Chicken thighs and wings seem to be a staple these days because 1) they’re a cheap option, 2) my family devours them and 3) they’re easy to make, bake and the leftovers are bangin!

Incidentally, a friend recently suggested a way to save money was to skip the organic chicken breast and go conventional. I won’t argue a monetary savings here and have typically suggested the same.  He added “Almost every article I read says that the nutritional benefit over regular chicken breasts is negligible. Most impurities and toxins are stored in fat and chicken is so lean that only trace amounts would even exist”.  He is an intelligent and trusted friend, with killer hair, so I stored this info in the ole’ brain and went for a sale on conventionally raised chicken drumsticks a few weeks ago, not breast meat, I realize. I roasted and served them to my girls for dinner. They didn’t gobble them up, as usual, but I didn’t give it much thought as appetite has ebbs and flows. The following day, I served myself a few for breakfast and nearly spit it out before I could get a napkin. The taste was so obviously inferior, it made me feel sick. Bad batch? I don’t know but it reminded me that choice does matter and organic chickens always taste better! I threw the rest away.

You’ll notice Tuesday starts off with chicken (cooked with onions and peppers) and noodles. I finally found a gluten-free, GMO-free noodle option at my local grocery store: TruRoots. After reading the website, I see they claim an ‘al dente’ texture after cooking. My husband, however, says he over cooked his first batch and they were a little mushy, but decent enough to eat. I didn’t warn him they were ‘different’ then his regular noodle variety so it doesn’t’ surprise me that it overcooked. Regular noodles could boil for much longer then required and still not become mushy. Imagine that sitting in your gut… just chillin. Despite over-cooking, he said he’d eat them again and that’s a win for me since we rarely have noodles and now we have some in stock.

photo-2Another exciting find I made was on thursday morning when I stopped by the grocery to pick up some taco shells for my now-5 year old’s requested birthday dinner: Bearitos. This little gem of a company is also non-GMO (found through my non-GMO app) and for a corn meal/chip company it was thrilling discovery since 85% of the corn in our country is genetically modified and that creeps me out. I suspect it’s mostly gluten-free as well, but they do not follow the testing practices for gluten so they do not claim it. They were delicious and had a more authentic taste then the cheaper, standard taco shells. I will now only buy GMO-free tortilla chips, as well. We’ve found and tried 1 or 2 other brands at my local store, my husband says they’re good but aren’t salty enough and I’m okay with that.

During this quick trip to the store, I decided to check the organic meat section for sales while I was there. Often you can find a few items marked down in yellow to add to your freezer and low and behold, I DID! 1 package of organic pork sausage (I often cut up and use sausage in my soups along with another protein) and 2 lbs of organic ground turkey breast were marked 50% off, so I snatched them up. That means you’ll have to add $4 for the taco shells and $12 for the extra organic sale-meat to my receipt for the week. Worth it!

I think I’ve covered everything from this week. My last request: Your favorite recipes including chicken thighs and ground turkey. Please comment here or add them to our Facebook page and you may see them on next week’s menu! Also, I added the spice combination I used for our taco seasoning to the Facebook timeline. Check it out & share with friends!


Basic Recipes & Local Treats

I often turn my nose at the idea of “paleo-izing” items from modern food culture. Bread, brownies, pancakes, noodles… attempting to recreate these items doesn’t allow you to fully change your habits. One of the first rules of new habits: Set yourself up for success. Not failure.

In my head, I either change or don’t change. Eating paleo bread makes me want to choose regular bread when there isn’t a paleo option. While I’m pretty black and white for myself, I understand folks may be easing their way into this lifestyle change or, perhaps, look to such food items for comfort or tradition.

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

That said, I’ve been known to bake chocolate chip cookies from time to time. You can find my Famous Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe in Paleo Parent‘s first book “Eat Like A Dinosaur” along with an arsenal of approachable go-to’s for families or people with a traditional palate including freezable chicken nuggets, fruit roll ups, waffles and more. I respect their copyright and would encourage you to check out the book for yourself, it’s been one of the most used recipe books in our house! Not to mention, there is a children’s book, their familiar back story of (un)health and an easy-to-read allergy index included on every single page.

Now that I got you all amped up on the idea of a delicious chocolate chip cookie, I’ve got great news for my local friends! Betsy’s Bakery created their first prototype! As soon as I saw their Facebook post about Paleo cookies, I grabbed a kid and headed right over. As the story goes, Betsy has Celiac disease and her bakery is entirely gluten-free! She also has dairy free, vegan and now (the most healthy of all) paleo options!

Betsy's Bakery in Mechanicsburg, PA has recently added a delicious PALEO cookie to their gluten free repertoire.

Betsy’s Bakery in Mechanicsburg, PA has recently added a delicious PALEO cookie to their gluten-free repertoire. Remember to support local commerce for the things you want in your life or don’t complain when it’s lacking.

When we chatted briefly about her chocolate chip cookies, future recipes and marketing to the audience of these sweet morsels, she thought Fridays would be a great day to offer fresh Paleo items. I agreed! As a used-to-be Crossfit’er I know how focused I was during the week, but by Friday it was definitely time for a reward. What better way to celebrate then with a naturally sweetened, protein and (good) fat packed dessert that tastes like a cheat, but isn’t! Remember to refrigerate paleo baked goods – fresh ingredients stay fresher when chilled.

ROASTED VEGETABLES

Paleo eating is easy and shouldn’t overwhelm anyone with ‘how to cook’. I am not, repeat, AM NOT a ‘good cook’. In fact, I didn’t begin really cooking, or understanding how to cook, until I decided to eat paleo. Plants and protein, so EASY. I typically roast or crock pot large proteins, I’ll pan cook smaller portions of proteins, and sauté or roast veggies. The creativity comes in the spice blends, medleys and pairings.

Roasted-Brussels-Sprouts-Carrots-and-Leeks-1.jJPG_.jJPG_-1000x288
To roast veggies:

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Add a dollop of coconut oil or grass-fed butter to a baking sheet
  3. Place in oven till oil is melted
  4. Toss chopped veggies onto sheet
  5. Season to taste (salt, pepper and garlic are my go-to’s, be as simple or creative as you’d like with your spice)
  6. Toss veggies every 10-15 minutes until desired  – typically around 25-30 minutes for most of my vegetables – the softer the veggie the faster it cooks so I may wait to add onions to a sheet until half way through, etc
After greasing the pan, dip your veggie fries in egg then a blend of coconut & almond flours with preferred seasonings.

After greasing the pan, dip your fry-cut veggies in egg then a blend of coconut & almond flours and preferred seasonings. It’s definitely a special treat in our house. Who has time for dredging?

Alternatively – and a great way to cook ‘fries’ (sweet potato, carrot, zucchini, etc):

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Chop vegetables to even sizing, add to bowl
  3. Pour melted coconut oil or grass-fed butter on top
  4. Season with preferred blend
  5. Mix
  6. Add to baking sheet
  7. Toss every 10-15 minutes until cooked

CHICKEN on the bone

I get asked how I roast my chicken a lot. I forget how something so simple can feel so scary for a new cook. It wasn’t 3 years ago that I cooked less than 10% of the time and now I do most of the cooking/preparing. Paleo food is EASY and that’s the whole point. While I roast/bake most of my chicken the same way (350 and flip/marinate every 20 minutes till cooked – whole birds I flip every 40 minutes) the wings I made for dinner tonight were too good not to share. I only regret I didn’t take a snapshot, but they were gone before I gave it a thought. Moist and crispy. They were a flavor so delicious the whole family enjoyed them.

I bake my wings and other chicken parts atop a cookie cooling rack, over tin foil on a baking sheet. Sophisticated.

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Place wings on rack apparatus mentioned above, or something similar
  3. Brush with coconut oil or grass-fed butter
  4. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and Savory Spice Shop‘s Red Rocks Hickory Smoke Seasoning: Hickory smoke salt, Hungarian and California paprika, roasted garlic, toasted onion, black pepper, hickory smoke flavoring and oregano OR ANY OTHER SPICE/MARINADE YOU CONJURE UP
  5. Bake for 20 minutes
  6. Flip wings and repeat steps 3, 4 then 5
  7. When timer goes off the 2nd time, flip wings as you place them onto the tin foil covered baking sheet
  8. Wrap wings – I use an additional piece of foil for leaking and insulation – place in oven
  9. Turn heat up to 450
  10. Bake for 10 minutes
  11. Flip foil package and turn off oven – this is when I make salads, get the table set, etc.
  12. ENJOY!
A friend recently tried my Cookie Bar recipe and was delighted! I haven't made them since I originally posted this photo, perhaps I'll make a batch for an impending slumber party.

A friend recently tried my Cookie Bar recipe and was delighted! It’s been some time since I made a batch, perhaps I’ll whip some up for a certain (about-to-be) 5 year old’s slumber party. A special treat packed with protein!


Sprouts and Cookie Bars

Today was spent prepping dinner, which was sausage, steak and chicken kabob. They were speared with onions, green peppers and carrots. On the side, I had Brussel sprouts and bacon sticks and a salad heavy with mixed greens, cucumber, onion, carrot, celery and hard-boiled egg. Oil and vinegar for the dressing and I was full before my plate was empty. Therefore, my lunch is already packed for tomorrow: leftover kabob emptied out onto a bed of mixed greens.

Sprouts and bacon. Always good. I found this idea on Pinterest.

Sprouts and bacon. Always good. I found and re-pinned this idea on Pinterest. Click the photo for original publication.

I know I’ve mentioned my love of Brussel sprouts and I’m sure you’re all sick of reading about it, but they are my favorite. I love how they grow and every time I pick up a stalk at the grocery, I inevitably have 1 or more strangers ask what it is. Great conversation starter, who knew?! I think I planted brussels last summer just to see that gorgeous stalk in my own back yard. Of course, homegrown taste EVEN MORE delicious. I hope to have success again this summer.

brussel-sprout-540x380

I’m currently awaiting the finished product of a little snack we like to refer to as “Cookie Bars”. It’s like a grainless granola bar without weird ingredients, but more of a protein bar, if you ask me! Plain and simple, it’s a recipe that can be varied in so many ways. Once you make them, it’ll be a go-to treat for the kiddos, if not for yourself.
Cookie Bars

In a food processor add

  • 5-7 Medjool pitted dates and handful of other dried fruit of choice (we used banana tonight)

Process till the dates start breaking down then add

  • handful of pecans
  • handful of whole almonds

Process till the really big chunks are gone then add

  • handful of crushed walnut
  • handful of coconut powder
  • a big squeeze of honey (probably 1/4 cup)

Pulse till mixed around a bit and add 1/4 cup or less of maple syrup, grade B preferably. Pulse till mixed. Must be sticky enough to lump together, if not add a bit of honey and syrup till satisfied.

Once the mixture is fully combined – sometimes, I put it in a larger bowl and use a spatula to smash it around some more, but did fine with just the processor tonight – line a baking sheet with parchment paper and flatten the mixture to an even thickness of about 1/4 an inch or your likeness. I then sprinkle it with cinnamon.

Bake at 325 for approx 20 minutes. I check on mine every 10. Timing depends on the thickness and for thicker bars, I usually flip the entire thing after 20 minutes and bake it off for 10-20 more.

Once the bar is browned, I add some sort of chocolate to the top. Sometimes a high cacao dark chip, melted in the microwave and spread on but tonight I used Enjoy brand chocolate chips because that is what I had. I sprinkled them lightly across the bar, placed it back in the oven for 1 minute then removed, spread the chocolate in a very thin layer then removed the parchment paper, with the cookie bar on top, from the sheet to cool on a rack.

As it cools, it will harden. Once cooled, I break it apart by attempting to cut it into rectangles. Sometimes it cuts well and other times, it’s more of a break line that I create.

If you use the same recipe, slightly less honey and syrup, you can toss the mixture while roasting and create a delicious cereal to be enjoyed with some milk of you choice. Warm it for an oatmeal like sensation.

They were so eager to eat tonight's bars that the chocolate isn't even dry in these photos!

They were so eager to eat tonight’s bars that the chocolate isn’t even hardened in these photos!

My husband couldn’t wait to get his hands on one of these. While I was getting the girls dressed after bath, and before they were cooled entirely, he went ahead and cut them. Warm and delicious! A comfort treat. The girls had one before bedtime tonight. Yet, they are entirely acceptable for breakfast.

Once cool, I store them in Tupperware, with parchment or wax paper between layers in the fridge and the girls help themselves when they wake up or feel a little hungry. I’ll also grab a few and toss into a ziplock bag when we’ll be running around all day. Easy pick-me-up and a delicious treat.

Savings note: Use the ‘candy bins’ at the grocery store to bag your own nuts. It ends up to be more like $2 or less for more than enough compared to $6 for the prepackaged nuts. This is why we always have a variety in our house.


Week 2: Menu & Receipt

Here it is! Don’t make fun of my bad paint job.

Image

Our basement door, just off the kitchen.

Menu

  • Saturday: Tacos (seasoned ground beef and salsa on greens with carrot peels, cucumber slivers, chopped onions – check the bad pic on Facebook)
  • Sunday: Kabobs (chicken, pork, steak with peppers, onions, sprouts and bacon) with Brussel Sprout and Bacon Speared
  • Monday: Pork Chops with a salad and mashed (sweet) potatoes (and certainly applesauce)
  • Tuesday: Burgers with salad and fries (or burger ON salad, hold the fries)
  • Wednesday: Chicken Soup (broth, chicken breast, bag(s) of frozen soup vegetables, chopped and peeled additional carrots and onions, seasoned in the crock pot)
  • Thursday: Steak (mmm, steak) with baked (sweet) potatoes and a salad
  • Friday: $5 PIZZA NIGHT (or leftovers)
  • Saturday: Jumbalaya (broth, peppers, onions, garlic, chicken, shrimp and sausage, seasoned in the crock pot)

My shopping list tallied at $100.33 according to my calculator, before check out. That was after I decided to put a few things back to swap out for more proteins; one of the 2 frozen pizzas my husband requested $3.99; the entire stock of k-cups because (I had a coupon for a buy 2) I can get through exactly enough days with the coffee and tea I have $11.98; I put back grass fed hot dogs and resolved to not take short cuts when feeding the kids (besides we have sliced chicken, eggs and there will be plenty of leftovers for lunch options) $5.99; I decided against another jar of olives since I blew through the last one (munchies) and I have guacamole and celery in the crisper I can crunch on instead $2.29.

Choices.

recept

The cashier presented me with the grand total of $102.55. Not bad. Mind you, that also includes $44.44 in NON Paleo foods or housewares items. HOLY SHIT. Imagine if we just ate Paleo.

I’ll also be making hard-boiled eggs for snacking and salad, cookie bars (grainless granola like concoction, basically nuts and honey) and I have apples and bananas to turn into yummy breakfast or dessert options for the girls. That makes a week worth of (almost) Paleo eating.

Some more thoughts on Paleo being as affordable as you want to make it:

  • Robb’s rant, he will always hold a spot in my heart for opening my eyes to the power I have over my own health.
  • I follow Paleo On a Budget on Facebook
  • A quick google search (if you really want to know something, you can find the answer yourself) and here is a nice rundown on ways to cut the budget from the Lean Machine and 15 Tips for Eating Paleo on the Cheap from Following my Nose
  • Now harvest your own information. If you want something, you’ll make it work. Don’t blame anyone but yourself.

Have you visited us on Facebook?

To view more $100/week budget Menu & Receipt posts click below.


A Cheap & Healthy Perspective – Week 1

I hear it all the time, “I’m on a tight budget, I can’t afford to eat like you.” Well, I too am on a tight budget. $100/week for food, in fact. I have a family of 4 and this budget also includes non-paleo foods for my (amazing) husband because again, this is my journey and I won’t pressure him into it, nor will I sabotage myself because of his preferences.

A few things:

  • Is grass fed meat better? YES. Does that mean it’s all I eat? NO. I buy meat that is on sale. Some of it is grass fed (YUM) and some of it is not. From the sale meat, I create my weekly dinner plan.
  • When not fresh, frozen or canned veggies? FROZEN. Freezing vegetables will help lock in the nutrients but also doesn’t allow it to sit and soak in sodium until consumed.
  • Cooking serum? Coconut oil or butter. Real, unsalted, raw butter – THE best. Although I’m attempting a Whole30 right now so I’m sticking with coconut oil or bacon fat. Butter is a dairy.
  • Fast & easy? Sure, there are lots of fast and easy ideas I can and will share, but eating plants & proteins does require preparation and forethought. It’s a lifestyle CHANGE, so all you fast paced, eat-on-the-fly, no time for prep folks, take a deep breath and reevaluate your priorities. Is health one of them?  …Always make leftovers so you have them for breakfast and lunch options …bake some eggs in muffin tins and freeze for easy access …soups and stews in the crock pot are a lifesaver! …whole fruit and veggies are a sweet and crunchy snack option. SIMPLICITY in food brings forth a simpler life.

paleo-food-pyramid

With that being said, I’ve decided to share my shopping list and meal plan to help folks get started. Also because I’m a simple girl with simple tastes and my recipes/meals are far from fancy. I think most of you can relate to having small children or spouses who aren’t always adventurous with their palates. Also, they are not on a Whole30, I am, so I will post my variations to anything for my own plate. Here we go:

Sunday: Leftover Stew – In a crock pot on low, I tossed leftover roast and meatloaf, frozen veggies of our liking, and broth together. After seasoning to taste, I checked back at dinner time! To serve, I added a dollop of pre-prepared mashed cauliflower to a soup bowl and scooped some soup on top. One of my daughters enjoys soup in a bowl, the other enjoys soup on a plate sans liquid. Wa-la.

Monday: BBQ – 1lb ground beef and a can of Manwich. I had my husband dish out my portion of beef first, before adding the Manwich. The family had it with fries and apples, I enjoyed it on top a bed of greens and carrots.

Tuesday: Pork & Kraut (OF COURSE!) – In a crock pot on low, I added a layer of sliced onion, a layer of sauerkraut, pork loin, and a final layer of kraut. Checked back at dinner time and added some pre-prepared mashed sweet potatoes and apple sauce to my plate. MY FAVORITE MEAL.

Wednesday: Chicken with Onions & Peppers – My husband pan cooks the chicken and sautes onions and bell peppers. I enjoyed that atop a bed of greens, carrots, cucumbers, radishes and celery. The rest of the bunch had some noodles with their chicken.

Thursday: Leftovers for the family – There wasn’t anything ‘clean’ leftover so I enjoyed some frozen Tilapia, sweet mash and crunched bacon sprinkled on top. I keep a stash of frozen fish, shrimp and scallops for myself to enjoy on nights the family decides on pizza, spaghetti or other grain based choices.

Friday: $5 Pizza night for the fam ala Little Caesars. I will be enjoying a Large salad (1, because I don’t want the greens to go bad before eaten and 2, because I’m craving a big salad) with roasted chicken on top.

Saturday: Bacon wrapped turkey with roasted vegetables and salad.

For those of you who love a grocery bill, here is this week's bill, keeping with our goal of $100/week and including $29ish of non-paleo food.

For those of you who love a grocery bill, here is this week’s bill, keeping with our goal of $100/week and including $29ish of non-paleo food for the Mr.

My method of shopping and meal planning is to create the first few meals of the week from items we HAVE in the fridge, then write a list of items we would like in the house (veggies and fruit, etc). Once I am at the store, I keep a running calculator of each item I put in the cart, remaining super selective on the items I choose, even if on my list. For instance, this week I knew we still had 6 eggs so I passed on another dozen because I didn’t have an egg heavy menu planned. I complete all non-meat shopping first, THEN I go to the meat department and check out what they have for sale, spending the rest of the budget on protein that will pair with any/all of the produce we have in the cart.

Easy peasy.

I don’t enjoy sharing my entire menu (I find it quite boring) but if you find it valuable please let me know by commenting here or on our Facebook page. Thanks for reading!

To view more $100/week budget Menu & Receipt posts click below.


Snack Culture

I’m all for snacking. You’re hungry? EAT! I love food. Yummy-delicious, filling, food that provides me lots of energy and taste and excitement. So when did little bags of processed, grain heavy, sugar filled foods become known as ‘snacks’. What entitles us to take every opportunity to ‘snack’ on candy and little sticks of crap? I’m not a food nazi, I’m really not. In fact, someone recently commented on how I didn’t seem as stressed over my children’s food as she would have thought I was. I still argue: a snack is not the same as a treat so stop treating it as such.

Some people don’t believe in snacks and I may have been among them before I began looking at food as fuel. Now a snack is just more food. Healthy food. Fuel for the body, brain and to keep you chugging along through the day. Treats don’t do that for you. They leave you hanging after 30 minutes like a bad friend. And don’t get me started when it comes to kids, the innocent snack suddenly takes on a magical appeal and turns into sugar and sweets and exciting little morsels of junk. They’re not born thinking this, we taught them so we can re-teach them, if we must. If not, they will soon become adults who indulge in ‘snacks’ between every meal and possibly who snack between snacks, as well. Overweight and/or disease riddled, adults. Depressing. Enter the modern-American culture.

Special treats are always applicable to extra special occasions. However, healthy party options are available.

I don’t know how this thought-shift happened, but I’ll start with preschool. Most schools work similarly where each student is assigned a day or days to bring in a snack for the entire class. The children usually get to help hand out the snack or lead the line to the playground on snack day, so it turns into a special event. And so it should be, every child deserves to feel important, but a special event is no longer special when it is a daily occurrence. I also have a problem with the fact that at 9 or 10am, most children do not need a snack if they were fed a proper breakfast heavy with protein. Then you present that early morning snack in the shape of a brownie, cookie or cupcake, multiply that by as many days as your child goes to school and you’ve set them up for a routine of behavioral crashes by 11 or 12 each day and the idea that they ‘deserve’ this ‘snack’ regularly. Poor kid. They don’t know why they feel funny inside or why they’re starving by lunch time and craving more processed food and carbs. We, as the adults, choose this for them.

Of course, I am not referring to an exceptionally exciting day like a birthday celebration. This deserves a little fanfare, an extra special treat and a bit of a pomp and circumstance. If cupcakes do that for you, so be it. I’m not a martyr but the daily dosing of sugar snacks is overkill and has allowed us to be members of the unhealthy culture we live in today.

Let us move on to organized sports and activities. You or your child are depleting energy. You’re sweating, losing water, burning fuel. Why, then, would a sugary ‘sports’ drink or juices, bags of chips, whole wheat fish, pretzels, or mini cookies (but they only contain 100 calories!) be the first thing one reaches for to share after the baseball game or to the swimming pool? Fuel your body with good food and it will repay you with good action. After you’ve refueled would be the proper time for an extra treat, like ice cream for the winning team.

Water and protein make the most sense when ‘starving’ or a banana when depleted after a long game, run or day in the sun. Yet we grab a bag of treats because they come in boxes of 24 and there is enough for everyone on the team. Eggs come in cartons by the dozen. Boil them up, keep them in a cooler. Okay, my husband would look at me weird too, how about carrots then? You can get a huge bag of carrots for a few dollars, even the organically grown kind, from your local market. Hand them out. They are a great source of fiber, keep hunger at bay, provide the body with vitamins and will help you make it till dinner before eating again. Bunches of bananas are also easy to carry and filling. Grab a pre-made veggie tray if you’re looking for ease. The options are out there. We need another thought-shift.

Lunches and packed meals always seem to have a ‘treat’ added to the pile of food choices. Why? Couldn’t we just as easily pack a salad with some protein and call it a day? There is no need for the insulin spike of starchy carbs and candies leaving us wanting another round of the same, when we could fill our bellies with nutrients that will provide clarity and a steady source of energy. Still hungry? Have an egg. Enjoy a banana. Make a sweet potato. Leftovers. Peel a carrot or cucumber lickidy-split. Thought-shift.

Which brings me to potlucks, office parties and holiday gatherings where everyone finds excitement in bringing their gooiest, most fattening, delicious, dish of whatever treat, bread or cake they are most known for making for every potluck, office party and holiday gathering. We hover around the food table, re-plating and filling our bellies until we can fill them no more, and then of course complain about how full we are. How did veggies (and other healthy options) get the shaft on creativity? I have to hand it to a friend who brought pre-portioned Dixie cups of veggies with a dash of Ranch dip in the bottom of each to a recent gathering. It was a great presentation! Everyone was excited to grab one. In fact, our food table(s) were FILLED with healthy options, one more yummy than the next. You can make things enticing and new and delicious without over indulging. There will always be an opportunity to overindulge, trust me. In this snack culture, however, it seems folks indulge at every chance they get.

In short, lead by example and encourage healthy habits in yourself, your kids, friends, family, co-workers, etc. Share bananas with the team, or an avocado salad at your next office potluck. You’ll be the hit of the party and others will start trying their hand at something more refreshing since the brownies, breads and pies are usually covered, several times over. Most of all, enjoy your days. Don’t fill your bellies with sweets, treats and junkie choices. Those are meant as extras to a nutritious diet, not as fillers between meals or the meals themselves.

Please share your ideas, struggles and stories on our blog and our Facebook page.


Paleo and Kids

I have kids and they are not strict Paleo, as I like to goal towards for myself. There are 2 reasons for this: 1, because their father doesn’t follow Paleo and 2, because we allow them to indulge in snacks at school or friends’ houses without restriction. This is not ideal in my mind and I struggle tremendously with the idea that I am not providing them the best in health. However, I am confident in the fact that I do what I can. I set them up for success by creating meals and snacks in a paleo fashion, I am honest with them about nutrition and I continue to talk with my husband about options.

For example I had a recent small victory; my little one is a huge fan of tuna fish. She’ll eat it right out of the bowl I used to prepare it if I give her a spoon. I serve her tuna without bread all the time but my husband serves her a tuna fish sandwich. Finally I asked my husband to no longer make her a sandwich and just give her a lump on her plate or in a bowl. The very next day, she had tuna fish for lunch and my heart was happy and light when I looked at her plate to see there was no bread included in her meal. SUCCESS! …And our journey continues.

My girls, newly 4 and 5 years old.
Photo courtesy of Renee Campbell

If you’re like me, you don’t have a lot of free time so I’ll keep it short and provide a few ideas when transitioning your family to a clean eating lifestyle:

1. Drinks… invest in filtered water bottles. My girls love them! They fill them independently and grab them from the fridge whenever they desire. Giving kids a sense of control and teaching them independence is always a plus. Filtered water bottles are also easy to travel with and don’t cost any money after the initial $10 investment, at least until you replace the filter. I believe it is recommended 600 refills. If you keep an eye out, sometimes you’ll find them on sale! We own the Bobble brand, found at Target in the workout aisle. These also make an excellent present. We gifted 6 last Christmas.

2. Breakfast & Snacks… Change your mindset on what a breakfast meal or snack option can be. Healthy meals should be full of protein and fat for yourself AND your kids which includes breakfast. Starting the day with a bowl or plate full of grain and sugar is not the right foot to send your child off on, to be met with behavior and mood fluctuations when their blood sugar crashes. You will feel satiated, strong and clear-headed throughout the day when you start the morning with a nice serving of protein. Eat real food when you are hungry and in turn, feed real food to a hungry child, not nutrient empty and sugar heavy crackers, pretzels and cookies. Snacks can be leftovers, eggs, nuts, whole fruits, cut veggies. Breakfast essentials will also include leftovers from dinner, eggs, meat, plants. It’s as easy as handing them a banana.

3. Stock… YOU control the items brought into your house. Stock it with healthy, natural foods: meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables and fruit. Easy, right? Not so fast; In my household, we are divided on our preferred stock and my husband enjoys having a stock of snacks, sweets and soda. These are kept in a specific spot/cupboard and when the girls ask to have something from that cupboard, I simply remind them “let’s pick a healthy option right now, we can save the sweets for another time” and we move on. It’s not always easy, but it’s certainly not out of my control. Children thrive with boundaries and information and they look to their parents for these things. Every interaction has the opportunity to be a learning experience.

4. Be prepared… Invest in a thermal bag, if you don’t already have one. Real food needs to be kept fresh, after all. Confession: I have 4 thermal/insulated bags of various shapes and sizes. Throw an ice pack in and then fill with staples like cut veggies or whole fruits, yogurt, hardboiled eggs, or leftover scrambled eggs from breakfast, rolled up (nitrate free) lunch meats, nuts, berries and water.

5. Cook Day… Now that I have the hang of things, I do this once a week. It was twice a week while I was still getting used to this lifestyle. Cook Day ends up being a day when there is little scheduled outside the home so I can spend time preparing meals, sides and options for the coming days. Whether it’s because I won’t be home to cook or because I’d like to have a few items on hand for breakfast and lunches for the girls, it’s fun to cook and stash. Cooking with simple foods, herbs and spices is easy and pleasurable. This is of course an extension of #4 “Be prepared”.

6. Keep It Simple…When looking for a preferred option in the grocery, check the ingredients list. If there are more than 5 ingredients, hesitate to buy it at all. If the ingredients are easily pronounced, GREAT! If there is soy or wheat, corn or sugar, especially in the first 3 listed, move onto the next option.

GREAT! You’re family is set and ready to go, what next? School. 

1. Communication… Talk to your teachers, principal, director, other parents, volunteers, whomever you come in contact with. These are all people you should be talking to regularly anyway as they are a big part of your child’s future. Don’t second guess yourself either, your kid is not the only one with an allergy, disease, disorder or preference when it comes to food (that’s the whole point). The more you talk about your preferences and dislikes, the more people will listen and respond. This is the future, friends. Share your healthy lifestyle through example, others will follow in their own way, each making steps towards wellness. What better legacy?

2. Control… When approached with bringing an item for a class party, go for the gold, choose “Cookies” or “Cake” or “Candy”, seriously. You can make near anything in a much friendlier fashion. Plus, kids don’t care! It’s a cookie! And if they don’t eat it? Good. Instead of juice, provide mini water bottles. Kids appreciate their small stature and grown up affiliation. Best part: the store brand is $3 or less for 24. Done.

3. Pick Your Battles… Stay calm and focused. Remember, you are a parent, not a martyr. Send your child with healthy lunch or snack and hope that all the communication and examples you’ve set forth take the lead. When they don’t, however, learn from the situation, try to do better next time and MOVE ON. You can not dwell on set backs. Stress can be just as bad as food choice on our health.

So, what do you think? Have feedback, ideas or a situation you’d like to ask, offer or share? Please do so in the comments section of this post or on the new Facebook page specifically for Pushups And Carrots. Share with your friends, continue the conversation, and create accountability for yourself.