How to Eat Clean and Still Enjoy Thanksgiving

When it comes to what’s already on the Thanksgiving dinner table, what’s our best bet to eat allergen-free?

Depending on how many allergies or intolerances you may have, you may need to bring a side dish or two along with you. If you have a wheat or gluten issue, you will need to ensure that no one added broth containing wheat starch to the turkey as well as avoid the stuffing, macaroni and cheese, homemade noodles and most desserts. If you have a dairy issue, the green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese, any ranch-style veggie dip, sweet potatoes with butter or milk, anything with cheese, any bread or most desserts will need to be avoided unless someone prepares them with allergy-friendly ingredients. They do make dairy-free chocolate!

Anyone with corn issues will need to watch anything that may contain high-fructose corn syrup. Those with egg issues will need to check ingredient labels on any breads, pastas, stuffing and most desserts. People with issues with soy will want to check the ingredients on any bread products. The nut allergy crowd is probably the luckiest when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner because some desserts are probably all that they have to avoid. If you have more severe issues, then you will most likely already be checking all of these things. If it is your first year, do not stress. Bring an entire plate with you if you have to; just be sure to enjoy your time with your family and loved ones.

Read my full interview, with Lauren Rutherford, from Feast Magazine . Always keep in mind at social events such as Thanksgiving, that having the expectation going in, that some people may ask silly and sometimes rude questions but not really listen to your responses is a game changer. I think your expectations make more of a difference than anything, and it’s important to understand that you aren’t going to get through to everyone.

Happy Thanksgiving! How do you navigate all of the food filled holidays when eating clean?

How to Make Simple, Delicious, Healthy Meals Without All of the Extras

When I asked people on my support group, “What do you struggle with the most when it comes to your healthy eating goals?” I received a variety of answers. Several of them were similar in nature, in the fact that they all were struggling to find affordable, simple recipes:

“$ (Money) it’s hard to find things here and when you can it’s marked up double or triple what it was back in CA.”

“Money-it’s so much more expensive to eat healthy.”

“Finding good recipes that aren’t overwhelming.”

“Quick, easy recipes that don’t require 30 different specialty ingredients. I know I need to be better about prepping on the weekend, but we only have so many hours in the day to get things accomplished!”

This was certainly a struggle of mine as well, when I first started out eliminating so many foods and cooking from scratch. Things like coconut aminos and toasted sesame oil are amazing, but they are also hard on my budget if used too frequently! So why don’t I struggle with this anymore?

Along with starting freezer meal prep, these five things keep simple, delicious, healthy meals on our table (with a little time and effort):

  1. Fresh Herbs
  2. Fresh Spices
  3. Dried Herbs
  4. Fresh Spices
  5. Practice

Learning to cook with herbs and spices has taken me from someone who used recipes every time I attempted to cook anything, to someone who can just throw “whatever” together! In fact, this is when I have created some of my tastiest dishes that so many people enjoy in my cooking classes and workshops. And as an added bonus, the ability to improvise using herbs and spices, can save you tons of time and money in the long run!

The most amazing thing about herbs and spices, is that they can make the EXACT same ingredients taste like completely different meals! Example, saute some chicken and veggies with:

  1. A Mexican Seasoning Mix
  2. A Thai Seasoning Mix
  3. An Italian Seasoning Mix

Even if you use the same vegetables for every dish, you will end up with 3 completely different tastes! This is why I feel the key to long-term diet change (for those who bore easily) is to know how to use herbs and spices. This does not even get into all of the health benefits of these amazing creations! (Which there are a TON!)

I am working on my first cookbook, which will have a more comprehensive guide for those who do not have the time to experiment in the kitchen. However, I don’t want to leave everyone hanging until then, so I thought I would type out a few herbs and spices to get you started on your journey!

Fresh Rosemary, Apples and Pork are always a winning combination. Also, be sure to try it out with some roasted lamb!

Cinnamon is most known for adding sweetness to your dish; however, it can also add a savory flavor that your dish is needing!

Fresh Basil is a useful herb to get to know as well. It is used to flavor things like sauces, soups and salads and goes particularly well with tomatoes.

Cumin can add a Middle Eastern, Mexican, Indian, North Africa or Southwestern US flavor to your dish; however, it is also used by some to sweeten their dish and even as a pickling spice. If you have never used this tasty spice, I highly encourage trying it out!

Fresh Parsley should be found in every refrigerator, since it can go into just about any dish you prepare! Flat leafed parsley is preferred for cooking since it holds up to heat the best, while curly parsley is used for decorative purposes most of the time.

Turmeric will add a yellowish color to your dish, as well as a mild woodsy flavor. It can be used in place of saffron for those on a budget and is great for making tea. Just be careful, as it can stain your dishes and clothes!

I prefer fresh herbs when possible, but here a great rule of thumb when they may be hard to find or if you are trying to use up what is in the cabinet:

1 teaspoon of the dried herb = 1 tablespoon of the fresh

Don’t be afraid to experiment and if you mess up, it isn’t the end of the world! I know it is hard to waste food, but it is all a learning experience! (And trust me, if you have to throw the food away, you will learn! I know. lol) Throw in some citrus fruits from time to time for that extra zest and you will be unstoppable! In the long run, it will save you money AND time, since you will be able to throw an amazing meal together from what you have on hand without all of the extras!

 

 

Amazing Homemade French Fries

If you love french fries then you must try cooking them this way! It takes some time to get each fry cooked evenly, but it is completely worth the effort. Once you have fries cooked in lard, you won’t want them any other way! (I get my lard from Sullivan Farms if anyone is around Columbia, Missouri.)

Ingredients

  • 2-3 Organic White Potatoes
  • 1-2 Tbsp Lard or Bacon Grease from Pastured Pigs
  • Sea Salt, Black Pepper and Garlic Powder (To Taste)

Directions

  1. Heat enough lard or bacon grease to cover the pan.
  2. While it is heating, wash, peel and cut potatoes into french fry shapes.
  3. When the grease is hot turn to medium heat and carefully place the fries into the pan. Make sure there is only a single layer of fries so that they cook evenly. It takes a little longer, but is totally worth it!
  4. Season while cooking and flip as needed.
  5. When all sides are crispy, remove the fries onto a paper towel to remove excess grease.
  6. Enjoy! We don’t even use ketchup, not even our toddler! For an extra treat, top with bacon pieces and sliced green onion!

 

No-Egg Breakfast Bowl

Those of us that can’t or choose not to get grains can get pretty bored with eggs EVERY morning, plus many people are allergic. Here is a simple breakfast bowl that I created from what was in my refrigerator one morning. I am not a fan of “breakfast”, “lunch” and “dinner” labels, so feel free to cook this anytime like I do! Also, feel free to use bacon or ground sausage in place of the links.
Ingredients
  • 2 Large or 6 Small Sausage Links (I got mine at Sullivans Farms near Columbia, MO)
  • 2 cups Broccoli, Cut into Chunks (Stem and Florets)
  • 2 cups Spinach
  • 1 Yellow Onion, Peeled and Diced
  • 1 cup Mushrooms (I used Baby Bellas), Sliced
  • 1/8 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1/8 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/8 tsp Roasted Ground Coriander
  • 1/8 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1-2 Tbsp Good Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Directions

  1. Brown links over medium heat in skillet on stove for around 4-5 minutes, turning as needed. Do not cook through. (I prefer using my cast iron.)
  2. Remove from skillet and set to the side.
  3. Place the onions and broccoli into the skillet and cook for 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring as needed. Add a 1/2-1 tbsp of olive oil if needed. (There may be some left over from the sausage.)
  4. While the veggies are cooking, remove the casein and cut the sausage down the middle, splitting the sausage into two long halves. Hold the two pieces together, while slicing into 1″ slices.
  5. Mix in the spinach and 1 tbsp olive oil to the skillet. Stir around and the spinach should cook down after 2-3 minutes.
  6. Next, add in the sausage, mushrooms, and spices. Continue to cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring as needed. Ensure that the sausage is cooked through.
  7. Enjoy!

I always recommend organic, local, pastured and non-gmo whenever possible! If you are looking for more egg free recipe ideas and are around Columbia, MO then check out Back 2 Basics Cooking!

8 Tips For Helping Positive Diet Changes To Stick

David Ramsey says, “Change is very hard and we change only when the pain of same is greater than the pain of change.”  Let’s face it, for many people, cleaning up your diet is hard! I mean, unhealthy foods are EVERYWHERE and not to mention addictive (and cheaper). It seems so much easier to just deprive yourself for a few days or weeks, instead of actually trying to make long lasting positive diet changes. Really though, we are not talking about going on a diet, but instead about replacing nutrient poor foods with nutrient dense foods. I have rode along on the journey as several people have went through this process, as well as gone through it myself, so I know first hand how much some people struggle with it.

Any positive diet change is not going to be just for a few weeks or months like so many “diets” out there, but instead should be a lifestyle change, a whole new mindset if you will. I have had the pleasure of meeting some people who seem to make this lifestyle change with what appears to be very little effort. After reflecting on what these people had in common, I came up with the following tips:

  1. It has to be YOUR idea. Any major change can not be your wife’s idea or your father’s or even your doctor’s. It has to be YOURS, if you are going to have enough motivation to stick with this long term, YOU have to want it. When people that come to me say something like, “my doctor says I need to give up gluten, but I just don’t know”, I already know their chances of long-term success are minimal, because they lack the personal motivation to stick with it through the tough times, which are inevitable. That is not meant as a judgement of any kind, but I see it happen quite often.
  2. You must have some kind of plan. In the land of convenience foods, pizza parties and donuts at the office every friday, it is critical that you make a plan before starting your diet change. You are going to be tempted, you are going to get busy, things are going to come up, you will not always be eating at home and sometimes there will be no options available. All of this will undoubtedly happen when your motivation has already left the building! It can really help to know what you are going to do in these types of situations before you reach them. You need recipe ideas and to know what you are going to buy at the store. You simply can not wake up one day and say “I want to clean up my diet” and instantly do so perfectly 100% of the time. (And if you somehow did, please email me and tell me how!) Freezer meals, weekly meal prep, doubling meals and help from my boyfriend are the main way that we make it work in our house. It took us a few years to get to this point though, so be patient.
  3. Only wanting to lose weight is not enough. In my experience, there tend to be two types of people that make the effort to clean up their diet. People who are trying to lose weight and people who are sick and in pain, and of course many people experience both reasons. Those people who are only trying to lose weight will eventually go back to eating unhealthy if that is their only motivation. That is not to say that many of the people who try diets like Paleo for weight loss reasons, do not eventually change their mindsets, because so many do. They feel so much better eating nutrient dense foods that their bodies were craving, that they don’t even worry about the weight loss anymore. Those people who are sick and in pain tend to do a better job of sticking to the path out of necessity. Having a gallbladder attack or migraine will quickly remind you that “cheating” is not an option for you!
  4. Focusing on what you can eat, instead of what is “off-limits” is crucial. When I first started eating Paleo, I really focused on some of the things that I could no longer eat and drink. It made it really difficult. When I eventually stopped focusing on things I was suppose to be avoiding, I realized that there is actually more things that I eat now than when I was eating a Standard American Diet. I mean really, when you really open your mind, there are soooo many things you can make out of meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and healthy fats! For example Beef and Broccoli Cashew Stir Fry, Beef Bourguignon, Pineapple Meatballs and Ground Beef Stroganoff are use a few amazing Paleo friendly recipes just for beef. Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies, Sweet Potato Pie, Mexican Chocolate Pots de’ CremeEskimo Pies and Flourless Zucchini Brownies are just some of the amazing Paleo “friendly” desserts. (Of course, these desserts are not healthy if you eat them all the time, but they are great options for those people who can’t or do not want to eat bad oils, flours and fake foods when they want a treat.) Another way to look at this is to start adding in good foods, instead of focusing on removing the bad ones. This can be the kick start that some people need in order to achieve their goals.
  5. Doing what works best for YOU can give you the extra step up that you need to succeed! When some people enter a swimming pool, they dive in, and take in the full shock of the temperature change. While this can be very uncomfortable for a moment, it doesn’t last long. When other people enter the swimming pool, they ease their way in, little by little. This makes for less of a shock, but it does drag out the process. The point is, that either way both people eventually are adjusted to the temperature of the water and in the pool….  Gretchen Rubin discusses the difference between abstainers and moderators in this episode of Underground Wellness Radio (start at 33:00). Moderators are the ones who can eat one tiny square of chocolate a day but the thought of no chocolate is too much for them, while abstainers, by contrast are the ones who can’t eat any chocolate because they will eat the entire bar! Neither strategy is right or wrong, you just need to find what works best for YOU! If one way is not working, maybe you need to try the other way.
  6. Know your triggers and act accordingly. When I was finally able to kick my soda pop habit for good, I couldn’t eat any fast food, because when I did it would send my cravings through the roof! I am sure it was partly the addictive foods themselves, causing me to craving my glass of Dr. Pepper, but I also think it was the memory of always consuming it with my fast food meals that made it worse. Personally it was too hard for me, so I just avoided fast food for a few months (that is really never a bad idea, is it?!?).
  7. Persistence. Persistence. Persistence. When I quit smoking cigarettes several years ago, it took me 9 tries before I finally kicked the habit for good. I tried the patch, the gum, Chantix (prescription medicine), cold turkey and the list goes on and on. You want to know why I finally was able to quit? Because I stuck with it! I made a goal and nothing was going to keep me from it. I kept that same intensity for a few years until I finally figured out what worked from me (which goes back to tip #5). The ability to stick to your goal (remember it must be your goal) is one of the top traits that will ensure success when transitioning to a healthier diet. These are the people who are able to adjust their plans and make things work through all the bumps in the road. These are the people who despite failing 197 times, they keep trying until they find what works, because they are determined at all costs to reach their goals!
  8. Forgiveness. Being able to forgive yourself when you make a mistake or when you fail is possibly the most important trait to have when trying to make a diet change. People who beat themselves up for failing are, in my experience, not going to make the change long term; however, those who frown, brush themselves off and move on, are more equipped to make the a lifestyle change instead of just “dieting” for a few weeks. Winston Churchill once said, “Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” Failure is not permanent and you must never let it steal your hope. Forgive yourself and move on.

And while I decided not to add it to the list, because I have seen many people accomplish their goals without it, support can be very necessary for some people so I thought I should at least mention it. It never hurts to know that you have some people on your side! Of course, many people have also used the motivation they get when everyone doubts them. Either way, other people opinions can help add fuel to your fire and give you the extra incentive that you need to accomplish your goals.

I also have to add making the right diet changes are extra important for long term sustainability. If, for example, you try to go on a low fat diet, I suspect you will be hungry all the time and it will be near impossible for you to sustain with all the unhealthy tempting choices that we are bombarded with on a day to day basis. Check out The Paleo Mom or Robb Wolf if you would like to understand more about how Paleo can be a great starting point for you to find out what works for your body. Check out Nourished Kitchen to get started with real food. If you are in the Columbia, Missouri area, join us for a Meal Prep Workshop to set yourself up for success! And hopefully this blog will be helpful to you on your journey as well!

Are there any tips you would add to this list?

15 Grain-Free Side Dish Ideas

Here are a few of my favorite side dishes for anyone who has taken one of my freezer workshops or just anyone reading who needs some fresh ideas! All are “clean” and super tasty! I hope you enjoy them as much as I do….

Roasted Carrots

Brussel Sprout Chips

Kale Chips

Roasted Potatoes

Rainbow Roasted Root Vegetables

Cucumber Dill Salad

Oven Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Plantain Chips

Roasted Broccoli Recipe

Mashed Garlic Cauliflower

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Cauliflower Rice

Slow Cooker Sweet Potatoes

Roasted Butternut Squash

Zesty Side Salad

Side Salad Topped With Roasted Sunflower Seeds And Drizzled With Olive Oil & Lemon

Side Salad Topped With Roasted Sunflower Seeds And Drizzled With Olive Oil & Lemon

If you are in a hurry, you can also sauteed a bag of frozen veggies in coconut or avocado oil or just toss together a simple side salad full of leafy greens and top with extra virgin olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon juice in place of store bought dressings. Enjoy!

 

 

Simple Whole30 Shopping Guide

I host a semi-annual Whole30 and was asked to make a simple short shopping guide. I actually wanted to make a video instead, but there are only so many hours in the day, so maybe the next Whole30 I can make that happen. For now, please use the following when at the grocery store during the Whole30 (and remember that the Whole30 is stricter than Paleo, so there are things that aren’t allowed that even on Paleo).

MEATS

Buy local, pastured, grass-fed/finished, and wild-caught when it is available and fits into your budget. If you live around Columbia,MO, you can find all of this (except the fish) at the local Columbia Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings. If you receive EBT and have a child under 12, you may be eligible for their swap program, which allows you to “cash in” $25 dollars of your stamps for $50 in tokens.

Many people think that red meat is unhealthy, however if you get it from a source that cared for the animal correctly, where it was allowed to eat it’s natural diet and wasn’t injected with hormones etc., then you don’t need to fear it! Check out this article from Chris Kresser.

You still need to avoid added sugar so watch you sausage and bacon (almost all have added sugar). Things like bologna, hot dogs, and most lunch meat are off limits. I was able to find a no sugar added turkey from the deli at Hy-Vee. If you ask them the ingredients they can print your labels if they are unsure. Many canned tunas have soy in them and should be avoid.

While eggs are not meat, I wasn’t sure where else to add them, so I will include them here. Eggs are also not to be feared! Locate a local source when possible. Cage-free does not mean anything so don’t pay extra for these.

Short Version: Pork, Beef, Chicken, Lamb, Bison, Duck, Deer, Sugar Free Deli Turkey, Canned Salmon and Tuna, Fish/Seafood, Eggs

PRODUCE

Depending what your diet looked like before, you will probably be buying somewhere around double the amount of fruits and vegetables. Always purchase local and organic when possible. Check out the dirty dozen if you are on a budget. Eating in season is always a good idea, but isn’t a must. A local farmer’s market is always a good option.

Fruits do need to be limited to some extent, especially if weight loss is a goal; however, if you are coming from a sugar and carb heavy diet, the first week or two, it will be easier if you eat more fruits. Then the last 2-3 weeks you can cut them back. The only canned items that I personally can use are tomatoes. Avocados are an excellent fat source. If you are having trouble losing weight though, they should be limited.

Frozen vegetables are also a great option. Being so busy I use them a lot. Just cook some protein and throw some frozen vegetables and spices with it. Bam! Dinner is served. Also, after the first week do your best to try some new thing you haven’t or didn’t like before.

Dried fruit is ok, but shouldn’t be eaten alone. For example, instead of eating a handful of raisins, add them with some tuna, spinach and olive oil for a quick salad. Larabars are a great on the go option (just avoid the ones with chocolate chips), but they need to be limited, because they are made with dates. I personally am going to limit myself to no more than 3 a week this Whole30.

Short Version: Get tons of vegetables and some fruits. Maybe even double of what you typically buy. Grab a few larabars in case you need something quick.

NUTS AND SEEDS

Nuts and seeds are a healthy addition to your Whole30, but should be limited also. Adding a handful to a salad adds a nice texture though, so don’t be afraid to use them sometimes. You want to purchase raw nuts and seeds. The bulk section is a good place to get these if your store has one. If you buy them from a package just be sure to check the label for added ingredients! Almonds are high in Omega-6’s so do not overdo them especially.

You can also purchase nut butters like almond and cashew butter or even sunbutter. As always, be sure to read the labels as many of these have added sugar. Many stores have a machine that will grind the almonds right there so you know exactly what is in them. Hy-Vee and Clover’s in Columbia have these machines.

Nut flours are a great option for replacing all-purpose flour. While you are not allowed to make things like pancakes on the Whole30, you can use nut flours to bread chicken etc.

Please note that peanuts are a legume, not a nut, so they should be avoided.

Short Version: Almonds, Walnuts, Cashews, Sesame Seeds, Sunflower Seeds Etc.(Raw), Nut Butter, Nut Flowers

COCONUT

I know that coconut is a nut, but I decided to list it separately because it offers so many great options! The coconut offers us oil, chips, flours, and milk. Be sure to get extra virgin (or virgin) coconut oil and full fat coconut milk. I purchase Nature’s Valley in a can. Yum!

The oil is awesome because it has a high smoke point, so you can cook with it. You can use it on your teeth, hair, and body also!

Short Version: Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, Coconut Flakes, Coconut Chips, Coconut Flours, Coconut Milk

OILS

Since we are no longer using vegetable oils, you need to know what to use in place of them. There are lots of great options. As mentioned above coconut oil is one of them. Avocado oil is another one. Olive oil is great, but should not be heated much and is better used for dressings.

Beef fat and duck fat from quality sources are great options. This one might make you think I am crazy, but lard is also an excellent and tasty option. If you are in the Columbia area check out Sullivan Farms at the Columbia Farmer’s Market for some high quality lard that I personally use. You do not want to use store bought lard, since those pigs were probably not taken very good care of. Since fat stores toxins, this lard would be full of them.

Short Version:Coconut Oil, Avocado Oil, Olive Oil, Duck Fat, Tallow (beef fat), and Lard (pig fat)

EXTRAS

There are items that do not fall into any of the above that are Whole30 approved also. Mustard and balsamic vinaigrette are two of those. I did not cover everything, so be sure to check your labels. If you are unsure, screenshot the label and post it to the group to find out.

Short Version: Mustard, Balsamic Vinaigrette, and READ YOUR LABELS

Check out these posts if you are wondering what a Whole30 meal looks like or what our first week of the challenge was like last time. This post may be helpful also! And if you think you are fat, please check this post out! The first week or two might be rough, but you will feel better when they are over!