Thursday, November 20, 2014

Primal Kitchen Does Disney, Including Gluten Free Dairy Free Dining and a Trip to CrossFit MouseTrap

This past summer's trip to Disney World was my brother's idea, and at first I thought, can we really do this? I had major doubts. The Disney website has a lot of information readily available about the nature of their dietary accommodations. About 3 months ahead, my husband made reservations for our group at restaurants where (because of researching the Disney website) we knew there to be options for those with restrictions.

Then, it was suddenly DISNEY WEEK, and we went from theory to practice. This is where I want to give a huge one-woman teary eyed round of applause to the Disney parks staff for the grace and courtesy we encountered everywhere we went. Never once did I witness a roll of the eyes or any other similar reaction from staff. With the exception of 1 or 2 restaurant visits, the staff seating us already knew that we had a gluten and dairy restriction in our party (my 4 year old daughter). The restaurants that did not have the
gluten/dairy information at hand when we arrived for our reservation, for whatever reason, did not skip a beat and continued as though they had known it all along.

Here are the restaurants where we had a fantastic experience.
The Disney dining staff were unfailingly gracious with our family. In most cases, we were greeted for our reservation with a host or hostess explaining that the chef would be out in a moment to discuss options for our daughter. There were 2 times that our attempt to designate dietary restrictions online did not go all the way through the system, yet in those cases, the Disney staff did not skip a beat, and we met with the chef as in all the other restaurant experiences.

The breakfast buffet/character breakfasts were a really REALLY great experience. The chefs were friendly, compassionate, efficient, and best of all, knowledgeably presented lots and lots of options that were dairy and gluten free. I would say that those dealing with cases of celiac disease who are especially paranoid about cross contamination should ask the chefs whether it is possible to get some fruit or other options they serve to be brought separately to the table. In our case, there were often separate areas where the gluten free breakfast pastries were served, OR we were offered some prepackaged. Enjoy Life and Kinnickinnick brand foods were commonly available in lots of the restaurants. That said, my daughter was able to enjoy hearty breakfasts with lots of whole foods and protein available...and good thing, because breakfast was often one of our biggest food stops of the day. Best of all, the character breakfast experiences allowed the girls to meet many of the characters AND got us into the park early, so I would recommend them for all families of small children, but especially families with spectrum kiddos who might otherwise avoid long outdoor lines to meet characters or be frustrated with slow line waiting to enter the park in the morning.
FABULOUS entertainment
at Biergarten - a live band!

For non-breakfast meals, Cinderella's Royal Table, the Epcot Biergarten, and Sanaa went the extra
mile with exceptionally delicious gluten free dairy free options. The Rainforest Cafe and Teppan Edo met our family's needs graciously, but the fare was of the "naked protein and veggies with salt and pepper", very stripped down type. You could enjoy a gluten free dairy free meal with loved ones at all these locations, but if you are looking for a little extra oomph, the Royal Table, Biergarten, and Sanaa would be the first places I'd direct you out of the restaurants we'd visited.

Like any parents (and any parents of a dietary restricted kid), we brought LOTS of nonperishable gluten free dairy free snacks with us into the park: Larabars, rice crackers, raisins, beef jerky, and toasted seaweed. I also had a stash of Quest bars for myself to keep my protein consistently adequate over the course of the week, which was useful considering that we walked several miles each day and were far more active in a "low level activity" sense.

I visited CrossFit MouseTrap with my brother one morning for a drop-in fee. It was a nice experience - a friendly and accommodating box that is a well-oiled machine in terms of dealing with visitors. On the morning we visited, they had a group warmup, a strength set, and a 20 minute workout of the day. I'd heartily recommend checking them out if you are a Disney traveler looking for a group workout. They have some great graphics on their shirts, too, and the inventor of WOD Counters coaches there, so be prepared with some souvenir money!


Have you successfully done Disney with one or more trip members with dietary restrictions? What tips do you have to share about your trip?


This post contains an affiliate link. Shopping Amazon through this link results in a tiny percentage of the purchase price being given to Primal Kitchen, at no added cost to you, so thank you for supporting Primal Kitchen!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Back to School Platespinning Merry-Go-Round

The summer activities pulled me under like a rip tide. Thanks to my brother, we took our family's first trip to Disney World. WOW, what a learning experience! I hope to share some of those experiences with readers who may be wondering if they can pull it off in terms of dietary restrictions. This summer we also had swim lessons, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and then...there were the glasses. My 4.5 year old daughter was diagnosed with convergence excess, and prescribed corrective lens glasses and vision therapy to address the Venn-diagram-style triple vision that she would see when looking at a book.

This brings me to a cogent point - if you're a parent tinkering with diet as a means to support your child's growth and development, AWESOME. I give you all the high fives I can muster and congratulate you on your efforts and the (possibly very long) journey you are on to help your child to be his or her best.

That said: avoid being myopic. Do not pursue diet at the expense of having your child evaluated for other issues. Do not pursue diet at the expense of not getting your child started with proven therapies.

Our family's ideal is keeping my autistic 4 year old's diet train going - a gluten free, casein free, dye free diet with personalized tweaks - but ALSO having her in a steady chuggachugging weekly routine of private and public services: speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy. As I briefly mentioned above, we are about to add vision therapy to that list, too.

Because, think of it this way: even if you have mastered "THE PERFECT DIET (c)" for your child...but have never evaluated them for vision issues, they could be optimally fueled but still walking around with Venn-diagram-style triple vision, which would impact many kids' learning. OR, you could be getting so much valuable therapy for your child, but your little one could be distracted in therapy sessions by stomach ache and brain fog because of dietary sensitivities that have not yet been addressed.

In our case, we are glad to use diet to keep her tummy happy and her brain fog at bay- while she wears her new glasses and makes significant gains in occupational therapy with her handwriting. It's exceptionally difficult to keep many plates spinning - diet, therapies, evaluations - but ultimately they all support each other and help her to work toward her best, day in, day out.

What are your goals for your family this school year? Are you using nutritional strategies to support your child's growth and development?


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Throwback Thursday, a Love Letter to the CrossFit Coach

I recently stumbled across this picture taken of me in June 2011, about 3 months before I started doing CrossFit. I was probably sitting somewhere around 40%+ body fat.

I had two gorgeous daughters, but physically, life was not fun. I remember feeling winded from the slightest activities, like tall flights of stairs. Clothes never fit right, and dressing rooms were a nemesis. I simply wasn't comfortable in my own skin.

I had never been athletically gifted; even though I did swim team and soccer in high school and a year of water polo in college, I spend the vast quantity of my school athletics' game time on some sideline or bench somewhere. Even though I had the desire to play and the dedication to show up for practices, in the end, I didn't possess the innate interactive know-how of technical plays, or good reflexes on the field. Even in an individualized sport like swimming, I didn't possess the grace and power that propelled my betters through the water, so I was at the bottom of the totem pole when it came to getting extra help, because swim coaches wanted to focus on their teams' biggest points-winners. Coaches did not give me a whole lot of thought in those days, probably because I was not in any way integral to the win/lose destiny of my teams.

I was anxious about starting CrossFit, even that much more when I had contacted my local CrossFit box and decided to sign up for the ramp up course. Would my experience with CrossFit coaches be any different from my previous athletic/coaching experiences? By that point I was in the worst shape of my life, and I had serious doubts as to whether any fitness professional would look at me be able to see potential where before them stood a sedentary gal who weighed well over 200 lb. and at the time was spilling out of size 14 jeans.

I am happy, though, to say that in the nearly 3 years since then, I have been thrilled by what I've discovered in the CrossFit community's coaching. Because of that, I want to write a little love letter to my CrossFit coaches (and by extension CrossFit coaches everywhere!).


Dear CrossFit Coach,

Thank you. No. Really. THANK YOU.

The job you do is complex and grueling. I know this from watching you faithfully do it day in, day out, through almost three years of my CrossFit experience.

Thank you for not judging me harshly in the first session you ever had with me. Thank you for treating me with respect and patience, despite the awkward moments my body was not doing what my brain wanted it to do, because of lack of practice or sheer fatigue.

Thank you for not telling me to head for the hills every time I had an injury. Instead, you helped me to work around my sore spots and still get decent workouts while those spots rested. Thank you for being open to other scales or progressions or options that I brought up as possibilities during those times, too.

Thank you for never being skeptical that I would make it. Thank you that my willingness to show up and do the work was enough to get your coaching eyes on me day in, day out. Thank you that I didn't have to be the best in the room to get coaching attention.

Thank you for not pulling your hair out and cursing the heavens and then throwing rotten tomatoes at me whenever I did that thing with my form that you are always telling me to not do. Thank you for instead taking a phone video or giving me a new set of cues or correcting me using a fresh method to draw my attention to the mistake in a compassionate and constructive way.

Thank you for checking on my diet, my sleep, my mobility, and the other aspects of living that support a solid CrossFit experience. Thanks for messaging me when I was absent too long - because it brought me accountability but helped to know that I was missed, too.

Thank you for those moments you spoke positively about me to someone else, and I was allowed to overhear you. You might not realize it, but tiny moments like those can help an athlete sail through an otherwise bad day.

Thank you for celebrating with me. Thank you for high fiving me and playing motivating music, and for every encouraging message you wrote when I hit PRs, milestones, or tackled new skills. Thank you for birthday burpees. Thank you for understanding how much it means when you show that you're just as invested in our successes as we are.

Thank you for all the "off hours" unseen coaching work that you put in planning programming, preparing and maintaining the box, dealing with technical glitches, and organizing classes around each other. Many of these things are rarely thought about by athletes, and that means you are doing a fantastic job.

Thank you for every time you go the extra step to cultivate a family atmosphere at the box - one where we can tease each other, compete with each other, spar with each other, cheer each other, and BE THERE for each other. That makes you the family chieftain, as it were, and we are grateful for your leadership and friendship as you guide us on our CrossFit journeys.

THANK YOU for proving how awesome coaches can be!


PK and many other CrossFitting homies out there


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Boring Consistency Leading to My FIRST Dead Hang Pull Up

Soccer snacks, kicking it
Good people! What. Is. UP?! Over the last two weeks, the weather broke into deliriously uplifting springtime temperatures. I heard the collective sigh of my fellow midAtlantic parents, "Ahhhhhhhhhh!!" as the children regained school and activity routines.

Among our routines that kicked back off was spring soccer season. I love my 7 year old daughter's coach because he goes through the effort every season to ask parents to bring healthy snacks. While he does not get overly specific on what is not healthy, he encourages fruit and water as a starting point. YEAH! On average, his requests result in considerably less junky halftime and post-game snacks for our team. We brought last Saturday's snacks - grapes and sliced oranges. True story. I saw it on Pinterest.

The carpet was old anyway. NBD.

And oh, yes. Our basement kind of mini-flooded, just enough to dampen most of the carpet. Weeks of snow dumping followed by a week of almost continuous rain will do that when your sump pump suddenly quits for about 2 hours. Part of the thrills of living in a vintage home, and by vintage I mean: built in the late 1980s.

I found myself exceedingly grateful to be physically strong those few days we spent grunting and sweating 50 lb. rolls of carpet up our stairs. FUNCTIONAL. FITNESS. BABY. SCHWING!

I've been doing a bit of spring organizing, too. My baking supplies cabinet was totally overrun by various bags of open alternative flours. Let me ask you if this sounds familiar:

    Flour THIS!
  • Almond flour
  • Coconut flour
  • Cashew flour
  • Hazlenut flour
  • Buckwheat flour
  • Rice flour
  • Teff flour
  • All purpose gluten free flour
  • Nuts
  • Chocolate chips
  • Shredded unsweetened coconut

They were in complete rebellion. I finally picked up some inexpensive, tall sealable containers and mini chip clips and managed to contain most of them.

This is me, doing a
simple track stretch in an
empty speech therapist
reception area.
Other than little items like basement flooding and flour organizing, I have been boringly consistent.

What do I mean by "boringly consistent"? I mean, managing to take care of myself, even around my responsibilities.

Going to CrossFit. Refueling my body responsibly. Mobilizing. Sleeping. Going to hot yoga.

Keeping those little subroutines running in my software makes all the other big tasks in our lives - like lining up my 4 year old daughter's Individiualized Education Program (IEP) and getting her to preschool, speech therapy, and occupational therapy sessions - much more manageable. Put on your oxygen mask so you can put on your kiddos' oxygen masks.

Boringly consisten oven-baked
eggs with baby kale.

I have been in the Eat to Perform 90 day challenge since January, in part to regain ground lost during the holiday season and being snowed in for, oh, 234 weeks in a row. (True story.) You may recall that last fall I had a really good experience combining paleo parameters of the Whole Life Challenge with the carb timing parameters of Eat to Perform.

Boringly consistent post CrossFit
breakfast: leftover
chicken breast and leftover soft
baked sweet potato.
This time, for the official Eat to Perform online challenge, I had no Whole Life Challenge parameters, so I had a lot more leeway to dabble with grey area foods. I also discovered that those grey area foods - I'm talking about deli meat, premade rice pudding, etc. - while fulfilling my macros, were holding me back in terms of feeling my best. SHOCKER, RIGHT?! I also was not feeling magical on the numbers initially generated by the Eat to Perform intake calculator (whereas last fall when dabbling with the ETP timing principles only I naturally ate less in general).

Luckily, the ETP staff are super gracious and responsive. I used the ETP forum to ask specific questions about my intake levels related to my body fat, weight, age, gender, etc., and I received in turn customized advice.

Boringly consistent soft baked
sweet potato and leftover kebab beef.
Post-workout breakfast.
Also a speech therapist
parking lot breakfast.
I also decided to relegate grey area foods to more of an "emergency status" and return to the boringly consistent (there is that phrase again) active athlete's paleo template.

What does that look like? It means whole food meats, eggs, and fish. It means eating pumpkin and sweet potatoes and occasional white rice. It means more vegetables than you ever thought you could hold.

It means making tons and tons of food at a time so that when you are doing hairpin turnaround between early morning CrossFit and driving your 4 year old to speech therapy and school, you have those already made options ready to eat in the car while you wait for the speech therapy session to finish.

Boringly consistent emergency
speech therapist
parking lot breakfast.
No junk deli meat
and canned pumpkin. means that if the best post-workout option you have that morning is no junk ham and canned pumpkin, instead of getting all perfectionistic and beating yourself up about making a meal on a whole pack of deli meat, you go to town getting in your breakfast and move on with your day. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good, people.

In general, I am back in the happy momentum I enjoyed last fall at the end of the Whole Life Challenge. Paleo foods in sufficient quantity (including carbs) to sustain muscle mass and activity levels. Starchy carbs around workouts. Meat, eggs, and veggies any time else.

Boringly consistent spaghetti squash
and sausage scramble.
In addition to my Eat to Perform/paleo template, with some focused guidance, I have added some homework around my regular CrossFit workouts. I continue with my beloved hot yoga. To chip away at my mile time, I've been running single 800m sprints often as part of my pre-CrossFit-workout warmup. I've been doing pullup negatives and progressions like crazy, almost daily. Small, regular sets of plank, pushup, and squat drills.

Boringly consistent prebed snack
of salmon, beets, sweet potatoes.
I have definitely noticed an improvement in my body composition and performance. While leaning out more has happened and I've noticed increased muscle definition, I've also become much faster at climbing the 20' rope at CrossFit. My 800m run time has gone from 4:20 down to about 3:45 -- so I have hope that soon my mile time will be under 8 minutes.

And finally: on Friday, I did my first ever pullup. It was a dead hang, too. It's hard to describe how immensely gratifying that feeling was. If any of you reading ever had to suffer the indignities of the presidential fitness test, then you know exactly what I mean. As an athletically inept overweight kid, I never stood a chance of doing a pull up. Gaining a pullup was an affirmation of what I've long hoped: your past does not dictate your future. In fact, in all likelihood, you can steer your destiny more than you might have ever believed.
Boringly consistent chicken
and spaghetti squash dinner.

I wore a tank top from my brother's
NYC CrossFit box doing the pullup.
I may never wear another top to CrossFit;
it is my official lucky tank. ;)
Thanks, Bro!

Boringly consistent sauerkraut,
chicken, chard, carrots.

Boringly consistent
Mediterranean scramble.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Snow-Airbrushing, the Endless Cavalcade of Snow Days, and a Stomach Bug that Wouldn't Quit

Greetings, fellow captives of Winter 2014.

If you live anywhere in the mid-Atlantic all the way down through Florida, you are all too aware of the...*ahem*...variant weather patterns we are experiencing this season. Since the start of 2014, our county has had exactly one intact week of school - by which I mean one week without cancellations due to snow, ice, extreme cold, and so on.

I'd love to direct you to the pictures on the right - of travel-sized spray bottles filled with food-coloring-tinted water.

"Oh!" I could coo in a Pinterest-friendly soundbite, "Those dreary winter days trapped inside because of the snow could become so much brighter with this simple art project!"

And, this is a fun project to try out. My mom (an art teacher) was the one who originally sent my brother and I out into the snow with colored water to paint the wintry canvas more than 20 years ago...

---- Aaaaaaand, cut! ------- 
(Where the Pinterest-friendly "life is perfection" content stops. Feel free to gear up your kids for the snow-airbrushing.)

But here is the added truth of the matter.

I'm going a little bit crazy.

I'm a major introvert, and I really depend on:

  • Predictable routines
  • Planned kid-free times that I can more efficiently grocery shop, cook, work out, etc. Right now, this is 3 mornings per week while my youngest is in preschool.
  • Doses of quiet in my week (including, yes, mainly those 3 golden mornings) when I can let my frazzled mind rest in stillness
So, I am going - I will use the technical term here - guano crazy. The colored water was a last holdout in my admittedly small arsenal of snow day tricks, and it genuinely occupied my oldest, well, for about an hour.

Why is my arsenal of snow day tricks so small? Because typically, I don't need more than 2-3 days' worth of gambits in a given winter. We've blown way past that by now. Punxsutawney Phil (who did indeed see his shadow) may not be aware that he's made it on my hit list.

To complicate the cabin fever, our entire family got hit by a stomach bug last week. Luckily, our girls bounced back within about 12 hours. My husband and I were each worthless for about 36 hours, however. It took lots of sleeping, and some kombucha and full fat yoghurt to pull me out of that awful illness. By the time we had fully recovered, a foot of snow had fallen on the DC metro area. Two more days of school, cancelled.

In other words, two days of being housebound followed by two more days of being housebound. If anybody needs me, I'll be curled in the fetal position in the corner, eye twitch activated, rocking and mutter-humming to myself U2's, "Beautiful Day".


Are you trying to survive an erratic schedule owing to weather and illness? What are YOU doing to keep yourself healthy and sane when you feel like you're stuck in Groundhog Day?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Spiced Paleo Raisinets - Sugar Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Paleo and Primal Challenge Friendly

Last fall, when I was doing the Whole Life Challenge with my CrossFit box, my good friend was suffering some major chocolate cravings about halfway through the 8 week long challenge. We were permitted unsweetened chocolate at our chosen level (intermediate) of the challenge, so as a "hang in there" gesture, I came up with these.

These are paleo-friendly raisinets, and if you are involved in a challenge that permits their ingredients, they are little tasty nuggets of, "Phew, OK, I can do this."

Here's the dealeo:

Spiced Paleo Raisinets
Makes at least 32 servings at 1/2 oz. each

1 large round canister of raisins (3.5 cups' worth)
100g finely chopped Scharffen Berger unsweetened chocolate (or unsweetened high quality chocolate of choice)
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
Generous dash of cayenne

Did I mention how much
I LOVE the ingredient list
on this bad boy?


Place chopped chocolate in a large oven-safe dish and set in a warm oven (around 200 degrees, not too hot so the chocolate won't scald). Pour the entire canister of raisins into a large gallon-sized Ziploc bag. Add the salt and spices and shake well until raisin clumps are broken up and each raisin is evenly coated in a fine dusting of the salt and spices.

Pull the chocolate out of the oven. Dump spice-dusted raisins into melted chocolate and stir thoroughly until each raisin has a light coating of chocolate. Spread the chocolate-coated spiced raisins out on wax paper to cool.



These are really yummy. I mean REALLY yummy. If you have any appreciation for dark chocolate and especially "zippy" dark chocolate as complimented with warming winter spices, they will do. it. for. you. They do it for me so much, in fact, that I could easily blow through a whole batch in a matter of a couple of days without much thought.

For that reason, I love the little 1 ounce lidded plastic cups that you can find at many stores these days. For me, they aid in portion consciousness and help me to keep my runaway raisin snacking tendencies in check. Since I chose to log my food intake for athletic performance and fat loss purposes, I calculated that 18 g of these (a bit over half an ounce)  comes in at 63 calories, mostly carbs. Here you can see how I have made several half ounce portions in these cups. It's my DIY challenge-friendly answer to 100-calorie snacks that are sold these days, and a decent way to scratch a chocolate craving itch without swan diving off of the wagon.

Bonus: sharing the raisinets with your friends who are also eating conscientiously will definitely boost some spirits!


What snacks are you making these days that helps you to keep on track three weeks into the new year?

Screaming January Deals on Amazon, Nearly ~40% off Gluten Free Groceries and Paleo-Friendly Finds

About 10 days before the end of the month, my husband and I scroll through our Amazon Subscribe and Save subscriptions list. We usually pare down the list, often for items we added previously on a one-time deal. Then, we have the fun of shopping for temporary monthly coupon deals on Amazon that we couldn't find elsewhere. We are often able to combine up to 3 different discounts on Amazon to get the best deal possible, shipped free to our door.

Here are some things we scored this week in our shopping for the February 1 Subscribe and Save delivery. We bought $62.61 worth of items for $38.39 (a 39% overall discount).
  • Zico coconut water - I picked up 12 x 14 oz. bottles of Zico for $15.57 (retail before discounts was $25.31, so 38.5% discount). $1.29 per bottle is a bargain compared to the $2.50+ per bottle I usually see in grocery stores. The same 20% off coupon applies to different Zico sizes and flavors, too, so you can shop for your preferred Zico. I like the plastic bottles because they make sipping some before and after a workout easier without worrying about spilling.

  • Pistachios. I picked up a pound of them combining the $3 coupon with Subscribe and Save to get a price of $6.34 (almost 45% off the $11.49 price).

  • Garden of Life organic gluten free sprouted brown rice protein powder - As I mentioned in a recent protein-themed post, most of my protein intake is from organically and naturally raised animals, but I do use protein powders, particularly in cases where it means I would not otherwise get enough protein owing to time constraints or other circumstances. Because I try to refuel conscientiously to allow my muscles to recover, I would rather get some good quality protein powder after a workout if my alternative is not eating any protein! As vegetable-based protein powders go, Garden of Life looks like a solid choice. I am trying this for the first time as it is 33% cheaper per gram of protein than my usual protein powder choice. I got a $25.81 jar for $16.48, a 36% discount off the Amazon price.
There are many other Amazon grocery coupons, including a list of coupon deals that can be used to purchase gluten free foods. (Be careful, though, some coupons in the gluten free deals take you to lists of products for that brand, some of which are gluten free and some of which are not.)

Here is how to combine the limited-time January coupons with Subscribe and Save to maximize your discounts:

  • Make sure your coupon is clipped for the specific size/flavor of item you've chosen! Coupons will be for a percentage off or for dollars ($) off. You can clip the coupon on the coupon products page OR on the page of the item itself.
  • Chose the "Subscribe and Save" option instead of the "Add to Cart" single purchase option. You can cancel your Subscribe and Save subscription at any time.
  • If you have at least 5 Subscribe and Save subscriptions for the month of February, then your total discount off all items on your subscription list will be 20% off.
  • Verify before clicking the final subscribe confirmation that you are receiving BOTH your coupon discount and your maximum Subscribe and Save discount.
Are you snagging any Amazon coupon + Subscribe and Save deals on nonperishables? What is your favorite bargain?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Paleo-Friendly Breakfast in Your Stockings on Christmas Morning

I am starting to collect our stocking stuffers for Christmas this year. My goal is to layer little toys and fun items with some breakfast-y items so that my husband and I can slowly sip our coffee while we all nibble on the beginnings of breakfast as the stockings' contents are being unwrapped. Lots of nonperishable paleo-friendly items are going to show up to 'sustain' us until the excitement ebbs a little and I can cook some heartier fare.

If you have Amazon Prime (free 2 day shipping) or not - but are willing to pay for 2 day shipping - today is the last stretch of time that you can order stocking stuffers and have them arrive before Christmas. Here is a sneak peek into our stockings' "breakfast-y" contents.

Are YOU slipping something to kick off breakfast into your family's stockings this year? What are you going to pick?

This post contains affiliate links. Shopping Amazon through this link results in a tiny percentage of the purchase price being given to Primal Kitchen, at no added cost to you, so thank you for supporting Primal Kitchen!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Primal Kitchen Recipes Featured in the Paleo Cookbook for Dummies

I am exceptionally proud to have been a part of the creation of the Paleo Cookbook for Dummies.

Dr. Kellyann Petrucci was responsible for the book coming to life. In her words:

  • Includes an overview of the Paleo-diet shopping list and pantry-stocking tips, along with kid-friendly Paleo recipes.

  • Dozens of answers to such questions as “Should you eat dairy? Can you drink alcohol?” and more, along with diet testimonials.

  • Information on how the Paleo diet, which reverses disease naturally, improves autoimmune issues, skin challenges, sleep patterns and fitness levels. Shares how it boosts energy levels and helps celiacs who follow a gluten-free lifestyle/anti-inflammatory diet.


    With more than 100 Whole9 approved recipes ( and contributions from top Paleo lifestyle and food experts like Mark Sissson (, Melissa Joulwan ( Michelle Tam (NomNomPaleo), Arsy Vartanian (, George Bryant (, Nick Massie (, Jason Crouch (, Audrey Olson ( and raw foodie, Alissa Cohen (    

You will find many Primal Kitchen recipe favorites in the kids' recipe section. I am very pleased that many of my contributed recipes qualified for the high standard of Dallas and Melissa Hartwig's Whole9 approval.

The Paleo Cookbook for Dummies is a beautifully done collaborative effort that offers lots of tips on paleo living. I happily recommend it to paleo newbies and longtimers alike!

Primal Kitchen Featured on the PaleoHacks Podcast

I had a blast recently as a guest with PaleoHacks podcast host Clark Danger on the PaleoHacks podcast. We covered a whole lot of ground in our time talking, but a consistent theme was the day to day business of keeping a paleo-leaning lifestyle chugging along in step with family life.

Monday, December 2, 2013

How to Set Up a "Drive-Thru" Paleo-Leaning Christmas Cookie Exchange

Hominahominahomina... :)
Yesterday, I tweeted:
...and this is true! It takes a lot of time and resources to come up with new recipes, especially analogs of popular holiday treats. Of course, I couldn't blog treats that I hadn't tasted and re-tasted...but that often results in me indulging a little too much. I would rather focus on keeping my diet reasonable for the next three weeks through all of the holiday school events, shopping, wrapping, and other holiday errands.

This year I am taking the hard work out of paleo-fied treats and doing what I did last year: organizing a "drive-thru" "paleo-ish" cookie exchange with friends at my CrossFit box. I thought I'd blog a bit about how we organize this event so that if you desired, you could create your own version.

Here's the short version of how to sketch out your cookie exchange invite:

  1. Who are your bakers? (In my case, mainly CrossFit friends)
  2. What are your baking parameters? Classic paleo? Primal (paleo + dairy)? Or, the loosey-goosey "paleo-ish"? Whatever they are, pick parameters that fit your group of bakers. The looser the rules, the larger your group of willing participants is likely to be. In our case, we defined "paleo-ish" as anything without wheat, soybean oil, or canola oil. Even so, almost all of our recipes qualified as primal, many as classic paleo, perhaps with the addition of sugar.
  3. What are your dropoff/pickup dates? We made our exchange "drive-thru" because it took a lot of the pressure of making room for one more holiday party off of people's minds...all they had to determine was whether they could bake cookies, drop them off, and pick them up. In our case this year, folks can drop off on Wednseday night (December 18th) through Thursday morning (December 19th), and pick up Thursday night through Friday (December 20th).
  4. How many bakers are attending? You'll need to set an early RSVP date, because the number of cookies everyone brings is determined by the total number of participants.
Get your invitation going - send it to your bakers with the baking parameters, dropoff/pickup dates, and an RSVP date.

Once your bakers have RSVP'ed, here are your next considerations:
  1. How many cookies shall each participant bring? In our exchange, we shot for about half a dozen of each kind per person. (Remember that everyone will be bringing those delicious cookies home to families, so 6 cookies of one kind is not outlandish when you consider it may mean everybody gets to try one of each kind!) It is wise to overshoot just a bit. For example, if you have 10 people exchanging, instead of having everyone bring 5 dozen, assign everybody coming to bring 6 or more dozen. This way the overall number of cookies won't plummet because of the inevitable handful of participants who are bound to drop out from illness or unforeseen circumstances.
  2. What type of cookies are they bringing? Leave a spot on your invite (in our case we use Facebook invites with posts) asking for folks to post a comment identifying what types of treats they are bringing. This is a good way to avoid ending up with 11 variations of one kind of cookie.
  3. Ask that those with illness excuse themselves from the event. You signed up to exchange cookies, not germs. Ask that all participants bow out of baking/distributing cookies if feeling under the weather (or in a house with sick folks) to minimize the spread of germs. You can also promise sick folks that some extra cookies will go into boxes brought to them so they don't miss out.
  4. Find an inexpensive source of packaging. In my case, last year, I bought very large holiday gift boxes - the kind to package shirts or jackets, for 2/$1 at the dollar store. I picked up enough boxes for the participants and simply asked that all those bringing cookies to also bring a couple of quarters to leave with their dropped off cookies. I also lined the boxes with sheets of wax paper before we distributed the cookies.
  5. Ask for elves to come help organize the goods. In our case, after the Thursday morning cookie dropoffs end, the elves (aka volunteers) show up and help distribute the cookies into assortments between boxes. You'll probably end up with more volunteers than you'd expect! Good chance for quality control - after distributing the cookies into boxes, the elves can sample the wares a little bit and enjoy some festive drinks if desired. In our case, it took less than an hour to get the cookies organized.
  6. Leave the boxes available for pickup, and go home with your own box and enjoy those cookies!
My recipe for these sun butter buckeyes that I brought last year can be seen here.

Do you have plans for a paleo-leaning Christmas cookie exchange this year?
What are those plans looking like so far?


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lunchbox #195

Here is an example of one of my younger daughter's lunches. Here you see:
  • Organic pumpkin puree
  • Sliced papaya
  • Cooked grassfed local ground beef in larger meatball-y chunks
  • White rice (our "safe starch"), which was cooked alongside the beef (I like cooking them together in the same pan because then the rice absorbs the grassfed beef fat that adds needed calories to my littlest's meals!)
For more recent coverage on how we tinker with my youngest's diet to support her behavior and developmental gains, read here


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Making Room for Protein, Economically and Logistically

A lot of my active friends have talked to me about having trouble getting adequate amounts of protein in their diets. Boy, I can relate! Since I try and get around 130+ grams of protein in my daily diet to sustain my body's lean mass, I have often found myself realizing at the end of the day that I'm only about halfway to my target. Here are some ways that help to keep my protein intake easier to maintain.

Familiarity with Protein Quantity/Serving Sizes

Although tracking food by food logging is not for everyone, I find that the more I track (I use, the better I am at estimating my protein intake and pacing it well throughout the day. I'm less apt to get to 6 pm and realize I've under-eaten my protein for the day if my brain is "current" on how much protein is in the servings I eat regularly.

One of my favorite indulgent "zero prep" high protein meals: smoked salmon, sprinkled with dill. Kimchi on the side!

Pacing Protein Throughout the Day

One thing that I have found useful is to break up my protein requirements into chunks and to have a running list of options in my head. As an example, I usually try to shoot for at least 30 grams of protein per meal, though this often goes higher on high activity days or just after a hard workout. Overall, though, 30 is my "magic number" because it is a doable quantity of food that I can easily estimate.

What are some examples of about 30 grams of protein? Here are some of my top choices. As you can see, I still try to economize even while selecting higher quality proteins.
  • 4 large eggs (28g) - We get organic eggs for $3.99 at our warehouse club, BJ's
  • 3 small organic chicken drumsticks (30g) - We buy these at $1.99/lb. at Wegmans or Trader Joe's
  • 4 oz. Wild Planet tuna (32g) - We buy this at BJ's because of the unbeatable price there, less than $4 per double-sized can
  • 8 slices of Citterio prosciutto (28g) - Ingredients: pork, salt. That's it! We've also found our best price for this locally at BJ's, $8.99/lb.
  • 4 oz. of steak (28g) - We buy grassfed beef in bulk from our local farmers at around $3/lb.
Higher Protein Snacks

Higher protein snacks aren't just useful in terms of me reaching my target intake; they keep me fuller, for longer, and help to combat cravings. Since I get at least 30g of protein with most of my meals, my 1-2 snacks a day typically make up another 30-40g total. Here are some snack ideas I've relied on lately to round out my protein intake for the day:
  • Full fat greek yogurt, 1 cup mixed with a dash of stevia and frozen berries (20g)
  • Nut butters, protein content depends on nut (around 2-4 g/tablespoon), delicious mixed with leftover chicken and seasoning for a Thai-inspired chicken salad
  • Boiled eggs (7g per egg), I find them delicious straight up or with salt
  • Chia seeds (2g per tablespoon, good in combo with other high protein items)
  • Bacon (2g/slice of the type I buy), very portable once cooked
  • Smoked salmon, this is my "L'Oreal" protein that I buy maybe once a month for a very special treat. The best price I've found on no-iffy-additives Atlantic salmon is (you guessed it!) at BJ's, around $16-17/lb.
  • Beans (Yes, not classically paleo, at $0.99/can for organic certified gluten free ones at Wegmans, we do eat them on occasion, at 14-20g protein/cup. For more on the concept of "paleo + legumes" check out these legume blog posts by ancestral health leaders Stephan Guynet and Chris Kresser.) 
Creating Your Customized "No Excuses" Options

Nothing can kill good intentions faster than opening my fridge and having nothing there ready to go when I'm already "hangry". Having ready-to-go options that work for me personally means I can't rely on "there's nothing to eat" excuses. Here are my fallback strategies:
  • Ready-to-eat pantry protein. Jerkies, canned tuna, nut butters.
  • Boiled eggs. They aren't über-gourmet but they've bridged many a gap for me between mealtimes.
  • Cooking WODs. Cooking as much as possible in one go. It is not uncommon for me to dedicate the better part of my Sunday afternoon to cooking up a huge quantity of animal protein in the oven or crock pot so that I can start my week with a fridge full of leftover protein.
  • Protein powder. I began playing with protein powder a little bit throughout August. I was pleasantly surprised by how my body handled Plant Fusion, enough that for a few weeks became my pre-hot-yoga protein of choice in combination with a banana, because the protein/carbs combo kept me fueled and chugging along through my 90 minute hot yoga classes without the digestion-intensive heavy stomach feeling that having, say, a steak beforehand would produce instead. (Still, I generally prioritize whole food proteins over protein powders whenever it seems workable.)
My ultimate "no excuse" home protein fix when the above aren't options is to microwave broth (I can hear purists out there wailing in despair) until piping hot, then pour 3-4 raw scrambled eggs into the broth while stirring. The eggs cook on contact with the broth, making egg drop soup, and I can get in almost a whole meal's worth of protein on the go, even putting it in a travel mug if I need to.


What strategies do you use to make sure that you're getting enough protein to fuel your active lifestyle?


This post contains an affiliate link. Shopping Amazon through this link results in a tiny percentage of the purchase price being given to Primal Kitchen, at no added cost to you, so thank you for supporting Primal Kitchen!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Final Tally, Whole Life Challenge Ends

If you've followed my recent posts, you know that I spent the last 8 weeks participating with my CrossFit box in the Whole Life Challenge. If you want to read all three parts, here they are:
Today we had our final workout to measure performance gains during the Whole Life Challenge - the final day of comparing our "before/after" stats as improved over 8 weeks. Here are mine:
  • My score for the WLC-recommended 11 minute performance baseline workout increased by 10.9%, a respectable gain in speed and reps.
  • According to the measurements of our nutrition coach, I lost 4" off my waist and 1" off my hips.
  • My score for compliance with WLC guidelines was also high, averaging somewhere around 10.6/11 points available daily. (Points were added up based on nutrition, working out, mobility, supplementation, and other lifestyle factors like sleep and hydration.)
Based on these three variables, I was declared the overall winner of our box's event! I was stunned to see how much sleeker and more athletic my fellow participants were looking today after their 8 weeks of hard work.

According to the WLC workout, my performance improved nicely. The rest of the story behind my weight loss progress comes when paying a closer attention to how I organized my food intake (while still eating foods permitted by my chosen level of difficulty - intermediate - in the WLC).

I ate according to Eat to Perform principles. I ate according to caloric needs for my build, my lean body mass, and my activity levels. On more active days, I ate more calories. In anticipation of hard workouts first thing in the morning, I front loaded lots of whole food carbs. What does this look like in practice, for me, a 176 lb. female whose lean body mass varies between about 125 and 139 lb?
Definitely not starving.
Watch the carb grams over time!
(Numbers are estimated only for
my own ballparking, and not definitive.)
  • I tried to keep my protein around 130 g/day or higher on average.
  • Higher activity days (say, CrossFit WOD and hot yoga on one day) saw carb intakes over 200+ g/day. Read Halfway Point: Whole Life Challenge + Eat to Perform Principles for details on the types and quantities of carbs I was cycling in, in general.
  • Low activity days saw much lower carb intake, with fats stepping in as the preferred fuel over carbs.
  • My calorie intake generally ranged from 1800 - 3000 calories per day, depending on activity levels. 
I went from 185 lb. to 176.2 lb. (8.8 lb. loss) in 8 weeks, a modest average weight loss pace of 1.1 lb./week. How do I perceive that this was a productive (i.e., not lean mass decline) weight loss? I have several indicators. The first is my performance gains. Here are the performance gains I experienced in the last 8 weeks of doing the Whole Life Challenge with Eat to Perform principles:
  • As mentioned above, my score for the WLC-recommended 11 minute performance baseline workout increased by 10.9%, a respectable gain in speed and reps.
  • I reached a deadlift 1 rep max personal record of 280 lb., a 25 lb. gain over my last deadlift PR of 255.
  • I reached a deadlift 3 rep "tap and go" max personal record of 245 lb.
  • I achieved my first toes to bar EVER during the challenge, and within days begun to learn stringing them together.
  • A 112# atlas stone lift - which I have only done one other time once, a year ago, before a back injury that had me on temporary CrossFit hiatus. Along with the deadlift PR, this signifies to me a return to my original strength (only now leaner!).
  • Did "Diane" (a benchmark CrossFit workout) with 185 lb. deadlifts - the prescribed weight for women.
  • Got my first freestanding headstand in yoga, and a few half second crow poses.
  • Maintained a 3 minute, 15 second plank in hot yoga during our instructor's "plank challenge". Her challenge included permission to shift back and forth from forearms to palms, so it wasn't a static plank, but it represents to me a huge increase in core strength overall.
The second indicator that I have of a decent (fat-loss-dominated) weight loss is I have gotten smaller as a side effect of concentrating on performance.
  • I've lost inches all over my body.
  • I received nearly daily comments from different fellow CrossFitters - especially toward the end of the challenge - about me looking leaner.
  • For the first time in seven and a half years, toward the end of the challenge, I found myself able to wear pants that I have not worn since when I became pregnant with my oldest daughter in 2006. Some moms get into their prepregnancy jeans inside of a few weeks postpartum. I joke that my 7.5 years postpartum jeans timeline is "above average".
Interestingly, the same pants I wore prekids at 159 lb., I can fit into at 176 lb. That speaks volumes to me about the difference between muscle and fat that I carried then and now. I am definitely in the best shape of my life - way better at 30 than in my teens or 20s. CrossFit and paleo-style eating have now taken me from near 220 lb. (and over 40% body fat) to mid-20s percentage body fat at 176 lb. I can't think of any other way I would have managed to achieve that kind of lifestyle/physique overhaul other than by eating clean, lifting heavy, calisthenics, and interval training!

I can say that I am a wholehearted convert to the calorie/carb cycling model set forth by Eat to Perform. It agrees with my physiology and activity levels, and I fully intend to continue using the same model in the future.

My next task is having my body fat assessed by our nutrition challenge coordinator, to see if I met my goal of reducing my body fat percentage to 24%. I can't wait to find out!


Are you doing any nutrition challenges or tinkering this fall? What strategies have produced the best results for you?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...