Paleo Challenge Update: The Finale

Well folks, that’s in. The month of April is over, and my paleo challenge with it. But the thing is that I don’t think I’m going to end it here. I’ve talked about how even my energy level has been and how much better my skin is, and I don’t want to mess that all up! So here are the usual updates for my last few official days of paleo, plus my plan moving forward.

Favorite Meal

DSCN0691On our last official night of paleo, we had some oven roasted chicken thighs with grilled onions and herbs, and on the side a yam with a delightful pad of melting butter. I like yams because they’re a little sweet, just enough to satisfy my sweet tooth without doing too much damage.

Favorite Snack

I have been loving snacking through this whole diet (as you’ve probably noticed from my past lunches). I’ve especially  loved exploring paleo recipes that remind me of non-paleo foods. It has been helping me feel like I’m not missing anything by eating paleo, and makes me feel like I could keep this up for a lot longer if I wanted to.

DSCN0687We had friends over for dinner one night, and I whipped this almond cake up for dessert (adapted from this recipe). It was super easy to do! In fact we made a second one using orange instead of lemon, and I have to say I think I prefer the orange version! Drizzled with a little honey, it made the perfect sweet finish to a delicious meal.

DSCN0696I also made some paleo granola (adapted from this recipe), which is so delicious! Before this month, cereal was my breakfast pretty much every morning. On paleo we almost always have eggs and bacon for breakfast, but I was looking for something to mix it up a bit. This granola is oat-less and basically all nuts and dried fruit, so it’s very filling and a great kick start to the morning

Something Learned

Ok, I have a confession to make. There were two meals when I was unable to truly stick to paleo. I was at a conference where lunch was provided for us, and I have to say the options were limited and left few choices for anyone with special dietary needs. But what it taught me, which will help me moving forward, is to make better decisions about what I’m putting into my body. For example, when confronted with pizza on the first day I could choose between regular pizza, gluten free pizza, and vegan pizza.

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First I loaded up with as much salad as I could without seeming like a hog, and then I chose a small slice of gluten free pizza, deciding that the processed soy and gluten in the vegan pizza was probably worse for me than simply having some lactose and doing without the gluten. And I topped it off with a couple of baked chicken wings.

On the second day of the conference there was only chicken in mole (delicious!), corn tamale, and white rice served. So in that case I skipped the rice altogether, and then after hearing that the corn was all organic and that they did not use any soy in their cooking but instead used grape seed oil, I decided to eat some of the tamale as a means to get enough energy to carry me through the rest of the day.

How I Feel

As I’ve mentioned, my energy level remains even and my skin is still healthy, and I aim to keep that going for as long as possible! But now that my paleo month is over, I also feel a bit relieved that in situations like the conference lunches, or when I go to a friend’s house for dinner, I can let loose a little bit and not worry too much about eating bread, pasta, or milk products if that’s what’s being served. Which leads me to…

The Plan Moving Forward

Here’s what the hubby and I have decided to do, for our health: At home, we will continue to basically eat paleo, adding in occasional legumes (beans and peanuts) and whole grains (quinoa and farro) to be sure we’re also getting the valuable vitamins and nutrition they can provide. But the legumes and grains will be limited. Mainly our diet will continue to consist of protein and veggies, and we’ll continue to avoid lactose and gluten as much as possible. However, we’ve also decided that when we go out to dinner or find ourselves in a situation with few paleo options, we’re not going to stress about it. There is so much delicious food out there to be had, why miss out on it all the time. There are too many non-paleo things we love to taste! But the idea is “everything in moderation,” and that’s what we will be sticking to.

Besides, when we head to Abu Dhabi and Turkey in a few weeks, and are confronted with incredible foods we’ve never even heard of, we will be trying it all!

Will you be changing your eating habits moving forward? What changes are you making to be healthier?

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Paleo Challenge Update: Week Three

I’m through week three and going strong! The hardest part has been on the few occasions where I’ve eaten out. I thought it would be easy to find paleo-friendly menu options, but it is admittedly harder than I realized. Salads wind up being the default, which can get a little boring after a while. But hey, you can never have too many greens I suppose.

Favorite Meal

Meatballs! I know they traditionally go with spaghetti, but of course we can’t have spaghetti. In retrospect, a great paleo alternative to spaghetti would have been spaghetti squash, so maybe we’ll have our meatballs with some spaghetti squash next time.

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I also really loved this meal, which was actually our dinner last night. I am definitely a beef and pork eater but if given the choice I tend to gravitate toward poultry, so this was my kind of meal. We had chicken roasted with sweet potatoes and apples, with a side of greens.

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Favorite Snack

Bear with me here because I had lots of good snacks this week. In fact, for some reason I’ve found myself having large snack-like plates for lunch instead of full meals on most days. This snack plate was my lunch the other day. Prosciutto with a little drizzle of honey, olives, sugar snap peas, a pear for “dessert”, and some tea to warm me up on a windy day.

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Another day I broke open this papaya to snack on. Yup! Just me, my spoon, and this baby. Sweet and delicious!

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I also got a little more creative with the nuts this week. and put together a mixture of walnuts, almonds, and dried cranberries for a little munching.

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Something Learned

I have been noticing this week that my skin has been clearing up dramatically during this paleo challenge, and after a bit of research it turns out my love of dairy and bread has probably been a significant factor in my acne to begin with! This resource explains it more in depth, but basically a diet high in carbohydrates and lactose can cause your insulin to react differently than intended, and the hormones that create the oil in your follicles become out of whack. Voila! More of those little red enemies. Also, lactose generally can cause inflammation of all sorts, so it makes sense that less lactose would mean lowered inflammation of your skin. Here are two resources that I fond helpful to understand this better:

How I Feel

Like I mentioned, I have noticed a huge improvement in my overall skin health. My energy level has been staying pretty consistent still. And I’ve even noticed that my pants are fitting better! Now I don’t want to tout this as a weight-loss diet, because it truly is all about getting healthy and eating more naturally. But I’m not surprised if a little weight loss comes a long with it. I am so much less inclined to snack because I don’t have those dramatic drops in blood sugar that scream “feed me” at all odd times of day. Plus, the types of foods I snack on are no longer potato chips, cheese and crackers, or bowls of cereal (yes, I used to have that for a snack… all lactose and carbs). Instead, I snack on papaya or nuts. Much more interesting and tasty! So all in all I’d say I am a lot healthier than I was just a few weeks ago!