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Simplifying Dietary Changes

The Struggle is Real

The holidays are over and I am still having trouble getting back on track with my diet. These are the thoughts that have been floating around in my mind:

Carbs taste good, I’m pregnant, just one more day, it’s just “social” eating, one more treat, I’m tired of cooking, cleaning, planning, purchasing.

There ya have it. All excuses to not be my best self. Have you ever had that dialogue floating around in your mind?

I KNOW changing my diet changed my life. I found a healthy, stable weight, my periods returned like healthy clockwork, my son’s medical issue resolved, my feelings of anxiety released, and countless other benefits.

Why, oh why are bad habits so hard to break? Why is convenience more important than health?

Last night, I really had to give myself a reality check. I’m going to deliver a baby in just a few short months, and I do not want a repeat of my last birth experience. Plus, I want my body to bounce back so that I’m not telling another story of postpartum depression or healing difficulties.

Three Tips to Simplify

Simplifying the diet is key. I’ve had to adapt so that I’m not cooking and cleaning all day, or having to run all over the state finding appropriate ingredients.

How have I simplified?

1. Shopping in bulk and mail order has been #1. I found a local source for high quality meat, and place a big order about every 2 months.

Our Costco membership has also been amazing and saves quite a bit of money. We can find compliant cheeses, vegetables, grain-free products in bulk, nice cooking oils, avocado oil mayo, almond flour, compliant salad dressings and several other staples. Scheduling this every 4-6 weeks keeps our pantry stocked and minimizes our trips to run out for just an item or two.

Amazon Prime or Thrive Market are excellent sources to find items that aren’t as accessible in the mainstream market. For me, I would have to drive an hour to a grocery store or health food store that carries compliant baking items.

2. Meal planning is also important. I used to be able to replace a meal with a protein shake to lighten my cooking load. Being pregnant has required that I eat 3 meals and only use shakes for protein rich snacks. Have you ever tried planning 21 meals a week? Its laborious.

Batch cooking and freezing is a good method to lighten the load or just having a plan for dinner by 10 am tends to work for me. Unthawing meat, knowing what veggies need prepped and just general timeline can make the task easier.

Cooking enough food to have leftovers for lunch is also a time saver, or cooking a bigger batch of a favorite that can be eaten over the course of several days for lunch.

3. Instant Pot

I have had my instant pot for about a year and wasn’t sure if I loved it or not. It is not something I use daily but it works wonders to cook a good, healthy, nutritious meal very quickly. I love it for soups and stews or to cook a perhaps frozen chicken very quickly to use for multiple meals.

These are just my tips and tricks that help me stay focused and on task with what I’m putting in my body. I am going to share one of my favorite lunch, batch cooking recipes. I make enough for several days and serve on a bed of greens with a few Simple Mills grain-free crackers. It’s both healthy and satisfying.

Lemon Tarragon Chicken Salad

2 lb. pasture raised chicken breasts

3 stalks of celery, diced

lemon juice

4 Tbs chopped, fresh tarragon

avocado oil mayo (Chosen Foods brand, I buy at Costco)

handful of dried, unsweetened cranberries

1. Drizzle chicken breasts with avocado oil and lemon juice, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake at 375 degrees for about 25 min.

2. Cool and dice chicken breasts.

3. Add diced celery, tarragon, salt, pepper, and enough mayo to coat thoroughly. Approximately 1/2-3/4 c. Mix well. Add 1-2 Tbs. lemon juice and cranberries and mix again.

4. Chill and serve.

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Reset and Rebound

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Last week was a week for the books. Our family has a rhythm, a routine, as I’m sure most families do. The spring time hustle has begun, so our “normal” rhythm is starting to adjust to longer daytime hours and spring activities. Last week, we barely had time to eat together as a family, so the mindfulness we were using at mealtimes was pushed aside for quick, throw together meals. Having this ability is a necessity when your days are full.

Revamping habits and taking hold of a new lifestyle requires discipline and adaptability. This goes for physical, mental, or emotional “weeding”. Since beginning the Plant Paradox, I have really become aware of my relationship with food. I have an anxiety with the thought of being without, or not knowing where my food will come from next. I also have a fear of boredom, or not liking my choices. After 6 weeks of following the lectin-free dietary suggestions, I realized my habits were starting to detour toward the familiar. Even though I was still following the “compliant” foods, my cravings were moving toward sweet, or “comfort” type meals. Heavy meats/protein meals, cheeses, and yogurt were what I would reach for, rather than the vegetables that should lead the show.

We gradually moved toward our old habits unconsciously, which is how most old habits resurface. In our family, we are working on changing our lifestyle, not just “dieting” to lose a few pounds. We are focusing on the insides of our bodies, not the outsides. Over the weekend, we realized how we were feeling and our habitual patterns. My husband and I decided to realign our bodies and our minds and jump-start our gut health by following a 3-day cleanse which helps feed the good guys, not the bad. Looking at our digestive health and our cravings point to the fact that our bad bacteria were asking to be “fed”, so we need to let that go and move toward feeding our bodies not our minds. When we feel stress or pressure from having busy days, that can lead to wanting convenience and comfort, which often is relational to food.

When cleansing, and following a strict plan you realize how little your body actually requires and how much time is often consumed by food. Whether it is thinking about it, planning for it, shopping for it, cooking it, cleaning it up, or going out to eat, and starting the cycle all over each day. It is also easier to see what emotions arise when the atmosphere changes around eating habits. I can use this metaphor around any type of “weeding” I am doing in my life. Good habits take work and repetition, even when it feels easier to “slip” for a day or two, old habits die-hard.

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Instant Pot Beef Stew

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1.5-2 lb grass-fed, grass finished beef stew meat

olive oil

2 onions, sliced

2 stalks celery, roughly chopped

4 carrots, roughly chopped (I don’t eat carrots, my older son does)

8 oz sliced mushrooms

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb. brussels sprouts

2 Tbs. Cassava flour

1/4 c. red wine

2 c. beef stock (grass-fed)

3 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

1 Tbs. fish sauce

1 Tbs. coconut aminos

2 bay leaves

1 tsp. thyme

salt/pepper

  1. Season beef with salt and pepper. Turn Instant Pot on saute function, heat olive oil and brown meat in batches, and set aside in a bowl.
  2. Deglaze pot with wine, scraping bits and cooking to allow some of liquid to cook off. Add more oil if needed, then add onion, carrots and celery, allowing to brown and cook for a few minutes. Add garlic, mushrooms, and Brussels sprouts cooking for an additional 5-6 minutes, until softening.
  3. Toss meat with cassava flour and meat juices.  Mix beef stock, balsamic, fish sauce and coconut aminos. Add meat and broth to pot, bay leaves and thyme and stir to mix.
  4. Close lid and start stew function. This will cook about 35 min. Allow to release pressure for 10 min.
  5. At this point, if the stew is not thick enough for your liking you can turn on the saute function and cook 10-15 min more. It was perfect for us without.
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Tummy Troubles

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Hippocrates, the Greek physician and “Father of Medicine” stated that “all disease begins in the gut”. Leaky Gut Syndrome is becoming quite the catch word these days. A few years ago I was at a conference and heard a presentation about this issue. I listened, found it fascinating, but did not see the connection to it and my health problems at the time. Having digestive issues, skin issues, and hormone issues were just my lot in life. Maybe passed down genetically, or quite “normal” to feel this way. Taking a dose of Pepto Bismol was pretty standard practice during my childhood.

Babies are in fact, born with a “leaky gut” or intestinal permeability. This means that there are small gaps in the intestinal lining, which are beneficial in a new baby because larger immune-boosting molecules can pass directly into the baby’s bloodstream. As a newborn, this is important because the baby is using the antibodies of mama’s milk to protect against viruses, bacteria, and other dangerous microorganisms. During the first few months after birth, a baby’s organ systems develop rapidly and the gaps in the intestinal lining begin to close. That is if all systems are working appropriately– the best case scenario. In my post on the microbiome I share that Ezra was not born in the best case scenario for gut health.

In our world, much about development is based on facts and figures. Conventionally, if a baby is 6 months old, has a pincer grasp, and can sit up– it is time to start solids.  I am not sold on that school of thought. Leaky Gut Syndrome is not recognized in western medicine, although I believe it is gaining some popularity in functional or integrative medicine. My little guy has been showing symptoms of digestive discomfort since we brought him home from the NICU. He had reflux, was a “happy spitter“, and grunted constantly for several months with very uncomfortable gas. We kept him as comfortable as possible with many holistic interventions. The biggest shift in Ezra’s health occurred when I changed to a ketogenic diet. He immediately began to gain weight at an accelerated rate, and managed to grow off the preemie charts and on to the full-term charts, and sleep through the night. He was meeting his growth and milestone requirements, so I took it for granted that his internal environment had caught up. The diet was helpful for us both, and a wonderful system reset– however not quite sustainable for a long period of time.

When the gut is “leaky”, the one layer thick lining of the intestines has tiny holes scattered throughout. These essentially spring “leaks” allowing undigested food particles, bacteria and other substances to pass directly into the bloodstream. The immune system is then fired to attack these foreign invaders, creating a near constant immune response. So, what is designed to protect you in times of distress is over functioning and going a bit haywire. When the body is in this near constant state of distress, chronic inflammation begins to set in. After only a few months of eating solid foods, Ezra began to have many symptoms of chronic inflammation.  At the 12 month mark, we had several indicators that his gut still needed quite a bit of support, so some changes were in order.

Some symptoms are: eczema, psoriasis, anxiety/depression, migraines, respiratory problems, chronic fatigue, sugar cravings, allergies, behavior problems, digestive issues, hormonal imbalances, weight loss or weight gain issues, and so many more. Navigating the world of infant feeding is difficult. We all want to give our children the best start. Often cereals are the first recommended food, then moving on to green beans or peas (legumes), many fruits are suggested, and age 1 is the magic age for whole milk. What if our recommended feeding guidelines are keeping us and our children sick? How do we discern what the experts are suggesting?

If Hippocrates was correct that “all health begins in the gut”, what can I do to ensure our guts are healthy? For Ezra the diet change begins with me, since he is still breastfeeding. My internal environment will be the precursor to his. At this point, our family diet is roughly 80% vegetables. We stick to leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, small portions of pastured/grass-fed meats, pastured eggs, and A2 dairy. We are avoiding grains, root vegetables, legumes, nightshade vegetables, most fruits, conventionally farmed meats/fish, and sugar. So far, we are adapting quite well and my husband and I have both released some weight within just a few weeks of this switch. This week I will introduce a new supplement into my daily regimen,  I will adjust and adapt as we go along, although right now I am seeing the proof that our systems are beginning to heal and shift toward wellness.