Tuesday, March 29, 2011

10 Reasons NOT to eat Paleo

Eating Paleo really isn't all it's cracked up to be.  Here are 10 reasons NOT to eat paleo:

  1. You're significant other can't keep their hands off your butt.
  2. It's near impossible to hit on Dr. Sexypants because you're never sick anymore.
  3. You're Mom will say "you're too skinny" every time she sees you.
  4. The internal debate whether it's more ethical to give away your toaster, or simply just throw it in the trash feels impossible to resolve.  Why waste a perfectly good appliance?  Then again, why enable someone else's bad habits?  Ugh!  What to do?
  5. You have too much energy for sitting and watching your brand new flat screen.
  6. You're spice rack isn't big enough, and will overflow with new spices.
  7. It seems like everyone on Craigslist is seeking a BBW!
  8. Now when you drink coffee you feel like you can take on a bus (not safe).
  9. Your subscription to Women's Health Magazine feels like a waste of money.
  10. You will have to buy all new clothes and will likely have to cut extra holes in your belts.
If you can think of any other reasons, drop a comment!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Returning to Restaurants

After 45-days of preparing all of our meals at home we were excited to take a couple nights off and go out to eat.  We fully intend to continue to eat paleo, but will do our best when eating out.  With that said, returning to restaurants was sadly a disappointing experience.  Thursday we went to Old Town Social, and last night we went to El Barco Mariscos, two of our Chicago favorites.  Thoughts about each experience.

Old Town Social

  • What used to say "grass-fed burger" now says "Wisconsin beef burger."  So instead of sticking with just a burger, we opted for salads with steak instead.
  • They ran out of Duck Wings (like buffalo wings, but with duck = more fat, more flavor, more paleo!)  so we took a chance on the Caldo Verde.  The soup of the day, which included a mixture of greens, potatoes, and garnished with sardines.  Sardines were a first for both of us.
  • Stacey realized she does NOT like sardines.  I can tolerate them, but am also not a fan.
  • The steak salad was delicious, but left us still feeling a little hungry.  We're used to eating huge meat-filled plates a home.
  • Our check was about a quarter of what we spend on a week's worth of food.  Yikes!  We forgot how expensive it was to eat out.  
El Barco Mariscos
  • Before we even left for El Barco, we had a lengthy discussion about whether it was okay for me to bring a bag of plantain chips with us to the restaurant.  I have a weakness for chips and salsa, which come complimentary.  I conceded and didn't bring the plantain chips.
  • We did it!  We left the tortilla chips on the table untouched!  I'm so proud.  Although, I did have a couple spoonfuls of salsa while waiting for our food to quell my urges.
  • Food is served family style at El Barco.  Normally we order the plate for two which is a huge platter of meat, seafood, and veggies.
  • We decided to order three big, family style appetizers instead to avoid the breaded fish/meat on the traditional plate.
  • We ordered and enjoyed a plate called Mariscos Al Chingadazo (shrimp, squid, chicken, mussels, and octopus, and whatever is in chingadazo seasoning/sauce), a plate of grilled squid (included potatoes), and a big bowl of ceviche (avocado, fish, shrimp, octopus, salsa, and lime).
  • Despite mostly paleo ingredients we began to feel a bit congested after eating.  We're assuming the food was not "clean," and that they used some sort of oil we haven't used during our challenge.
  • Overall a decent dining experience, but again our bill was about a quarter of what we spend at the grocery store for a week's worth of food.
Thoughts and Revelations:
  • We have become better cooks that we thought enjoying our home-cooked meals as much if not more than the restaurants'.
  • Holy crap, eating out is expensive!
  • Holy crap, eating out is ridiculously expensive when you keep ordering your new favorite adult-paleo-beverage Tequila on the Rocks!
  • If we eat out we're going to have to assume that even though the main ingredients are paleo, the food might not be clean.  

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Our 45-Day Paleo Challenge Results

Ryan's Results
After 45-days of eating 100% paleo I feel terrible.  Ha!  Gotcha, I feel like a broken record, but when I eat paleo I feel great.  Period.  As expected I am full of energy, and I have lost a little body fat.  I am now beginning to see my ab muscles without having to flex, something I wasn't even able to do when I was working out twice a day playing college basketball.  If I am surprised by anything I would have to say it's an increased cognitive energy.  I seem to have a better recall on memories.  Not that I feel "smarter," but that now I can remember things I already knew more quickly.

Also, my knee problems are beginning to temper.  I was diagnosed with Osgood-Schlatter Syndrome at an early age and have been dealing with the condition ever since.  Something I always felt was untreatable is now beginning to feel a little better, even though I continue to perform exercises that were unheard-of a few years ago (squats, box jumps, etc.).  I attribute this partly to wearing Vibram Fivefingers shoes when working out and also to balancing out my omega-3/6 ratios.  The paleo diet is supposed to reduce low-level inflammation, but I never thought it would begin to cure my Osgood-Schlatters.  Now after long runs, my calfs are sore, not my knees.  I don't consider myself "cured," but I think I'm getting close to feeling like it.

Going forward, I will continue to eat paleo, but will allow myself to eat out on occasion.  Eating out is near impossible to stay paleo, but I am going to make a concerted effort to do as well as I can.  Who knows, after several months of eating 95-100% paleo maybe I will begin to say that I'm smarter and will self-diagnose my Osgood-Schlatters as cured.  Time will tell.  I plan to share one way or the other.  Thanks for reading.

PS.  For those keeping score, I don't think I lost or gained any weight.  I didn't measure myself before we started because weight is a terrible barometer of health and fitness.  I had lost weight over December/January due to inactivity following surgery, and was expecting to gain a little during the challenge as I got back into weight-lifting, but I think that I stayed the about the same, losing some fat and gaining some muscle.  I'm just now beginning to lift heavy weights again, so it'll be interesting to see what happens here on out.

Stacey's Results
After 45 days of following our paleo challenge rules, I am one happy camper – for so many reasons.  The primary goal of the challenge was to just do it – I did not identify any specific goals.  But, I did measure myself at the beginning just to have a benchmark for comparison.
Quantitative results:
  • Lost 1.5 inches from waist, 2 inches from hips, 1 inch from thigh and 1 inch from arm measurements
  • Lost 6 pounds (I didn’t think this would be possible since we really ramped up strength training and I definitely gained some muscle)
Qualitative results:
  • I feel awesome; happy, rested and satisfied.  I find things that normally might have pushed me close to the edge or set my mood to change – have a much smaller impact on my emotions.  Overall I feel more even keeled.
  • I sleep so well!  (thank you blackout curtains)
  • My level of fitness is much improved; I can run, row, stair step and lift much more than I could pre-challenge.
Obviously, we plan to continue on this path.  For the first time, I am intrigued by experimenting with the foods I eat and trying (or eliminating) things to see how that makes me feel.  Next up, eliminate coffee (and all caffeine) for 100 days – currently on day 11 and feeling great!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The last day of our paleo challenge!...and some chicago paleo restaurant options

It’s hard to believe it is already DAY 45, the last day of our paleo challenge!  This day finds me full of mixed emotions. 

On the one hand, I’m super excited we made it a full 45 days on our paleo rules, existing well within the limitations we set out.  For example, we had very little fruit and virtually no honey or other natural sweeteners – much less than the prescribed rules allowed.

On the other hand, I am scared!  I have been a meal planning machine for the past 45 days, and with the end of the challenge approaching, our last meal plan ended today.  Yesterday the thought of not having a planned paleo lunch pushed me over the edge and I planned out our meals for another week.  I’ve determined that I need to keep planning, the difference is that now the plan includes some scheduled restaurant stops.  These are restaurants that will provide some paleo options, if not paleo – at least ‘primal’ – for us that means potentially adding in some dairy.

We need to make sure to not let the restaurant meals over take the planned, home cooked meals.  We already have 2 nights of dining out scheduled for this week, partially due to just being able to!  But, these are very good paleo option restaurants.  If you ever find yourself in Chicago and in need of a paleo option, these should work:

  • El Barco Mariscos – specializing in serving an abundance of grilled seafood and meats served family style, also serve a great ceviche! (will be staying away from the sugar-filled margaritas this trip – maybe just go for some straight tequila!)
  • Old Town Social – specializing in charcuterie, they also have amazing specials (often involving delicious roasted meats).  At the very least, they serve a grass-fed beef burger topped with bacon and an egg – take it bunless and you’re good to go.
Complete 45-day Paleo Challenge, check.  Continue paleo lifestyle, working on it!

#45 - Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls (the second time)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Some Dips Just Need Paleo Chips!

Ryan is on a quest to perfect his guacamole recipe (never mind that I think I already have the perfect guacamole recipe).  This has set me off on a journey to find a really solid chip alternative.  I am a fan of using veggies for dipping; baby carrots, zucchini sticks and cucumber rounds can all serve their purpose.  But sometimes you just want a real chip - with some non-vegetable crisp and crunch.

Fortunately, I have seen a lot of recipes out there for different types of paleo chips.  Over the weekend I used this grain free almond cracker recipe as the basis for some Walnut & Flax Seed Chips, which paired very nicely with Ryan's most recent (and very tasty!) guac experiment.

Walnut & Flax Seed Chips
  • 1 cup walnut flour/meal
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/4 cup golden flax seeds
  • Seasoning (I used a bit of salt and paprika - in hindsight would have added more seasonings - maybe some cumin)
Preheat oven to 325.
Mix all ingredients together to form a dough, roll into a ball.  Place a layer of parchment paper (or silpat) on a cookie sheet, place dough ball in middle of sheet, put another layer of parchment (or silpat) on top of dough.  Using a rolling pin, roll out dough between parchment sheets until VERY thin.  When you think it's really thin, keep rolling it out.  The thinner you can get it the more chip-like and less cracker-like it will be - and it will bake faster!  Once rolled thin, unpeel top layer of parchment.  Using a sharp knife score rolled out dough into chip size squares.
Bake for about 10 minutes, then check on chips.  If they are browning, they are done and can be removed.  I found that my chips in the middle of the sheet were a little bit thicker and had to go a few minutes longer than those at the edge.  When all done, let cool and enjoy with some dip!

Next up - some sort of roasted veggie chip...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Make Your Own Coconut Milk

Oh coconut milk, how I love you.  I never realized how much I enjoy all things coconut until we started our paleo challenge.  Now I crave coconut chips, or the occasional spoonful of coconut cream that has separated from the coconut water in the can of coconut milk.  Then there is the coconut creme concentrate from Tropical Traditions that I just discovered - that with some blueberries, heaven.

I have heard how easy it is to make your own coconut milk.  So, given my new and undying love of coconut, it was time to try my hand at coconut milk making.  By making our own we will also save money and avoid the added preservatives - guar gum, anyone? - found in canned coconut milk

All you need to make coconut milk:
  • coconut chips or shredded coconut
  • water
  • blender
  • big bowl
  • colander
  • cheesecloth
I think you could probably mess around a bit with the proportions, but I used the following ones with success, so they might be a good starting point:
  1. Combine a little under a cup of coconut (chips or shreds) with 1 cup of hot water in a blender, blend for 3 minutes or so
  2. Pour into cheesecloth lined colander placed over bowl
  3. Squeeze all milk out of cheesecloth and return coconut to blender
  4. Add another 1/2 cup hot water to blender and blend for 1-2 minutes more
  5. Repeat steps 2 & 3 - and now you have coconut milk!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

St. Patty's Day - Paleo Style


Yes, it's St. Patty's Day in Chicago.  Yes, it's 5 days early.  Yes, it's an all day event.  And yes, we've packed a paleo survival kit to help get us through the day.

Due to the large number of participants, the city typically throws its party the Saturday preceding the actual holiday.  This lends itself to day drinking and incomprehensible irresponsibility...or crazy good times.  A few highlights (awesome, stupid, or otherwise):
  • The river is dyed bright green.  It's fun to watch the dying boat snake down the river, but the river is already sort of green.  Ew.
  • The mythical St. Patty's day parade.  We've attempted to catch this parade several times, only to be distracted by Irish pubs along the way.  We've heard that it actually happens, but have no visual proof.
  • The actual St. Patty's day parade(s).  The "real" St. Patty's day parade occurs on the South Side, several weeks before March 17th.  This parade was so "real" it's been banned for 2 years now.  I now consider the thousands who take to the streets on their way to one of the thousands of green parties to be the real parade.
  • One of the best people watching days ever.  I see you drunk guy.  We all know it's not coffee under that Starbucks coffee lid.  Several people will either be wearing their liquid-coat, or are visiting from warmer climates and simply don't realize that despite it being March, it's still freezing here.  Some of these people are fun to gawk at, others just make me feel sorry for them.  
  • Green beer.  Not exclusive to Chi-town, and also pretty stupid.
  • Irish Music!  Always a delight.  Seemingly every bar & pub has some sort of live Irish music, and several will include a Riverdance troupe.  Such fun music!
  • Irish beer, Irish whiskey, corned-beef & cabbage, potatoes...not exactly paleo...
So we've already worked out, and are packing a St. Patty's Day survival kit.  To stay true to our challenge rules, we're going to stick to wine and acceptable liquors, and will get our drinking done early in the day.  We're going to eat lunch before meeting up with friends, and since we'll be around a lot of non-paleo food/drink we're bringing along some snacks to whip out in case we begin to have any cravings.  Here's what we've got:
  • Summer Snack Chips (chips made of Summer Sausage from Paulina Meat Market)
  • Coconut flakes
  • Larabars

When you are treading in paleo-unfriendly waters, what do you pack in your survival kit?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

How to Eat Paleo at Work

If I hear "why are you on a diet, you're not fat?" one more time...

They mean well, but my co-workers don't understand me.  Every once in a while a manager or team member will bring in doughnuts or bagels to celebrate a project closing, or some other work related milestone.  Sometimes it's cake, or cookies, or pizza, or candy.  Now-a-days, I am easily able to dismiss these offerings, but early on in my paleo journey it was a struggle.  I mean, I used to be the guy who came back in the early afternoon and clean up (read: eat) whatever was leftover.  Plus, you don't want to be rude do you?  Of course not.  Here's a few simple strategies I found successful:

If there's food at someone's desk...
  • Tell them "I'm sorry, I just ate, and am super full!  I'll try to stop by later."
  • Don't stop by later, unless you know the temptation is gone.
If your team is having lunch together...
  • Politely inform them that you brought your lunch and don't want it to go to waste.  It is a leftover, and might be expiring soon.
  • Or you can try "I just ate."
If your team is eating cake together to celebrate something...
  • This one's tough.  Try "I just ate, I'm too full" might work, but depending on the team, they might peer pressure you to eat more.
  • If you're a planner, plan to bring a paleo sweet to enjoy while others eat their diabetes.  Often people just feel uncomfortable eating/drinking around somebody who's not.
Fail-proof, strategies for tough times...
  • Tell them you're allergic, celiac, lactose-intolerant, etc.
  • Tell them you're doing a paleo challenge and have to stay paleo for just 'X' more days.
  • Tell them, I can't eat that, I have a big workout this afternoon.
  • Tell them, you're not feeling well.
  • Tell yourself that it's not REAL food.  It's sugar, corn, and soy.  Sugar = diabetes. They use petroleum to grow corn (read Omnivore's Dilemma).  Soy leads to erectile dysfunction in men, decreased libido across both sexes.
Again, withstanding temptation at first can be tough, but after awhile it's easy.  Your co-workers will become privy to your healthy ways, and won't be offended if you choose not to eat bad foods.  For a few months, you'll still hear "why are you on a diet? You're skinny," but eventually you'll hear silence as they'll realize you're not on a diet - your living the paleo lifestyle dream!