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It starts next Monday!  LENT and our adventures with our first Whole30.

If you are unsure of what a Whole30 is, I'll explain, but you can read LOTS more here at wpid-IMG_20140225_093916_387.jpgthe Whole30 Website!  This program was started by the folks over at Whole9 - Dallas and Melissa Hartwig - authors of It Starts With Food.

Melissa and Doug started the Whol30 program back in April of 2009  as a way for 30 days to strip all food groups (sugars, grains, dairy, legumes) that have a negative impact on our health without us necessarily being aware of such.  I learned about this program when I became introduced to the Paleo Diet and read their book- which I must say is a book I highly recommend as it really explains the reality of these foods and how they affect our bodies in pretty basic and understandable terms for the layman.   As you may be aware, our family is Orthodox Christian....so as we have been experimenting with the Paleo Diet and seeing the differences it is making within us, I have been grappling with what on earth to do when Lent comes around....  It is Orthodox Tradition to abstain from all animal products during the 6 weeks of Lent and Holy Week - the week before Pascha (Easter).  I struggled with this until speaking with our priest.  He set me straight in realizing that our health comes before the standard rules of the fast....and there is certainly more to the fast and preparation for Pascha than abstaining from meat.  So for this year at least, we have his blessing to follow the Whole30 for an extended period of time in lieu of the typical fast.  Of course, doing this during Lent is all the more reason to STICK to it and not even THINK about straying from the plan!

So .....  What does it entail?

For the 6 weeks of Lent and Holy Week (an extra week) we will be avoiding the following foods that will help our bodies regain a healthy metabolism, reduce systemic inflammation and discover how much these foods may be impacting our health...and determining which we might still want to keep in our diet as a daily, weekly, monthly routine or NOT AT ALL.....

  • no sugar of any kind..... no artificial either (of course, we don't do this anyway) - no sugar includes honey, stevia, maple syrup, etc.
  • no alcohol
  • no grains
  • no legumes (this includes beans, chickpeas, lentils, peanuts, etc and all forms of soy) - the only exception is that green beans, sugar snap peas, and snow peas are allowed if you desire as while they ARE technically a legume, they are more 'pod' than 'bean' and green plant manner is generally healthy.
  • No dairy (well at least that's SOMETHING that's part of our normal Lenten fast)
  • No white potatoes (or red or purple or gold....you get the point...- sweets are allowed!)
  • No carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites (This is a no brainer for us...we avoid the MSG and sulfites completely anyway and usually swerve from carrageenan - frankly I'm surprised that's all they list...  there's so many hidden ways of hiding MSG...most people wouldn't know this...)
  • No desserts or junk foods even if made with "approved" ingredients...in other words, avoid replicating junk food for the 30 days -   I'm still making my son his birthday cake for his birthday...  it may be gluten-free - and my husband and I won't eat it but my boys can...
  • No stepping on the scale or taking body measurements during the program - this is to help you realize it's not about weight loss (though lots of participants experience it)- it's about focusing on health and lifelong benefits...

So what shall we eat?

3 meals a day - each containing a protein ( Ruminants- a.k.a. beef, buffalo, lamb, elk, venison, etc.. - Poultry, Pork, Eggs, Seafood and yes, even processed meats IF they are organic or 100% grass fed with no added sugars or sulfites, nitrites, MSG, etc.), LOTS of vegetables, and a healthy fat.

We are allowed fruit in moderation with our meals.

We are not supposed to snack between meals if we can at all help it.... they say if you get hungry between meals it's because you didn't have enough protein or healthy fat with your meals to tie you over.

We are allowed Ghee - which is clarified butter as it does not contain the milk proteins found in non-clarified butter which could impact the results of the program.

We are allowed limited amounts of fruit juice as a sweetener within a recipe.  LIMITED

We are allowed vinegar as long as it doesn't contain added sugar or malt vinegar as that usually contains gluten.

I've started my meal planning.  I've used our favorites from these great cookbooks!

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I've bought some 100% Paleo snacks to have on for my husband's work meals and to have on hand for those 'just in case' moments.  My husband works 12 hour schedules and can not always sit down to a meal....so we've planned.  He'll take things like salads that contain a serving of protein and a healthy fat (avocado or guacamole, salad dressing made with olive oil, or a handful of healthy nuts).  But he'll also have Lara Bars that are paleo (not all are...we have to read labels!), RxBars, and Chomps Snack Sticks to have in his locker at work JUST IN CASE he forgets to take his food with him!  So at least if he doesn't get a meal in, it's at least REAL food he's eating and doesn't have to starve or give in to a food that's not allowed.

I'll have those things in my purse too in case we get stuck somewhere unexpectantly - traffic or something.

My son is 15 - and while he wants to support us in our decision - especially Dad as it may help him lose some weight - and has an understanding that it really is healthier,  he's not thrilled as you may imagine.  We are making some exceptions for him and our toddler.  They will not be limited in snacking - but it will be Paleo foods only.  They will be allowed all the fruit they want for snacks as long as they are eating protein and healthy fats too.  I've also consented to allowing my teenager gluten-free pancakes 1x a week.... on SATURDAY....NOT a school day.  I really want to see if eliminating added sugars from his school days might make a difference in his attention and focus with school stuff.  And if he's at a friend's place.... he doesn't have to follow the Whole30 strictly.  That shouldn't happen too often so we should still be able to see a difference in the school week.

During the last two weeks, we will be adding the foods from the 'Not Allowed" list to try them out and see if and how they affect us.... one food for 3 meals for one day every three days....   in this order :   dairy, grains, wheat, legumes

So That's the plan....  It starts next Monday - so maybe I'll post weekly to let you know how it's going along with our menu plan and maybe a couple of recipes.

WISH US LUCK!  🙂  We are exited.....but a teensy bit scared too!

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It's true we spend more on our grocery budget than most people would. I'm not going into number details here because I think that's personal and I wouldn't ask you to tell me what you spend on yours. But I do think that your food spending should be a decent part of your overall budget and not just a drop in the bucket because what you put into your mouth is the biggest factor of your health. We do not spend much on sick care because we use our food budget as our health care. With that being said, I totally understand that there are some that need to cut every corner imaginable in order to put that good quality food into your mouth. So I have here a list of ways to eat healthy without breaking the bank. I hope it helps you.

#1. Have a budget - Know how much you can spend. My husband and I LOVE the guidance of Dave Ramsey and his book, Financial Peace.  But of course, there are lots of sources out there to guide you in making a budget if you don't already have one.  The important thing is, make one, make food a priority in it over vacation, entertainment and luxury items and stick to it.

#2.  Plan a Menu -  I already talked about planning a menu in my post on Menu Planning. In planning a menu, one is able to plan ahead on items you already have in the freezer, things that are on sale in your grocery store sale flyer (hopefully produce and organic or grass-fed meats), and space out your more expensive meals with less expensive meals in between.

#3  Cook From Scratch -  It really is cheaper.  We rarely eat out or get take-out. One, now that we eat quality food we actually get allergic reactions if we accidentally ingest artificial ingredients, especially neurotoxins (see my post on Our Food Story and others if you are not familiar with this yet).  Staying home and cooking from scratch saves a huge chunk of money.

#4  Eat Your Leftovers - I'm not sure why some people put their noses up at leftovers.  They make a wonderful breakfast or lunch if you don't want to save them for another dinner.  I usually schedule one leftover meal per week - if we run out of leftovers thru the week before this meal, then I just make an omelet or something simple.  Usually I eat leftover vegetables with breakfast as a side with my eggs.

#5.  Eat the Right Foods -  After eating It Starts With Food and changing how we eat a little more than what we already were doing, I learned that I was saving money because when we eat right we don't have the need for snacks.  It's true.  If my breakfast contains the right amount of protein, vegetables and a healthy fat, I'm not hungry until lunch time.  The same with other meals and in the evening time when I was usually hungry for those processed goodies that are costly and aren't healthy.

#6.  Coupons - I just learned this trick...no, not coupons in general but coupons for those expensive organic foods you don't normally find in the newspaper.  Call the company (or email) and tell them you want to try their product but don't want to spend the money.  Many of these companies are willing to send you  coupons! You can also follow your favorite organic/natural food companies by email, newsletters or Facebook or Twitter and keep an eye out for sales or coupons advertised on those sites!

#8.  Find a Co-op, CSA or Online Source -  In a small city close to where I live there is a pick up location for UNFI.  We order from the catalog almost monthly.  It involves a once a year fee but we save about 10% off usually already lower prices in the catalog for packaged items like natural soaps, detergents, shampoos and other items.  They have lots of processed snacks and fours, etc. as well though I don't buy so much of that anymore.  I have also found that Amazon often has the products I need at much lower prices with delivery right to my door in 2 days time since I am an Amazon Prime member.

#9.  Gardening -  You can save A LOT of money by planting your own organic vegetables and learning how to can or freeze.  If you don't have time to can, you'd be amazed at how much you can freeze.  Buying an extra freezer is minimal compared to how much money you will save in the long run. If you live in an apartment, container gardening is still doable! Every little bit helps - even if it's just a cherry tomato plant!

#10 -  Buy half a cow -  That's right.  If you find a farmer in your area that has grass-fed beef, find out the cost of how much buying a half a cow or even a quarter would be. It's worth buying a small to medium-sized freezer to do this. You'd be amazed at how much less it actually is per pound than going to the grocery store and buying it in single unit packages from them.  We have a great farmer that we work with and because we do buy in 'bulk' from him he will often give us discounts when we need to buy single items from him at the farmer's market....which leads me to # 11....

#11  Buy at your local farmer's market.  You need to ask questions but you'd be surprised.  Some of these farmers raise their crops organically but do not have the money and time to put into getting the organic label.  This saves YOU money.  Ask questions...find the best quality for the lower price.  And you might find a cattle farmer like we did 🙂

#12 Serve smaller portions of meat.  Don't forget that vegetables should really cover the largest area on your plate.  Your meat or fish portion should only be about a fistful (maybe two if you're a big guy).  Following that guideline is healthier and will help save money.  Quality Meats do tend to be more costly than vegetables.

So there's my 12 tips for the day to heat healthy without going broke.  I bet there are more that my readers can come up with.  Do you care to share how you save money and still eat healthy?

Eggs are the most inexpensive quality form of protein someone can buy. There are 6.3 grams of protein in just one large egg! So if you are trying to  figure out how to make a whole foods lifestyle fit into your budget, eggs are a good staple to rely on.

Eggs are very nutritious.  They are not only a good source of protein but are rich in essential fatty acids (fatty acids your body can't create from other materials and, therefore, we must consume from quality food sources) and vitamins!  Unfortunately, for years, people thought eggs were problematic for cholesterol and a cause of heart disease.  Thankfully most people realize now that this is a thoroughly outdated 'scientific' concept.

It is important to note, however, there is an ENORMOUS difference between store-bought CAFO eggs than the eggs you can buy from your local farmer who has free-range chickens eating what chickens should be eating.  Store bought "CAFO" eggs are eggs from chickens that have been raised in an overfilled hen-house or cage that never see the light of day, are filled with antibiotics and hormones (yes, these do end up inside the eggs) and are fed grains (usually GMO grains).   Truly free-range pastured eggs come from chickens that generally run all over the farm eating insects and plant material they find on the ground.  This is what chickens are supposed to eat in a natural world and it is the food that makes their eggs the most nutritious.  There are many other types of eggs that fall in between these two types but the most nutritious is definitely the eggs coming from the entirely cage free, antibiotic free, hormone free and grain fed free chickens!

These pastured chickens have eggs have higher amounts of Omega 3s, beta carotene,  and vitamins A, D and E. They also happen to be lower in cholesterol and saturated fat though I don't believe that actually matters  -   but that's for another post...

Here's Two of My Favorite Egg Recipes:

Crustless Kale Quiche

  • 1 tblsp olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh kale (broccoli or spinach is good too!)
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 pieces bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 cups shredded cheese of your choice ( I like a blend of mozz, parmesan and cheddar)
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat.  Saute kale and mushrooms until kale is wilted and mushrooms are softened.  Stir in bacon and let mixture cool.

In a large bowl, combine eggs, cheese and pepper.  Add kale mixture to this and stir well.  Scoop into greased pie pan.  Bake in the preheated oven about 30 minutes or until eggs are set.  Let cook about 5-10 minutes before serving.

This makes a wonderful breakfast, lunch or dinner!  We like to serve it over a bed of greens with some fresh sliced tomatoes and avocado for a side dish!

Grain Free Banana Pancakes

  • 1 banana
  • 2 eggs
  • cinnamon to taste

Blend the above ingredients together well until no lumps remain.  Pour batter into greased pan and cook pancakes.  Serve with butter, ghee, maple syrup or other topping of your choice.  Enjoy!

My toddler LOVES these pancakes!!!

Resources for additional information:

Authority Nutrition

Food Renegade