Some of the women I work out with at my CrossFit gym began a 30 day “strict” Paleo challenge on April 1st and they invited me to join them. If you’ve read my previous post about eating Paleo, then you’ll remember that I’ve already been eating this way for the most part. I’ve basically followed the 80/20 rule… 80% Paleo 20% other. Well, this challenge would mean shooting for a percentage a little closer to the 100 mark. But because I wanted to see what kind of results I could get, and because I had put on some winter pounds, and because hockey season was about to begin and I wanted to not DIE on the field, I decided to give it a shot. Really, what did I have to lose? Besides a few inches or pounds?
And dairy-based products.
Did I mention cheese? And the itty bit of potatoes and rice I had been treating myself to occasionally at dinner. And the dark chocolate squares I had grown accustomed to having after dinner. And the buns on my burgers on the weekends. And pizza on Friday nights. Basically, that 20% I had come to enjoy.
I was wary of doing this, to say the least. But what can I say? I love a challenge. And I love these ladies. And I love looking and feeling and performing better. So I was game. I accepted.
Here are some of the changes I’ve made over the last 18 days in order to become more “strict”.
I’ve cut out dairy completely, including *sniffle* cheese. This is a big deal for me. I used to snack on cheese. I used to eat stringcheese for breakfast when I was crunched on time. I used to put feta cheese on my salads, and bake zucchini with Parmesan sprinkled on top, and add cheese to my eggs to make them more “special” on the weekends. I used to eat turkey and cheese roll-ups for lunch or have block cheese with fruits and veggies for dinner. I’d eat pepperoni with cheese slices as a late night snack. When I realized I couldn’t do this anymore, I asked in desperation, “Is there ANY kind of cheese I CAN eat?” The response from my fellow “cavewomen” (a Paleo term) was that goat cheese was allowed (as well as raw cow’s milk cheese, but I didn’t want to drive 30 minutes to the store that sells this). So I have been having goat cheese with my salads and sometimes I smear it on some pepperoni for a quick snack. But that’s about it. Also, I’ve eliminated my creamy dressings (my full-fat Ranch I told you about!). I’m strictly a balsamic vinegar salad dressing gal now. I love it actually, so this has not been too difficult. I can honestly say taking this step hasn’t been SO awful.
I didn’t think I could do it but I have. Challenge #1 won.
Also, I haven’t cheated (yet!) with rice and potatoes. Usually, I sneak a few spoonfuls at dinner if I haven’t had any carbs all day. My kids LOVE rice and potatoes (don’t we all????) so I still make them for them. Which makes saying “no” even more difficult when they’re sitting there all warm and white and scrumptious looking. BUT, I’ve discovered the most AWESOME replacement for rice, and I never would’ve tried it if I hadn’t done this challenge. Plus, sweet potatoes (small amounts) are allowed, so I’ve simply substituted those for white potatoes when I feel like I want to fit in with the family meal.
I didn’t think I could do it but I have. Challenge #2 won.
Nuts. UGH. Another one of my weaknesses. Another one of my go-to snacks. Another food that is acceptable within REASONABLE amounts. Well, I was not reasonable with my nut consumption this winter. I snacked on them too often, almost every evening. And the ones I love (mixed, no peanuts, in a gargantuan container from Costco) are heavily salted, so my salt intake was probably through the roof. And even though I knew peanuts were not considered a nut, I still treated them as one when it came to peanut butter. I didn’t eat a lot of it before, but this month I decided I’d give almond butter a try in it’s place. When I saw the contents of the jar and the amount of work it was going to take to stir it, I was discouraged. But I’ve managed to eat it just fine with my apples in place of the yummy stuff. It’s definitely not the same. But it’s doable. And it does make eating an apple a little more exciting. So I’ve cut way back on my nuts, but still eat them in my salads and as a SMALL snack.
I didn’t think I could do it but I have. Challenge #3 won.
And now for the clincher. Alcohol. This is my downfall at this time of year for a number of reasons. To begin with, the football season has reached it’s climax. We’ve just suffered through the quarter finals of the Champions League (and when I say suffer, I mean that in the most endearing of ways… It’s been gloriously painful and joyous all at once.) Sometimes, when a match is particularly stressful, I like to enjoy a cold beer with my husband in an effort to relax and remain calm *snort*. We’ve built a bar in the basement, complete with a kegorator and beer on tap. Do you see the problem here??? Also, once the weather turns warm and sunny, it’s only natural to want to enjoy a glass of wine on the deck in the evening as you prepare your strict Paleo dinner on the grill, right? And the neighbors all come outside, greeting you with a drink in their hand, or offer you a cold beverage while the kids play in the street. It’s refreshing and social and different than the boring water you’ve been drinking all day…
That’s my face when these things happen and I have to turn them down. And swallow my boring water… or better yet, eat grapes while swallowing my boring water trying to trick myself into thinking I’m drinking wine. It’s been hard. It IS hard. And I admit I’ve cheated on the weekends. BUT I actually managed to make it through four very intense Champions League quarterfinal matches without an alcoholic beverage! I did NOT relax or remain calm. But I DID skip the alcohol.
I didn’t think I could do it but I have. Challenge #4 won (mostly… not 100%. Still have work to do here…)
Ok, so with all of that out of the way, I thought I’d show a few pictures of my shopping trips, some menu items, and finish up with a few more recipes. I forgot to add… We were encouraged to take a picture of ourselves in our skivvies and take our measurements. I’ve done so but SORRY, not sharing those. I’ve also been tracking my weight, but there’s nothing more I hate than doing that, so I’m trying not to care about that too much. But if you decide to try this, I’d at least take some measurements. There’s nothing more encouraging than a little proof.
So, the replacement for rice that I discovered is made from cauliflower. It’s called, “Cauliflower Rice” of all things! 😉 It’s super easy, and while it doesn’t exactly TASTE like rice alone, with a meal mixed with meat, it’s actually quite convincing.
What you do: Chop, mince, grate, or whatever some raw cauliflower. I have a gorgeous food processor with a grater attachment. It’s messy, but does the job nicely. Saute the grated cauliflower in a pan with a little bit of olive oil for about 5 minutes or until it’s cooked through. Put it in a bowl, squeeze fresh lime and add fresh cilantro and voila! Tastes just like a Mexican inspired rice when served with a Mexican inspired chicken. Recipe to follow.
The chicken I made was SO simple, it’s not even a recipe. I used a crock pot, but I’m sure it would work on the stove if set to cook on low for a while. I placed about 6 chicken thighs and 2 breasts (no bone) in a crock pot with one can of Rotel (diced tomatoes with peppers and green chiles basically). When it was soft and cooked through several hours later I simply shredded it and ate it over the “rice”. It was SOOOO good.
Speaking of crock pots, this is another common meal made with only two ingredients. Pot roast!
What you do: Put a “chuck roast” cut of meat into the crock pot and top with a can of stewed tomatoes. Cook for several hours. The meat just falls apart. This would also be the perfect meat to then use for vegetable soup, but the “veggies” I think of in vegetable soup are not Paleo foods (beans, corn, other beans, potatoes). But if you can make it work with vegetables you like, this meat is perfect!
Remember how I said I often use leftovers from the night before in my breakfasts? Well, this was an example of that. I believe this was chicken and peppers from fajitas the night before, chopped up and cooked with eggs. I topped it all off with some avocado. Simple as that! Just remember to make MORE dinner than you need so you can eat it the next day (or two).
Ok, last “recipe” for this post. I’ve run out of pictures. This one is more like a true recipe and it does call for flour and milk, so I guess technically it’s not “strict” Paleo. But I’m telling you, the little bit of flour and milk you’re actually going to consume is worth it because you’ll never have eaten something as ordinary as a pork chop as good as this. When my mom made pork chops when I was growing up they were hard, dry, and flavorless. It was my least favorite meal. These are DELICIOUS. And even better the next day for lunch!
What you do: Combine about 1/2 cup flour with 1 Tbsp garlic powder and 1 Tbsp onion powder. Add some salt and black pepper to taste. Mix together with a fork. Buy the THICKEST cut of pork chop you can find (boneless if possible). Dry off both sides of the chop with a paper towel then dredge in the flour mixture. Fry in a hot pan with a touch of olive oil until both sides brown. *NOTE: The chops should not be cooked through. Just browned on both sides, so use a hot pan to do this. Remove them and place on a plate. Sprinkle a spoonful or two of the flour mixture into the drippings until it forms a thick paste. Move around the pan for a few minutes. Then add about 1 cup of chicken broth (you can add more if you need to thin out the gravy after adding the milk). Whisk together until it becomes a gravy consistency. Add about 1/2 cup of milk. Stir. Return chops to the pan and cover. Let simmer about 15 minutes until cooked through.
And for dessert…
Chocolate covered strawberries, minus the chocolate. 🙂 I let the kids and the hubby dive into the chocolate. I (mostly) stayed away. But this experience has encouraged me to try that Paleo Nutella recipe I mentioned in the comments in the last post! I WILL attempt this and let you know what I find. My expectations are low, but maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised. We shall see!
So there you have it! My 30 day “strict” Paleo progress. Will I see results? I think so. I’ve lost a little bit of weight. I haven’t remeasured anything yet. Or taken a comparison picture. It’s really only been 18 days, so I’m not expecting a whole lot of change just yet. But at least I can say that I’ve not died out on the hockey field yet this season. And I even scored a nice goal last week! And my favorite part… I managed to do 15 pull-ups at the gym the other day without the help of a band when I really only believed I could do 1.
I didn’t think I could do it but I did. 😉 Challenge #5 won.
I’m really not all that interested in seeing results. For me, it’s more about trying to do something that’s hard and accomplishing it. It’s about supporting other women as they try to make changes in their lives in order to become healthier and stronger. It’s about feeling good on the outside so I can feel good about the outside, and vice versa. And it’s about learning that I CAN do things that appear to be too hard for me. Which is a good result in and of itself. If you attempt to make some changes in your diet or your habits, then I wish you well on your endeavor and I send encouraging thoughts your way.
I KNOW you can do it!
You can open and print a shopping list here.
And the “Cauliflower Rice” idea came from a book called Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo.