Don’t Fear the Fat

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As a kid, it was common knowledge in my family that eating fat would cause health problems. We would usually opt for skim milk and margarine, and it was the norm to see boxes of food labeled “fat free” in the pantry. Even after years of following the paleo diet, I can still understand where the confusion came from back then. It only seems right that if you don’t want to be overweight, (and deal with the associated health problems) you shouldn’t eat fat.

This was a legitimate obstacle for me as I was making my way into the paleo world. It wasn’t until I opened myself up to the possibility that what I was reading could actually make sense and tried it, that I felt the positive difference that eating a balanced diet including fat can make. Seeing the same message broadcast to the masses this summer helped further drive the message home too.

It can take a little digging to find some of the best ways to incorporate healthy fat into your diet, but it’s not as hard as you might think. Here’s a list of some of my favorite sources:

Coconut Oil – Great for cooking at high heats and is a much more well-balanced fat than many cheaper cooking oils.

Ghee – Created through a heating and separating process, ghee is a dairy-free fat made from butter. It is great for cooking, but even better for blending with coconut oil and coffee to make bulletproof coffee.

Avocado – Perfect as a side or a topping for chicken, with eggs in the morning, or mixed up with chopped tomatoes, onions and salt and pepper for homemade guacamole.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Makes for a perfect base for paleo mayo and salad dressings.

Animal Fat – Just make sure you’re getting meat from animals that were raised the way they were intended to be (think grass fed and pasture raised) and you don’t need to buy the lean cuts.

Fish – This has been a tough one for me because I’ve never been a fan of the taste of fish. Proper seasoning has helped me develop more of an appetite for it.

There are MANY other options out there beyond this list, but this is a good place to start. Even if you’re not participating in our challenge, you can still benefit from increasing your intake of this valuable nutrient. Add some in with every meal – it will not make you fat!

Why I Eat Rice

rice
I can’t help but laugh as I write this. It’s ok if you’re laughing too. Let’s face it. Asian people eat a lot of rice.

But for me it was not always thus. When I first discovered the Paleolithic nutrition plan, I was neurotically strict.

No grains means no grains, right? I was so strict that I would discard the rice bowl at the Korean BBQ. I was that guy.

But something always bugged me about the eliminationist aspect of Paleo. Ethnic differences are a matter of evolutionary forces. I don’t look like other people. Maybe I shouldn’t eat like other people?

It’s not so far-fetched. Geneticists know that most Asians lack the enzyme that metabolizes alcohol. (Which explains the red, puffy faces you see at the karaoke bar) If most Asians don’t tolerate alcohol is it so unreasonable to think that most Asians do tolerate rice?

My theory was put to the test the first time I visited my mom after going Paleo. In my mother’s house you do not refuse food. So I ate the rice she put in front of me, convinced that I would be convulsed and retching into the toilet within minutes.

Lo and behold, I was fine. I did not get a headache and drive my car into a tree. My butt didn’t explode. Cool.

In the ensuing months I learned something very important. Rice doesn’t make me sick but it does make me fat. I eat rice sparingly now, primarily in the context of a recovery meal, when I am very motivated to get my insulin levels up.

The main point I want to make here is that I only made this discovery because I started from a clean slate. I knew what it felt like to be on a clean diet so I had a point of reference when I started to introduce a questionable food.

If you want to learn how to thrive; if you are sick of one-size-fits-all diets, join us in our Eat Well challenge. The challenge is six weeks long. The first four weeks will be a reset where we rid our diets of foods that are known to be problematic (think processed foods). During the final two weeks we will systematically reintroduce the foods we eliminated to see how our bodies react to them.

It’s going to be awesome. Register here.

Slow Bone Broth

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Last year I went to PaleoFX and heard about the wonders of something called “slow bone broth”. I was intrigued. Why is everybody talking about this stuff? It must be off the chain! So I cornered a bunch of the panelists to interrogate them about this miraculous elixir, and was disappointed to discover that slow bone broth is exactly the same broth that my mom used to make. It’s broth. Made with bones.

I guess nowadays most people make broth with bouillon cubes or buy it from a cardboard container. Bouillon is basically salty brown colloid. It looks like what you would get if you pressed mouse turds into a cube. It’s full of chemicals, preservatives and other weird “flavor science” developed in an evil laboratory somewhere in New Jersey. Bouillon broth is gross. Don’t eat it.

Real bone broth is full of minerals, glucosamine, amino acids, gelatin and other goodies that your body needs. And it’s absurdly easy to make. Here’s how I do it. First I buy a roasted chicken. I get chickens from Kowalski’s because the quality is high and the seasoning is reasonable. I peel off all the meat and skin.  Then I dump all the bones and whatnot into a slow cooker, along with some peppercorns, a bay leaf and some vegetables, cover everything with filtered water and cook on low.

The next morning you have amazing bone broth. You have to strain out all the bones so I pour the broth over a strainer into a mug. This broth is INSANELY GREAT. It’s like drinking a chicken. Since we’ve been making bone broth I don’t even take glucosamine pills anymore. My knees feel great which is remarkable considering that I’ve been training twice a day.

A couple of tips about bone broth. Once you take some broth out, you should put a mug of water into the slow cooker. That way you can keep the broth going for days. Some bone broth advocates will keep broth going for a week but we usually start over every few days.

A lot of broth makers will drink a quart a day which is kind of nutty. They must not leave the house much. I just have a couple of mugs, one for breakfast, and one in a thermos that I take with me in the morning.

One last tip, for those of you who are trying to lean out. I don’t know what it is about this stuff but it really mutes my appetite…

Eat Well – The Nutritional Challenge That YOU Need

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Eating well is a constant challenge. We live in a world where gluttony is the norm and the worst food for you is the cheapest to get and easiest to find. Despite the challenges that eating well presents, there truly are countless benefits for those dedicated to putting their diet first.

This January we are kicking off our first nutritional challenge in quite some time. Our past events were plenty successful, but unfortunately the benefits were usually only as long-lasting as the challenge itself. So this time we are taking a slightly different approach.

Everyone’s body reacts differently to certain foods. A certain food might sit perfectly fine with some, while leaving others with major digestive issues. It is crucial to plan for these differences. This is why we will follow an approach outlined in Chris Kresser’s book Your Personal Paleo Code, where we will use the foundations of the paleo diet to figure out which foods work best for you.

The challenge will last six weeks. During the first four weeks we will reset our diets by eliminating anything that could be problematic. The last two weeks will be a trial period where we systematically reintroduce the foods that have been removed to see how our bodies tolerate them after we’ve gone without them for a month.

I’ll be the first to admit that this will not be easy. However, the knowledge that you will leave with at the end of the six weeks is something that you can use to inform your eating choices for the rest of your life. Worth it? I think so.

Preparation and community are the two pieces that will make or break our collective success, so we are going to host group gatherings every Sunday night to hang out, eat amazing food, and answer questions that come up over the previous week.

We are fortunate enough to have our friends at Origin Meals on board to help too. Everyone that signs up will get three pre-made, challenge-approved meals on the night of our first get-together. Origin Meals will also provide information about how their meal plans work, and will supply free samples of their culinary awesomeness.

We will provide all of the details on what you can and cannot eat at the opening night get-together of the challenge. My challenge to you: sign up!

Here are the details:

Sign up on Zen Planner
$50/person (includes introductory week meals from Origin)
Opening night – Sunday Jan. 4, 6:00pm
Superbowl party – Sunday Jan. 25, 5:00pm
Closing Party – Saturday Feb. 14, 4:00pm
Weekly get togethers will be on Sundays at 6:00pm throughout.

Honey Sesame Chicken

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This honey sesame chicken recipe is a great way to add some variety to your meals. It’s not tricky to make and is much better for you than the restaurant variety since it’s free of the commonly used sweeteners. Give it a shot!

What you’ll need:

4 chicken breasts
1 egg
1/4 cup arrowroot starch (available in the bulk section at local co-ops)
1 tbsp, 1 tsp coconut oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp grated ginger root
1/4 cup honey
3 tbsp coconut aminos
2 tsp sesame oil

How to make it:

1. Cut chicken into 1″ cubes, then toss in the whisked egg.
2. In a bowl, toss the chicken with arrowroot starch until all pieces are evenly covered.
3. Fry the chicken in a pan (using the tbsp of coconut oil) for 7-10 minutes, or until cooked through.
4. While the chicken is cooking, make the sauce. Combine 1 tsp coconut oil, garlic, grated ginger in a pan over medium heat for 1-2 minutes.
5. Add the honey, coconut aminos and sesame oil, and whisk together.
6. Whisk 1 tbsp water with 1 tsp arrowroot and add to the pot. Then stir occasionally as the sauce heats and thickens.
7. Once the sauce has thickened, pour it over the chicken until all pieces are coated.
8. Serve over steamed broccoli with some sesame seeds on top, and you’re all set.

This made a good amount of food, but it went fairly quick. If this sounds like something you’re really going to like, or if you’re cooking for more than a couple people, I’d recommend doubling the recipe. Enjoy!

Need Something Easy In the Morning?

Breakfast Casserole

What do you do for breakfast when you are in a rush? Do you grab a banana, eat a quick yogurt, or do you just get caffeinated and try to make it through until lunch?

Most of us are in a rush in the mornings, but all of us need fuel for the day. Something that works well for me, so that I don’t always need to be cooking in the mornings, are egg bakes. There are many variations but most paleo options have similar ingredients.

What works well for us is preparing this on Sunday so that we don’t have to slave over the stove on weekday mornings.

Here is one that we made recently that was quite tasty. We used turnips, but a safer bet if you haven’t tried an egg bake before may be rutabagas or sweet potatoes.

Ingredients

- Coconut Oil
- 3 turnips, 2 rutabagas, or  2 sweet potatoes- your choice (peeled)
- .5- 1.0 pounds of ground pork or beef (we cut the casings off of 3 spicy italian sausages)
- 4 scallions, green parts only (chopped)
- 8 eggs, beaten

Breakfast Casserole

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2. Grease a baking dish with coconut oil
3. Grate the root vegetables or use a food processor
4. Brown the meat with a little oil in a large pan until not quite cooked through
5. Then toss in rest of ingredients and cook for 2-3 minutes
6. Spoon into baking dish and cook for 45 minutes
7. Enjoy for the next few days!!!

Pumpkin Poblano Turkey Chili

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It is chili season! Not only is chili convenient, and relatively low on the labor side, but it is a delicious source of protein for your post-workout meals and snacks.

Here is another favorite recipe, pumpkin poblano turkey chili:

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 green poblano peppers, seeded and chopped (we added a jalapeño to kick the spice up a bit)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 lb ground turkey (try to get 90% lean)
1½ tablespoons chili powder
3 tablespoons cumin
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups homemade pumpkin puree (if your pressed for time you could use canned, but don’t make the mistake of using pumpkin pie filling)
3 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
guacamole for serving (homemade is always the best option)
chopped cilantro for serving
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. In a stock pot or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and poblano peppers and cook, stirring, until onions are translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic cloves and cook for an additional minute.
  2. Add the turkey, chili powder, cumin and salt and cook until turkey is white, another 5 minutes.
  3. Add the pumpkin puree and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium low.
  4. Simmer for 20 minutes, add the fresh oregano, and then simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
  5. Serve with guacamole and chopped cilantro.

Enjoy!

To carb, or not to carb

Bread

There is a common misconception that following the paleo way of eating also means you need to stay away from carbohydrates. While this is most definitely not the case, I can understand where some of the confusion comes from.

Following these guidelines is not nearly as much about how much of a specific nutrient group you eat as it is about the quality of the source. With foods like most grains and legumes doing more harm than good to most people’s digestive systems, it is generally recommended that we go without them. Because these foods are very carb-dense, elimination of them can lead to a reduction in your overall carbohydrate intake. This is not a recommendation to go without this important nutrient, but rather a side effect of getting rid of these problematic foods.

Especially if you are following an intense exercise regiment like CrossFit, carbs need to be a regular piece of your diet. It is getting them from a source that works well with your body that can be the tricky part. Everyone’s requirements can be different, but generally having a few servings of fruit, lots of veggies, and some root vegetables on a daily basis (especially immediately following your workouts) leaves most people with plenty of carbs for their body’s needs.

Simple Paleo Chili

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset This recipe is great because it knocks out two common complaints that I hear from people looking to start eating better. First, it is really easy to make, and second it makes enough food for more than just a couple of servings. It’s also a perfect dish for this *shiver* time of year.

Here’s what you’ll need:

2 lb. ground beef 4 cloves garlic, minced (I used 2 tsp crushed garlic instead)
1 medium onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
28oz. can diced tomatoes
15oz. can tomato sauce
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp oregano
1/2 tbsp basil
1/2 tbsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne

Here’s how to make it:

Cook the ground beef in a frying pan with garlic and onion until it browns. Drain all excess fat from pan and add to crock pot with other ingredients. Mix thoroughly and then cook on low for 6-7 hours. BAM, that’s it! Now, you eat.

I found this recipe on a site called Paleo Grubs and for the most part followed it as it was listed. I’ve used their site for numerous recipes in the past and recommend checking them out if you’re looking to change up your routine a bit.

Thanksgiving without the hang-over

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Sure, this recipe doesn’t have the mashed-potatoes and gravy with turkey and stuffing, but it leaves the same after affect where you want to just keep crawling back for more.

Cauliflower Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash- Here are the ingredients, how we cooked it and I would encourage you to put your own little touch into it:

2-3 acorn squash, halved and seeds removed (the recipe we had called for two squash, but we had extra stuffing and wished we would have had more squash on the ready).

1 small head of cauliflower (don’t get one that’s too big)

1-1.5 lb. of ground beef

1 package of mushrooms (any kind will do)

2 apples, diced

1 yellow onion

1/2 cup pecans, chopped

2 Tbsp coconut aminos

1/4 cup coconut milk

1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp garlic powder

1/4 dried minced garlic

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ginger

salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. Cut squash in halves and remove seeds. Place the open side on your baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes. You’ll know it’s done, and you’re good to go, if you press on the outside and it gives a bit.

3. Rice your cauliflower in a food processor, while you cook the squash.

4. Add cauliflower to a saucepan over medium heat, along with 2 Tbsp of water and 2 Tbsp of coconut aminos. Cook for approximately 20 minutes or until the cauliflower shrinks down a bit.

5. While the rice is cooking, add chopped onions and apples to a large skillet. Cook for about 3 minutes then add ground beef. Cook until beef is cooked through half way, then add the mushrooms.

6. Let ingredients cook down for a bit longer, then add the seasonings from above, coconut milk, and vinegars to the saucepan. Mix throughly.

7. When both the cauliflower rice and beef mixture are done cooking, combine them – either in the large skillet or large bowl and mix them up.

8. Once your squash is done cooking, flip over and add your concoction. Sprinkle pecan pieces on the top of the stuffing and cook uncovered for 8 minutes.

Have fun and don’t worry if you eat it all in one sitting!