Whole 30 Week 2: Loose Pants and a Clear Mind

Well, today marks our official halfway point!

15 days through the Whole 30 experiment.

Whole 30 Week 2 Recap: Lose Pants and Clear Minds-  Plus Whole 30 recipes and tips

If you’re wondering what the Whole 30 means exactly, then check out last week’s Whole 30 post.

This past week was a little rough. Two days of 2-hour delays, plus a surprise on Thursday, really sucked out time from my days to get work done. While being stressed isn’t really a trigger for me to overeat, I’ve realized it’s a trigger for me to want quick, less healthy fixes: grabbing take-out, pouring a glass of wine, or grabbing an extra snack. Interesting to see that so clearly during this challenge.

Plus, the little lack of food prep on Sunday made the next couple of days feel like a kitchen marathon, especially just the daily routine of veggie chopping. Some things I prepped during the week:

  • Meatballs
  • Breakfast sausage patties
  • Curry Chicken Salad
  • Hard-boiled eggs

As far as weight goes, I don’t have much to lose overall (10 lbs would be ideal), but two weeks in I already tell a difference in how my pants fit, both in the waist and around my thighs.

And my mind! It just feels different. Sharp, focused, crystal clear. More on that in Day 12.

What I Ate and How I Felt: My Week 2 Meal Plan

All in all, not horrible amount of prep, but hubby helped too. It really saved me some time over the week not having to do so much. Some recipes below!

DAY 8:

WHAT I ATE

Meal 1: Fried eggs, homemade sausage patties, mixed fruit (melon, pineapple, strawberries, grapes)

Meal 2: Leftover steak with salad, leftover roasted red pepper and cauliflower soup with avocado.

Snack: Half a Larabar (Cashew Cookie)

Meal 3: Asian meatballs on lettuce leaves, stir fry zucchini, snap peas, mushrooms, peppers, fruit and half a Larabar.

Kid dinner alternatives: Meant to make them udon noodles but forgot! They liked the meatballs and fruit, and ate a little veggies but not much.

HOW I FELT
Today was the first day I broke from the no snacking embargo I put on myself. While Whole 30 doesn’t ban snacking, it’s discouraged as you are supposed to eat enough during the three meals to hold you over to the next meal (unless you workout, then you need more food). However, the forums suggest if you didn’t eat enough and are hungry, then eat.

They also say skipping a morning veggie can make you hungry, even later on in the day. Oops.

My lunch wasn’t super filling and knowing dinner wasn’t going to be until 6:30 or 7, I knew I HAD to eat something. So I just grabbed half a Larabar. The Cashew Cookie bar is simply cashews and dates, but it’s pretty tasty. After dinner, I finished it as a dessert of sorts.

And those meatballs were amazing! (recipe at the end)

DAY 9:

WHAT I ATE

Meal 1: Eggs, sausage patties, fresh fruit

Meal 2: Leftover meatballs and stir-fry veggies, fresh fruit

Pre-Workout: Hard-boiled egg with pistachios

Post-Workout: Handful plantain chips

Meal 3: Baked tilapia with mango salsa, roasted butternut squash and parsnips

Kid dinner alternatives: Made them try the tilapia and since they hated it, we made them grilled cheeses. Noah liked the butternut squash but Ethan didn’t like anything.

WORKOUT
Zumba for 1 hour

HOW I FELT
Did NOT feel like eating this morning but knew I needed to. Good thing is that I thoroughly enjoyed my sugarless coffee. WHO AM I?

Big deal alert: I’m proud that I less desire to snack that I’ve had thus far (even after yesterday’s Larabar snack). In fact, even at 11:30 at night, I wasn’t really even hungry.

DAY 10:

WHAT I ATE

Meal 1: Fried eggs, leftover parsnips and butternut squash

Meal 2: Curry chicken salad on bed of lettuce, apple with cashew butter

Meal 3: Sopa de Pollo (Chicken Soup) with yuca, zucchini, squash, and carrots, monkey salad (banana, nuts, strawberries, sprinkle of coconut)

Kid dinner alternatives: Added egg noodles for the kids. Kids DID eat the soup and tried all the veggies, but ultimately just liked the chicken, carrots and noodles.

Whole 30 Week 2 Recap: Lose Pants and Clear Minds-  Plus Whole 30 recipes and tips

This soup is my mom’s recipes with Adobo seasoning and Sazón (which I had to make myself since the brand we buy has MSG). She also typically adds corn on the cob and then rice when you serve it. Obviously we had to adjust it but we loved it just as always. I’ll post a recipe when I’m done with Whole 30!

Oh and hubby turned our fresh fruit into something fancy with some dried mango and dates. Yum!

Whole 30 Week 2 Recap: Lose Pants and Clear Minds-  Plus Whole 30 recipes and tips

HOW I FELT

Today marks 1/3 of the way through this crazy thing! Feeling better than expected, honestly. That’s not to say I don’t salivate over the donuts in the store, but I’m dead set on doing finishing like a champ. That donut can wait.

I didn’t get to my 5:30 am Zumba (which I do every Wednesday) because of freezing rain. The kids had a two-hour delay so I got to sleep in (yay) but forgot my workout snacks (boo).

DAY 11:

WHAT I ATE

Meal 1: Scrambled eggs with spinach and mushrooms, broccoli, sausage patties

Meal 2: Turkey rollups with leftover soup

Pre-Workout: Hard-boiled egg with pistachios

Post-Workout: Plantain Chips

Meal 3: Burgers on lettuce with pickles and spicy mayo (just Cholula and mayo), garlic potato wedges, green beans

Kid dinner alternatives: See below.

WORKOUT

Zumba for 1 hour

HOW I FELT
Angry. Bitter. All the bad words.

Long day that started off with a two-hour delay. Then I dropped Noah off at camp (he’s in year-round school so currently tracked out) and took Ethan at preschool.

I work part-time at Burt’s Bees and was hoping to head to the office yesterday. With the delay, it didn’t happen. Today I was hoping for a long day of catch-up since my older guy was at camp until 3:30 and my mom was taking my little guy until 4. The only “errand” I had to run was signing Ethan up for kindergarten, which I figured wouldn’t take long.

Um, it took TWO AND A HALF HOURS. WHAT??!!! I have friends who said it took them 10 minutes at their school. So I barely got any work done before I had to round up the kids and take them to their Thursday tennis clinic.

After that it’s home and to the gym for my Zumba class. I felt bad dragging the kids out but I really needed to burn off some stress. On days like this, I’d probably yell EFF ALL THE THINGS and go get take-out. But on the Whole 30, we really don’t have that luxury and I didn’t want to drag the kids around the Hot Bar at Whole Foods while I read labels.

So we got them fast food (I know I know), Daniel cooked while I put them to bed, and we ate late. And alone.

Hey, maybe we should do that more often.

DAY 12:

WHAT I ATE

Meal 1: Bacon, broccoli, monkey salad

Meal 2: Curry chicken salad on bed of lettuce, carrots and guacamole, leftover soup

Meal 3: Spaghetti with zoodles (zucchini noodles), salad with Tessamae Balsamic dressing, and apple with cashew butter

HOW I FELT

Mentally, I felt amazing during the day. Today it was like a flip switched in my brain. I felt… clear (and I didn’t even know it wasn’t clear before). I had energy. I had super-spidey concentration. And I was stoked I got so much done today!

But Fridays are the hardest nights for me. It’s when hubby and I usually rent a movie on Amazon, pop some popcorn, grab our beverage of choice, and hang out. While we’re pretty much doing the same thing now, it’s just not the same without the food and drink. Amazing how just adding food to our experiences makes them that much more meaningful.

DAY 13:

WHAT I ATE

Meal 1: Sausage and potato hash with Cholula, one hard boiled egg, monkey salad

Meal 2: Turkey rollups (roll lettuce, cucumber and avocado up in slices of turkey), broccoli

Meal 3: WHOLE FOODS HOT BAR (in all caps because we didn’t have to cook and do dishes!)

Snack: Handful pistachios

HOW I FELT

Saturday is usually grocery shopping day. Okay, usually it’s more fun than that but we’re running to Costco, Trader Joe’s, and sometimes Whole Foods every week now so it takes a while. Noah had a tennis tournament (super informal) so we decided to make today easy and do Whole Foods.

Chipotle’s carnitas are another Whole 30 option, but of course there’s a recall on JUST CARNITAS right now. Of course.

So I hustled up to Whole Foods… by myself… to read labels and pick out some grub. Our first time eating out in 13 days! We got the kids their pizza slices. We ended up with amazing Peruvian Chicken, almost-as-amazing Ropa Vieja, potatoes and veggies.

Whole 30 Week 2 Recap: Lose Pants and Clear Minds-  Plus Whole 30 recipes and tips

I have never been so happy not to cook.

By the evening though I was super hungry. We were watching a long movie and I finally couldn’t take it so I grabbed a few pistachios. Even at bedtime I was STARVING but wasn’t about to eat something else. So I went to bed hungry.

Day 14:

WHAT I ATE

Meal 1: Scrambled eggs with mushrooms and spinach, bacon

Meal 2: Chicken salad with apples and golden raisins on a salad

Pre-Workout: Leftover meatballs (2)

Post-Workout: Plantain patties (smashed up and sautéed)

Meal 3: Shrimp tacos on plantain strips with cabbage, pico, and avocado, side of zucchini and Anaheim peppers

Kid dinner alternatives: Tortillas, cheese and sour cream for tacos, chips and guac.

Daniel made dinner while I took my oldest kiddo to basketball. While he was in the kitchen FOREVER, it was well worth it.

Whole 30 Week 2 Recap: Lose Pants and Clear Minds-  Plus Whole 30 recipes and tips

We had almost forgotten we couldn’t make paleo-tortillas during Whole 30 (no recreation of baked goods or treats allowed). So he simply sliced plantains on the mandolin, overlapped some strips, then heated them on the stovetop for a minute before baking them in the over.

We served all the taco fixings on top and then ate with a fork and knife (can’t really pick it up). They were ah-mazing!

WORKOUT

15 minutes running, 45 minutes weight lifting

HOW I FELT

Today was busy, from church to the gym to basketball practice. After Noah’s practice, they gave the kids cupcakes. Cupcakes!

And while Noah put on his jacket to go outside, I had to hold his half-eaten cupcake IN MY HAND.

I didn’t sneak a nibble off it. I didn’t even lick my finger from the frosting. I just handed it back, cursed a little in my head, and smiled from passing another temptation.

Recipes I Used

Asian Meatballs (We couldn’t find this fish sauce ANYWHERE so I used coconut aminos instead and it still worked)

Breakfast Sausages (Oh these are so, so good)

Mango Salsa (For the tilapia- so so yum)

Curry Chicken Salad (We made our own but this one is pretty much like ours but with celery)

Whole 30 Tips (aka Things I Learned)

Food Dreams are Crazy! I’ve had a few food dreams since I started Whole 30. They’re hilarious because I’m always with someone and we eat bad food and I try to spit it out or scrape it off my tongue.  One day, after hearing a guy talk about making “snow” in his front yard for neighborhood kids, I dreamed of a yard full of candy. Another night I dreamed of eating at Outback. I’ve learned to just roll with it. They’re par for the course.

It’s okay to snack… if you absolutely have to. I’ve learned to distinguish “I need to chew stuff” hunger (aka a craving) and real, bona fide hunger. While I did go to bed a couple of times hungry, I also did grab a couple of snacks this week when I really needed it.

Engage with the community. While I’m not really a forum person, I do love me some Twitter. I keep the #whole30 stream in Hootsuite so I can easily follow it. I’ve followed new people and had some good conversations just by jumping in there and connecting.

These recipes will live on after Whole 30. We’ve always been ones to try new foods, but even we get stuck in our old ways. Whole 30 has forced us out of our comfort zone into trying new recipes. And we’re excited to add them into our normal rotation once the challenge is over.

Got questions?

We’re moving into our third week of Whole 30. Yes! Throw any questions you have my way. Have you done Whole 30 before? This making you consider it?

Whole 30 Week 1 Recap: What I Ate and How I Felt

Wow. If there’s ever a thing that’ll spark conversations across social, it’s Whole 30 eating!

Over the week I’ve posted pictures of my meals, some day-to-day photos, and whined about bad Starbucks coffee (black). And I’ve chatted with so many people who wanted to know the recipes I used, how I felt and so on. So it’s only natural to roll it into a blog post, right?

Whole 30 Week 1 Recap: What I Ate and How I Felt- Plus tips for getting started

Back It Up… What’s the Whole 30 Challenge?

Here’s how the creators Dallas and Melissa Hartwig describe it:

The Whole30® is our original nutritional program designed to change your life in 30 days. Think of it as a short-term nutritional reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system. 

The rules?

  • No sugar (real or substitutes)
  • No alcohol
  • No dairy
  • No grains
  • No legumes (including no soy)
  • No carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites
  • Do not recreate baked goods, junk food, or treats with Whole 30 approved foods
  • And no weighing or measuring yourself until you’re done

FOR THIRTY DAYS. (See the Whole 30 rules PDF here.)

What does that leave? Lots of fruit, vegetables, meat, eggs, and spices.

It sounds drastic.. and it is. But they argue that moderation of those “no” foods won’t help you end the cravings, restore the metabolism and so on. And I believe them. In fact, this is the FIRST time I’ve ever done any sort of eating program. Never done a cleanse or diet fad before either. I heard about Whole 30 months ago and brushed it off as “some crazy thing crazy people do” but the more I read about it, the more convinced I became.

And when I asked the hubby if he’d join me and he said yes? I was sold.

What I Ate and How I Felt: My Week 1 Meal Plan

Saturday grocery shopping

Okay I’ll admit. The first shopping trips were TOUGH, even after planning out all our meals. We had to read label after label and google “[questionable ingredient] Whole 30″ many times to see if something was okay to buy.

I really thought I knew that sugar and soy were in a lot… but I really have been clueless. Soy is in EVERYTHING. Even “simple” things like Starkist tuna. And I can’t tell you how many things we put down because they had sugar in them, even at the “healthy” stores. EYES. OPENED.

Here are some of our favorites thus far:

Whole 30 Week 1 Recap: What I Ate and How I Felt- Plus must-have products that are Whole 30 approved!

(affiliate links below)

Coconut Oil (Trader Joe’s): Can get other brands elsewhere. Use for cooking.

Paesana Tomato and Basil Pasta Sauce (Costco): It’s so good it just might replace the Trader Joe’s brand we usually buy.

Tessemae’s Balsamic Vinegar (Whole Foods): We first bought their “Zesty Ranch” which was kind of like oily herbs and was only OKAY. Went back to get this one and it’s a better one for our taste buds.

Coconut Secret Coconut Aminos (Whole Foods): Use similar to soy sauce. Not the same taste but not too shabby either.

Ghee (Whole Foods): it’s clarified butter so use it like butter (for cooking or putting on a baked potato)

Raw Whole Cashews (Trader Joe’s): Or really any nut you like works as long as there are no unapproved ingredients in them. I’m allergic to almonds and peanuts are off limits (they’re legumes) so cashews are my top choice.

Pederson’s No Sugar Added Bacon (Whole Foods): not in the picture above but it’s been one of our favorites this week (I got ours at Whole Foods for $5.99)

Sunday Food Prep

  • Sweet potato chips (for post-workout snacks since I’m supposed to have protein and carb-dense veggie)
  • Baked chicken
  • Chicken salad (made from the baked chicken)
  • Fajita veggies (onions, mushrooms, peppers to go with omelets)
  • Hardboiled eggs
  • Roasted broccoli
  • Sliced cucumbers

All in all, not horrible amount of prep, but hubby helped too. It really saved me some time over the week not having to do so much.

DAY 1:

WHAT I ATE

Meal 1: Omelet with fajita veggies, mixed fresh fruit (melons, pineapples, strawberries, blueberries)

Meal 2: Chicken salad on Bibb lettuce, broccoli

Pre-Workout: Hard-boiled egg with pistachios

Post-Workout: Sweet potato chips

Meal 3: Shrimp with cauliflower rice with veggies (red pepper, sugar snap peas), apple with cashew butter

Kid dinner alternatives: none. They love shrimp but didn’t care for the “rice.” Ate some sugar snap peas and fruit too.

WORKOUT
Running for about 25 minutes then weights

HOW I FELT
A little hungry mid-morning but pushed through. A little hungry mid-afternoon but drank some plain chai to hold me over until my workout snack. Pre and Post WO snacks weren’t bad, but not my usual snack of fruit!

Dinner was fairly good. Give cauliflower rice a 3 out of 4. As I was making it, I thought wow this needs more veggies… then I realized it was ALL veggie. Oh yeah. Not sure if I’d make it again though.

Hankering for an evening snack so it was an early bedtime for me (early = 10:30 pm). Felt a slight headache, almost with a tinge of foggy-headedness, but nothing too terrible.

DAY 2:

WHAT I ATE

Meal 1: Bacon, broccoli, monkey salad (strawberries, banana, pistachios, coconut flakes)Meal 2: Turkey rolled up with avocado and fajita veggies, strawberries and blueberries

Pre-Workout: Hard-boiled egg with pistachios

Post-Workout: Sweet potato chips

Meal 3: Spaghetti with zoodles (zucchini noodles), salad with Tessamae “ranch” dressing, and handful of cashews

Kid dinner alternatives: made them regular noodles, but they both tried ours and liked them.

WORKOUT
Zumba for 1 hour

HOW I FELT

Hungry but still trying not to snack as some of it is from cravings, not true hunger. Decided the sweet potato chips I made sucked. I let them sit out before putting them in a baggie but they are kinda chewy and a quick heat in the toaster oven only helps so much. Otherwise, the food has been really good- the sauce we used for the spaghetti might be our favorite yet… and it’s Whole 30 approved.

About mid-day I felt some of the carb flu people talk about (Google it). It’s like medicine head without the medicine. Went to bed around 10:30 again, which should have been earlier since I get up Wednesday mornings to workout.

DAY 3:

WHAT I ATE
Meal 1: Fried eggs, sweet potato hash with Aidell’s Chicken & Apple Sausage, mixed fresh fruit

Meal 2: Chicken salad on a salad, apple with cashew butter

Pre-Workout: Hard-boiled egg with pistachios

Post-Workout: NOTHING (see why below)

Meal 3: Skillet beef and cabbage with roasted potatoes

Kid dinner alternatives: None. Big Roo (7) loved it. Little Roo (4) didn’t but he doesn’t like anything.

WORKOUT

Zumba for 1 hour

HOW I FELT

Ohhhhh we must talk about what happens when you only have 11 hours between workouts and your body isn’t used to using fat for energy yet. For months, I’ve been doing a 5:30 pm class on Tuesday night, then a 5:30 AM class on Wednesday mornings. With kids and a busy schedule, it’s the best way to squeeze in another workout.

When I got home around 6:45 am, I KNEW I needed Post-WO snack but nothing sounds remotely appealing. I tried to chew some sweet potato chips I made (which ended up kinda soggy), but spit them out. I started chopping up sweet potatoes for our hash and started feeling worse so had the hubs take over. I ate half a banana and I laid down. Got back up and decided to hit the shower, but turned off the water before I even got in.

At that point, I KNEW I was going to throw up.

And I did.

Weird thing is I felt GREAT the rest of the day. I ate lunch a little later than usual and wasn’t that hungry by dinner. Hoping it was a fluke because THAT was not fun.

DAY 4:

WHAT I ATE

Meal 1: Bacon, egg, avocado, and tomato salad, leftover roasted potatoes

Meal 2: Leftover cabbage and beef, carrots + guacamole

Pre-Workout: Hard-boiled egg with pistachios

Post-Workout: Homemade Plantain Chips

Meal 3: Chicken salsa lettuce tacos with avocado and fajita veggies, fruit Kid dinner alternatives: Tortillas, cheese, and sour cream for tacos. Chips with guacamole.

WORKOUT Zumba for 1 hour

HOW I FELT Didn’t love breakfast but it really kept me full. Made coffee a little weaker and actually didn’t mind having just coconut milk in it. Before we started our Whole 30, we had pizza (terrible I know). I seriously felt bloated until about today. I bet I’ve lost weight just from that alone. 

DAY 5:

WHAT I ATE

Meal 1: Fried eggs, sweet potato hash with Aidell’s Chicken & Apple Sausage, mixed fresh fruit

Meal 2: Tuna salad with chopped veggies (veggies from Trader Joe’s- include carrot, red cabbage, celery, jicama) on lettuce leaves, half an avocado

Meal 3: Aidell’s Chicken & Apple Sausage, broccoli, apple with cashew butter Kid dinner alternatives: Applesauce instead of the apple with nut butter

HOW I FELT

OMG there are so many dishes and pots and pans to clean. Aside from that, I’m not having any major food cravings and I’m used to coconut milk in my coffee. I AM sometimes wanting to eat just to eat, which is a habit I’ve become acutely aware of. Even if in the past it was something healthy like fruit.

DAY 6:

WHAT I ATE

Meal 1: Aidell’s Chicken & Apple Sausage, fried eggs, monkey salad

Meal 2: Tuna salad with chopped veggies (veggies from Trader Joe’s- include carrot, red cabbage, celery, jicama) on lettuce leaves, half an avocado

Meal 3: Roasted red pepper and cauliflower soup, salad with tuna salad on top, fruit

Kid dinner alternatives: Grilled cheese, salad, fruit (they didn’t like the soup, but we made them try it!)

HOW I FELT

Today we kind of hobbled together our meals, even though they were planned out. We ran out of deli turkey and bacon so ate those sausages… AGAIN… and tuna… AGAIN. Next week we might try chicken in the morning as an alternative or make our own sausage (since all the ones in stores have sugar).

And this is the fun part of the day (or night)… If you look on the Whole 30 website, they say you’ll most likely have food dreams around days 12-15. Mine came early! I dreamed I was out to dinner with friends and the restaurant had samples of their pastries and cakes. But these samples were GIGANTIC. And I can still vividly picture that chocolate cake, which I proudly said no to in the dream… only to suddenly be scraping crumbs of another yellow cake out of my mouth saying “oh no I wasn’t supposed to eat that!”

Oh yes, this dreaming-of-food-I-can’t-have thing is weird.

Day 7:

WHAT I ATE

Meal 1: Omelet with mushrooms, onions, spinach, and tomatoes, bacon, grapefruit with coconut flakes

Meal 2: Aidell’s Chicken & Apple Sausage, broccoli, fruit

Pre-Workout: Egg with handful nuts

Post-Workout: Small handful plantain chips, egg white

Meal 3: Steak with chimichurri sauce, baked potato with ghee and chives, green beans Kid dinner alternatives: Organic Mac n Cheese since they don’t love potatoes, BBQ sauce for steak

WORKOUT

20 minutes running, 50 minutes weights

HOW I FELT

My SKIN! My face is softer and clearer than it’s been in ages. Holy cow! I heard this can happen after a couple of weeks so I was surprised to notice after just a week. I’ll be interested to see what happens as I re-introduced the foods.

Aside from my skin surprise, I’m finding myself being more tired than usual at night. Not can’t-keep-my-eyes-open-tired, but more like hmm-my-body-is-ready-for-bed tired. Hard to explain, but if anything it’s a DIFFERENT tired than I’m used to. I’m also sleeping like a rock.

On the Whole 30 site, they say it’s common to be cranky as your body adjusts. Well, hubby and I joked the kids were on Whole 30 because they were ATROCIOUS all weekend. And our crankiness set in over the weekend too so you can imagine how fun our household was. Oh and this happened.

Recipes I Used

Cauliflower and Roasted Red Pepper Soup (Really leave some time to let the flavors meld together. We didn’t and it was MEH the first day. The next day? Delicious!)

Sweet Potato Hash (We chopped our potatoes up into small pieces versus julienne and added Aidell’s Chicken & Apple Sausage to it)

Chicken Salad (I altered this a bit, but the original still looks delicious)

Chimichurri Sauce (We’ve used this recipe for years so was happy to see it passed the Whole 30 test!)

I won’t even share my Sweet Potato Chip one cause it was a bust. Or the cauliflower rice… you can find a gazillion recipes for that with a quick Google search.

Whole 30 Tips (aka Things I Learned)

Watch Your Reflexes! I realized this week that I have a habit of tasting stuff I make for kids… and it almost messed me up. Things I ALMOST did this week: taste a spaghetti noodle to see if it was done, eat a sliver of ham while making a sandwich for kids’ lunches, eat a pretzel while putting up the pretzel bag. BEWARE!

Go shopping without the kids. Especially your first week as you learn what to buy. Daniel the hubby did Costco and Whole Foods, then I did Trader Joe’s. It’s hard enough to stop and read labels at TJs when you’re being bumped in their overly crowded, narrow aisles. I would have gone mad with the kids with me.

Recognize the “Food with No Brakes”… even the Whole 30 approved ones. Plaintain chips are compliant but I realized I need to limit eating them as they’re essentially like eating chips. My brain doesn’t know any different. Same with fruit. They suggest not snacking on fruit for the same reason: it calms the sweet tooth which doesn’t help slay the sugar dragon in the end. Plus it’s not optimal for pre- and post- workout snacks.

Print out their handouts. Well, some I just read but I printed the Shopping List, Meal Planning Template, and Pantry Stocking Guide. It was nice being able to quickly refer to them throughout the week.

Plan the heck out of your week: I don’t see how on earth you could do this without planning out every single meal. Is it tedious? Yes. But it’s also nice to not scour the fridge wondering what to eat, especially when food choices are so limited.

Read It Starts with Food: This is the book from the Whole 30 creators. I understand so much better about how my body works in regards to food after reading the book. It’s very “science-y” but the authors break it down For Dummies style.

Got questions?

Ask me anything you’d like about the Whole 30. I’m learning as I go, but have already learned so much! And stay tuned next week for the next recap!

Hi, Yes, It’s Me.

Well, hello there, 2015! And you. Hello to you too.

My last post here was May 2014. MAAAYYYY. That’s crazy.

But so is life. And life (aka my job, my other blog, my family, my other hobbies) got in the way and next thing I know – POOF! – it’s 2015.

So, I am doing what so many people do in January of a new year.

I am starting fresh.

Look around and you’ll see a new blog design. One that I didn’t take months hemming and hawing over. I designed it all over the weekend (one of my resolutions is to stop taking so long to do everything). And I LOVE it! (Hope you do too.)

Soooo about this new year.

I want to post more. Every week? Not super likely. But really anything is better than how I did in 2014.

I not only want to share stories, but I also want to share tips, ideas and how-tos for this, that, and the other. Vague? Yes, I’m leaving this blog open to my whims. (And maybe some fun printables.)

What’s Next?

Well, if you’ve followed me on Instagram, you’ll see my hubby and I are embarking on something called the Whole 30 challenge. We start TOMORROW (Jan 5). If you’re unfamiliar with the program, read their Welcome page and even grab their book It Starts with Food (affiliate link). It’s opening my eyes to how our bodies process protein, fat, and carbs… and why some of us can reduce calories but still not lose weight.

A photo posted by @melaculbertson on

I must confess the foods I’ll miss the most. Then we’ll see how much I miss them AFTER the challenge.

Buh-bye for now:

  • Black beans with Lizano (a Costa Rican condiment)- yes I’ll REALLY miss this
  • Half-and-half and Stevia in my coffee
  • CHEESE GLORIOUS CHEESE
  • BREAD GLORIOUS BREAD
  • Wine
  • Air-popped popcorn with butter and salt (my favorite snack in all of time)

And We’re Off!

Whether it’s your first time here, or you’ve read this blog through both my regular and sporadic posting days, thanks for reading TODAY. And here’s to more blog posts in 2015!

10 Things We Learned on our Arizona Vacation

Almost 5 years.

That’s how long the hubby and I lived in Arizona. When we moved from Scottsdale to Raleigh when Noah was 15 months old, we hugged friends goodbye and declared, “We’ll be back to visit in a year or two!”

It took us nearly six.

10 Things We Learned on our Arizona Vacation

We had plenty of good and valid reasons. Nevertheless, we never thought it would take so long to pay Arizona a visit. So imagine how ecstatic we were to finally set foot in the desert and the surrounding area again. And better yet, introduce our kids to a place they never really knew (or remembered).

On our trip we discovered some surprises… and validated some hunches. Here are 10 things we learned on our trip to the 48th state:

1. I did a bad job of describing the desert.

Either they weren’t listening or I just didn’t describe it well enough, but when we landed at Sky Harbor and got outside the airport, I was curious to hear the kids’ reaction upon seeing a desert for the first time.

Their first words: “Where’s the sand?”

Not only is the Sonoran Desert NOT the Sahara (which is apparently what they envisioned), but there were amazing cacti could produce beautiful flowers like this.

desert-flower

2. You’ll always feel an overwhelming burst of nostalgia when you drive by your first house. Even if it looks run down.

The first house we ever owned together was on a little street near 101 and McDowell in south Scottsdale. It was just two bedrooms, but inside had a modern feel that we loved. And big windows. It was the house we brought Noah home to when he was born.

Of course you want to drive past your old digs when returning to a place you used to live, so we did. We were slightly disappointed that it looked a bit run down. But Noah didn’t seem to mind. He was thrilled to see his first home (the picture proves it).

our-old-house

3. Driving around in a place you used to live is kinda like riding a bike.

You know how everything feels fresh and new when you go to a new vacation spot or take a roadtrip to a new town? I honestly thought visiting Arizona after so many years would feel like that… at least somewhat. But once we got in our rental car, it felt like we were just driving around like a normal day of living there: except this time we had two kids in tow. Sure, there were new things and places that had shut down, but it felt like riding a bike. We felt comfortable and – dare I say it? – right at home. I miss that place.

4. If my family ever runs into a 17 foot python, my kids will go straight for its head… and pet it.

And they won’t even hesitate. We had a chance to visit the amazing Out of Africa park in Camp Verde. Lots of rescued animals and we loved that we could get so up close.

snake

And since I was so happy to get this shot, I’m sharing it even though it has absolutely nothing to do with the snake.

lion-out-of-africa

5. You will never run out of good places to eat tacos.

We didn’t get a chance to visit all our favorite foodie spots while we were there, but we made it to Salty Señorita in Old Town Scottsdale. The menu had changed a lot since we used to visit, but the shrimp tacos were still delicious.

salty-senorita

6. Boys always love cowboys who shoot things.

After a few days to Phoenix, we ventured north to one of our favorite spots… The Grand Canyon. It was hubby and my TENTH trip to the Canyon. We’ve pretty much done it all– hiked from South Rim to North, camping in the bottom (twice), hiked down and back in a day, and done the touristy stuff with non-hiking family. So much, except for taking The Grand Canyon Railway.

The Grand Canyon Railway runs from Williams to the Grand Canyon National Park. We started off with a Wild West shootout before boarding. And of course the kids were enamored. They insisted we get a picture of them with this particular cowboy.

cowboys-grand-canyon-railway

7. Your kids might not see the the Grand Canyon at first… Even if they are standing right in front of it.

When I was planning our trip to Arizona, I just knew one of the highlights of the trip would be taking them to the Grand Canyon. Noah was just 9 months old last time we had visited.

As we walked toward the rim, I had so much anticipation about the kids’ reaction. But we walked right to railing and I asked, “What do you think?”

Noah’s answer: “WHERE IS IT?”

What, you mean that GIGANTIC hole in the ground? You don’t SEE it?!

I think it was just so massive they just couldn’t comprehend its grandeur. As we saw more and more it, they grew more interested in the Canyon, asking us questions and pointing out different parts. But I’ll never forget that first reaction.

 

noah-grand-canyon ethan-grand-canyon

8. My kids love mountains.

We took a small hike up to the Hole in the Rock, a spot in Phoenix where you can walk through a hole in the rock, sit, and get a beautiful view of downtown Phoenix and the surrounding area. They thought the rock was the coolest thing ever.

hole-in-the-rock-arizona

Since Phoenix is so flat, you can so much that surrounds you. As we went around the city, we kept pointing out Camelback Mountain, because the view changes so much depending on what side of the mountain you’re on and how close you get to it. (That’s the mountain in the background here).

kids-hole-in-rock

9. When it comes to the closest of friends, nearly six years won’t feel like six years.

Phoenix is such a transient place that many of my “Arizona” friends ended up moving back to their home states. But one of my closest friends still lives there (well, in Gilbert, which is part of the area). We were pregnant together with our first kids– two pregnant co-workers reporting to check-in meetings with the boss holding a bag of Cheddar Bunnies.

We of course got together so we could hang out and let our kids play together (last time we were together our oldest boys were 15-months and a year old). After about an hour of hanging out, I said, “Man, I can’t believe it’s been almost six years since we last saw each other.”

My friend literally couldn’t believe it. Nooooo way. Yes way. Six years doesn’t feel like six years when you’ve got good friends.

10. My kids will fall in love with the desert… Just like I did.

After a long day of travel, we arrived back in North Carolina, where oak trees replace cacti. From the airport to our house, we travel on I-540, a loop highway lined with trees. As we drove home, Ethan stared at the window as if were studying the landscape. Finally, he shares his thoughts:

“I really want to be in the desert. I don’t like these trees.”

desert-sunset-point

A desert lover, like his parents.

Elevation Burger: Grass-fed, organic, and yum!

It’s like the burger trifecta.

A few bloggers were invited to head over to our local Elevation Burger and try out a few things from their menu.

They call it a “better-for-you burger.”

And it’s true. Their beef comes from 100% organic grass-fed cattle, giving the meat more vitamins and nutrients. One thing I didn’t know about this kind of meat is that it has less fat and fewer calories. BONUS!

Raleigh's Elevation Burger at Brier Creek

I KNOW you’ve been to a place with great, mouth-water burgers only to have it paired with limp, blah fries. Lucky for you, their fries are delicious. They’re hand0cut and cooked in olive oil. Can you name another place that cooks fries in olive oil?

I had a regular burger with cheese, lettuce, pickles, grilled onions, and their signature Elevation Sauce. Quite possibly the BEST burger in town, y’all. It’s juicy, cooked perfectly, and on a great-tasting bun. If you aren’t a carnivore, they also have vegetarian and vegan burger options. I  tried their vegan burger with carrots and corn and it was delish as well!

Not to mention, they list the calorie amounts beside each menu item. No surprises (and no denial “oh I bet that’s only 100 calories” either)!

No need to head elsewhere for dessert either. They serve shakes, malts and plain ole scoops of ice cream. That’s what my little guy opted for. That is, after I made him eat most of his burger and fries. You know what he told me? (look at the boy holding the ice cream cone in my picture above first.)

He said, “I bet the little boy in the picture didn’t have to each his burger and fries first.” What a rascal, that kid.

Elevation Burger has over 30 locations across the U.S. and 10 international locations. One thing I found interesting? Since there meat is also halal, you can find their locations in many Muslim countries like Kuwait and Qatar. They’re projecting to open 100 locations by the end of 2014.

If you wanna see if there’s an Elevation Burger in your area, check out their website. And if you’re local? Get yo’ self down to Brier Creek and try one of these burgers. Seriously good eats.

Disclaimer: No compensation was given for this post. Just food. Nom Nom. 

And Then They Were 7 and 4

I tucked them into bed as 6 and 3 year olds, then they woke up as 7 and 4 year olds.

Well, duh. That’s what happens on birthdays.

But my kids share the same birthday, with a 3 year (and 4 hour) age difference. So all those birthday emotions hit me all at once. Maybe it’s a good thing because I knock out all the emotion all at once. So February 23rd is filled with lots of reminiscing, complete with marking their heights with tick marks in a door frame for proof of how much they really have grown.

The day before their birthday, we threw them a birthday party. Given they’re winter babies (and we’ve had a crappy winter), we thought we’d warm it up with an indoor pool party! This place is awesome, with slides, a lazy river, vortex (like a whirlpool to get the kids spinning around in the water) and some spray equipment in the little kid area.

pool-party

They’ve been really into Planes lately so it only made sense to do Planes theme. I’m sure I could find a connection to swimming in there somewhere (blue icing and water is also blue??). They each blew out their own side of the cake.

On their actual birthday, they opened their birthday presents from us, which consisted of Cars, Planes and some train tracks and 3DS games.Happy Birthday to the Roos!

We spent the first part of the day at his friend’s birthday party funny enough, which was a make-up party that had been postponed because of snow. Since it was family affair, we all went and enjoyed some paddle boating and stuff, before heading to a place called Adventure Landing for some arcade games and go-cart riding.

It was the kids’ first time on a go-cart (other than the go-cartish car at the Tomorrowland Speedway). Can you tell they were excited?
birthday-fun.jpgWe finished the day off with dinner at Cowfish (the awesome burger and sushi place). Yum!

I love that the boys don’t mind that their birthday is on the same day. One day I might laugh hysterically when reading that, but for now, we’re all good.

 

I Didn’t Need Valentine’s Day to Show Love. I Needed Snow.

Snow has never quite been my thing.

I grew up in the South, where snow doesn’t happen all too often.

I’ve never skied in my life.

I did spent a few days snowboarding in Colorado one year and my tailbone hurt for two weeks after.

While I love the look of snow, I’d much prefer hiking in the Arizona desert (though we did have fun sledding today).

You know what else isn’t really my thing? Valentine’s Day. While we’ve definitely celebrated Valentine’s, it’s not my favorite holiday of the year for sure. Too commercialized for my taste.

Yet today, two days shy of Valentine’s Day, I sat in my warm house with my heart-pounding at the thought of my husband of 13 years not making it home in the snow.

Yesterday morning he went to work per the usual. I work from home on Wednesdays, but had the kids with me since school was closed in anticipation of the crazy winter storm coming our way. Sure enough, shortly after lunch, the snow started coming down.

First the is-that-really-snow specks in the air.

Then BAM, snowing hard.

By the time my hubby Daniel left work, pretty much every other worker in the city was leaving work too. It didn’t take long to realize this was going to take a while. His normal drive is about 10 miles. With rush hour traffic, it takes maybe 20-25 minutes, which isn’t bad.

But with all the snow and traffic, he had only moved about a mile or two in an hour. To give you an idea, here’s what a major street in our city looked like yesterday:

As the snow came down harder and harder, I got more panicked. The Internet was my friend and my foe.

On one hand, I used the Find Friends app to watch his icon on the map. As I refreshed and refreshed, I painfully watched him move (or not move) maybe one street address every 5-10 minutes. He was pretty much stuck, but at least I knew where he was.

On the other hand, I kept hearing online about people I know abandoning their cars and walking home. We’re talking MILES in the snow with probably the wrong kinds of shoes on since they were coming straight from work. That only made me worry more.

In the meantime, I was trying to simultaneously work and take care of the kids, but like a kid in love, all I could think about was him.

I cried. I paced the house. I maniacally checked my phone. It was all-consuming because I didn’t know when the snow would end, nor if the road conditions would be any better if he kept pressing on.

Would he spend nine hours in the car like people did in Atlanta? Would his car slip and get stuck? Would he be forced to walk for hours in the snow do get home?

After about four hours, he wasn’t even halfway home with no end in site to the traffic.

That is, if he turned the direction of our house. So after talking it out, he decided to go back to work, since traffic was just about dead going that way.

I knew it was right choice, but my heart sank knowing he’d be spending the night somewhere else. Especially since the weather wasn’t supposed to let up for another day or two. The kids were sad, but I assured them he’d be warm and safe so it was okay. He made it back to work with little trouble.

He had dinner with his boss, who lives next door to work, while I ate a somber dinner with the kids. During grace, my oldest asked to say a prayer for his dad and I saw him wipe his eyes. I gave him a reassuring hug and we finished dinner.

At this point, it seemed that all of the people I knew who were stuck earlier had made it home. Except Daniel. He decided it might be worth attempting to make it home now the roads were clearer. He has a Subaru, which is all wheel drive, so he didn’t have trouble earlier in the day. It was just the traffic and abandoned cars that were the barrier.

So… he made a second attempt.

As I watched his little icon on Find Friends, I immediately saw that this time would be different. In two minutes his icon leapt across the map. At a light, he texted that he was behind a snow plow and not slipping a bit with his car.

Ten minutes later, he had made it just about half way home. Twenty minutes later, he turned onto the main street by our neighborhood. Five minutes later, I saw his little icon on our street and I smiled like when he used to knock on my front door for our first dates.

He walked through the door and I wrapped my arms around him and just stood there, letting the side of my face just melt into his chest.

After 13 years of marriage, you just don’t really hug that much any more, ya know? In our normal day to day, coming home to work is usually met with a quick peck on the lips, not a long, drawn-out hug.

So a hug was just what we needed after a long day of uncertainty and snow. A perfect finish to a day when my husband consumed my mind all day, just like he did back in those beginning days of young love. Young love like a pristine blanket of fresh snow, before the footprints of routine and daily life leave their marks. A comforting reminder that love exists without a special day dedicated to displaying affection and buying gifts.

Take that Valentine’s. I don’t need roses, cheesy cards, or cheap teddy bears. I just needed snow.

My One Word for 2014

It’s not too late is it?

With all the hubba-ba-loo with changing Momcomm’s blog name, plus snow days and sick kids, it’s no wonder I haven’t blogged at all this month. It’s not that I haven’t CHOSEN a word for 2014…

It’s just that I haven’t blogged about it yet. So I’d better hop to it before February hits (yep, cutting it close, y’all).

My one for the year came pretty easily for me this year. And that word is…

My Word for 2014: Motion

Why, you ask?

As busy as I felt last year, I think most of that was due to writing Blog Design for Dummies. I had SO many other things I wanted to accomplish last year, but they fell to the wayside in order to meet deadlines and promote the book. Not just work or blogging things either. I want 2014 to be the year I put these “things” into motion. I don’t have delusions of being able to do everything all the time, but the key here is to keep moving. Here are the ways I want to stay in motion:

Keep moving with exercise

This is a biggie for me. I’ve always been an exerciser, but never a hard core, 7 days a week type of exerciser. In the recent past, I’ve been able to typically do Zumba twice a week and the rest of the week was a crapshoot. When Daddy Roo started working out regularly a few months ago, we started lifting weights together like we used to. But holidays and sickness got us off track a bit.

I want to work out consistently this year, 3-5 times a week, doing a mix of Zumba, running, kickboxing, and weights. Once the spring hits, we’ll add hiking into the mix too.

Keep moving with my Spanish skills

Again, I fell off the wagon last year. Not only do I want to improve my Spanish but I want to be talking daily to the kids in Spanish. I don’t know enough to ONLY talk with them in Spanish, but I can do my best to talk with them as much as possible. One of my Dad’s biggest regrets was that my sisters and I aren’t fluent. I’d like my kids to have a bigger knowledge of Spanish that I did growing up.

Keep moving with organizing my house

So far this year, I’ve given a boat load of things to my sister for her kids and donating bags full of stuff we didn’t need. I want to continue on that path. We have some rooms we aren’t using to their potential, not to mention piles of papers to sort through. Ugh. At least I know I’ll be happy with the end result.

Keep moving with my blogging

I have a few big things happening on Momcomm (now Blog Clarity) and then I want to settle it down a little bit. By settle down, I mean NOT working on blogging pretty much every single night. I have many things coming this year on Blog Clarity, but don’t want to push as hard as I have to get my new course launched! I’d also like to post on here more, sharing stories about my kids and our little adventures. I miss doing that! So it’s still all about motion, but STEADY motion. Ha.

Keep moving with my memory keeping

And by “keep moving” I mean, start using all my scrapbooking supplies again. Last year I don’t think I scrapbooked one single thing. What a bummer since I really love the creative process of it all. I don’t think I’ll ever return to the scrapbooking pace I had when Big Roo was little, but I’d at least like to finish a few projects and make some scrapbook pages of Little Roo (he has so few of them)!

What about you?

What’s YOUR word for 2014? And since it’s the end of January, how’s it going so far?

Let There Be Chaos

The day before Christmas Eve, we were stuck inside all day. After a weekend of over 70 degree weather – in DECEMBER mind you – the rain started pouring and didn’t let up.

At all.

Big Roo had been up half the night with the fever but by the afternoon was back to his usual self. And so, we had to check one more thing off our Christmas to-do list: decorate the sugar cookies.

Let There Be Chaos

Before I had kids, I looked forward to craft projects, making messy art and squishing Play-Doh. But now with two boys I learned a few things:

  • Play-Doh colors being squished together makes me cringe
  • My kids don’t much like doing crafts (at least with me)
  • Cleaning up the mess is a massive undertaking, even if the kids help

For someone who considers herself relatively creative, letting my kids freely create is sometimes a mess I’d rather not even get into.

Despite all of that, I was actually looking forward to decorating cookies with them. I bought three new types of sprinkles and piping bags with decorating tips (something I’ve never really bought before).

Let There Be ChaosAnd boy was it messy. On the table, on the floor, on their clothes. Too much food coloring, too many sprinkles, icing overkill.

But you know what? I didn’t mind. I shed that “Play-Doh must not mix” mentality and let them be messy and create.

Let There Be Chaos

As I go into 2014, I want to remember this:

Let there be chaos in this house.

Let there be messes to clean up.

Let there be sprinkles to sweep and spills to mop.

Let there be icing under fingernails and sweet smudged faces.

Because life without all of that would be quite boring and quite… quiet.

And so I embrace it, bright pink frosting and all.

 

eMeals Review: Meal Planning Made Easy (Even If You Already Meal Plan)

I’ve been a meal planner for many, many years. While we don’t always stick to our plan every single day, I really don’t know how I’d get through the week (or the grocery store) without a solid plan of what we’re cooking on which days.

With my meal planning experience, I wasn’t sure how different using eMeals would be from what I was currently doing. Well, let me tell you this: it’s a sanity saver and the meals are delicious. I’m seriously impressed.

eMeals.com provided me one year subscription to try out their service, but all opinions in this review are mine all mine. 

eMeals Review: Meal Planning Made Easy (Even If You Already Meal Plan)Before I tell you why I like it so much, let me quickly tell you how eMeals works.

1. Select which meal plan you’d like. Some of the choices: Classic Meals, Clean Eating (what we use), Simple Gourmet, Natural & Organic, Gluten Free. You can even pick a plan based on your family size or favorite grocery store!

If you’re worried you’ll get bored of one particular meal type, you can switch plans once per month. However, we’ve had so much variety in our Clean Eating plan that we have no plans to switch it up anytime soon.

2. Get your week’s meals. Each week, you receive an email containing a complete meal plan in a PDF format. You can also see new plans from a phone app.

3. Pick the meals you want, then use the grocery list to make shopping easy.

4. Cook and eat!

I typically use 2-4 of the meals from eMeals, sometimes mixing in a meal from a past week too. We then fill in our week’s meal plan with some of our tried and true meals and sometimes a new meal I want to try thanks to Pinterest.

Why I’m Hooked on eMeals

Yummy Food

My hubby and I both like to cook. Before kids (and Pinterest), we used to scour cooking magazines and websites looking for new things to try. After kids, we try new things probably more than most people but meal planning gets to be more and more of a chore. I’m stoked we have great-tasting meals come right to us.

Meals from eMealsSome of the eMeals dishes we’ve made:

  • Spicy Mexican Chicken with Steamed Broccoli and Brown Rice
  • Roasted Vegetable Orecchiette
  • Creamy Pumpkin Pasta with Sausage and Sage (one of my absolute faves that I wasn’t sure I’d like)
  • Asian Baby Back Ribs (we used short ribs and it was uh-mazing)
  • Taco Salad
  • Sweet and Smoky Bacon-Wrapped Chicken
  • Slow-Simmered Bolognese Ragu

I’m told that some of their chefs worked at places like Real Simple and Cooking Light, so these are GOOD, well-balanced meals.

Easy to Make

I was actually surprised how simple the meals were to make. While some of the meals sound complicated, they’re totally doable for a weeknight.

In the phone app, certain meals are labeled things like Slow Cooker, Marinate Ahead, Super Fast, Vegetarian, Kid-Friendly. I can scan the list and click on each menu item to see how long each meal takes to prep and cook. That way, I can plan the meals around our week’s activities.

Awesomely Helpful Phone App

Having the phone app is like the icing on the cake. Actually, it’s like the flour in the cake. You can make a cake without it, but it wouldn’t be the same!

The app lists meals by week. Within each week, all your meals are laid out. If you don’t want to make a meal, just skip it. They are still saved, but they won’t show up in your grocery list. Everything you need is pulled into a list for easy shopping. You can get the app for iPhone and Android.

eMeal phone app

Kid-Friendly

If you have kids, I found that most of the meals on our Clean Eating plan were kid friendly. For example, the kids were skeptical about the pumpkin pasta but devoured it (even my most-picky-kid-on-Earth eater). For the Roasted Vegetable Orecchiette, they didn’t like the butternut squash or onions but ate the broccoli and carrots. So far we’ve been pleased with how many of the meals they like.

Affordable

eMeals costs $58 a year if you purchase a one year subscription (making it not even $5 a month). With working part-time, kids in sports, and blogging, I just don’t have time to search out meals. It’s worth the $5 a month to have the meals come to me, then fill in with our family’s tried-and-true recipes.

Final Thoughts

Even though I’ve been meal planning for years, I find using eMeals is so much easier than doing it all myself. We’re actually looking forward to dinners instead of only sticking with the same old, same old. Once my subscription expires, I’ll definitely be renewing!

Question: Do you currently meal plan at all?

eMeals.com provided me one year subscription to try out their service, but all opinions in this review are mine all mine. This post also contains affiliate links.

 

 

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