8 Ways to Help Your Kid Overcome the Fear of Amusement Park Rides

Big roller coasters, little spinny rides, water slides with lots of twists.

Amusement park rides can be lots of fun, but sometimes kids are a little hesitant to give a ride a try. Okay, more like a little hesitant to an all-out FREAK OUT about riding something new to them. This summer, we took a mini-vacation up to Williamsburg and hit both Busch Gardens and Water Country USA. And that’s exactly what happened.

My kids were scared of way more than I expected. I’m not even talking about big, crazy roller coasters. Even some of the small, gentler rides. The ones you know they’d just love if they’d try them.

By the end of our trip though, they made progress and each rode at least one thing out of their comfort zone. Here are my favorite tips for encouraging your kids to try new rides (and what to do if they don’t):

Got a kid who's scared of rides at the amusement park? These parenting tips can help your kid overcome their fear of rides (and what to do if they don't)

1. Point Out Kids Coming Off Rides Laughing and Smiling

A friend on Facebook shared this tip with me and it does help to ease their anxiety! We did this with everything from small rides to water slides. Knowing that other kids their size were enjoying the ride can make kids feel more at ease with getting on a new ride.

Just be sure to frame this positively, versus acting like those kids are brave and your kid is not. Remember you can still have a great time at the park without going on all the rides!

2. Try Smaller Rides First

I know that’s kind of like “duh,” but remember that a kid isn’t going to conquer their fear of rides with the blink of an eye. Marathon, not a sprint and all that. Head straight to the main kiddie ride section and let your child try some of the miniature versions of the bigger rides.

At Busch Gardens, we made a beeline to the Sesame Street Forest of Fun and spent a good half hour or more riding things like a mini roller coaster, mini pendulum ride, and mini drop tower. My five-year-old Ethan was eager to try the mini roller coaster but was white as a sheet after it. However, he LOVED the drop tower (Elmo’s Spire) and rode it about 5 times!

How to Help Your Kid Overcome the Fear of Amusement Park Rides (Or Not)

The eight-year-old Noah loved BOTH the roller coaster and the drop tower. He didn’t go on the grown-up drop tower, but he DID try a grown-up roller coaster. (No he didn’t like it — see #3 — but he went back to ride the one in the kids’ area. I call that progress!)

3. Know What the (Big) Rides Are REALLY Like

If you’re hoping your kiddo will ride something with you, but he’s unsure, try riding it first if the lines permit. Or at least pick a coaster or ride where you can see the entire thing so you can point out what the ride does. Many amusement parks will let you do parent swap, meaning you can ride, then switch parents and go to the quick queue or fast pass type line. Lots of times this is so each parent can ride with a child if another child can’t/won’t ride, but we also did this with just the adults (i.e. hubby rides a coaster, then I do). Saves lots of time.

I speak from first hand experience about testing a potentially scary ride first! When we were at Busch Gardens, I tried to research which roller coaster would be a good one for my eight year old to try. From the pictures on the website, one particular roller coaster looked tamer than the others. Even in person, it looked tame. BOY WAS I WRONG.

My oldest son went on with his dad and came off shaking his head at how horrible it was! LOTS of dark tunnels with creepy eyes and the worst… an 88-ft drop in the dark. The website said “plunge” but I pictured a roller-coaster-like plunge, not a oh-my-gah-my-heart-stopped drop. Oops. (It’s Verbolten, in case you’re wondering.) He didn’t ride a big roller coaster after that (but he DID conquer his fear of the carousel-style swings).

4. Understand What They Are Fearing (in some cases it has nothing to do with the ride… AND it’s not even fear)

When we were at both Busch Gardens and Water Country USA, there were times when the five-year-old started crying that he didn’t want to ride something. We stayed in line and starting probing to see what was up. Turns out one time he just wanted some popcorn, and in other cases, he was just being a typical impatient kid and didn’t want to stand there and wait. In those cases, we were able to move past the “issue” and he LOVED the rides.

5. Point Out the Safety Features

Kids are often scared because they don’t understand how the rides work. My oldest asked me how the roller coasters stay on the tracks so I pointed out how the coasters are connected to the rails. I also explained how the harnesses lock so you can’t fall out. The kids had ALL sorts of questions about the roller coaster my husband and I both rode. I mean just look at the thing! Answer the questions as best as you can. You never know if it might help ease their anxiety about a ride.

How to Help Your Kid Overcome the Fear of Amusement Park Rides (Or Not)

6. Nudge but Never Force

I can’t stress this one enough! You DON’T want your kid’s memory to be of you forcing them on something that scared them to death.

In one case during our trip, we got right up to the top of a water slide — almost ready to get in a tube — and my five year old was squealing and pitching a fit. He had just gone down a similar slide, but he wasn’t having any of it. Knowing the ride DID have some dark tunnels and was mostly enclosed, I didn’t force him on the ride. I didn’t want to be THAT MOM. Instead, I walked him all the way back down and let the other my hubs and older son ride it.

There’s a difference between nudging a child and forcing one. Knowing when to back down can be the difference between a happy memory and a not-so-happy one.

My five-year-old was also hesitant to get on the Sky Ride that transports you from one part of the park to another. He’s been on ferris wheels before so I KNEW he’d be okay once got on. We talked about all riding it together and it would save him from walking. By the time we got to the front of the line, he was ready to get in… and getting a green bucket to ride in was icing on the cake (his fave color). He loved it and was bummed when we had to get off.

7. Revisit the Idea Later

Like I said, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. As the day (or days) go on, your child might decide they want to try a ride they were once too scared to go on. The more you’re at an amusement park, the more the newness wears off and they become more comfortable.

The eight-year-old didn’t want to go on the big carousel-style swings at first. He was willing to go on the kiddie ones but there was one problem… he was too big for them! So the little guy happily rode those.

How to Help Your Kid Overcome the Fear of Amusement Park Rides (Or Not)

Seeing his younger brother ride the little ones, I asked if he wanted to try the big swings and suggested we could ride in the double seats. It was a go! Turns out to be a favorite ride (and he rode it twice)!

We also found the kids had less fear overall with the water slides at Water Country USA than the rides at Busch Gardens.

8. Let It Go

Take it from Elsa. There’s something to be said for encouraging your child to conquer a fear, but you need to be the ultimate judge and know when to back off. Some kids might get to a place where they enjoy the faster rides. Other kids? Never.

There are still plenty of other things to do at amusement parks beside the rides!<

How Does Your Kid Like Amusement Park Rides?

When it’s all said and done, some of these might work and some might not. Each child is different and some have an easier time conquering fears than others.

Above all, remember these two words: PATIENCE and FUN. Have patience while encouraging them at the same time. And above all, you can all still have fun without riding a lot. Fun shows, sugary snacks, train rides, games… there’s still a lot to do at an amusement park.

I’d love to hear your experience with your kids at amusement parks!

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An Artsy Big Hero 6 Birthday Party and Free Invitation Download!

My youngest son is obsessed with Baymax from Big Hero 6. He also loves making, building, and drawing things.

Tired of yet another bounce house party, I decided an art party would be the perfect choice for my little maker.

But Big Hero 6? Combined with an art party? I didn’t really even know what that looked like myself, but I stumbled upon a cute art shop and it turned out we didn’t have to pick one of their pre-selected themes. I mentioned we wanted to do a Big Hero 6 theme and the owner immediately said “Oh we could do Baymax made out of clay!” And that’s exactly what we did (and it turned out to be the perfect little craft project for five year olds)!

Big Hero 6 Party Ideas! We threw a Big Hero 6 art party, with Baymax invitations, Baymax cupcakes, and Baymax goody bags. He was everywhere! It's the perfect party idea for boys or girls.

Download a Free Baymax Birthday Invitation!

Before the party stuff though comes invitations. I made these for the party and I swear it was actually the easiest thing I ever designed! Isn’t Baymax just the best?

Big Hero 6 Party Ideas! We threw a Big Hero 6 art party, with Baymax invitations, Baymax cupcakes, and Baymax goody bags. He was everywhere! It's the perfect party idea for boys or girls.

Download a free invitation printable right here! It’s a PNG file so just open in your photo editing program (Picmonkey is great!) and add type over it– the font size will seem HUGE but the image is at 300dpi which is the proper resolution to print out nice. You can get the Big Hero 6 font for FREE at this font site and use any simple font for the party details. If you use InDesign, grab the packaged template, complete with the fonts you need. There is a main InDesign file if you use CC (.indd) and another file (.idml) for older versions. By downloading this printable, you agree not to sell it as your own or offer it for download. Okay? Okay!

Cupcakes and Treat Bags

Prepping was a family affair. I made Baymax Cupcakes, which are pretty much red velvet cupcakes, topped with vanilla frosting and a marshmallow with Baymax eyes drawn on them with a Wilton Black Gel Tube. Tip: Red velvet cupcakes go perfectly with cream cheese frosting, but make sure your kid actually likes cream cheese frosting. Guess who had to put her batch of frosting in the freezer for another day? Ha! We ended up with straight up Vanilla.

I tasked my husband with drawing on the treat bags. I honestly thought he’d just do two circles and a line for Baymax’s face and be done. But his artsy side wouldn’t allow that so we got fancy Baymax treat bags instead. Show off.

And the finished products?



And the treat bags..

baymax-treat-bags Daddy Roo really took his job seriously, didn’t he?

How to Make a “Clay” Baymax

The highlight of the birthday party, beside eating cupcakes, was actually making big, lovable Baymax out of clay.

Here’s what they used:

First they painted the base red (and added some gold stars too). Then they rolled Baymax’s body, face, arms, and legs. The instructors had to help a little with the eyes, but they sure turned out cute.


Big Hero 6 Party Supplies We Used:

And these weren’t available at the time we did my son’s party, but they’re pretty awesome!

A Happy Little Five Year Old!

We had a blast putting together this Big Hero 6 party, and Ethan had a blast too. Can’t you tell?!

Big Hero 6 Party Ideas! We threw a Big Hero 6 art party, with Baymax invitations, Baymax cupcakes, and Baymax goody bags. He was everywhere! It's the perfect party idea for boys or girls.This post contains a few affiliate links, but all the awesomeness is thanks to the little guy.


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Whole 30 Week 4 + 2 Days: What I Ate… and the Final Results!


We did it! We finished THIRTY ENTIRE DAYS with no sugar, dairy, legumes, grains, alcohol, MSG, or soy. Like NONE. (If you want to start at the beginning here’s our week 1, week 2, and week 3.)

I’ll share our results at the end of this post, but in case you’re wondering how that last week felt (including Superbowl Sunday), then keep reading.

Whole 30- The last week and two days of eating Whole 30. What meals we ate and the final Whole 30 results!

What I Ate and How I Felt: My Week 4 (+2) Meal Plan

DAY 22 (Monday):


Meal 1: Sweet potato hash with chopped Chicken & Apple sausage, omelet with fajita veggies and heirloom spinach

Meal 2: Leftover steak on salad with monkey salad (bananas, strawberries, blueberries and cashews)

Pre-workout snack: hard-boiled egg and handful of nuts

Meal 3: Shrimp tacos on mashed plantains (blend in food processor and make into patties then bake until done), leftover sauteed veggies (zucchini and red onions)

Kid dinner alternatives: tortillas and cheese for the tacos, guac, salsa and chips

Zumba for 1 hour


Really digging plantains with the tacos. We typically only do plantains either sweet or as tostones, so using them this way is a nice change. Still feeling lots of energy during workouts (and my workout pants are getting baggy).

DAY 23 (Tuesday):


Meal 1: Leftover sweet potato hash (just a bit left), leftover spaghetti squash, fried eggs and bacon

Meal 2: Steamed broccoli, plantains with leftover carnitas, fajita veggies, and guac (one of my fave things yet), banana

Meal 3: Sopa de pollo (chicken, zucchini, squash, yuca, carrots, seasonings)

Kid dinner alternatives: Added noodles to soup and only gave them what they liked from last time (chicken and carrots). This time they did NOT like it. Go figure.

Just another day of Whole 30. Enjoying the food.

DAY 24 (Wednesday)- ONE MORE WEEK!:


Pre-Workout Meal: Hard-boiled egg and cashews

Meal 1: Fajita veggie egg scramble, bacon and fruit (strawberries, blueberries, 1/2 banana)

Meal 2: Leftover spaghetti with spaghetti squash, apple with cashew butter

Meal 3: Butter Chicken Masala (Whole30-style) and roasted cauliflower, mixed fruit (melon, pineapple, grapes)

Kid dinner alternatives: Cheese pizza from Trader Joe’s. They did try the masala but of course didn’t like it.

Whole 30- The last week and two days of eating Whole 30. What meals we ate and the final Whole 30 results!


1 hour Zumba


Nothing too special about today… other than in ONE week we’ll be on Day 31! I’m a time-keeper. I love counting down so you’d better believe I’m counting the days.

DAY 25 (Thursday):


Meal 1: Chicken and apple sausage, leftover cauliflower and spaghetti squash, two fried eggs

Meal 2: Leftover butter chicken and cauliflower

Snack: half a Cashew Cookie Larabar

Meal 3: Beef, cabbage and tomatoes, roasted butternut squash and parsnips, rest of my Larabar

Kid dinner alternatives: Dinner served on top of egg noodles for the kids.

Breakfast was hard to eat, honestly. Partly because I’m tired of spaghetti squash (but didn’t want to waste it) and partly I’m just tired of breakfast.

My oldest was sick and went to the doctor- walking pneumonia. Awesome. Luckily he really didn’t feel too bad and we now have medicine to clear it up.

I went and got my hair cut tonight. She always pours me a glass of wine, but I let her know beforehand not to. Another mini hurdle passed!

DAY 26 (Friday):


Meal 1: Bacon, leftover butternut squash and parsnips, fried eggs

Meal 2: Curry chicken salad in lettuce, steamed broccoli

Meal 3: Pork and sauerkraut, baked potato wedges, mixed fruit

Kid dinner alternatives: Annie’s Mac n Cheese in addition to the rest. This time they did NOT like the pork. Last time they did. Grrr.

Pre-Workout Snack: Handful nuts

Post-Workout Snack: Baked sweet potato with ghee and cinnamon, hardboiled egg white


1.5 hour Zumba Night Out


Gah, really sick of heavy breakfasts. I know it doesn’t have to be so heavy, but I also don’t want to be starving come mid-morning either. Also, my stomach was hurting mid-afternoon. Not really sure why, but it ended up passing. Despite being on Day 26, I am still not 100% used to no snack in the afternoon on non-workout days. I did eat dinner early though so I could let my stomach settle before the Zumba Night Out! Sweet potatoes are surprisingly good after a workout!

DAY 27 (Saturday):


Meal 1: Fajita veggies, eggs, and sausage

Meal 2: Leftover sauerkraut and pork, fruit

Snacks: Fruit, carrots and Whole 30 approved ranch

Meal 3: Whole Foods Hot Bar (chicken, vegetables, plantains, and salad)

Kid dinner alternatives: Pizza


I went to my sister’s house for my niece’s first birthday… and I didn’t eat birthday cake! I mean, there’s no way I was going to ruin my Whole30 with a few days left. Honestly, I didn’t crave it that much anyway. I did miss having a glass of wine with company. But again, just a few days left.

Since my sister had family in town from her husband’s side (and my other sister was visiting too), we stayed at her house after the official party to hang out. We knew exactly where we were eating: Whole Foods. I love that most of the family ended up eating Whole Foods too. :) We ordered pizza for the kids and a few people, then the rest of us hit the hot bar for some grub.

We had two chicken choices and got both. One was terribly dry but the other was pretty good. The rest was veggies and a salad.

By the evening, I was feeling even worse with my stomach and ended up laying on the couch while we watched a movie. Went to bed feeling blah and ended up almost getting sick in the middle of the night. BUT it really had nothing to do with Whole 30 eating. I think I got a minor version of what my son had earlier in the week.

Day 28 (Sunday):


Meal 1: Bite of sausage and sliced potatoes, then switched to banana and mango (still feeling sick)

Meal 2: Salad with chopped deli turkey, chicken broth, and mixed fruit

Meal 3- Superbowl Style!: Baked jalapeños with guac and bacon, sweet potato with buffalo chicken casserole

Kid dinner alternatives: Tacos their uncle made!

Whole 30- The last week and two days of eating Whole 30. What meals we ate and the final Whole 30 results!


Muuuuuch better after lunch. Today was Superbowl Sunday so we headed to my mom’s house since we sister was still in town. And? We passed up a delicious slow cooker full of nacho cheese dip. I’m a sucker for cheese dip, but just pretended it wasn’t there.

We made “football food” Whole30-style though! The jalapeños and our buffalo chicken were both amazing (recipes at the end). I’m happy that we could still enjoy the game without downing all the food.

Day 29 (Monday):


Meal 1: Fire-roasted sausage and sliced potatoes, eggs with pico, broccoli

Meal 2: Salad with tuna salad, monkey salad (strawberries, mango, pineapple, banana, cashews, coconut flakes)

Meal 3: Chicken marinated in red wine vinegar and olive oil with parsley, side of roasted pineapple, red peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, dried pineapple, handful baked plantains

Kid dinner alternatives: Corn and applesauce to go along with the chicken


My throat’s been hurting off and on all day. It got worse. Plus, I’ve been so busy with preparing for a presentation that I’m just feeling stressed. Oh and I fell going down the steps in my garage and hurt my ankle a bit. Despite all that, tomorrow is my last day of Whole 30 so hip hip hooray!

Day 30 (Tuesday):


Meal 1: Bacon, sliced potatoes with pico, scrambled eggs with spinach

Meal 2: Leftover buffalo chicken and sweet potatoes, leftover pineapple, peppers and mushrooms

Pre-workout meal: Cashews and hardboiled egg

Post-workout meal: Plantains and proscuitto (I didn’t have any compliant deli meat so I just rolled with it)

Meal 3: Leftover sopa de pollo (we froze a batch from last week), mango and pineapple

Kid dinner alternatives: Plain chicken noodle soup with grilled cheeses


1 hour Zumba


I woke up without the terrible sore throat I went to bed with (yay). But my voice was a little hoarse. Not super when you have to give almost a 2 hour presentation, but I managed.

TOTALLY phoned it in with the food today. Daniel cooked breakfast, I ate leftovers for lunch, and dinner consisted of dumping the leftover soup into a pot and heating it up. Easy for the win.

I did okay in Zumba class, but certain moves put a little stress on my ankle so I just kept it low impact when I needed to. Wish I could have ended stronger with my last Whole30 workout, but – hey – it’s not about the workouts anyway.

Recipes I Used

Indian Butter Chicken Masala (we used Coconut milk to make it Whole 30 – which made it a little more like korma)

Guacamole Bacon Stuffed Pepper Poppers (we used jalapeños instead of sweet peppers)

Sweet Potato with Buffalo Chicken “Casserole”

The Results

I’ve already told you about my clearer skin and sharper mind. But we all know what you REALLY want to know… did I lose any weight?

One of the Whole 30 rules is that you can’t weigh yourself during the 30 days. I actually love that rule because I stayed focused on what I was eating. However, you better believe we jumped on that scale on Day 31!

For years I’ve wanted to lose those pesky 10 pounds… well I lost SIX of them during Whole 30. Yes, six pounds. Insane!

Whole 30- The last week and two days of eating Whole 30. What meals we ate and the final Whole 30 results!

My husband (who also didn’t have much to lose), lost TEN pounds.

Whole 30 did in thirty days what months of counting every little calorie couldn’t do.

I believe the hype about Whole 30 now. It’s nothing short of amazing!

We were fairly healthy eaters to begin with too. But we were in a rut with our food (mini bagels much?) and Whole 30 opened our eyes to try all sorts of new recipes we wouldn’t have tried otherwise.

And I see why it’s Whole 30 and not Whole 15. The eating habits weren’t quite habits yet. I would have probably gone back to my past eating with a few mods. Now it’s the flip side of that. I will keep eating mostly Whole 30 while adding my “old” foods back sparingly. Thus, the shift.

The big question I’m sure you want to know is… what are I going to do now?

Well, next is the reintroduction phrase, where you reintroduce non-gluten grains, dairy, legumes, and grains one at a time. If you don’t want to add anything back, then don’t. I’ll post about this phase too, but for now I can safely say we won’t be eating as much of those things as before!

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Whole 30 Week 3: Foods I Miss and Foods I Don’t

“I’d never do anything so restrictive- moderation is the key!”

“I could never ever give up cheese.”

“I don’t see how anyone could do that for 30 days.”

These are words that came out of my mouth before I started Whole 30. I had known about Whole 30′s existence for months, but only took the leap after seeing someone else saying they were going to… and getting my husband on board to do it too.

Whole 30 Week 3 Recap: What Foods I Miss and Don't Miss -  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.)

Well, I’m officially eating my words. Moderation for me was always “well, I’m just having ONE cookie.” and “this event is really special.” But those add up. And why am I wasting calories on a mediocre appetizer at a party that I don’t like all that much anyway?

Also, it’s been 23 days (eek!) and WE’RE STILL AT IT. Before, the thought of going without cheese was enough to make me curl into a ball and weep, but here I am… 23 days without even a sprinkle of parmesan.

The thing about Whole 30 is that you’re always thinking about food, whether it’s your next meal, your next week of meals, or what to eat AFTER it’s all done. So I thought it’d be interesting to evaluate what foods I truly miss and which ones I don’t.

Foods I Miss and Foods I Don’t:

What I Don’t Miss:

  • Cereal: I’m the kind of person who stares at the cereal aisle and nothing sounds appealing. I would eat it because it’s fast, and while I do like some cereal, I won’t be reaching for a bowl anytime soon.
  • White rice: Not worth it. Maybe brown rice or that yummy cilantro lime rice at Chipotle, but regular white rice? Don’t miss it one bit.
  • Bagels: One thing that’s really become clear throughout this challenge is that if I’m going to eat something, it had better be worth it. Those silly mini-bagels we buy for the kids? NOT worth it. A delicious, perfectly-toasted bagel from Einstein Bros? Now we’re talking.
  • Yogurt: Before Whole 30, I ate yogurt almost daily. Now I’ll be seriously considering not eating it at all. So much sugar in most brands. I’ll see if I can find a brand with little sugar that doesn’t taste like ass. And even then, I don’t think I’ll eat it that much.
  • Plain wheat sandwich bread: Again, if I’m going to eat wheat bread again, I’ve gotta upgrade from Nature’s Own.

What I Do Miss:

  • Popcorn: I would eat popcorn everyday if I could. I gave up microwave popcorn ages ago so I’m ready for my bowl of air-popped popcorn with salt and butter. Mmmmmm, popcorn.
  • Cheese (but not as much as I thought I would): I will happily eat a piece of cheese after this is over, but it really hasn’t been on my mind as much as I thought it would be.
  • Tortilla Chips (good, thin ones): They’re sooooo crunchy.
  • Cupcakes: I rarely even eat cupcakes other than birthday parties, but for some reason I’m really craving one. Or two.

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

DAY 15 (Monday):


Meal 1: Sweet potato hash with chopped Aidell’s Chicken & Apple sausage, two fried eggs, mixed fruit (1/2 banana, strawberries, blueberries, sprinkle of coconut flakes)

Meal 2: Leftover spaghetti sauce with meat, sautéed zoodles (zucchini noodles), and apple with small amount of cashew butter.

Pre-workout snack: hard-boiled egg and handful pistachios

Post-workout snack: tuna with salt and pepper and plantains

Meal 3: Pork and sauerkraut in the slow cooker (salt and pepper and that’s it), roasted parsnips/butternut squash/mushrooms and fresh pineapple, strawberries, melon, and blueberries (just a little each)

Kid dinner alternatives: The pork and sauerkraut is a dish we make fairly often, usually served with buttered noodles and a veggie. We decided to forego the noodles and gave the kids corn on the cob and leftover green beans. They used BBQ on the pork and ate EVERYTHING.


The kids were off today so we went to a friend’s for a playdate. She asked if I wanted coffee and I said SURE. I planned to drink it black. As I was about to take a sip I noticed it smelled like hazelnut. Turns out it had artificial ingredients that weren’t on the label so I had to say no. Sipped on water instead.

DAY 16 (Tuesday):


Meal 1: Brussels Sprouts hash with bacon, fried eggs, bowl of fresh fruit

Meal 2: Leftover pork and sauerkraut with roasted butternut squash and parsnips

Pre-Workout: Hard-boiled egg with pistachios

Post-Workout: None

Meal 3: Buffalo “Ranch” Chicken Stuffed Peppers, guacamole and side salad

Kid dinner alternatives: The kids tried the chicken and liked it somewhat, but it was way too spicy for them (and my kids eat jalapeños plain). Instead they had hot dogs (“good” ones), corn, and salad.

Zumba for 1 hour

Wow I can really tell I’ve lost weight. Looking in the mirror at Zumba tonight, I noticed my thighs are smaller for sure, my tummy is flatter, and even my arms are trimmer. Since I don’t have much to lose to begin with, I’m surprised about my legs and arms just two weeks in. Especially since months before when I was fervently counting calories for months, I only noticed a little difference in my stomach.

DAY 17 (Wednesday):


Pre-Workout Meal: Hard-boiled egg and handful cashews

Meal 1: Fried eggs, sweet potato and chicken apple sausage hash, grapefruit sprinkled with coconut flakes

Meal 2: Tuna salad in lettuce wraps with side salad

Snack: Handful pistachios

Meal 3: Chicken Curry with potatoes, red peppers, onion, and spinach; Blueberries and strawberries

Kid dinner alternatives: Mini-pizzas from Whole Foods and some fruit. They TRIED the curry but didn’t love it. At least we tried!

Whole 30 Week 3 Recap: What Foods I Miss and Don't Miss -  Plus Whole 30 recipes and tips


1 hour Zumba


Well last week I didn’t do my 5:30 am Zumba class because of freezing rain. And the week before. Well that was only day 3 and the aftermath didn’t go well.

Today? Super hero energy. I felt great. On one song in particular it’s all jacks and jump squats. Usually by mid song most of us are doing low-jacks instead. Not today! I didn’t full jacks pretty much the entire song. That song was a good gauge to see my performance has increased. Woowoo!

DAY 18 (Thursday):


Meal 1: Scrambled eggs with mushrooms and peppers topped with pico, broccoli, bacon

Meal 2: Leftover chicken curry

Meal 3: Burgers on lettuce with pickles and spicy mayo (just Cholula and mayo), garlic potato wedges, green beans, 1/2 a Larabar (Cashew Cookie)

Kid dinner alternatives: Buns and cheese on the burger.

Didn’t get a chance to workout today but took the kids to their tennis clinic in late afternoon. One of the kids got hungry so I pulled out the only thing I had: my emergency Larabar. I let Ethan try it and he was a no go. Noah wanted to try it later on too and he also didn’t like it. So I DID actually eat about 1/4 of it then because it was a piece he broke off. Finished it up after dinner.

For someone who has multiple snacks a day, I’m pretty proud that I’ve only had non-workout-related snacks like 3 times thus far. And never fruit. Not bad!

DAY 19 (Friday):


Meal 1: Bacon, leftover potato wedges made into hash with peppers and onions, monkey salad (half banana, strawberries, blueberries, cashews, sprinkle unsweetened coconut flakes)

Meal 2: Tuna salad on salad, broccoli, apple with cashew butter

Meal 3: Pork carnitas with pineapple slaw, sautéed zucchini, poblano pepper, and red onions seasoned with Sazón, fruit

Kid dinner alternatives: Tortillas and cheese for the carnitas and corn on the cob as a side.


Ohhhh dinner was so so good. The carnitas cooked in the crockpot all day then I put them on broil in the oven to get the ends crispy.

Again, Friday evening was rough as I wanted something to snack on. Instead, I sipped on peppermint tea to make me forgot I was watching a movie (and wanting popcorn).

With the half-way mark coming up, I’m already thinking about reintroduction. That’s what happens AFTER the 30 days. You introduce one food group (non-gluten grains, gluten-containing grains, legumes, and dairy) for all three meals then do 2 days Whole 30 and see how you feel. It’s about pin-pointing the foods that make you bloated, groggy, moody, etc… or that give you no reaction at all.

We’re going to add back in non-gluten grains first so I can have popcorn. Yay! Then for the Whole 30 days in between I won’t worry as much about my snacking, as long as it’s Whole 30 compliant. (Can you tell I’m excited about popcorn?)

DAY 20 (Saturday)- 2/3 of the way there!:


Pre-workout meal: hard-boiled egg and pistachios

Meal 1: Scotch egg (hardboiled egg wrapped in sausage- this was all my husband’s doing), strawberries, blueberries, and bananas 

Meal 2: Turkey rollups (roll lettuce, cucumber and avocado up in slices of turkey)- I didn’t eat until 2 due to my pre-WO meal and a late breakfast, but I was barely hungry so this was all I ate.

Meal 3: Spaghetti meat sauce with spaghetti squash, salad with Tessamae’s Balsamic Dressing, fresh fruit (pineapple, honeydew, grapes) and 2 slices dried pineapple (which we just discovered from Trader Joe’s and is absolutely amazing).

Kid dinner alternatives: Regular spaghetti noodles, though they did try the squash.

Daniel made these scotch eggs and they were pretty good, but not something I could eat often.

Whole 30 Week 3 Recap: What Foods I Miss and Don't Miss -  Plus Whole 30 recipes and tips


Step class for 1 hour.


Boy did I get hungry this afternoon after that light lunch. I mean I COULD eat a snack if I really wanted to, but I decided to hang on until dinner.

We cleaned house and then ran to the stores. Our Whole 30 threesome is Whole Foods, Costco, and Trader Joe’s. I hit the former and Daniel hit the latter… and brought home some new things. First new thing? Dried pineapple from TJ’s. This afternoon I was really really jonesing for something, ANYTHING non-complaint. But having those after dinner really hit the spot. I only ate two but totally silenced my cravings. Dried fruit are supposed to be eaten sparingly… so we’ll be shelving this most days of the week.

Whole 30 Week 3 Recap: What Foods I Miss and Don't Miss -  Plus Whole 30 recipes and tips

The other thing he bought? Cinnamon Graham crackers from Trader Joe’s. Whhyyyyyy? I really wanted to try those puppies. We’ve never eaten them before and they looked so good. So I took a whiff of my kids’ crackers and left it at that.

Thank goodness for that dried pineapple.

Day 21 (Sunday):


Meal 1: Fried eggs with bacon, fruit

Meal 2: Leftover spaghetti squash and

Meal 3: Steak, baked potato with ghee, bacon, green onions, and sautéed asparagus

Kid dinner alternatives: Annie’s mac n cheese since they don’t like baked potatoes


I’m ready to be done. Honestly, it hasn’t been terribly hard. In fact, I went to a birthday party today and didn’t really care that I couldn’t have cake. But I’m missing the crunch of a nice piece of toast and a taste of something sweet. As we planned out next week’s food, I also found myself planning out the reintroduction. “Okay, first we’ll do non-gluten grains and we’ll eat this, this, and this. Next we’ll do dairy so we can eat this, this, and this.”

Despite the readiness for other food, I really do think we’ll continue to eat pretty Whole30-ish after this is over. As I mentioned, some things I don’t miss much so I’m ready to cut them out expect for every once in a while.

Recipes I Used

We didn’t use as many new recipes this week but here are the ones we DID use!

Buffalo Ranch Stuffed Peppers

Pineapple Slaw (We used our own carnitas recipe but I’m sure this one’s delish!)

Scotch Eggs (We followed this recipe for scotch egg part, but we actually seasoned the sausage with the Primal Palate recipe from last week).

Whole 30 Tips (aka Things I Learned)

Some food just doesn’t look as appealing anymore: I look at our Greek yogurt in the fridge that’s probably loaded with sugar and I’m like, “Eh.” Other things too don’t seem as appealing as they once were.

Moderation only works for me AFTER I’ve let go: As I mentioned, I’m a big believer in moderation for just about all aspects of life, but especially for food. However, the Whole 30 has taught me that moderation didn’t break my emotional connection to food. Flat out giving them up did. I know when I’m done with Whole 30, I’m going to be a different eater than my former self.

Got questions?

We’re moving into our final full week of Whole 30. It’s all downhill from here!

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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: Loose 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:


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.

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:


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.

Zumba for 1 hour

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:


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: Loose 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: Loose Pants and Clear Minds-  Plus Whole 30 recipes and tips


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:


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.


Zumba for 1 hour

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:


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


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:


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


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: Loose 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:


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: Loose 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!


15 minutes running, 45 minutes weight lifting


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?

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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:


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.

Running for about 25 minutes then weights

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:


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.

Zumba for 1 hour


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:

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.


Zumba for 1 hour


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:


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:


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


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:


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!)


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:


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


20 minutes running, 50 minutes weights


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!

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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
  • 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!

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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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.”


A desert lover, like his parents.

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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. 

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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.


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.


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