5 Simple Kitchen Swaps for a Healthy Family

When you or another family member goes paleo or follows a restrictive diet, it can be extremely difficult to prepare healthy meals that the whole family will enjoy.  In my family, my mom and I follow the autoimmune protocol, but my dad and sister still eat their gluten and dairy.  My sister and I are mostly out of the house now besides holiday breaks, but here are five simple kitchen swaps our family has adopted over the years to stay healthy.   

Paleo-ify your dinners.

Let your family members can eat what they want (within reason) for breakfast and lunch, but dinner can be paleo.  A traditional, nutritious meal of meat/fish, vegetables, and a starch will leave your family’s bellies happy, healthy, and full of nutrient dense foods.  That’s not to say that my dad and sister never have rolls, gravy, or grains like corn with dinner, but the majority of our dinners are completely paleo. (Then once your dinners are paleo, you can slowly start to attack breakfast and dinner).

Ditch the vegetable oils

Vegetable oils are full of trans-fats which can oxidize in the body and cause a lot of tissue damage.  It is such an easy swap to replace these harmful oils with grass-fed butter, coconut oil, or even avocado oil in your family’s favorite baked goods.  Even when my mom makes gluten-filled treats for my sister’s friends, she swaps the oil for butter.  They never notice the difference.  The best brownies I ever made, I used coconut oil, and my friends still rave about them.  The brownies didn’t even last two hours in our apartment.  Also, try out your favorite stir-fries with coconut oil!   

Clean up the drinks in your house

Introduce your family to non-dairy milks like coconut and almond milk, whether it be in their cereal, smoothies, or with a chocolate chip cookie.  I know almond milk freaked my sister out at first, but one spoiled cow milk experience later and she will never go back to cow’s milk.  Also, try to eliminate sugary drinks and diet sodas in the house.  Save 100% fruit juice for special occasions, and be sure to avoid anything with high fructose corn syrup or refined sugar.  

Coconut milk “cereal”
Try waking up with warm lemon water. It’s delicious, alkalizing, and helps jump start digestion.

Meal Prep: Always have healthy snacks on hand

Have more paleo foods pre-made and ready to go so your family can grab a quick and nutritious snack.  Be adventurous and test out new recipes, and encourage your family to try your foods, even if it’s just one bite.  Add a few paleo dishes into your family’s meal rotation, and before you know it, they will be eating healthier than ever.  Soon enough, your family may start choosing your paleo foods over their gluten and dairy filled “foods.”  Ever since going paleo, I have tried a plethora of new veggies that I would have never discovered if I did not change my diet.  For example, I thought avocado looked gross until my friends made me try guacamole.  Now I’m in love and eat avocado on the daily.  My sister discovered she loves zoodles more than regular pasta, and my dad now loves my mom’s zucchini stir-fries.  

Say goodbye to refined sugar

Sugar is the root of many chronic diseases (not fat), and it is hidden everywhere, whether it be in your tomato sauce, bacon, or dairy products.  Skip the sugar substitutes like aspartame, sucralose, and sorbitol, as these sugar alcohols can cause much GI upset, insulin spikes, and sugar cravings, leading to weight gain.  Instead, use natural sugars like maple syrup, coconut sugar, or honey in your recipes.  For a bonus, honey has natural antibiotic properties. You can even swap in a ripe banana in certain recipes (check out my naturally sweetened banana bread recipe here).  However, sugar is sugar, even if it’s natural, so it should be kept to a minimum.  But if you’re going to eat it, make sure you chose natural sugar.  

Brownies sweetened only with dates and a little honey!

Just like it is nearly impossible to go completely paleo overnight, it is also hard for your family to completely change their dietary habits, especially if they do not have any health conditions motivating them to do so.  Believe me, my sister loves her gluten and would never give it up unless she had to.  And I still have to remind my dad to lose the salt, quit the margarine, and use butter instead.  Making gradual changes like these are simple ways to ease your family into adopting a healthier lifestyle.  I believe that eating healthier at home will help your family make healthier decisions outside the home, especially your children as they grow up and start to make more food choices.

What have you done to make your household healthier?   

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Perfect Paleo Chocolate Mug Cake (GF, DF)

perfect paleo chocolate mug cake

Let’s be real, we all have chocolate cravings. Unless you’re one of those people who doesn’t like chocolate.  If so, I’m sorry, because you are missing out on a whole bunch of deliciousness.  Crave no more, this paleo chocolate mug cake is perfect.

perfect paleo chocolate mug cake

In less than 3 minutes, you can spoon some chocolatey goodness into your mouth.  This mug cake satisfies all those late night cravings, it’s single serve so you can’t eat a whole cake (built in self-control), and you don’t have to deal with a major cleanup.

perfect paleo chocolate mug cake

Mug cake is even better when you top it with vanilla coconut milk ice cream.  I have made quite a few mug cakes in my life, and I have to say, they have gotten me through so many long hours of studying.  Plus, if you make your mug cake with dark chocolate, check out the health benefits!

  • Full of antioxidants (flavenoids)
  • Reduces bad cholesterol (LDL)
  • Reduces risk of blood clots
  • May lower blood pressure
  • May increase blood flow to arteries and heart
  • May improve mood and pleasure by boosting levels of serotonin & endorphin
  • Regular intake may improve cognitive performance in the elderly
  • Contains calcium, magnesium, & potassium, among many other minerals

Source: University of Michigan Health

perfect paleo chocolate mug cake

Well, I hope this chocolatey masterpiece changes your life for the better like it has for me.  It’s also 100% gluten, dairy, grain, and refined sugar free for all my paleo peeps.

How do you satisfy your chocolate cravings?

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Perfect Paleo Mug Cake
Single serve paleo chocolate cake in less than 3 minutes!
perfect paleo chocolate mug cake
Prep Time 1 minute
Cook Time 1 minute
Passive Time 1 minute
Servings
person
Ingredients
Prep Time 1 minute
Cook Time 1 minute
Passive Time 1 minute
Servings
person
Ingredients
perfect paleo chocolate mug cake
Instructions
  1. Place the chocolate chips and coconut oil into your mug of choice
  2. Melt the chocolate and coconut oil in the microwave for 30 seconds
  3. Mix the other ingredients in
  4. Microwave on high for 1-1.5 minutes
  5. Enjoy! (it's so good with vanilla coconut milk ice cream on top!)
Recipe Notes

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How To Keep Your Colonoscopy Prep Paleo (AIP)

I had a colonoscopy this week, so I thought I would share my paleo colonoscopy prep experience with you and give you tips on how to make the procedure more comfortable.  Most people cringe at the thought of having a colonoscopy, but they are vital for diagnostic and preventative medicine purposes.  This is my fifth colonoscopy, and I promise they are not horrible (lots of people are babies and complain about them).  The worst part for me is not being able to eat the day before the procedure.  Yes, you do go to the bathroom a lot during the prep, but if you have any kind of gastrointestinal condition or a bad stomach virus, the prep is nothing compared to that.  There is urgency but it is not the extremely painful, crampy diarrhea that many of us have experienced.

Why should I get a colonoscopy?

According to the American Cancer Society, colon cancer is the third most common type of cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States, excluding skin cancer and the third leading cause of cancer-related death.  On average throughout a lifetime, 1 in every 21 men and 1 in every 23 women are diagnosed with colon cancer, but this number is steadily decreasing with more and more people receiving colonoscopy screenings starting at age 50.  These screenings may start at a younger age if you have a family history of colon cancer or polyps.  

During the procedure, gastroenterologists remove polyps, which are often pre-cancerous growths, and pathologists analyze these polyps for abnormalities.  Early detection is key for cancer treatment, so be sure to see your primary care physician regularly and schedule your mammograms, colonoscopies, pap smears, and other recommended exams.     

 

Besides screening for cancer, colonoscopies with biopsies are the gold standard for diagnosing inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.  In IBD patients, colonoscopies are also used to monitor disease activity, response to medication, and screen for cancer, as having IBD raises your chances of developing intestinal cancers by five times.  That being said, 90% of IBD patients will not develop cancer (source: WebMD). 

How to Prepare for Your Colonoscopy

  • Purchase your prep, clear liquids, and baby wipes

I have only done the MiraLax and magnesium citrate preps, and I highly recommend the MiraLax prep.  It is very gentle on the bowels and easier on the stomach when it comes to nausea.  I vomited from magnesium citrate and have heard horror stories about other foul tasting preps.  Talk to your doctor about the MiraLax prep if you have had a bad experience with a different prep.  You can also buy the generics of these medications.  

  • Make bone broth, gelatin gummies, and any easy to digest meals you may want to eat after the procedure

  • Arrange for someone to drive you to and from the hospital

  • Plan something to do the morning of your prep

You may want to do something to do in the morning before you start your prep so you do not think about food as much.  Plan a morning in the city, go for a long walk with friends, or shop till you drop.  I like to stay busy because oftentimes, sitting around on the couch watching TV, seeing food commercials, and boredom make me even hungrier (so much hanger).

Last summer, I went to the aquarium and walked around Boston the morning before I started the prep
  • Plan your Netflix Prepare to relax during the prep

Once you start the prep in the afternoon, you will be so full of liquids and running to the bathroom that you will no longer be hungry.  You may want to go to the library and borrow a good book to read or find a series on Netflix you want to binge. Don’t plan on leaving the house for the rest of the night.  And feel free to yell at your sister for making a delicious smelling bagel when you can’t eat (jk love you Michelle).

  • Prepare snacks for after your colonoscopy.

Typically, I’m not that hungry right after a scope but will usually bring a banana and a Larabar or coconut milk yogurt with fruit to eat.

5 Day Low Fiber Diet:

Five days before the procedure, you need to follow a low fiber diet.  Fiber is the indigestible part of plants that creates the bulk in stool.  You want your colon to be completely clear for the procedure, so it is important to limit your waste production.  Seeds and undigested waste left in the bowels can get stuck in the scope, so you should avoid high fiber foods.

Low Fiber Paleo Foods:

Protein (ground meat is preferred) Lean meat (fish, chicken, turkey, lamb, veal), eggs
Fruit (ripe, seedless, peeled) Applesauce, bananas, melon, pear, avocado, 100% fruit juice, canned fruit except pineapple
Vegetables/starches Canned vegetables (green beans), heavily steamed vegetables (carrots), baked skinless white/sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin, cauliflower mash, peeled zucchini, peeled cucumber
Non-dairy products Coconut milk/coconut milk yogurt, almond milk/almond milk yogurt, non-dairy ice cream
Fats Olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, smooth almond butter
Meal Ideas:
  • Ground turkey patty, baked butternut squash, cauliflower mash
  • Chicken, baked skinless sweet potato, canned green beans
  • Shredded chicken, avocado/guacamole, peeled cucumber “salad”
  • Over easy eggs on top of peeled baked sweet potato/sweet potato hash
  • Ground turkey, peeled zucchini & carrot stir-fry
  • Bone broth soup w/ carrots, celery, starch of choice (white rice/yuca/rutabaga) & chicken
  • Smoothies (collagen, coconut milk, frozen banana, frozen mango, spinach)
  • Coconut milk yogurt w/ peeled pear
  • Smooth almond butter w/ banana
  • Desserts: banana n’ice cream, ripe fruit, dark chocolate, coconut milk ice cream
Avoid: raw vegetables, raw fruits, berries, dried fruits, seeds, peels, nuts, coconut, tough meats

The meal options are endless. Below are some examples of low fiber meals from my Instagram. Be sure to peel your fruits and veggies!

The Day Before the Procedure: Put on your comfiest sweats, watch a good movie, and prepare your legs to run to the bathroom

The day before the colonoscopy, you can only drink clear liquids (nothing red), and you start the prep in the afternoon.  Once you start the prep, do not leave the house!

You are supposed to mix the MiraLax with 64 oz of Gatorade, but there is no way I am willing to drink 112 grams of sugar, especially the refined sugar in Gatorade.  Thankfully, MiraLax dissolves in water and has absolutely no taste.  I usually add a little 100% apple juice for some natural sugar and flavor.  Listed below are some other clear liquids you can sip on throughout the day to stay hydrated and avoid hunger:

  • Coconut water
  • Tea
  • Warm lemon water
  • Bone broth
  • Gelatin gummies
  • 100% juice (apple juice, white grape juice, white cranberry juice)

Keep drinking throughout the day and night to avoid dehydration and help all the stool pass through you.  I was nauseous by 8pm after drinking so much MiraLax , but Zofran helped a lot.  Talk to your doctor about anti-nausea medication if you tend to get nauseous easily. 

The Day of the Procedure

The morning of the procedure, you cannot eat or drink anything.  By morning, you should be done going to the bathroom, but if you are not and your stool is not a clear liquid, be sure to use an enema.  Enemas are pretty unpleasant, but honestly not the worst thing in the world.  If your colon is not clean, your doctor may not be able to perform the procedure, and you will have to do the prep all over again at a later date.  So make sure your colon is clean, and do the enema if you must.  

Once you arrive at the hospital, everything is pretty simple.  You change into a hospital gown, receive an IV, talk to your gastroenterologist and anesthesiologist, and then you’re wheeled into the procedure room.  You lie on your left side, the doctor injects sedatives, and the next thing you know, the procedure is over.  I do not remember much about any of my colonoscopies, but if you are concerned about sedation, talk to your doctor about different medication options.  

Once the colonoscopy is over, you will sleep for a little while in recovery.  The doctor will usually tell you how everything looked inside before you leave the hospital.  Typically, you schedule a follow-up appointment with your gastroenterologist one to two weeks later when the biopsy results are back.    

Colonoscopy Recovery

Many colonoscopy preps strip your colon of your good and bad bacteria, so load up on your prebiotics and probiotics, bone broth, and avoid sugar in order to repopulate the good bacteria and not allow the bad bacteria to overpopulate.  Yogurt, fermented foods (kombucha, sauerkraut), and dark chocolate are good sources of prebiotics and probiotics.  Yes you read that right, dark chocolate is full of healthy flavenoids (antioxidants), B-vitamins, minerals and more.   

My past two colonoscopies, I have been very sore, crampy, and bleeding for a few days after, most likely from all the biopsies.  However, most people do not experience this bleeding and discomfort after the procedure, especially if the doctor does not take biopsies.  I must have been pretty tired, because I essentially slept from 9am-6:30pm, then 10pm-7am the next morning.  And I had some crazy dreams.  Additionally, the doctor pumps your intestines full of air during the procedure, and this air gets trapped.  It is helpful to walk, roll around on a medicine ball, use a heating pad, and drink activated charcoal to pass the gas.    

Kitty heating pads work just as well!
Activated charcoal <3 such a lifesaver

I hope these tips on keeping your colonoscopy prep paleo are helpful for you. How do you survive your colonoscopies?

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Brussels Sprouts Medley w/ Butternut Squash & Pomegranate (Paleo, AIP, Vegan, Gluten/Dairy Free)

This past Thanksgiving, my cousin made this amazing Brussels sprouts-butternut squash-pomegranate dish.  It was so delicious that my mom and I recreated it and have made it three times since.  The recipe is so easy to make and only requires one pan!

thanksgiving
Check out this perfect Thanksgiving plate and the scene of the original Brussels sprouts masterpiece

I don’t really love plain butternut squash, but this recipe is to die for and so healthy.  It is also a great sweet potato alternative if you would like to switch up your starches.  It can be hard to bake Brussels sprouts without making them bitter, but this recipe is a winner that will suit the needs of all your gluten free, dairy free, vegan, or paleo friends (I know us special diet friends are tough to cook for).  All you need are Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, a red onion, olive oil, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper if you want to spice it up.  Leave out the peppers if you are following elimination phase Autoimmune Paleo.

First, peel and half the butternut squash.  Scoop the seeds out, and cut the squash into bite size pieces.  Chop the onion, then trim and half the Brussels sprouts.

unnamed-9

Lay the veggies out on a baking sheet, and drizzle them with olive oil, along with the spices.  Mix the veggies together, evenly spreading the olive oil throughout.

unnamed-3  unnamed-6

Roast the veggies at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until they are golden brown.  Be sure to flip the veggies halfway through.  While the veggies are roasting, remove the seeds from the pomegranate.

Once the veggies are done, place them into a serving dish and sprinkle the pomegranate seeds on top.  Mix the pomegranate seeds in, and serve your Brussels sprouts medley hot.  This dish reheats really well, so it is perfect for meal prepping.

unnamed-2  unnamed-10

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do!

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Brussels Sprouts Medley w/ Butternut Squash & Pomegranate (Paleo, AIP, Vegan, Gluten/Dairy Free)
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Servings
people
Ingredients
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Peel and half the butternut squash. Scoop the seeds out and cube the squash into bite size pieces
  2. Trim and half the Brussels sprouts
  3. Chop the onion
  4. Place the vegetables onto a baking sheet and drizzle them with olive oil
  5. Sprinkle the salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper on the vegetables, then mix them around
  6. Roast the vegetables at 350 degrees for 25-30 mins or until golden brown, flipping them halfway through
  7. While the vegetables are roasting, remove the seeds from the pomegranate
  8. Once the vegetables are cooked, pour them into a serving dish and sprinkle the pomegranate seeds on top. Enjoy!
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Naturally Sweetened Banana Muffins (Paleo, AIP egg reintro, GF, DF)

Anyone who knows me knows that bananas are hands down my favorite food.  I’ll eat them as is, make them into pancakes, ice cream, you name it.  I missed my mom’s banana bread so much after breaking up with gluten.

After many failed attempts at recreating banana bread, this recipe is a winner! My friends will never forget this one disgusting banana bread I attempted to make.  The batter didn’t taste good, but sometimes gluten free batters don’t taste great, so I baked it anyway.  Well, the banana bread stunk up our apartment.

Or you can turn it into bread and add chocolate chips!
Or you can turn it into bread and add chocolate chips!

My friend and I each tried a tiny bite, and it was so bad, we had to throw the entire bread away.  We discovered that the flour had gone bad, but honestly, what a waste of 3 perfectly good bananas!

So after that failure, I tried some other recipes but did not love how much extra sugar was added (not trying to feed the bad bacteria or candida here).  Bananas are full of natural sugar, so why add more?

Thankfully, after some trial and error, I came up with this beauty.  The muffins are not too sweet and so healthy, you can eat them for breakfast. Or you can add chocolate chips and make it dessert.  (Honestly, I wouldn’t feel too bad eating them for breakfast).

banana

 

Print Recipe
Naturally Sweetened Banana Muffins (Paleo, AIP egg reintro, GF, DF)
Prep Time 40 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Servings
people
Ingredients
Prep Time 40 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. To make the banana bread/muffins extra sweet, bake the bananas in their peels in the oven 15-20 mins at 350 degrees until the peels are completely black
  3. Allow the bananas to cool, then mash them in a bowl
  4. Mix in the eggs and vanilla extract
  5. In a separate bowl, mix all the dry ingredients
  6. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, and let the batter sit for 20 mins so the coconut flour can absorb the moisture
  7. Bake 15 mins at 350 degrees if you are making muffins or 40 mins if you are making a loaf. Enjoy!
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Citrus Ginger Chicken Stir-fry

I don’t know about all of you, but I used to love Chinese food. However, Chinese food definitely didn’t love me.  Here is a healthy twist on a favorite dish that your taste buds and stomach will equally love.  Plus, it’s 100% Autoimmune Paleo compliant!

citrus
Citrus ginger chicken stir-fry with cauliflower rice!

I made this for the first time last spring after watching my friends eat Chinese food and immediately craving it.  Following a fairly restricted diet can be difficult, especially as a college student with friends who can eat pizza, pasta, and bread without suffering any GI complications.  Sometimes, I would cave and eat gluten and dairy with my friends, but it never ended well.

In college, my friends were really into ordering 12 packs of tacos from Taco Bell. They would eat one before going out and two after the festivities.  They swore that Taco Bell prevented hangovers, and let’s be honest, any food after going out is so satisfying.  Halloween weekend one year, I remember caving and eating a taco with my friends.  I “picked out” all the cheese and YOLO’d the corn hard shell/processed junk they put in there.

There were a handful of other times that I would cheat.  Pizza after service events, an occasional scoop of ice cream when Ben & Jerry’s was free on campus, and bites of my sister’s chocolate cake because how can anyone resist that. The times I would cheat were usually times of stress or when I would not sleep enough.  These times of stress are when your body is craving nutrients but all your brain wants is sugary, unhealthy food.  The worse you eat, the less you sleep, and the worse you feel, which is such a viscous cycle.  That is why it is so important to listen to your body, fight the cravings, and take care of yourself with real food, a good night’s sleep, and exercise during these tougher times.

I am proud to say that I have not cheated on my mostly paleo diet since my grad party last summer when I had lasagna.  It had been years since I had lasagna, and who can resist mom’s homemade lasagna?  My body didn’t love me so much after, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.  Since gluten causes so much long lasting damage, I have vowed to never eat it again, but I do allow myself a little dairy a couple times a year.  Like my aunt’s homemade whipped cream on top of paleo apple crisp at Thanksgiving.  So good!

Thankfully, there are so many delicious and healthy paleo recipes when I want a sweet treat.  But honestly, after not really eating refined sugar for so long and limiting my natural sugars, a piece of fruit is a perfectly satisfying sweet treat.

How do you deal with unhealthy cravings?

 

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Citrus Ginger Chicken Stir-fry
Course Main Dish
Servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Melt the coconut oil in a pan on medium heat
  2. Add the chopped onions to the pan
  3. Once the onion is translucent, add the graded ginger, minced garlic, sea salt, and chopped up chicken
  4. Let the chicken cook 8-10 minutes
  5. Add 2 tbsp water, the orange juice, coconut aminos, and chopped up broccoli and carrots to the pan
  6. Continue cooking on medium heat until the vegetables are cooked
  7. Serve on a bed of cauliflower rice or normal rice
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Sweet Potato Toast!

If you are paleo, gluten free, or just want to eat a few healthier meals, you do not have to forgo toast! To be honest, I was a little skeptical about putting sweet potato directly into the toaster, but it worked out perfectly and tasted amazing. I put eggs on my toast (AIP reintroduction), but avocado or almond butter and banana would be just as delicious.

Have you ever tried sweet potato toast and what do you like to put on top?

sweet-potato-toast

 

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Sweet Potato Toast
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
  • 1 large 0 stars (or a couple small)
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
  • 1 large 0 stars (or a couple small)
Instructions
  1. Cut off the ends of the sweet potato
  2. Cut into 1/4" slices
  3. Place directly into your traditional toaster, toaster oven, or real oven. If you make the slices too thick, you can microwave the slices for 2 minutes on high, then place them into the toaster.
  4. Top the toast with eggs, guacamole, almond butter and banana, or any of your favorite toppings!
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Sweet Potato Toast

Print Recipe
Sweet Potato Toast
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
  • 1 large 0 stars (or a couple small)
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
  • 1 large 0 stars (or a couple small)
Instructions
  1. Cut off the ends of the sweet potato
  2. Cut into 1/4" slices
  3. Place directly into your traditional toaster, toaster oven, or real oven. If you make the slices too thick, you can microwave the slices for 2 minutes on high, then place them into the toaster.
  4. Top the toast with eggs, guacamole, almond butter and banana, or any of your favorite toppings!
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