The Whole Damn Thing: The Yes/NO List + Helpful Tips

We’re just about 5 days out from kicking off the Whole Damn Thing, so it’s time to talk details: yes/no foods, the ‘why’ behind each method, and a few of the starter how-to guides.  So here we go!

This week this really great article came out as a summarized guide to how to eat Paleo, Whole 30, or even less restrictive with a focus on ditching processed foods.  So here’s the quick and dirty guide on what you can and CANNOT have if you’re eating Paleo.

fuel sweat grow: how to eat Paleo

(source)

Now, if you’re hopping on the 28toLife train, and coming into 2015 guns blazing, you’re also going to ditch the Honey and Maple Syrup.  No sugar is no sugar, with the exception of fructose in some fruits, which should still be viewed in moderation.  You’ll notice when my full grocery and meal lists come out that my preferred shopping list is really heavy on some items, and really light on some others….that’s not by mistake.  We’re going for nutrient rich foods; lean meats (local/grassfed and grass finished), nutrient rich vegetables, antioxidant rich (lower sugar/fructose) fruits/berries, eggs….so many eggs, and some staple items to support creative meal creation.

The most important thing to remember is that you must read all ingredient labels.  Just even doing this exercise will change the way you look at food.   It’s not about calories or fat (processed foods labelled as gluten-free or fat-free typically have the highest sugar, carb, and chemical compositions and are worse for you can straight up butter or whole grain breads – unless you are celiac or truly gluten intolerant).  Look at the ingredient list, and if there are words you don’t know (or naughty words you do know like sugar or anything ending in -ate), put it down and run away.  Keswick Gourmet (pictured below) is honestly one of the only marinara/pasta sauces in a jar that you can find anywhere in town without added sugar, and happens to be made locally.  It’s at Whole Foods, thank goodness, and is one of the few things that will bridge the gap between eating clean and having convenience.

fuel sweat grow: keswick gourmet

The best things to do when shopping is shop local farmers markets, or, in a traditional grocery store shop the perimeter – produce, fruit, meat, eggs, and out!  And just for a little extra, check out this article on Superfoods that are healthier and more nutrient rich than the currently trend leading #kale.  It’s great that so many people are embracing kale’s deep leafy greens, but it’s not the King of the mountain when it comes to green Superfoods and nutrient density, so don’t feel like you need to load up on it unless you love it too.

Snacks are always the hardest, so we’ll do our best to put out some great snack options for eating at home, or taking on-the-go, but typically you’ll want to think within the boundaries of the basics and prepare some quick grab bags/containers.  Almond butter is a great dipping sauce for baby carrots, celery, apples, bananas…..the usual suspects that we’ve all known since childhood — just once again, opt for the fresh ground almond or cashew butters from Whole Foods or Trader Joes, and make sure you read the label….most nut-butters have added sugar.  If you’re looking for some approved vendors, from snacks and dressings to meat vendors, et all, check out this list that is Whole 30 approved, or as always, visit our friends from MODpaleo and enter the code ‘MadnessCville’ when you create your account to receive 10% off your first order (they make meals AND snacks).

fuel sweat grow: MODpaleo Pre-packaged meal delivery

As you get ready to stock up on some Staple Items, here’s a quick list of what you’ll need as serious basics, and my store preferences if you’re looking to shop around on price:

Coconut Milk: this will become a life-line of sorts, so stock up.  It’s $0.99/can at Trader Joes vs. $2.49 at Whole Foods, and when you’re buying cans 10 at a time it really adds up.

Almond Milk: this is expensive wherever you go, and most brands are on the naughty list thanks to added Sugars, so if you’re looking to save $ and do it right, buy raw (unsalted, non-roasted) almonds from Trader Joe’s and follow this guide to make your own.  It’s much easier and cheaper than you would think. [But if you’re in a jam and just need a latte, Milli Joe and GRIT Coffee both make their almond milk in-house and will steam it up right for you with a few shots of amazing espresso.  It’s worth the $4+ when you’re in a jam.]

Coconut Oil: Have at least 2 jars on hand at all times, you will use it more than you can imagine.  Trader Joe’s will be your best bet on price by $1-2/jar.

Coconut Flour: You don’t need a ton of this, it goes amazingly far.  You can find it at Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and most other general grocery stores (Harris Teeter, Kroger), just check the back and make sure it’s pure coconut.

Cinnamon:  You’ll want to make sure you have ground cinnamon on hand for coffee, coconut milk mixes, etc.  Once you quit sugar, spices will taste so amazing that you’ll find yourself getting excited to try new combos for veggie stir-frys and meat rubs.

Vanilla Extract: another label hunter. We’re going for pure/organic (not the alcohol/chemical rich generic brands); you’ll want this for making coconut milk coffee creamer, smoothies, etc.

Grocery Lists divided into best-of stores (Whole Foods / Trader Joes and local favorites like Stock and The Organic Butcher for meat) are headed your way tomorrow, but in the meantime, here’s a prep-post I put out prior to some of our clients doing the Whole30 earlier this year.  There’s a lot on the list, but I tend to find myself cooking for multiples, and the pre-making and packaging away leftovers habit has been known to save lives around here.

Until then, you know those cookies that have been eyeing you from the cabinet (or worse, the counter) every night?  Throw them out.  Let the wine linger a little longer so you don’t hate directly on 2014, and we’ll say g’bye after the ball has dropped….and remember, it’s only goodbye for now, you’ll be back at the end of the month.

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Welcome to Fall: Comfort Food + Charlottesville Weekends

It’s fall.  It’s a leaves changing, crisp air breathing, college football kind of fall, and I’m so in love with it.

fuel sweat grow: pumpkins and fall

I love warm weather just as much as the next winter-fearing southern transplant, but there’s some naturally ignorant draw to the changing of the seasons that fools my body and mind into thinking that there will be a favorable outcome, or at least a perpetual new reality where life is all hot-chocolate, boots, and pumpkin everything.  And listen, if there’s a world like that somewhere, please send me the coordinates.  I’ll be there….fully engulfed corduroys, a turtleneck and tall boots – because that’s my jam.

This past weekend, despite Saturday being unreasonably hot, was a beautiful first full September weekend in Charlottesville.  Football, the downtown mall, long sleeves and my first hot chocolate provided the perfect lead in to what I’m hoping will be a little calmer season than the last.

Sunday, outside of just football and the steep break in the weather from Saturday, was the perfect day of balance and organization.  The morning included my favorite Sunday activities – coffee, breakfast, and strolling the downtown mall, and in the process, seeing this sweet little love note on the door of Mudhouse downtown. [MUD + MAD = <3].

fuel sweat grow: charlottesville mudhouse downtown

Early afternoon kicked off at Citizen’s Burger Bar in tandem with the 1pm NFL kick off, and was followed up by a nap, a trip to HomeGoods and Whole Foods, and then an evening of food prep glory.  It was perfect.

For this week in food, a few things went into production to prevent any meal driven panics, starting my favorite Spaghetti Squash Bolognese. As far as clean eating goes, it’s one of the best cold weather comfort foods you can imagine, and might be even better reheated (so make a LOT and pre-package lunches for the week if you can).

The squash was already roasted, so I took some ground beef from Whole Foods, simmered with squash (zucchini and yellow), and then added in the ‘spaghetti’.  The sauce was my favorite (at least favorite store bought), Keswick Gourmet, made locally in Charlottesville.

fuel sweat grow: spaghetti squash marinara

fuel sweat grow: spaghetti squash bolognese

While this was happening on the stovetop, SO much more was happening all around it to make my new favorite pack and go snacks, including chopping, grilling, and even more stove-topping.  The result: amazing spring rolls.

fuel sweat grow: hand rolled spring rolls

I made a batch of these last weekend in Maine with my Aunt, and immediately got all of the necessary ingredients to bring them back to my everyday life.  Stay tuned for the full scope update with recipe options and process.  I’m obsessed.

I guess the cliffs notes version of all the above is: welcome fall, you’re beautiful.  The rest of the week is promising to be pretty awesome as well with the cool air sticking around, amazing sweats, happy hours, live music, and food throughout.

Pre-Snow Sunday + Spaghetti Squash (local) Meat Marinara

I live for Sundays.  It’s the sleep-in, make breakfast, drink my whole damn coffee (or two), and enjoy the scenery day I exist for.  Even when I’m in Charlottesville (especially when I’m here) and I know I’m going to be at MADabolic in the morning, the pace is still distinctly different.  The only thing better than Sunday mornings are Sunday afternoons that involve great food and relaxation.

Since this past Sunday marked day #2 of the 28toLife partial re-charge, and thanks to an afternoon trip to Whole Foods, the fridge was stocked with food begging to be turned into something amazing.

Now, I’m going to digress for a moment because this Sunday happened to also bring the less than thrilling news that apparently it was going to snow — again.  I love a good snow day, maybe once a year, but that quota was filled months ago and I’m ready for 70 and sunny.  Apparently that wasn’t happening, so after surviving the parking wars at Whole Foods and a desperate scramble for provisions, it was homeward bound for 48 exciting hours of wine-less confinement.

The best way to keep my mind off of something displeasurable is to cook, so I blocked out the snow-cast and got organized.

Fuel sweat grow: inspector bug

The fridge was inspected by Bug, and packed with plenty of food to survive the storm (note: the left side door doesn’t count– some things should never be thrown away even if they’re forbidden in the moment #beer #wine).

For dinner, I started with two main ingredients: spaghetti squash and my new absolute favorite (and LOCAL) marinara from Keswick Gormet.

Fuel sweat grow: spaghetti squash marinara

The woman who actually makes this sauce happened to be in Whole Foods on Sunday with a sample table.  It is completely free of preservatives, sugars, or any added anything outside of her amazing natural ingredients — and it tastes JUST like my grandmother’s best sauce (a true testament from an Italian granddaughter).

Fuel Sweat Grow: Meat Marinara

Since I needed to get some meat into the meal, I decided to make a vegetable and ground beef base to transform it into a meat sauce.

Fuel Sweat Grow: Meat Marinara

While it was all simmering together a salad was created with romaine, kale, avocado, almonds, heirloom cherry tomatoes and cucumber.

Fuel Sweat Grow: salad

And then, miraculously, the best meal I’ve had in recent memory was completed:

Fuel Sweat Grow: Spaghetti Squash Meat Marinara

fuel sweat grow: Spaghetti Squash Meat Marinara

I love food, pretty non-discriminantly, but this was SO good.  I had roasted two spaghetti squash the night before, and the full jar of marinara with a little over a pound of meat so there was plenty to go around, and a good amount of leftovers (that all lasted less than 24 hours).  I highly recommend this as one of the easiest, best, and most re-heating friendly meals ever.  Try it.

So, the moral of the story is that I survived the snow, and managed to keep myself busy long enough to avoid any serious breakdowns — although wine would have helped my morale tremendously.