Keeping a Visual Food Diary

 

Food Diary

Can I just gush a little bit about how excited I am that I discovered the app Two Grand?  No, they aren’t paying me to endorse it!

When I first started following a primal/paleo diet about 4 years ago, one of the ways I kept myself on track was by blogging about everything I ate.  No, I didn’t publish lengthy blog posts on a daily basis, but I did keep a private blog as a sort of food diary. It helped. A ton. I lost about 12 pounds in a month, gained a ton of energy, got rid of debilitating headaches, and got pregnant after 6 years of infertility.  I was finally happy with my body and happy to finally be expecting.

If you’ve ever been pregnant, you’ll know that not much can stand in the way of certain cravings.  During my pregnancy, I maintained my healthier eating habits for the most part, but succumbed to occasional cheats, mostly in the form of ice cream and french fries.  I managed to gain only about 25 pounds and take it off rather quickly, weighing less after about 4 months post-partum than I did before I got preggo.

Unfortunately, I guess I’ve never been fully “on track” since those food diary days.  I am definitely an all-or-nothing type of person.  A small bite of cake at a party can quickly turn into a slippery slope of daily bad choices.  Over the years, I have gone through phases of strict adhesion to the Primal lifestyle mixed with days and sometimes weeks of reckless abandon (c’mon, I was on vacation!)  But lately, I have been really kicking myself in the butt for not having a little more self-discipline, especially at night when I usually sit down with a glass of wine and some kind of snack after my cherub falls asleep. Oh yeah, we’re trying to have another baby too, so that’s really my biggest motivation for wanting to get back on track and get my hormones in check.

Yesterday, I started searching for a food diary app so that I could record what I’m eating a little more conveniently without having to fire up the laptop or actually enter it into a blog post format.  Most of the apps out there involve calorie-counting and some sort of database where you can search for every manufactured food under the sun.  I don’t count calories.  Ugh.  I also cook a lot, so entering in the individual ingredients for every recipe and then trying to figure out a portion size is just way too much work.  I was about to give up and then I noticed Two Grand.

This is basically the Instagram of food diaries.  You just take a picture of everything you eat.  Put a caption on it if you want to, then share it with your followers.  That’s it.  You can also follow other members who have similar eating habits or similar weight loss goals or who are at the target goal you would like to reach.  This way you can get ideas for meals or snacks from people who are similar to you.  Once you’ve added some photos, you can see your entire day at once and you can record other data like your mood, health status, etc.  You can also track your water intake and exercise.  All without counting a single calorie.  Hallelujah.

I am really excited to get started with this and I hope it will be helpful.  Do you find it helpful to keep a food diary to meet your health goals?  Would you consider trying this app?  If you do, you can follow me @AScenicDetour

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Paleo Mug Cake

Paleo Mug Cake

I have seen these recipes floating around the internet and I really had no interest in trying them.  Cake in a mug, cooked in the microwave.  It just didn’t sound appealing to me.  But, I got desperate to provide some semblance of a birthday cake for Michael’s big day and I didn’t want a huge cake sitting around my house to taunt and tempt me and since he’s not a big cake eater anyway, guess who would have consumed the lion’s share?  So, I decided to give this a whirl…

 

…and I was pleasantly surprised.  These were super easy to put together and contain healthy ingredients, so it doesn’t really feel like a cheat at all.  I love that I can give my kid cake and it’s good for her!  I probably won’t be making these often, but they would be great for those cool evenings when you want a warm, comforting treat.

The best part is that you probably already have these items around your house.  To make this truly paleo, you would want to use almond butter or maybe cashew butter.  I only had peanut butter on hand, so that’s what I used.  I almost always have extra ripe bananas around too.  One of the local grocery stores sells huge bags of over-ripe bananas for 99 cents, so I buy bags and freeze them.  You could add a little sweetener of your choice to this recipe, but I usually just rely on the bananas for sweetness.  You could also mix in nuts or chocolate chips or top the warm cake with some vanilla ice cream if you wanted to be extra decadent.  I added a spoonful of the peanut butter to the top of Michael’s cake while it was still hot.

mug cake

I even stuck a few candles in there so we could have a proper birthday song.  Don’t repeat my rookie mistake though.  I put one candle in while the cake was still too hot and it melted!  Let your cakes cool before you add candles, folks.

mug cakes

The verdict was yes! We will make these again!

I found the original recipe at Wannabe Chef.

Paleo Mug Cakes

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 egg
  • 1.5 tbsp natural nut butter of your choice
  • 2 rounded tbsp cocoa powder
  • (optional) 2 tsp sweetener of your choice

Mash up the banana with a fork until smooth.

Add the rest of the ingredients and mix into a smooth batter.

Pour into a microwave-safe mug.  Make sure the mug is only about 2/3 full, because the batter will expand.

Cook in the microwave for about 2.5 minutes, carefully remove, allow to cool and enjoy!

tomato soup with parmesan crisps

This winter is kicking my butt.  I don’t think I’m alone on this one.  I think a great many folks in the northeast have had it up to here with this winter.  Between the sub-zero temps and the layers and layers of snow piled up on one another, I’m just over it.  This week we had a run-in with a giant icicle.  It formed on the corner of our house and wrapped itself around a wire connected to our home.  I was worried that it might pull the wire down and wasn’t exactly sure of the function of said wire.  On top of that, it was hanging right over the path from our house to our car port and I wasn’t too keen on having to walk through there everyday with the giant ice dagger hanging precariously over our heads.  As the temperature climbed into the 40s this week, I hoped that a little melting would drop the icicle to the ground.  However, I arrived home from work one afternoon to see that it had indeed detached from the house and just slid down the wire, to hang even more precariously over our yard.  Seriously, this crap always happens when Michael is out of town.  Fortunately, the icicle met it’s maker at the hands of my dad and a shovel.

icicle

All this dreary, cold, gray weather has made me crave tomato soup.  I’m not sure why.  I never liked tomato soup as a kid and have only recently learned to like it, but with a grilled cheese sandwich, I do quite enjoy a nice, creamy bowl.  The only problem is that I don’t eat grilled cheese anymore, so I had to come up with an acceptable alternative.  Enter parmesan crisps.  They couldn’t be simpler.  Sprinkle a thin layer of shredded parmesan cheese (not the powdered kind) onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (don’t even think about skipping the parchment) and bake it until it’s nice and brown.  As it cools it will get crispy.  They can be dipped into the soup or crumbled in like croutons.  I can’t wait to try these on top of some nice French Onion!

tomato parm

I found this tomato soup recipe on Pinterest and tweaked it ever so slightly.  It is really easy and very good.  I recently purchased an immersion blender (how did I ever live without one?) and used that to blend everything to a smooth consistency.  I also used my home made chicken bone broth instead of store bought stock.  I think I’ve made about 3 batches of this in the past month, but I’m not sick of it yet.  Give it a try this weekend!

Creamy Tomato Soup

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 (28 oz.) cans tomatoes (whole, diced, it doesn’t matter)
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup half and half or heavy cream

Instructions:

In a large pot, over medium heat, melt the butter.  Saute the chopped onion in the butter until it is translucent.  Add the tomatoes and chicken stock to the pot and bring to a simmer.  Season with salt and pepper.  Blend with an immersion blender to desired consistency. (I like mine to have some texture.)  You could also use a regular blender if you don’t have a hand-held.  Before serving, stir in the cream and heat through.  At any point, you could also add in any other herbs, spices, or seasonings that make you happy.

This post is linked to Our Sunday Best @ Momnivore’s Dilemma.

 

 

how changing my diet changed my fertility

While I was deep in the pit of infertility, I used to search the internet for success stories. I never really considered putting myself through a lot of medical testing and procedures to get pregnant. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it just wasn’t the path for me. I always figured it would be too expensive and that if I was meant to have a child, I would, interventions or not. I also felt that God intended me to learn something from the experience, even if I wasn’t exactly excited about learning whatever it was he was trying to teach me. So, I searched for stories of women who were able to get pregnant on their own. After awhile, I stopped looking. It was too painful to allow myself to hope that it might happen.

When my first marriage was in the beginning stages of its demise, after about 3 years of trying to conceive, I decided to finally see a doctor, mainly just to get some answers and find out if there was really anything wrong. I think it was also a last ditch effort to try to save my marriage. My doctor told me he thought I might be insulin resistant and prescribed a blood sugar regulating medication. He told me to try it for 3 months and if I wasn’t pregnant by then, we would move on to something else. The medication made me very sick to my stomach and things finally reached a point in my marriage that it was pointless for me to take it anyway. It was over. No baby and I had to start from square one.

Fast forward to a few years later. I was remarried to Michael and we also had been trying to conceive for close to 3 years with no luck. My ex had gone on to have 2 children after we divorced, so if there was ever any doubt that the problem was with me, it was laid to rest by then. I was broken…in more ways than one.

One day, I was online looking for a recipe. I had some odds and ends around the house that I wanted to use up, and was trying to find a yummy way to use them all together. I ended up on a recipe that I found on Mark’s Daily Apple. I started reading and I kept reading and reading. Mark’s site talked about the Primal diet and the many health benefits of eliminating grains, sugar, and processed foods from your diet.  It made sense to me.  It sparked something it me and I decided to give it a try.  I was tired of being sick and tired.  I was overweight, depressed, tired, and just done.

I’m an all or nothing kind of person when it comes to food.  I’m prone to be either super-strict on a diet or completely gluttonous and just let myself go.  I tried to ease my way into this new way of eating, but that only lasted for a day or two.  I needed to cut out all the bad stuff completely or not at all, so on day two or three I eliminated sugar, grains, and most processed foods from my diet.  I also stopped eating white potatoes, beans, and peanut products.  My main goal in making these changes was to lose weight and hopefully feel better but, as I read more about the benefits of eating this way, I started to wonder if it might improve my fertility.  I kept a journal of what I ate every day and started tracking my cycles again…just to see.  That was in mid-February.

A few days after starting the diet, I went to an acupuncturist to see if that could remedy the debilitating headaches that had plagued me for years.  I also secretly wondered if that might impact my fertility.  I had read that it could help, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up.  I didn’t want to be disappointed again.  The acupuncturist had me complete a lot of paperwork and asked me a lot of questions about my health.  He also came to the same conclusion that the fertility doctor had years ago.  Insulin resistance.  Pre-diabetic.  He advised me to eat more protein and fat and less carbs and starchy foods, something that I had already started to do. The treatment was wonderful and I wish I could have afforded to return on a regular basis.  But, I never went back.  I didn’t need to.  In mid-April, I started to feel “off”.  Even though I didn’t want to allow myself to hope, I started to wonder if I might be pregnant.  I started tracking my temps again and though it was late in my cycle, my temps were consistently high.  I decided to stop after work one day and buy a pregnancy test.  Part of me expected to see a blank white space staring back at me, but another part of me just knew.  Sure enough, two blue lines showed up on the test.  I couldn’t believe it, so I quickly used the other test that came in the 2-pack.  It was also positive.  I remember falling down on my knees and sobbing, thanking God for this miracle.  I never thought I would be able to have my own child…and finally…it was my time. After two months of following a Primal diet, I was pregnant.  And those debilitating headaches?  They were gone.

I often tell people that changing my diet helped me to get pregnant…and I believe that it did.  But I don’t want to dismiss God’s hand in all of this.  Like I said earlier, if it was His intention for me to get pregnant sooner, I would have.  My timeline wasn’t the same as His.  He had a lot of work to do in me first.  I had to let go of the demons of my past and start loving myself.  After the heart wrenching divorce and picking up the pieces again, I had finally stopped feeling sorry for myself and decided to take care of myself.  I had wallowed long enough.  I wanted to be healthy, physically and emotionally, regardless of whether or not I became a mom….and going Primal was part of that.

Seeing the impact of a Primal diet on my health made me certain that I wanted to stay Primal during my pregnancy and beyond.  I managed to do that for the most part.  I had occasional cheats, but I really did my best to stick with it and I still eat Primal most of the time.  With the holidays just winding down, I really need to get back to strict Primal, especially since we are trying for Baby #2.  🙂

I know that changing to a Primal diet isn’t the answer for everyone, but if you are struggling with unexplained infertility, PCOS, irregular menstrual cycles, or other hormonal imbalances, why not give it a try?  Fortunately, there is a lot of new research emerging that supports the idea that grains, sugar, and processed foods can really impact fertility, and I am so glad to see the information getting out there.  Here are just a few other sources for information on this.  You can also do a Google search for “paleo and fertility” or “primal and fertility” and find tons of stories from other women who got pregnant without any medical intervention, after changing their diet.

Is Wheat Making You Wait for Babies? by Dr. Kelly Brogan, M.D.

Primal Nutrition and Fertility by Mark Sisson

*Please note that I am not a doctor or nutritionist and I am only speaking from my own personal experience.

grain-free cookie roundup

 

cookie roundup

Even though I have been mostly grain-free for the past 3 years, I still love to make cookies during the holidays.  I have dabbled with a few grain-free cookie recipes over the years, but I always go back to the usual suspects at holiday time…and then pay the price for indulging in them.  This year I really want to stick to grain-free recipes, so I have been searching for them on Google and Pinterest.  Here’s a few I can’t wait to try…

*you can link to the original recipes by clicking on each picture.*

Elana’s Pantry:  Paleo Coconut Macaroons

I just picked up a bag of coconut flakes on sale and I can’t wait to make these!  I want to take them a step further and dip them halfway in dark chocolate.

paleo-coconut-macaroons-dessert-recipe-5614

Paleo Parents:  Pumpkin Pucks

My friend Besty keeps telling me how amazing these are.  I haven’t tried making them yet, but I will taste them soon!

Pumpkin-Pucks-Post-Image

Mygutsy.com:  Grain-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies are my absolute favorite and I haven’t tried to make them grain-free yet.  I think I am afraid that I will be disappointed.  These look pretty amazing though.  I’m definitely going to give them a try.

chcocolate chip

Brownie Bites:  Double Vanilla Meringues

These are loaded with refined sugar, but they are grain-free.  I made them for Evelyn’s birthday party last year and they are amazing.  It’s hard to describe a meringue and if you’ve never tried one, you really should.  They are light and airy, crispy, and they melt in your mouth.  Did I say they’re amazing?

double-vanilla-meringues-4

Plaid and Paleo:  Paleo Dark Chocolate Salted Almond Bites

These aren’t exactly cookies, but they look like they would make some great holiday munching!

salted almond bites

 

 

 

Are you planning to try any new recipes this holiday season?

the best way to cook spaghetti squash

Whether you are following a low carb diet or just trying to get more veggies in your life, spaghetti squash is a great substitute for pasta.  I tried to make it when we first went grain-free, as a substitute for my old, classic favorite (spaghetti), and I hated it.  I was so disappointed because I wanted to like it.  I love spaghetti and I knew I was going to miss it.  Spaghetti squash was my answer and it completely let me down.

A few weeks ago, we were buying produce at an Amish farm nearby.  I spotted the spaghetti squash and decided to give it another try.  I was worried about the best way to cook it and questioned a few of my coworkers on the best method.  I settled on baking it and it turned out so, so good.  We devoured it with meat sauce and grated parmesan.  I have no idea what happened the first time I made it.  I can’t remember how I cooked it, but it was watery and had a weird taste.  This time, it was perfect.

To bake the squash, cut it in half lengthwise (be careful with that knife!) and scoop out the seeds and pulp.

Now place the halves cut side down on a baking sheet like this:

DSC_0385

Place them in the oven and bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes, depending on the size of the squash.  When it’s done, use a fork to gently scrape out the flesh.  It should come out in strands that look very similar to spaghetti.

DSC_0386

 

And that’s it…easy peasy!  Just use it as a substitute for spaghetti and you won’t need a nap 20 minutes after eating.

yard sales, banana muffins and other weekend miscellany

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Look at this face…isn’t she fab?  I love this kid.  We had such a gorgeous weekend here.  The weather couldn’t have been more perfect.  I have been so lazy with my camera lately, resorting to using my iPhone about 99.9% of the time.  So, I pulled out the DSLR for some practice.  Funny, she actually looked at the camera with intrigue and when I told her to smile and say “cheese” she actually did.  She’s so used to seeing my phone that I think she secretly protests when I try to catch her on film and I can’t even get her to look at it.  But this strange piece of equipment…what is it??  She stared at me and tried to grab it a few times.

This weekend kicked of yard sale season and our neighborhood has its community yard sales.  Oh, how I would have loved to open up shop and get rid of the many bins of baby items that are taking over our lives, but we’re hanging onto things until we have another little one.  I’m not normally a huge fan of yard sales.  I hate fighting the crowds and dealing with the heat, but this weekend was perfect.  The weather was gorgeous and since all the yard sales were taking place in our neighborhood, we just put Evelyn in the backpack carrier and set out on foot.

Michael actually got a jump start on Friday while I was at work and he found several great items.  You’ve gotta start out early or all the good stuff will be gone.  He was really looking for some outdoor toys for Evelyn, like a Little Tykes slide or other similar pieces, but we didn’t really come across any of those.  Oh well, maybe next time.

Shopping yard sales for baby and kid’s stuff is particularly fruitful, since babies and little kids tend to grow out of things very quickly and they don’t have much time to really wear things out.  A lot of people also receive items as gifts that they are never able to use, so it’s easy to find things that are barely or never used.  It amazes me that people spend the kind of money that they do on new clothes, shoes and toys for kids.  Yard sale and thrift store shopping is kind of a no-brainer for me.  It’s greener and way less expensive than shopping the malls.

So, here’s the loot…

Mini Recliner for Evelyn
Mini Recliner for Evelyn
Crayola Art Easel
Crayola Art Easel
Michael picked this out.
Michael picked this out.
Evelyn had a blast playing in it....just before promptly pulling it from the ceiling.
Evelyn had a blast playing in it….just before promptly pulling it from the ceiling.
In addition to these, I also picked up 3 hats, 3 pair of pajamas, a pair of jeans, another pair of shorts, and a July 4th outfit from Old Navy.
In addition to these, I also picked up 3 hats, 3 pair of pajamas, a pair of jeans, another pair of shorts, and a July 4th outfit from Old Navy.
Boots!!
Boots!!
Little Tikes toy chest for outdoor toys
Little Tikes toy chest for outdoor toys

I got all of this for about $35!!!!  It makes me sad to think that I recently cashed in a $50 Target gift card and only got 2 pairs of shoes, a bathing suit, and 2 pairs of pajamas for Evelyn.

I spent most of Sunday in the kitchen, making all kinds of grain-free, sugar-free goodies.  Michael and I have been really trying to stick with our diet and cut way back on the cheating.  I made yet another batch of these awesome grain-free banana muffins.
IMG_1285

I feel pretty confident sharing this recipe.  I started making these from a recipe I found online, but I tweaked it and changed it so many times that it really feels like my own.  Evelyn loves these.  She calls them “cake”.  If this is her idea of cake, that’s just fine by me…no sugar, no gluten…just a yummy snack.

Grain-Free Banana Muffins

  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda

Mash the bananas and mix all the wet ingredients together.  I like to use a hand mixer.  I usually put the coconut oil in the microwave for about 30 seconds to bring it to liquid form before adding it to the eggs and bananas.

Sift the dry ingredients into the batter and stir to combine.  Scoop the batter into a muffin pan lined with paper liners.  The batter doesn’t rise much, so you can fill them a bit more than you would with regular muffins.  Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.

Well, it seems that spring is finally here.  Evelyn even enjoyed her first popsicle of the season.

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Have a great week!!