Category Archives for Food

Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes That Will Please a Crowd

Thanksgiving is just over a week away.  I really can't believe that it's already here.  To be honest, I am so far from being prepared for the holidays, but they are coming, so apparently it's time to get in gear.  I can't handle a complete all out food bender, even if it is just one meal, so I have some healthy Thanksgiving recipes that help me balance out the few not so healthy dishes that I choose to indulge in.

This year, I am so thankful that my mother in law has offered to cook for us.  Her stuffing is amazing....it's not even close to good for you, but I am going to eat it and love every bite.  So, to go along with the not so healthy items, we will be cooking up some sides that aren't loaded with bread or crackers.  

This weekend, we cooked up a primal friendly pre-Thanksgiving feast, and today we are sharing the healthy Thanksgiving recipes we tried, along with some of our long time favorites.  I am not including recipes for turkey or ham...those are usually pretty standard, and since I'm not a chef, I'll let you go out on your own for these :).

**All of these ideas are primal friendly.  We do include dairy in our diet, but you could easily substitute dairy free milk and omit the cheese in many of these recipes.  While I did not use any refined sugar, I did use coconut sugar in a few of these recipes.**

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The Best Dark Chocolate Bar – Our Favorite

We must have chocolate on the brain.  So, what is the best dark chocolate bar out there?  Since last week's post about the health benefits of dark chocolate, we have received quite a few questions about our favorite dark chocolate bars.  So, today we are going to share our favorites with you.

We understand that many of you might not have a local, gourmet chocolate shop (we certainly don't), so we have included brands that are easy to find at most grocery stores or online.  To make things more interesting, we did a blind taste test (with our kids) to find out which chocolate bar really is the best based on taste.

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6 Surprising Health Benefits Of Dark Chocolate

Oh, the sweet tooth.  I have a strong one.  Last, week, I gave you some tips on ways to keep your hand out of the Halloween candy.  Today, I want to give you an option to eat instead.  Let's talk about dark chocolate.  Note...we are not talking about milk chocolate or Hershey's Special Dark chocolate.  We are talking about high quality chocolate that is made with minimal ingredients.

I haven't always been a fan of the dark stuff.  In fact, many years ago, I found dark chocolate (of all varieties) to be extremely bitter.  However, over the years, I have grown to love what I thought was a bitter taste.  

Just a few squares will do the trick.  In fact, I don't even think it would be possible to eat an entire bar because it is so rich.  Not only will dark chocolate satisfy your sweet tooth with just a few squares, it has some great health benefits associated with it.  

#1 - Antioxidants

The high levels of antioxidants in dark chocolate have contributed to its "superfood" status.  Antioxidants help protect your cells from the effect of free radicals.  Free radicals are by-products of chemical reactions in our cells as well as toxins that we are exposed to in our environment.  Many of the benefits of dark chocolate come from its abundance of flavanols, which is a type of polyphenol.

Cacao actually contains some of the highest levels of antioxidants found in any food.  This is even in comparison to foods such as the açaí, pomegranate, cranberry, and blueberry. 

The higher the percentage of cacao in your chocolate, the more antioxidant rich the chocolate is.

#2 - Vitamins and Minerals

Not only is dark chocolate rich in antioxidants, it also contains other vitamins and minerals.  These include iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium.  

According to the book, Genius Foods, by Max Lugavere, cacao is one of the richest natural food sources of magnesium.  If you don't know much about magnesium, it is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body.  And, many Americans are deficient in magnesium.

Eat some chocolate, and get some vitamins?  Yes, please.

#3 - Healthy Fats

The fatty acid profile of cacao is very good.  In fact, cacao butter is one of the healthiest natural fats in the world.  See, dark chocolate is made up mostly of monounsaturated fats (the fat found in olive oil) and saturated fat.  The saturated fat found in dark chocolate is stearic acid, which is a form of healthy, saturated fat.  It contains very little polyunsaturated fat.

In addition to containing a good fatty acid profile, dark chocolate is low in sugar and stimulates minimal insulin production.  

#4 - Brain Health

Dark chocolate can actually increase blood flow to your brain.  This has been shown to improve cognitive function.  The flavanols in cacao have also been shown to reverse signs of cognitive aging.

Having trouble focusing or just in a bad mood?  Try reaching for a square of dark chocolate. You might get a mood boost from the four psychoactive mood boosting chemicals such as caffeine and theobromine.

#5 - Heart Health

Dark chocolate has actually been shown to improve heart health.  The magnesium and flavanols found in dark chocolate help improve the cardiovascular system by promoting improved vascular function and regulating the heart rate.

One study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition actually found that consuming dark chocolate resulted in decreased blood pressure in healthy individuals.  Cacao also boosts nitric oxide production which is associated with increased vasodilation and improved endothelial function.

#6 - Protect Your Skin

Dark chocolate on your skin?  Well, you don't have to actually put chocolate on your skin.  However, the flavanols in dark chocolate can help protect the skin from UV damage from the sun.  In addition, the flavanols can improve blood flow to the skin.  They can also increase skin density and hydration.  Dark chocolate can help reduce stress hormones that break down collagen in the skin.

Beware...not all chocolate is created equal.

It's extremely important to buy quality dark chocolate if you are looking for health benefits.  Buy chocolate that contains at least 75% cacao or higher.  The higher the percentage, the better.  Ideally, I try to buy 85% or higher.

One note here is the difference between cacao and cocoa.  While these two words sound similar, there is a difference.  Check out this article that goes into the the major differences between cacao and cocoa.

Also, take a good look at the ingredients.  You are looking for as few ingredients as possible.  Sugar should come after the cacao ingredients, not first.  Make sure that the chocolate has not been processed with alkali (known as Dutch processing).  This process reduces the bitterness of the chocolate, but it also reduces the flavanols.  

Other things to look for on the label would be 100% organic, fair trade, and soy free.  Many bars contain soy lecithin as an emulsifying agent.

I think I'll grab a square.

Next time you have a sweet tooth, try reaching for that dark chocolate instead of a more traditional treat.  Again, make sure it's the good stuff, not the commercially produced, sugar loaded, fake ingredient chocolate.  As with anything else, moderation is good here.  Nothing is good in excess, including chocolate.

If you want a more deep dive into dark chocolate, check out this article from Mark's Daily Apple.

Next week, we will be sharing our favorite dark chocolate brands, and we will be doing a blind taste test to come up with our clear favorite.  Make sure you check out the post.  You might find a new brand to love.

Enjoy!

~KP

Healthy Fast Food: Your Best Options

Healthy fast food...is it possible?  Let's face it.  We live in a modern, fast paced world.  Unfortunately, most of us can't source all of our own food, prepare it fresh daily, and happily sit down farm to table style for every meal.  With hectic day to day lives, many of us are left to takeout or fast food for a few meals each week.  

While we always prefer to cook at home, we too find ourselves scrambling for dinner on a random Tuesday night or on a Friday after swim practice.  Thankfully, over the years, many fast food joints have come a long way in their transparency of what is actually in their food.  Some restaurants are finally taking a step forward and are removing things like MSG, meat laced with antibiotics and hormones, and chemical additives from their food.  So, where do we eat when we are in a hurry?  What's your best choice when you find yourself in a less than ideal fast food establishment?  Read on, and we'll happily share our opinion.

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Dairy…What is the deal? Is it good or bad?

Dairy…what the heck?  We get SO many questions about dairy.  Is it good?  Is it bad?  If you are “paleo” can you have dairy?  Let’s get one thing straight….dairy is different for everyone.  Dairy falls into an extremely gray area, and the research is pretty much all over the place.  Personally, we do consume high quality, full fat dairy such as grass fed butter, cheese, and yogurt.  No one in our family is sensitive to it, so we eat it.  What???  But, you’re “paleo.”  No, we aren’t.  We eat a “paleo-ish” diet full of real, whole, nutrient dense foods.  This means, sometimes we eat some dairy, and occasionally some {gasp} grains such as wild rice and quinoa.  Here’s a very basic breakdown of dairy and some resources if you want to dig in further.

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Packing Lunch…Healthy Ideas to Keep your Kids Crash Free

**UPDATE**

It's back to school time!!!  Let's face it.  Packing school lunches can be a tough chore sometimes!  When your kiddos are living a Primal lifestyle, it can take lunch packing to another level.  What do you mean...no PB&J???  Over the last few years, we have found a few tools, and some great websites, to help make packing school lunches a little easier.  If you are struggling to find healthy options for your kids that don't make them feel weird or awkward among a classroom full of shiny packages of chips, doughnuts, cookies, sandwiches, and juice boxes, we've got some ideas for you.

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What’s on my Menu? Healthy, Fast, and Delicious Food

We made it through the July 4th holiday, and I'm not going to lie...my food choices weren't amazing.  It definitely could have been worse, but I'm feeling the aftermath of those not so great choices - the post holiday bloat.  This week, I made sure to get my menu together so that I am prepped and ready to go for the week.  My choices aren't fancy, but I know they are kid approved, they are all meals that I enjoy, and I will have plenty of leftovers.

I am sharing my menu this week in hopes that it will help you get back on track.  All of these meals are or can easily be made Primal, Paleo, Keto, or even Whole30.  I've got a crazy busy week, so they are all super easy to prepare, and they can be made in advance and used for leftovers.

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Navigating Sam’s Club – What I Buy in Bulk

I must say, I am often a little intimidated by all of the bulk items available at our local Sam's Club.  I have been a member of Sam's for years, and I shopped there pretty often when my kids were little (hello diapers and wipes).  However, when we moved, and our new house was about 30 minutes from Sam's, my shopping days ended.  That was two years ago.

Recently, someone told me about the Scan and Go app at Sam's.  I'm sure I am late to the party on this one, but it sounded magical.  See, my least favorite part about my trip to Sam's was the checkout process.  Something about waiting in forever long lines, unloading everything, finding a box to fit it in, and then getting to the car just turned me off.  A few weeks ago, I decided to give the new app a try, and I've been back just about every week since.  The app is as magical as it sounds...scan your items as you go, and you are DONE.  No checkout lines :).  I've listed a few of my favorite purchases below.

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Staying Primal at the Beach and on the Boat

Sweet SUMMERTIME!  For us, summer is all about the beach.  We live in Florida, so we spend as much time as possible at the beach.  Whether we are boating, fishing, swimming, or just hanging out on the sand, we are around the beach a lot.  In the past, beach and boat days meant unhealthy food choices.  We would grab something at a restaurant for lunch, take cold chicken wings with us out fishing, load the boat down with chips, and we would often resort to sandwiches if we packed our lunch.  Over the last few years, we have finally found some favorite food ideas that don't get old or leave us feeling deprived of "beach food".  

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Breakfast Ideas to Keep you Full

When it comes to breakfast, and you are beginning a primal or keto lifestyle, the obvious start is scrambled eggs.  I like scrambled eggs...every once in a while.  When we transitioned into a primal lifestyle years ago, I found that I got tired of scrambled eggs quickly.  For most of my life, I had relied on cereal, toast, waffles, or some sort of processed carbohydrate to start my day.  We took that away, and I was left with eggs and bacon for breakfast....or so I thought.

If you are tired of the same boring scrambled egg breakfast, check out some of our favorite ideas to kick your morning off right.  

Rocket Fuel Latte

The Rocket Fuel Latte, from Leanne Vogel is one of my go-to breakfast options.  Most mornings, we are a little rushed, so this is a quick and easy breakfast that I can take with me in the car as I run the kids to school or get ready for a class.  I have been a fan of butter coffee for years, but this latte takes coffee to a whole new level.  It is packed full of healthy fats, and it tastes amazing.  Not only is it yummy, but it keeps me full until lunch.

If you are following a keto lifestyle, you need to put this in your stash of breakfast ideas.  Also, if you don't have Leanne Vogel's book, The Keto Diet, I would I highly recommend getting it.  It's probably my favorite keto cookbook, and she has a very informative intro about the keto diet at the beginning of the book.

Yogurt Parfait

Dairy is definitely a gray area for many people.  If you are strict paleo, you are definitely not doing dairy.  For my family, we are not sensitive to dairy in moderation, so we have incorporated some yogurt and cheese into our lifestyle.  When it comes to dairy, it is important to buy FULL FAT, organic dairy whenever possible.  

For our yogurt parfaits, we switch them up quite a bit.  We start with either full fat greek yogurt or almond milk yogurt.  For greek yogurt, we usually buy the Chobani brand.  For almond milk yogurt, we like the Kite Hill brand.  Both of these contain plenty of fat, and they are free from added sugar and artificial sweeteners.  Once I get my yogurt dished, I add a scoop of almond butter, sunflower seeds, hemp hearts, cinnamon, vanilla, and just a few blueberries.  If I have granola on hand, I throw some of that in instead of the nuts and almond butter, and it's delicious.

If you are sensitive to dairy, or you don't like the almond milk yogurt, I highly recommend trying chia seed pudding.  It's super easy to make, and you can flavor it however you like.  I usually go with the lazy way, and I dump my ingredients into a mason jar, give it a good shake, and stick it in the fridge overnight.  For some great ideas on chia seed pudding combinations, check out this post by gnom-gnom.

Granola

I'll be honest.  I can't really keep granola in my house.  I absolutely love it, and if I have it in the house, I will find myself grabbing handful after handful all day long.  So, moderation is key for me here.  I love to eat granola in pretty much any form - as cereal, as a topping for yogurt, or just straight out of the container.  It carries healthy fat, and it can provide a great option when you are craving cereal.  My current favorite homemade granola can be found here.  I typically use almond butter instead of the peanut butter, and it still tastes great.  If you aren't following a keto diet, you could really add anything to this recipe.  If I make a batch for the kids, I will add unsweetened dried cranberries, coconut flakes, and some dark chocolate chips.  For a store bought option, the granola from Julian Bakery is really good.  Both of these are keto and primal friendly.

Breakfast Casserole

You really can't beat a good breakfast casserole.  My favorite casserole is one that my mom always made on Christmas morning.  It was filled with potatoes, eggs, sausage, and tons of cheese.  Since, we've cut out white potatoes for the most part, it was time for something new.  

A few months ago, I found this recipe.  It substitutes riced cauliflower (I use the frozen bag) for the potatoes, and surprisingly, I could barely taste the difference.  The kids don't even notice that it's packed with cauliflower.  I sometimes add spinach or peppers to this casserole to get in some extra veggies.  This casserole can be eaten for any meal, and I just about always serve it with a side of mixed greens.  If you are eating potatoes, this recipe from PaleOMG is also very, very good.  I often make breakfast casseroles as breakfast muffins.  Just pour the mixture into lined muffin tins and shorten the baking time.  This way, you can store any leftover muffins in the freezer.

Chicken and Apple Sausage

If you aren't buying Aidells chicken and apple sausage, you should be.  If you're at Publix, it's near the Greenwise and other organic deli and cured meats.  You can throw them on the grill, stick them in the oven, or cut them and cook them on the stove top.  They have no added sugar, and they are good for any meal.  For breakfast, I pair a sausage link with half of an avocado and a huge serving of mixed greens.  I usually dress my breakfast greens with the Primal Kitchen Foods Honey Mustard dressing.  It's a little sweet, and plenty tangy, so it's great in the morning.  If you aren't tired of eggs, two boiled eggs are a great addition to this meal.

Leftovers

For so many years, I felt like I had to eat breakfast foods for breakfast.  Five years ago, I would have never heated up a leftover taco bowl for breakfast.  However, once I changed my mindset about breakfast only being breakfast food, my options opened up.  Now, I love dinner leftovers for breakfast.  Broccoli at 8:00 am actually isn't bad.  If you've got a leftover burger or some shredded chicken, don't be afraid to heat it up for breakfast :).

Move Over Scrambled Eggs....

Hopefully, these ideas will help you change up your breakfast ideas.  Just changing your routine from a carb heavy or sugar loaded breakfast to one that contains some healthy fats and some vegetables can help start your day on the right track.  The fat will help keep you full until lunch and won't leave you searching for a snack at 10:00 am.

Have some favorite breakfast ideas?  We'd love to hear about them!