Celebrating the 4th of July

I’m a little under the weather….have been since late last week. We won’t be doing anything fun to celebrate the 4th this year, so I’ll reminisce about all the fun we had last year! We had an awesome, low-key celebration at our house with friends.

We kept it healthy and simple which made it the best way to celebrate. If we were having a party this year, I’d add these fun cups that Martha Stewart demonstrated on the Today Show:

 For more ideas, check out my Pinterest board with lots of red, white and blue inspiration:

Fourth of July party ideas

We also try to hit our favorite New England beach town Rockport every year on the 4th (thankfully my husband is taking our girls there today while I rest). Check out a post from last year about a day trip to Rockport. But as you know, New England has so many amazing places to go for day trips. I write another post about Portsmouth, NH. 

If you’re looking to check out some fireworks, check out this great list from Metrowest Mamas!

Whatever you do, please be safe, enjoy, and be thankful!

xoxo, TinySophisticate

 

Definitions and Overriding Principles of Paleo and Healthy Eating

You see that I often write about living a Paleo lifestyle (why I started, shopping guide, beginner’s guide). My family and I try to live a healthy lifestyle. This extends to cleaning products, recycling, skin/bodycare and more. But the biggest area I write about is food. I tweet and Facebook about food a lot. Sometimes recipes from my Paleo recipe site, and sometimes general information about healthy eating. There are sooooo many schools of thought and philosophies on healthy eating. I’m not an expert. I’m not saying my way is the only way. I’ve embraced Paleo and I’ve run with it. But if you don’t want to jump into Paleo 100%, there are other ways you can improve your diet and your overall health with what you eat, and more importantly, what you do not eat.

What’s more important than whether or not you follow Paleo are the definitions and overriding principles of healthy eating in general. These Here are some terms and phrases you may see me write about…and many of these I did not know until this past year:

GMO (genetically modified organism):

A GMO is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. Yummy right? And there are genetically modified foods and crops. Most of the have been created so crops are resistant to pests, herbicides or environmental conditions. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to eat a science experiment, so I stay away from foods with GMOs. It’s not easy to do, however, because GMOs are in a LOT of foods. If a product is organic, it does NOT have GMOs. Also, all Trader Joe’s branded products are GMO-free.

Picking fruits and veggies from our CSA. Organic. Non-GMO. Whole foods. Gluten-free.

Gluten-free

Gluten-free = no gluten. Sounds great right? Well, just because something is gluten-free doesn’t mean it is healthy. You can find gluten-free baked goods, pizzas and processed foods which can still be bad for you. Whenever possible, stick to whole foods (see next item) and if you need a fix or a treat, make it yourself…that way you know the quality of the ingredients.

Whole foods

No, not the grocery store. Whole foods are foods that are unprocessed and unrefined. Fruits, vegetables, unpolished grains, beans, non-homogenized dairy. While I don’t necessary eat all of these listed (grains and beans are a no-no on Paleo), if you stick to this type of diet, it is inherently healthier.

Whole Foods

Yes, the store. Just because you shop at Whole Foods does not mean you are buying healthy foods. You must be a discerning customer. Whole Foods sells both organic and conventional foods, so read signs and labels. Whole Foods also sells foods that contain GMOs. And they DO NOT label all the products that have GMOs so be aware (they have committed to doing so by 2016, however in my opinion, they should not carry products containing GMOs). I do frequently shop at Whole Foods, but just beware and be educated.

Grass-fed beef

Mark’s Daily Apple wrote up a great post on the grass-fed beef and I think you should read it. Basically, I stick with organic, grass-fed beef.

Processed foods

Basically, any food not in its natural state. An apple = not processed. Twinkie = processed. That may be a drastic example but you get the point.

Organic Foods

According to wikipedia, organic foods are:

…foods that are produced using methods of organic farming – that do not involve modern synthetic inputs such as synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Organic foods are also not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives.

 We buy organic foods whenever possible. I mean, do pesticides, chemical fertilizers irradiation, solvents and additives sound healthy? Yeah, didn’t think so.

Dairy

Dairy products are food products processed from the milk of mammals. Milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream…but NOT EGGS! Even though eggs are in the dairy section of the grocery store, they are not dairy. Eggs come from chickens.

Grains & Legumes

If you follow Paleo, you avoid grains and legumes. What you may not realize is that includes corn (grain) and peanuts (legumes). Other nuts are fine. Just not peanuts, because they are not really a nut.

Wild vs. Farm Raised Fish

I took this passage from this CNN piece:

A 2003 report from the Environmental Working Group showed that farmed salmon in the U.S. has the highest levels of PCBs, toxic man-made chemicals. And a widely publicized study in the journal Science in January 2004 suggested that farmed Atlantic salmon had higher levels of PCBs and other toxics than wild Pacific salmon.

Umm…..nuff said for me. I stay with wild seafood.

So those are some of the terms you may hear or read from me. Have any others that you are curious or confused about? Let me know!

 

My Weekly Menu

If you’ve been following my blog, you know my husband and I live a Paleo lifestyle. One of the things that makes this easier is to plan our meals. I’ve been inspired by one of my favorite bloggers Emily at Random Recycling to blog my weekly menu…so here it is!

I’m working on getting my act together to also provide links to these recipes. They are all Paleo’ish :)

 

Starting Paleo: A Beginner’s Guide

As many of you know, I’ve been living Paleo since May when my husband put me on a diet. Yup, you read that right. And it’s the best thing I’ve done. I feel good (healthy and more energy) and I look good (not trying to be snotty but I lost 14 lbs) and it just feels like the right thing to do.

Trust me, it was NOT easy for me to start it, especially as a life long carb lover. I once tried Atkins and lasted three hours.

I get a lot of people asking how to start, so this post is for you!

The Basics

  • Eat organic, grass-fed meats. Nuts. Veggies and fruits. Eggs (not dairy even though they are in the dairy section…but they come from chickens, not cows)
  • Do not eat anything processed. Dairy. Legumes (which includes peanuts). Grains.

Visiting the farm where we get our grass-fed beef

Follow the right people on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest

This may be the right time to hide Paula Dean, or all the Cupcake Bakers you follow. It’s not that you love them any less, but you just need to focus. Some of my favorite people to follow are:

  • Just Eat Real Food – I’m obsessed with this page. It’s not 100% Paleo but typically follows a Paleo/Primal philosophy and posts amazing recipes from other sites, as well as articles and research. It’s my favorite research. TIP: When you see a good recipe, click into the link and follow to where it originated….then Pin it to Pinterest.
  • Twitter – It’s tough to navigate the good vs the bad on Twitter sometimes. I’d like my Paleo Twitter list to grow so please offer suggestions. I love @robbwolf – this is the main Paleo guy that my husband follows and reads. Unfortunately you find a lot of heavy-duty cross-fit or body-building people who also eat Paleo…but I think it’s tough to find the right people to follow that “jive” with you.
  • Pinterest - I used to think Pinterest was making me fat, but I’ve realized you can also find really healthy, good for you recipes here.

Get a cookbook or two 

I bought Everyday Paleo by Stacey Fragoso and The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain to kick things off. I needed inspiration to start cooking and didn’t know where to find it. There are some great recipes in these books, but after a few weeks, I found that I didn’t really need them any longer…I was able to just cook things up from on my own, or learn to use “normal” recipes and replace non-paleo ingredients. I refer to the Just Eat Real Food Facebook most often now for inspiration. I also bought Paleo Indulgences and it’s awesome to test out some “baked” goods and other “cheat” foods.

Throw Away the Bad Stuff

I know this is a lot easier said than done, but I’ve done it and so can you. Throw away the processed stuff. I know this is hard if you have kids who love snacks. But as much as you can, get rid of the stuff that you snack on. Get ride of the pastas and the rice. The cookies, the crackers. Even the “healthy” things like quinoa…GONE. I had a lot of boxes of unopened food that I delivered to the local food bank.

Shop and Stock Your Kitchen

I’ve written about how to shop Paleo. It’s important when you start Paleo to have a kitchen stocked with fruits and veggies and real food. Some of the key things to get include:

  • Organic chicken
  • Organic grass-fed beef
  • Nuts like almonds and pecans
  • Organic fruits and veggies. If you are trying to lose weight, don’t load up on sweet potatoes or bananas, but if you are doing it for the health value, they are fine. I’ve found having a lot of celery, carrots and peppers around to slice and snack on are great for when I’m wanting a crunchy snack (when I used to reach for chips!).

Snacks from our Paleo 4th of July Party

Beware of the so-called healthy stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Regardless of where you shop, you need to follow my guidelines for shopping Paleo. Even in the organic stores, you basically shop the perimeter of the store, unless your store has an organic section in the middle. All the stuff in the center of the store is likely processed and therefore not Paleo.

I’ve actually become a huge fan of Trader Joe’s through this process as they have great organic chicken and fruits and veggies. Even for the processed stuff I still buy for my carb-loving 3 1/2 year old, I’ve migrated away from all the “big brands” and over to Trader Joe’s. No more Cheerios, Rice Krispies, etc. (because they contain GMO’s) and we now buy all the Trader Joe’s products which do not contain GMO’s. The little one loves their version of Cheese-Its, Graham Crackers, cereals and more. (The GMO discussion is for another post…information overload! But google it if you wish.).

Make It a Family Lifestyle Change

If you are the only one in your house committed to Paleo, it will be difficult. That’s why I say get rid of the temptations. And don’t let age factors inhibit you. My youngest daughter who is almost 18 months is actually about 90% paleo…except for the oatmeal she loves and cereal bars we snack on. My older daughter, the 3 1/2 year-old carb loader is another story, but one day….

Start Strong and then Understand It’s Okay to Cheat Once in a While

I started of 100% Paleo for about 6 weeks. I had to…it was the only way. In that time, I lost about 10 pounds and felt healthier. It truly became a lifestyle, not a diet. Then, once in a while, I allow myself to cheat. Usually 2-3 times per week. At first, I felt like I couldn’t wait to cheat…and now, I realize some of the foods I want to cheat with make me feel awful.

About three months into Paleo, my kids were staying with their grandparents and my husband and I had the night and next morning to ourselves. We went out to breakfast where I ordered my favorite, coconut french toast. I felt like death after I ate it. It wasn’t food poisoning, but rather the gluten. Since being on Paleo, I’ve noticed I have a gluten intolerance, yet if I cheat with dairy, there are not issues or repercussions.

Some of my favorite cheats include ice cream, pizza and Mexican food.

Don’t be THAT Dinner Guest

Paleo isn’t a binding set of rules that if you break them, you’ll be damned. If we go to friends house and they decide to order pizza for dinner, I eat it. If they cook and serve rice or pasta with dinner, I try to load up on the meat and veggies and then skip the processed carbs. But guess what…at this point eight months in, if I want it, I eat it. I notice though I don’t WANT to eat the bad stuff nearly as much….it’s truly become a lifestyle.

GOOD LUCK!!!!

I am by no means an expert on this. I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist. I’ve been on the Paleo journey for eight months and I’ve seen results. 

Making It Paleo: New Year’s Eve Extravaganza

We went all out for our New Year’s Eve party this year. We celebrated New Year’s Eve with some great friends, and my sister-in-law who was visiting from Seattle. We had an amazing Paleo’ish party to ring in the new year.

THE MENU:

Appetizers:

  • Buffalo cauliflower – my sister-in-law made this following a recipe she found here. We didn’t want to use rice flour so tried almond flour and it was good. Later in the week, we tested with coconut flour (yuck) and also tried without any flour and it was just as good! I can’t lie though, I had to dip in some blue cheese dressing :)
  • Assorted raw veggies
  • Shrimp cocktail
  • Nuts

Entrees:

  • Corn and crab chowder – dairy and gluten-free! (while I know corn isn’t Paleo, this chowder is too delish not to eat!)
  • Filet Mignon on the grill cooked just perfectly medium
  • Green beans in marinara sauce (beans aren’t Paleo but there are a few little cheats in here). My friend made the marinara herself and it was delicious. I didn’t miss the pasta!
  • Green salad with carrots and tomatoes

Drinks/Desserts:

  • Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting - these were good…these were really good!!! Even my little picky eater ate one.
  • Coconut milk creme brulee - the flavor was great but it didn’t set as firm as I’d have liked it…I’d be willing to test it out again though and try to set for longer.
  • Eggnog - the flavor of the eggnog was good…but I could do just a smaller portion next time. Maybe a shot? We also added a LOT of rum to it…maybe too much :)

THE OUTFIT:

Yeah, I’m never one to turn down a chance to dress up! And if you know me at all, whether IRL or via the blog, you’re probably not surprised at all that I’m wearing my leather leggings. They are a staple in my wardrobe this winter and I’d wear them every day if I could. I paired them with a black sweater with sequin shoulder trim, a black studded cross body bag, black booties, a leopard print scarf and a sock bun! Sweater from Forever21. (similar here and here). Leather leggings from Forever21(similar here and here). Leopard print scarf from TJMaxx (similar here). Studded bag from H&M (similar here and here). Shoes are Christian Louboutin. 

FRIENDS & FAMILY

It was awesome to celebrate with some close friends and my sister-in-law.

AND THE BEST PART….

The party started at 3pm and we were on our way home before 8pm!!!

Happy New Year and best wishes for the most amazing 2013!

 

My Paleo Shopping Guide

I’ve talked about my new Paleo lifestyle before in the past when I told everyone that my husband put me on a diet. I’ve been eating Paleo since May and I’m loving it. Aside from losing 14 pounds, I just feel better.

Paleo has transformed me and my life, and also my shopping. I basically shop the perimeter of the grocery store. And not even just the regular grocery store, same applies for Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

Since we stay away from all processed foods (as well as dairy and gluten), that eliminates the center aisles for the most part. My grocery list includes:

  • Fruits and vegetables – I try to buy fresh, local organic whenever possible. But also buy frozen organic when fruits are not in season. We don’t buy organic bananas or a few other things because it’s not necessary. We love to have the kitchen stocked with apples, pears, grapes, kiwi, peppers, onions, squash, tomatoes, eggplant, artichokes and brussel sprouts.
  • Eggs – We should probably buy a chicken….we buy a lot of organic omega 3 eggs
  • Organic, grass-fed meats – We typically buy our red meat from a local farm, and also find organic chicken at Trader Joe’s
  • Some nuts – We stay away from peanuts but love raw almonds

And that’s it! I do buy some things for my children in the center aisles, but I’m slowly trying to get them away from all the processed stuff too! We make gluten-free pancakes and baked goods, and integrate almond milk instead of cow’s milk where ever we can.

 

Do I cheat? Of course I do! Pizza is one of my favorite foods and I do indulge in a regular pizza now and then. But I’ve also found some “paleo” pizza recipes that are delish! And other items, I’ll order a gluten-free pizza. Cheese is also another craving that I indulge in once in a while.

Overall, I’ve found that my shopping trips are much faster now…and the food in my cart is so much healthier! The only downside…there are never coupons for “healthy” foods. What’s your shopping routine?

Fourth of July Recap Just In Time For Labor Day

So, I’ve had a lot going on! This summer has been very busy and very fun. But in all the fun, I forgot to post about our low-key Fourth of July celebration. I planned to just ignore it and pretend it never happened…but I decide to post now since it could be easily replicated for Labor Day, or any summer fun day.

We didn’t have any plans for the fourth this year….but at 6pm on the third…we decided to have some friends over. So off I went to the grocery store, liquor store and dollar store.

 

We kept it simple. For decorations:

  • An American flag from the dollar store that cost well, um….errr….a dollar!
  • A framed picture. I had the frame and made a quick little 4th themed picture in Photoshop.
  • Red and blue tissue paper filler that I used in clear vases to hold utensils.

That’s all for decorations. Then the food! We tried to stay healthy (until dessert!).

  • Fresh veggies
  • Fruit skewers (blueberries, raspberries and strawberries)
  • Watermelon
  • Cereal bars for the babies
  • Paleo crab cakes (basically used this recipe and substituted almond flour for bread crumbs)
  • Grass-fed burgers (my special concoction of ketchup, mustard, garlic, Worcestershire and brown sugar)
  • Shrimp scampi
  • Cupcakes
  • Mini ice cream cones

The brightly colored food made a great table scape and helped make it look festive. It was simple…but it was a fun day with family and friends. We set up the water table and the baby pool and had a great afternoon. My littles ones enjoyed the day….

We may replicate the same menu (minus cupcakes) for Labor Day. What are you fun plans for the long weekend and what are you serving?