If there's something that makes me happy during the school year mornings is knowing that I have the kids' lunches ready to go and filled with good and healthy food! I need my time in the morning...to wake up, have my breakfast and drink my coffee without rushing or running around getting everyone and everything ready in time for school.
I always wake up way earlier than I really need just to make sure that I get some morning time for myself. I don't do chaos - I hate hectic mornings which usually give me a headache and a bad day, overall. I rather wake up earlier and be able to have a scheduled routine with everything prepared. This doesn't mean that the lunchbox is completely packed and ready to go, it may only need some finishing touches, I'd say 5-10 minutes to get them filled and complete to go into the lunch bags and then everyone gets breakfast before heading out the door.
The only way to make this happen is to meal prep on Sunday. We can go around this issue and try to figure out other ways to make it work but it really is the only way to do it...honestly, I'd rather take a couple of hours on Sunday than put that stress on me on the weekdays.
It's more than worth it!
My husband usually takes his lunch to work too, so I have three lunches to make for the day. As for me I always make sure to cook something extra and loads of veggies that I can always pair with some cooked protein from the previous night's dinner or I can just have a vegan bowl which has been happening a lot lately!
Basics on lunchbox meals
I've always made a single meal for all of us, since the kids started eating "regular food". Cooking two different meals just didn't seem right, or possible, and I believe it is the best way to expose children to different foods and ingredients. They won't like everything we give them but they will start to get used to a diversified diet and that will help them to keep being curious about food.
I never get angry at them if they don't like something, which rarely happens. My 10 year old son loves to eat so there's no problem there! My 7 year old daughter is a bit different...she usually doesn't like spicy food, a lot of fresh herbs on her food or new things, in general. I usually have a couple of veggie options for lunch/dinner so there's always something for everyone.
This might seem a lot of work, having two veggie options at every meal but with meal prep Sunday things get way more easy and manageable. As you know, since I did my whole30 I've maintained the habit of meal prepping which allows for a smoother meal routine.
The basics for lunchbox meal prep are basically the same as for the regular meal prep:
1. First go over your fridge and pantry to make sure that you don't have fresh produce that might be about to go bad, in order to incorporate it on your meal prep. I usually do this on Friday night or Saturday morning and I use whatever I got leftover from the week to cook our weekend meals.
2. The second thing will be making a list of your kids' favorites - write down a list of proteins, veggies, fruit, grains and snacks. After this first time all you have to do at the beginning of each week is go back to this list and match some perfect pairings to have the weekly lunchbox menu done. After that week try to switch the meals to a different day of the following week and change the sides so that you can always give them something different. Kids get bored easily!
3. After having that list done go back to your pantry to check what you've got and what you'll be needing to shop for the week. Make your shopping list and remember to stick to it when you're at the grocery store! A great trick to save you time is to try and make some family meals from a meal that they like, this way you can prep their lunch and a weeknight family meal at the same time just by doubling the recipe!
4. Check what lunchboxes are still good from the previous year or if someone needs a upgrade! Older kids need more food and younger kids might eat a bit less so try to consider that when choosing your lunchbox. This year I took the leap and got my 10 year old son a PlanetBox Rover lunchbox - I can't wait for him to start using it! I've heard wonders about this product and I can't wait to try it out. They are expensive but very durable and spacious. I'll leave the links for the lunchboxes so you can choose which one will suit your needs the best.
I always find Amazon to be the best site to look through and compare different products because it also allows you to read the reviews written by other people that have already bought the item you're thinking of buying. That is an extremely tool for me and I always find the information that I'm looking for! The Rover PlanetBox can be found here:
For my 7 year old daughter I have the Yumbox that she totally adores! The different compartments with the drawings and writings are perfect for kids and make them even more excited about lunchtime! Find it on Amazon:
For me and my husband I have a BentoGo which works perfectly for carrying the meal and the fruit/salad in the adjacent compartment: the size is good and the lunchbox is pretty functional and pretty. The fact that the fork, spoon and knife fit inside the containers is also pretty neat and useful.
5. Check if you have adequate containers to do your meal prep. The amount and the type of container is also important - I've decided to switch to glass storage containers since I've become interested in a greener way of life. Also, besides the good option of ditching the plastic I was shocked about the amount of bacteria and other harmful stuff that can get stuck in plastic containers! No wonder we can't wash them properly...even when we think we do there's always something left there due to the porosity of the plastic itself! So, just check if you need to buy some containers and head on to the next step!
6. Do your shopping trip, preferably alone! This way you can be sure to get JUST what was on your list and not another toy, snack or candy that wasn't there...we've all been there, haven't we?! Don't forget to also shop for snacks - I'll be also making a post about healthy school snack options. It's extremely important in what regards snacks to make sure that your kids' school has a "safe school snack list" to make sure that you don't send anything that they might not be able to eat.
7. Now that you have everything you need to make your lunches for the week, just get prepping! Wash and cut the fruit and veggies yourself because buying them pre-cut is way more expensive and, most of the times, you don't even know how long the produce has been in that container...also, less plastic, less waste!
I've placed below two pictures from my fruit and veggies meal prep. Having this items already washed and ready to place in the lunchboxes is a life saving hack! I can't stress enough how this is the foundation of a smooth week in what comes to packing lunches for kids and adults! To be able to take and go anything from these containers makes a huge difference and it shows us that preparation leads to a healthy lifestyle and good choices. EVERY, SINGLE, DAY.
This veggies are some of the staples at our house. Both the kids love them so we always go around rotating them throughout the week. Whatever I see that's being leftover I usually try to incorporate in our dinner meals to make sure that nothing goes to waste. The only thing missing is the cherry tomatoes that I forget to buy on Sunday and had to rush and pick up on Monday morning.
For example, this week I saw that the carrots weren't getting as much love as the other veggies so I decided to throw them in the soup pot and make a creamy carrot soup with lentils, turmeric and spinach, which is a leafy veggie that I always have frozen to use in a situation like this. Who doesn't like a creamy, rich and delicious soup?!
It's always a matter of choosing your family's favorites and try to incorporate them in the daily meals in a fun and different way. As I've already mentioned kids get bored really fast!
So, put up a list and just start trying out the meal prep game, I assure you it will be something that will stick with you for good!
I've also written this blog post about meal prep when I was doing my whole30, so be sure to check it out too because it has really great tips for a weekly meal prep for the whole family. I assure you that, at first, it may seem a bit daunting, it also did feel that way to me, but now I can not live without it and it's what makes me feel in control of my family's meals and good choices!
A week of healthy school lunches
Now that you have the basics for planning your kids' school lunches lets get to work and build those satisfying and healthy meals that will nourish them and put a smile on their face whenever the time comes for them to open the lunchbox at the school cafeteria!
We must remember something here. It's the beginning of the school year and we're all excited for school to start - kids are eager to get together with their friends, learn new things or get to know a new school and a new daily routine and the parents are off to their regular dairy routines too. At first we're all going to be able to get those sandwiches really pretty with those cutter we just bought from Amazon but by December we may feel like this is too much and that's OK! Just keep prepping and making sure that what's in the lunchbox is healthy and it's something that the kids like, none of us is perfect and a regular sandwich is totally fine! Don't put too much stress on you or everything will become harder and stressful. All you need is some time over to weekend to plan and, knowing the time you have available to get the lunches finished in the morning, just use what you have and the time you have to make it work.
These are some ideas from lunches that my kids like. Some of them have something that my daughter likes the most and some of them are my son's favorites. I hope they inspire you to build your own weekly lunchbox menus and, if you need any help, feel free to email me with your questions and I'll make sure to try to get back to you as soon as possible.
Lunchbox 1 - Ham wrap and fresh veggies and fruit
Take the fresh fruit and veggies from your pre-cut essentials that you have from Sunday meal prep and add some chopped walnuts (or any other nut that your kid may like) for healthy fat and all you have to do is make the wrap which you can prepare the night before and keep it in the fridge until putting it on the lunchbox in the morning!
I chose cherries and green seedless grapes to have some more color which is something that always gets the kids' attention. Trying to make things appealing really does pay off and encourages them to eat what they think is pretty and exciting!
I smeared some avocado mayo on a wrap and added some romaine lettuce leaves, carrots sticks and 3 slices of oven roasted ham. Rolled it up, holding everything very tightly and sliced it so I could fit everything in the lunchbox. If you prepare the wrap the night before, keep it in a sealed container and you just need to slice it in the morning.
I think these lunchbox cards are just adorable! There are a lot of printable options too, if you look them up online. It's something that I love to send to school everyday so that the kids feel like their lunch really is important to me and that I care that they like what I prepare for them. The kit I got is super cute, gender neutral and has a super price as of now - get it while you can!
That's it! Easy and peasy - one lunch down, four more to go!
Tuesday - Grilled shrimp with sticky rice balls
Don't go thinking around that I cooked the shrimps specially for the lunchbox! That would be going overboard, indeed!
We had them grilled the night before and I added some extra so I could have some leftover for the kids' lunches! That's something that I always think about - what protein can I cook extra the night before to incorporate in the lunchboxes for the next day. That's way prepping is SO important!
The fruit and veggies are from the meal prep containers that are sitting in the fridge just waiting for me to pick them up when I'm assembling the lunches. This time I chose fresh cucumber slices, carrot sticks, black olives, diced pineapple and blueberries.
The sticky rice balls were a new experiment and it worked out really well and both the kids loved them! I prepared the sushi rice according to the instructions on the package and then transferred the cooked rice to a glass bowl. When the rice was still warm but manageable by hand I used a table spoon measure to scoop out a rice ball and, with my hands slightly wet I molded the rice just a little bit. I placed the balls on a tray and after finishing them all I placed them in an air tight container and kept them in the fridge. These sticky rice balls are perfect for lunchbox lunches because the kids can just hold them by hand and eat them with no need for forks or any other utensil. Also, they are really cute!
I sprinkled some sesame seeds on some of the balls and I'll be sure to look for black sesame seeds for some color, that should be fun! The little toothpicks are perfect for holding small foods and I'm sure I wouldn't mind having some for myself. Even though I'm an adult I sometimes find myself looking for those cute animal picks to have some blueberries too!
Wednesday - Meatballs with pasta, green beans and mushrooms
The other day I decided to make some meatballs using the Mighty Spark Food ground bruschetta mix. I love this brand because it has the most delicious and creative meat products I've ever seen and I haven't tried one that I haven't liked!
With 2 lbs of ground meat I did a batch of meatballs which I separated in two portions - I froze one of the portions for quick weeknight dinners and I cooked the rest of the meatballs to have during this week. I was even able to get two hamburger patties out of this amount of meat and I decided to freeze them in my Tupperware container that I used for my "Salmon cakes two ways" that you can find here.
For this lunch I sauteed some mushrooms in olive oil and seasoned them with salt, pepper and fresh thyme. I had some leftover cooked pasta and I added some cooked green beans - to make sure that the pasta wouldn't become sticky in the container I decided to give it a toss in a pan adding just a bit of olive oil.
After everything was cooked it was just a matter of assembling everything in the little lunchbox compartments. I also added some tomato sauce as a dip for the meatballs, fresh carrots and some black olives. Honeydew melon was already cut up so I just added that too.
Thursday - Black eyed pea tuna salad with a hard boiled egg
My son LOVES this salad! Although this is my daughter's lunchbox I'm using some favorites from both of them so I can give you a better notion about the meals we eat as a family. It's such a simple recipe and it keeps pretty well in the fridge for 3-4 days, just make sure to season it when you're serving it and not before.
I used one can of tuna and that was enough for four portions of salad, which is pretty good! In a large bowl I added the tuna, a can of black eyed peas, some freshly chopped parsley and diced peppers (I used a mix of orange and red to keep it colorful).
At the time of serving or putting the salad in the lunchbox add a bit of olive oil and salt. I added extra protein with a hard boiled egg and also kept the salad theme with some romaine lettuce leaves, cherry tomatoes, black olives and fresh cucumber. I used a cutter to get that fish shape and it just took me a couple of minutes, using the already sliced cucumber that I had in the fridge.
For fruit today we chose two clementines.
Friday - Peanut butter and jelly sandwich with veggie chips
The last lunch of the week was more a mainstream one! The kids weren't used to having sandwiches for lunch back in Portugal but now they like to have them for lunch, once in a while. Today I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with some whole grain seeded bread and used a puzzle shaped cutter to cut out little pieces of the sandwich. I really have to get the accessory sandwich tray for this yumbox because it is way more spacious to fit a whole sandwich than this one!
I added some veggies chips from this brand that we like. I always look at the ingredient list and try to choose a snack option that represents "the less of two evils"! I limit the processed food my kids have in a week but they need to have some chips that they can have and as long as we take note of what is eaten and in what amounts, I think it is perfectly fine. A balanced diet is the final goal, not total deprivation!
I'll be working on a blog post about snacks that I buy for my family and what options you have if you're looking to get your kids on a healthier lifestyle. It's good to have, at least 4-5 options from which they can choose what to have in their lunch.
For veggies today I added fresh celery sticks with ranch dressing. That's another important issue - choosing dressings that are made with all natural ingredients and no added sugar, so that we and our children can enjoy them without not only the guilt but also the unhealthy consequences. I like the Tessamaes "Organic Creamy Ranch" which I buy maybe 2 bottles a year. We don't use much as you can tell but the kids like to dip their veggies on it, once in a while.
For fruit we had green seedless grapes and also some mixed nuts.
I hope you liked my suggestions and that this post was an inspiration to get some freshness and healthy ideas in your kids' lunches and yours too! I would love to get some feedback from all you moms and dads out there that struggle with packing lunches for school:
What information do you need to get your packing routine smoother?
Would you like to see more of our weekly menus?
What about a shopping list with all the ingredients needed for this or other week of school lunches?
Let me know about your ideas and questions in the comments below or send me an email with all this questions! I can't wait to read them and find out all about your needs so I can try to help you through some very simple and easy tips that we can all do in our homes to make our children eat better but without too much stress!
A couple of weeks ago was "Small Business Week" in Scotch Plains. As I've previously mentioned I used to have a small business when we were living back in Portugal - a beauty store that sold cosmetics and perfumes. I loved the "people" aspect of having my own store. Getting to know people and recommending the best products for them was something that I truly loved and enjoyed. With that usually came a more personal conversation and, eventually, I became friend with a LOT of my costumers.
I always try to remember that when I have to buy something now and, even though, I don't do it as often as I would like to I made an effort this past week to buy locally. In Scotch Plains we have Park Avenue which is filled with businesses, from beauty services to an amazing butcher, different kinds of restaurants and small shops. There is also East Second Street with a good amount of shops and services, so if you happen to have some time available, please, look around and enjoy the great spring weather while browsing through our local community businesses.
My mindset was to try and get my produce and meat shopping done here instead of doing it at the supermarket. It was also a fun way to get to know places where I had never gone before and it was an excellent opportunity to meet great people and to see some of them back again.
I started my produce round on Monday - I try to always meal plan and to get everything I need for the whole week as early as Monday or Tuesday. I went to "Tom the Green Grocer" after looking the place up online and thinking that it had a good variety of produce and some extra grocery items that I was going to need. I also noticed their plant and flower section which was just blooming with different colors and varieties - what a great way to start the day!
I was also looking for a place to get great quality, organic, certified meat and I decided to, finally, check out "John's Meat Market". Every time I'd go to the farmers market on Saturdays I would say to myself "I have to check that place out!" but convenience has spoken louder for me and supermarket butcher has been the most easy and fast choice. Not from now on, it won't!
That same week happened to be "Teachers Appreciation Week" and I called my Brazilian friend Desire at "Oba Brazil" to get me some small Acai Bowls to offer my children's' teacher at school. It was great because, due to the nuts allergy situation, Desire was able to get me the bowls with just the Acai and the fresh fruit, without the nut portion that is usually included! You can personalize your order and you can be sure that, at Oba Brazil they will make sure that you get exactly what you ask for. Also, I was still on the soft diet and I didn't get the chance to buy some of the amazing appetizers that you can find there, like the "coxinhas" which are amazing! Can't wait to have those again!
Another place that I went to is a favorite of my kids and husband who have a pretty active sweet tooth! "The Swiss Chocolate Shoppe" at East Second Street has a great variety of baked goods and bread and you can also have a cup of coffee while you're there. The kids got some decorated cookies and I also bought some raisin scones. Will go back, for sure.
Last but not least, I have to mention a place where I go twice weekly - the 'Robert's Dry Cleaners", also on East Second Street. I love when people always great me with a smile and a happy face and that happens here every single time!
Tom's Green Grocer
I was surprised when I got to the parking lot with the variety of flowers and plants. Talk about a great greeting card! I entered the store and the first though was the the space really was a bit hidden from plain sight. It's a small store and, maybe because of all the flowers outside which make it grand the inside of the store really is peculiar. I was greeted by the cashier, a very nice gentleman that made sure that I was comfortable enough to ask for help, if I needed to.
There is a wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetables and, once again, the colorful aspect really brings the store alive. I came home with tomatoes, potatoes, bananas and some apples. There is also a good range of pantry item like pasta, jar sauces, spices and snacks.
There's a section of ready made food which is super convenient when you're in a tight spot on those busy weekdays! Soups, stews, pasta dishes and vegetables you can choose from a well stocked supply! The sandwiches are also famous, as I've noticed from reading the reviews online. There are several choices between sandwiches ($5.95 - $9.95), wraps ($6.95 - $7.95), Panini ($6.95 - $8.95) and salads ($6.95 - $7.95) with several different dressing to choose from.
I don't usually buy prepared food because I really like to cook and I'm used to it. I'm sure that I'll need something quick by summer time and I'll be sure to check some of these options because they really looked tasty. There was also a selection of baked goods and tarts and I bought a salad fruit cup for the kids' school snack for the next day and I also grabbed a scone for the husband on my way out.
The service was great and everyone was very nice which is a really important aspect in a local store where people need to feel welcome!
John's Meat Market
This was a place that was planning on visiting for a very long time. Getting my diet on track, first with the Whole30 and now with the Paleo approach lead me to look for healthier and safer choices, both in the produce department and in the protein department. Making sure that I buy good quality fish meat and eggs has become a priority so buying certified meat on a renounced establishment like this one seemed the perfect choice. This butcher has been in Scotch Plains since 1939 and has costumers that, even tough have moved to other towns, still come back to get their meat and that says a lot to me about the trust that I can put on this business.
I met Mr. Vinnie (I hope it's the right spelling!) who made me feel utterly welcome and confident enough to ask for advice when choosing my meat products. Please feel free to ignore my messy hair (don't care!) or lack of make-up because when I'm around on my daily errands I'm really in a hurry and just really don't care about how I get it done! I had a great time at the butcher, I'll tell you that!
So, the first thing I did was to look around the store to get a general idea of what they offer. After all, this butcher was voted NJ's best butcher 4 wears in a row, I really have been missing something! They have the "regular"meat but there are also pre-marinated meats and separate marinades for those who prefer to do it on the spot, which is a great idea!
There are also several varieties of sausages, hamburgers, including veggie burgers, duck, organ meat, quail, lamb and oxtails, for example! I mean, I could be here and pick one of each and I'd be a pretty happy cook! Just looking at the meat you can see that it really is fresh, the color is something that is not altered here and what you see is what you get.
There's the freezer section where you can find something for everyone. I got my eye on the buffalo steak (which I never had), the rabbit (which we used to eat frequently back in Portugal, with slow cooked rice) and the rack of lamb. With so many choices I just kept thinking about the delicious meat dishes I could cook up and it felt amazingly perfect to have such a gem in our community. I'm really sure that I'll come back in a couple of weeks, after finishing what I've bought on this shopping trip.
One of the things I was looking for just bumped into me at the counter! I have a weekly budget for grocery shopping which includes everything from food to cleaning products. I wanted to start using a third of that to buy the protein every couple of weeks and try that system to see how it would work out. Would it be enough? Would I spend more? If so, I'd at least know that it was good sourced meat and that would be fine by me.
With that in mind I found out that this butcher has several pre-made packs in the sense that you have a particular set of cuts of meat that comes out a little more economical than if you would get your meat items separably. This was the perfect opportunity for me to try out that plan - I already had some beef at home and what I really needed was chicken, so I bought the "Chicken for days package" which seemed perfect for what we usually eat at our house.
As I'm writing this blog post we already had the whole chicken (roasted chicken with potatoes and veggies, over the weekend), the chicken sausages (I grilled them and they were amazingly delicious - will get some in the future, definitely!), half of the bone in breast (I cooked it in the InstantPot and made some chicken soup) and half the chicken cutlets (very tasty and juicy, the kids loved them). The verdict can only be one - 100% approved and will get back next week to try some of the cuts that I got curious about.
Also, I love meat organ, which is one of the richest cuts of meat you can eat so I'll be sure to ask for cows liver, kidney, heart and tongue. It might sound strange but I was used to eating this foods since I was a kid. My mom used to make a braised cows tongue with a tomato and vegetable sauce which was to die for. I'll make sure to ask her the recipe to see if I can cook it up for my kids - they have tried it but I don't know if they remember it. It will be nice to cook something familiar and with such a sentimental value since this was one of my comfort foods growing up.
Moving on there are other packages, like the BBQ one which is perfect for the Memorial Day Weekend that's coming up! Also, the "Cooking in a Pinch Already Prepared" is perfect for people who have little time to cook and need something really quick, yet delicious, to put on their plate! I'm sure that, even if you don't like or want something on the package they'll try to accommodate your request and change it for something of an approximate price.
I had my eyes on an "oxtail package" and was glad to bring it with a well received discount from Mr. Vinnie! The attention to detail was another thing that made me love this place from the first minute I stepped in and the fact that they even helped me bring the meat to the car was another charming and promising sign. Loved the personalized service and, in my opinion, it's the image of perfect costumer service.
There is also the deli section with different kinds of cheese, hams and bacon and also a refrigerated section with soups, cooked meats and fast choices, like crab cakes or chicken tenders.
I really hope that I was able to capture the soul of this business and its personal core because when you buy meat you need the perfect assistance and I really found that here, at "John's Meat Market". I would love to know if you were already a costumer or if, by reading this blog post, you became curious enough to go there and give it a try!
If you leave in Scotch Plains, please, comment and show these businesses some love!
"John's Meat Market" is located at 389 Park Ave, in Scotch Plains and can be reached on the following telephone number: (908) 322-7126.
For "Teachers Appreciation Week" I decided to call my friend Desire at "Oba Brazil" after noticing, on the business's Instagram feed that she had done some Acai bowls for her daughter's school. I thought it was a great idea and something out of the ordinary to gift the teachers! Also, it was healthy and something that I thought would be more personal. The only thing was that I had to ask to skip the nuts, for allergy issues, and Desiree had these beautiful and delicious bowls delivered at my doorstep!
Personal service at its best!
When someone goes above and beyond to make sure that the service is well done it shows the commitment level and I was really appreciated for the last minute arrangements and for the adorable bowls that I got to offer my kids' teacher and aid.
Thank you, Desire!
You can visit "Oba Brazil" at 2507 Route 22 West.
Besides the Acai bowls you can choose from smoothies and yummy appetizers like "coxinhas" which are delicious chicken appetizers or "pao de queijo"or cheese bread, so good!!!!
Also, make sure to check their Instagram feed so you can look at some beautiful creations with healthy and refreshing ingredients!
The Swiss Chocolate Shoppe
I had only been at this pastry shop a couple of times in the almost three years that we've lived here, in Scotch Plains. We loved it, at the time, specially the kids! The pastries were really good and there was a pretty good variety. We just ended up not going out looking for pastries mainly because I usually bake something at home. This time I got some cookies for the kids and a couple of raisin scones.
I went there in the morning and there was a line at the door! It's always a good sign when you have people lining up at a store, it can only mean that the products are good! There were people ordering pastries to go, some ordering to eat in and I order to go too - I gave up gluten after discovering that it was my trigger for migraines so what I bough was for the rest of the family.
Of course the family loved everything I got and they even asked if they could go the next time! As you can see from the pictures they have several kinds of pastries, donuts, muffins and cupcakes. They also sell cookies, cakes and several kinds of bread and bagels.
Everything looked fresh and was very well presented.
The "Swiss Chocolate Shoppe" is located at 1711 East 2nd Street, Scotch Plains and can be reached by phone at the following number: (908) 322-4751.
This is the dry cleaner that I usually go to and I'm pretty satisfied with their service. Every time I go there they are super nice and polite, always asking about my kids and they also pay attention to detail which I think is a must in this particular kind of service.
I don't have anything negative to say about them, just positive input!
If you're looking for a new place to switch this is a great choice.
They are located at 1832 East 2nd Street, in Scotch Plains with the phone number (908) 322 6538.
These were my picks of the week and, as you can see for yourself, we DO have a good variety of local businesses and we CAN help our community by shopping local.
Where are you going to be shopping during this next week?
I really can not believe week 4 of my first Whole30 is over! Only two more days to get to the finish line and it's becoming even more natural to eat this way. I've come to the point where I don't even think about bread! Of course I like it but I've been feeling so good without it that I'm almost afraid of what it may do to me during the reintroduction phase. But...one thing at a time!
As some of you may know I'm going to have laser gum surgery performed on Wednesday. That might be a challenge but I've prepped this next week in a somewhat different way. I've cooked and frozen some soups to have during the days when I'll only be able to have liquids and then I'll add some really soft food when that time comes: guacamole, mashed potatoes, applesauce, mashed banana. At least, having prepped for a bit gives me a sense of calm and I don't feel stressed about not having compliant food available. I also have some Zupanoma soups to try, that I've gotten through an Instagram giveaway - can't wait to try those!
I've chosen some pretty basic soups that would end up with a very creamy texture because I'll be having them as the only item of my meal. I used bone broth in all of them, to get even more goodness out of these great soups:
With this being said I do feel nervous about this surgery and that has affected my mood by the end of the week. I usually keep it all together pretty well but with something like this I always fear that something might not go so well and...well. I rather just move on to the food journal!
I hope these pictures help other people to get ideas for meals that come a bit out of their usual menu - getting varied foods is key to keep food boredom away. I know you must be tired of hearing me say that but it really is true! So, inspire yourself and take a look at my week 4 food journal!
riced cauliflower rice with kale and salmon (leftovers from another breakfast) +
1/2 avocado +
1 fried egg, in ghee +
roasted potato wedges +
1 slice of diced pineapple
Romaine lettuce with green goddess dressing, from TJ's +
1 roasted potato +
5 kalamata olives +
grilled Verde Farms steak strips +
sauteed spinach +
roasted red pepper sauce +
seedless green grapes
roasted chicken breast +
roasted asparagus +
roasted red cabbage and cauliflower +
1 Tbsp spicy salsa +
5 kalamata olives +
1 cup roasted tomato soup
2 fried eggs, in ghee +
1 spiralized zucchini sauteed in a bit of olive oil +
roasted potato wedges +
1 sliced apple with 1 tbsp almond butter
steamed spaghetti squash (1/3 of a whole squash) +
ground turkey with marinara sauce +
6 kalamata olives +
roasted asparagus +
ground turkey with cabbage and carrots +
1 bacon strip +
1 cup of roasted tomato soup
1 grilled chicken thigh +
roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon +
roasted green beans +
butternut squash roasted ribbons +
1 banana with 1 Tbsp almond butter
Leftover chicken with mushrooms and tomato (Instant Pot recipe) +
roasted asparagus +
roasted potato wedges +
5 kalamata olives +
roasted butternut squash ribbons +
1 grilled peach (just on the grill, on the stove top, no fat needed)
ground turkey with marinara sauce +
sauteed spinach +
cauliflower rice with salmon and kale (leftover) +
1 roasted potato +
roasted green beans with almonds +
2 scrambled eggs, in ghee +
1 sliced pear with cinnamon and a few more almonds
This time I left some food on the plate, first time ever! I feel I'm starting to get full with less food. I left 1/2 of the potato and 1/3 of the green beans with almonds.
steamed spaghetti squash (1/3 of a whole squash) +
1 small grilled chicken thigh +
roasted red pepper sauce +
roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon bits +
freshly chopped parsley +
1 sliced apple with 1 Tbsp almond butter
Chicken stew with mushrooms and tomato +
roasted rainbow carrots +
roasted broccoli +
Romaine lettuce with TJ's green goddess dressing +
grilled mushrooms and zucchini +
1 grilled spicy sausage, from TJ's +
1 sliced apple with 1 Tbsp almond butter
Steamed spaghetti squash (1/3 of a whole spaghetti squash) +
roasted pepper tomato sauce +
roasted Brussels sprouts +
5 kalamata olives +
5 pieces of grilled plantain (just on the grill, no fat needed) +
1 grilled chili lime burger from TJ's (delicious!) +
1 TJ's chili-lime burger +
steamed bok choy +
leftover rainbow carrots and onions +
1 dollop of guacamole
roasted Brussels sprouts and green beans +
2 fried eggs, in ghee +
1 sliced pear +
1 bowl of Whole30 chili, from this recipe +
1 dollop of guacamole +
This was the perfect example that having Whole30 frozen meals is a must when you commit to the program. I had to go with my daughter to a birthday party and got home past 2 PM. I was really hungry but all I had to do was put the chili in the microwave and get it really hot, just like I like it!
1 TJ's chili-lime burger +
leftover roasted rainbow carrots +
leftover roasted Brussels sprouts and green beans +
6 kalamata olives
sauteed kale +
1 apple spicy sausage +
butternut squash +
1 pear +
1 Tbsp almond butter
1 bowl of carrot and turmeric soup with pepitas +
1 TJ's chili-lime burger +
1 Tbsp TJ's vegan pesto +
romaine lettuce +
1 radish +
1 Tbsp Tessamae's balsamic vinaigrette +
1 cup of roasted butternut squash soup +
2 slices of grilled bacon +
1 small slice of grilled pork tenderloin +
roasted asparagus +
1 pack of Seasnax roasted seaweed
As always, I had two coffees during the day - one at breakfast and the other one after lunch. I also kept taking my collagen peptides daily and used bone broth in my cooking to help our gut health and include some more natural goodness into our daily routine.
My three meals are done in three different sized plates: breakfast is the largest meal of the day, on a regular plate, lunch is served either on a soup plate or a cereal bowl and dinner is served on a dessert plate, sometimes paired by a cup of soup.
Mood and emotions:
Although I didn't have any negative feelings due to the Whole30 food choices I felt a bit crankier and stressed, thinking about next week's surgery. It was always on the back of my mind and ended up affecting how I felt all through the week. I didn't have any sugar cravings and I think for me that was a non existent issue from the start - I've never been a sweet tooth.
my energy level was a bit lower than usual which was also related to the stress I felt. Other than that I feel that I'm becoming more confident about myself and with my body which is a major issue for me. That dependency on the scale is also something that I still fight and, ultimately, I need to end it! I know that the number on the scale doesn't represent ME but I keep longing to see it - that must end! If I feel good, energetic and more confident about myself I mustn't need a scale in my life! So I guess the topic "less reliance on the scale" really isn't a check for me. Working on it...life long habits are hard to quit!
Physical changes (visible):
My skin is looking great and I haven't had any blemishes, not even during my period week! My hair is shinier, healthier and I don't end up with a brush full of hair every time I comb it! It really is a huge NSV and I wouldn't think that changing what I eat would affect my hair like that.
My clothes foot better and I feel confident wearing clothes that I wouldn't before starting the Whole30 program. I've tried on a couple of jeans that were thigh and now they're loose - I need to get a belt...or new jeans!
Physical changes (inside)
As in the last three weeks I haven't felt any joint or back pain and I'm always ready to do something. I feel more active and I haven't had any migraine after the couple I had last week, during my period. That's the most important NSV for me, right now! Only 2 migraines in 28 days is epic! I can't wait to find out which foods trigger my migraines...I have a suspect, let's find out during the reintroduction phase!
Food and behaviors:
I really have a new relationship with food, there's no question about it. I don't even consider snacking because I'm always focusing on building my meals according to the template. This way I can keep satisfied until my next meal without needing to eat something. Good fats keep you full longer. Everything is well!
I don't feel the need to eat that "little something" after dinner, as my husband calls it! He still has it but even that, which used to bother me at first, doesn't affect me at all. If he eats something I'll just ignore it, I don't need it, I'm not hungry. If I were hungry I'd eat a mini meal which would take care of my nutritional needs not my sugar dragon! I'listening to my body and I'm in charge of what I feed my body - choosing the right foods has been such an eye opener to me! I no longer need a reward in the form of food for anything...
Sleep and energy:
I feel that I have a much more deeper sleep that I used to have and I continue to wake up every morning with lots of energy and positive thinking. I fall asleep more easily except for this past night which was stress related, as I've already described in the beginning. Maybe I'll try some yoga tonight, to try and calm down before going to bed. That wouldn't hurt and would only calm me down, so it seemed like the perfect choice! Yoga it is!
Lifestyle and social:
My kids keep watching make this transition in our diet and they have been following along on some things. They still have bread, milk and sometimes cereal but they are attentive to the ingredients list of each item which I find curious! Funny enough, my son started making some remarks about my husband's snack choices, that was a fun thing to see! As of this moment they don't have any allergies or food sensitivities that I know of so I don't feel like restricting their daily diet any further. They are conscious about what food choices are good and what are not so good and we try to balance it all during our daily routine as a family.
As I've said on my previous weekly food journal I'm thinking about having some blood work done after finishing the Whole30 but before starting reintroduction. Because I'm having this surgery on Wednesday that could influence the results, I'll wait for, at least, another 20 days or so to do the tests and then start with the reintroduction. I'll keep posting a weekly food journal and I'm really curious to know about trigger foods!
I'm also taking a test to assess my sensitivity to 300 foods and nutrients which will be interesting to compare with my reintroduction results. I'll tell you all abut it as soon as I get those results back.
Until next week, keep cooking and trying new things as long as they're compliant, if you're on a Whole30 journey!
This past week I've been busy gathering recipes that i'll be coking for my first Whole30, during the month of February. I think the most dramatic change for me will be not being allowed to eat bread (my staple breakfast item!) and changing that for vegetables in the morning. Besides that I'm proud to say that, in my home, we always had a pretty good balance in our diet, with fruits, vegetables and proteins in the right amounts. The issues come to when they tell you that nothing that you eat can have sugar - at that moment you're thinking something along the lines of "I'll just cut back on the sweet treats"!
Well, it's not that simple!
Almost everything we eat nowadays has sugar in it, as long as it is a processed food. Deli meats, marinades and sauces, some spices and flavoring mixes. The purpose of the Whole30 program is to eat clean and that will be what I'll be doing for 30 days; my blog posts will have to be centered on wholesome and natural recipes which will be a good challenge that I welcome with open arms! I'm doing this to get the sugar out of my system and to try and figure out which food groups act as triggers to some issues I've been having such as migraines, inflammation and joint pain.
With that in mind I've already started changing some things in my diet so that when January 29th comes, which will be the first day of the Whole30 program, the change won't feel so dramatic. I've also started stocking up on some essentials like compliant bacon and sausage! Who can live without those, right?!
I started my Monday grocery shopping at Whole Foods. This was my third time there because, although it really is an expensive place to shop, I find that some items can only be found there. I was pleased to see that they had organic rainbow carrots and I decided, right there and then, to roast some carrots and then do something bright and nutritious with them. They had such a vibrant and beautiful color that I couldn't resist! Further down the aisle I found the perfect pairing for the carrots - organic purple kale! I had never seen such kale so I picked it up and an image of a salad bowl came to my mind and that was that, a salad bowl was going to be built that morning, in my kitchen!
I hurried to finish the rest of my shopping trip and ran over to the supermarket next door for some basic ingredients that I'm going to be needing for a seafood soup. Some shrimp, monkish, fresh and frozen fruit for my morning smoothies made up the rest of the list.
The first thing I did was to roast the carrots. I stated by washing them thoroughly, brushing them with a vegetable brush and holding them under running water. I patted them dry, cut some of the extremities and left the others and placed them on a lined baking sheet. I sprayed the carrots with olive oil and seasoned with pink salt, black pepper, garlic powder and dry thyme. Baked the carrots in a 400 F oven for about 40 minutes.
After roasting the carrots it was only a mater of getting all the other ingredients prepped and I just had to assemble the salad bowl. I love easy and quick lunches that don't take much time to prepare but are packed with flavor and nutrients!
1 - The first step is to roast the carrots, according to the instructions given previously. Let the carrots cool down for a couple of minutes and slice three of them to use in the salad. I sliced all of them and reserved in an air tight container in the fridge to use during the week with some of my other meals.
2 - Wash the purple kale and pat it dry with some paper towel. Arrange it on the bottom of the bowl as it is going to be the base for the salad bowl.
3 - Add the other ingredients alongside the borders of the bowl so everything fits nicely - half of an avocado (without the peel, of course!), the tuna, the olives, the carrots, the almonds.and the hard boiled egg cut in two halves.
4 - In a small glass container mix all the ingredients for the dressing and shake them vigorously. Pour it all over the salad so every bit of vegetable gets some of this deliciously tasty dressing!
Doesn't it feel like summer just by looking at this gorgeous salad?
I love incorporating all kinds of veggies in my salads so they don't get boring - there's nothing like a boring salad! Just keep switching the ingredients, try unexpected flavor combos and you'll find a whole new universe of options out there to make your lunchtime fun, colorful and nutritiously challenging!
Oh, my! Let me tell you all about my impromptu visit to Trader Joe's on Friday.
We were just finishing the first week of school - well the first couple of says of school, actually, because the kids had a single session day on Wednesday and then it was just Thursday and Friday! We were running low on fresh fruit and instead of running to my usual produce spot I headed to Trader Joe's, and I'm so glad I did!
I LOVE figs! Back in Portugal it was one of those fruits that whenever was in season I would eat a lot of it because it has always been a favorite of mine. Fresh, preserved, just as is, on deserts, with yogurt, I just can't have enough of these amazingly sweet delights! When we were in Portugal, back in August, I had the chance to eat a few because I hadn't seen figs at a reasonable price here in the US, at all!
Well, I just ran into a sweet price at Trader Joe's - 2 lbs / $5.49!!!
Well, I didn't even think about it, I just grabbed a package and started thinking about what I was going to make with the figs as soon as I'd get home! I was feeling like having a light lunch so I decided to go with a salad - after spotting some promising pecans I picked them up to and drew the "project" in my mind. I love shopping for produce and at the same time thinking about what I'm going to do with it!
Here are the ingredients I used:
I'm not going to list quantities because I used enough to fill a salad bowl and didn't measure anything. Just went with the flow and it turned out to be an amazingly simple and tasty lunch. This is what I think works better for salads: fill the bowl half way up with greens and then just add your remaining ingredients and the seasoning.
I just started the salad by filling a salad bowl with the arugula and seasoning it with a bit of salt. I, then, started building up the salad with the rest of the ingredients: clementines, the figs (washed and cut in rings), the blueberries and the pecans. I topped it off with some date syrup and sprinkled some sesame seeds for texture.
Perfectly balanced and just enough sweetness to balance the tart flavor of the arugula. The date syrup works perfectly and I will be using it as a dressing often.
This turned out to be an exciting event for me and now I know where to find more figs for next week!
For my first post on this new blog I cannot think of anything better than to talk about where all my meals start: FRESH PRODUCE!
We usually eat a lot of home cooked meals and I always try to make sure that I feed my family with care and love. This means looking up ways to incorporate the most veggies I can in our daily meals. I want everyone getting their share of vitamins and essential nutrients for the day!
A typical week starts with my Monday morning farmers market trip. I am lucky enough to know a great place that has amazing produce, some of them organic, at a great price. They always have fresh options because they get them delivered everyday.
I focus on the seasonal items and I try to stock up on them if they are at a very low price. For instance, I've been buying extra berries which I then wash and freeze as soon as I get home. We love them on smoothies, oatmeal or in parfaits with Greek yogurt and nuts!
This also applies to vegetables. Today I bought cauliflowers - they were 2 for $3 which is an awesome deal! I'm roasting one of them this week and ill make some cauliflower rice out of the other one and freeze it to use next week.
My kids are now 6 and 8 years old and they have always eaten their daily dose of freshness. Nothing better than to start early in age: they always ate the same as us, parents, and they enjoy it! Cheers to them!
Three days ago I bought everything on the picture above and today I already had to stock up again! I usually choose one of the proteins I have at hand and then I pair it with the veggies that I got and that suit the dish the most.
There is never a boring meal at our house!
This was my shopping trip from this week!
Will you care to share yours with me?