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Week 3: Spring 2012 30-Day Real Food Challenge

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It’s week 3! You’re more than halfway through the ‘hardest’ part of your transition from Standard American diet to actual, nutritious, delicious, home cooked real food.

For most of you, other than some annoying coworkers and the occasional bought of sadness over all of the beer that’s not being drank by you at the bar, most of you seem to have been having a pretty easy time making this transition. Crock pots are cooking, ovens are on, and grilling outside is soon to become a weekly, if not daily occurrence.

This challenge is one of the easiest yet because the amount of information, recipes and support out there is at an all-time high. And its growing.  We are no longer embarking on a ‘risky diet’ that no one understands. Instead, our doctors, family members and coworkers are taking notice and joining us.

This ‘real food revolution’ has been brewing (stop thinking about beer) for quite some time now. Robb Wolf, one of the smartest and loudest voices in the Paleo community started his work about 15 years ago.  Finally, it’s gaining traction, it’s making sense to other people, and most importantly, it’s starting to be recognized by the medical community  (<—looking for a new doctor? Check this out!). It’s going to take years (decades, probably) for the greater medical community to recognize and fix their errors and for the general public to knock ‘low fat & hearty healthy whole grains’ out of their brains, but we’re making progress every day.

What can you do to help?

1. Know your stuff.  When someone says – “What about your cholesterol?” or “Saturated fat clogs your arteries. You might get heart disease” or “You aren’t getting enough calcium without dairy.”  do you know how to answer? If not, please check out some of the articles and podcasts that we list here, and on Free Paleo, a comprehensive collection of all relevant Paleo resources out there today. This way of eating (which used to be the ONLY way of eating, BTW) is based on hard science. It’s nothing new. It’s just new to you and to other people who’ve been steered in the wrong direction.

2. Lead by example. More about this next week will be written next week when we discuss what to do after the 30 days. But for the rest of these 30 days, the best thing you can do is to stick to your original plan of eating and drinking 100% ‘real’, and working toward your goals.

By ‘doing’ and not just simply ‘talking’,  you’ll be taking yourself one step closer each day to becoming the happy,healthy, energetic person you want to be, and the people around you will notice. Instead of giving them unsolicited advice about what they should or shouldn’t be eating, wait for them to come to you and ask. The hardest people to talk to are the ones that don’t want to be helped.  (<—Read that article. It’s really good.)

3. Vote with your dollar. This weekend, coconut milk was sold out at Whole Foods & Wegmans. Coconut aminos were also out. Coconut oil was sold out at Trader Joe’s the last time I went, and yesterday, sunflower seed butter was sold out. Did I miss national coconut day? OR could our 70 challengers, plus the other local real-foodies be causing a shift in availability of certain items and eventual restocking/purchasing habits of major stores? If we continue to use our money to buy real food and real ingredients, leaving more packaged foods on the shelves, we will send a message to the food manufacturers, suppliers, and to the stores. We Want Real Food.  (<–sign that)

This Spring-Fall, take it one step further and start doing the bulk of your grocery shopping at the local Farmer’s Markets or join a CSA. Being in the Garden State, we are lucky to have easy access to so many fresh fruits, vegetables and Grassfed meat/free roaming chickens. Take advantage!

Please post your comments, questions and thoughts to the comments section of this post!

Discussion Topics for this week:

1. Have you noticed any weight loss?

2. What’s your favorite real food recipe so far?

3. What would you bring to a party to ensure that you had something to eat while you were hanging out?

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41 Responses to Week 3: Spring 2012 30-Day Real Food Challenge

  1. Eric A. says:

    Weight loss has been painfully s-l-o-w. My joints feel better, and my acid reflux has been M.I.A. for the last two weeks, which are two great results. But lets face it, diets are hard to stick to when the scale doesn’t seem to want to budge. That has probably been my toughest mental hurdle. It is hard to justify not going out to the bar when it doesn’t seem to matter either way on the scale. On the other hand, I’m sure I’m just being an impatient brat!

    My favorite food has to be what I made yesterday. I concocted a paleo BBQ sauce and made some BBQ pulled pork, and paired that with a salad and one of those fancy bacon fat cooked sweet potatoes.

    I haven’t crossed the whole party hurdle yet, I’ve made it clear to my friends that I’m in hiding until June 9th.

    Have a good week 3, people :)

  2. Jon says:

    I had a 3 pound weight loss at one point, but this morning I was back up a bit. Not really worried about that – I think my weight generally fluctuates. My body may have been reacting to my 10 mile run yesterday by storing everything in sight ;) I didn’t take any before pictures but I’ve been told I’m looking leaner. I still feel sluggish and somewhat weaker at times but I imagine the transition will take some time.

    My palate is relatively simple – I’m really enjoying the grass-fed steaks rather than any of the more elaborate recipes I’ve tried :)

    As for parties – I don’t think I’d worry as much about what I bring to the party but I’d rather focus on eating a good meal ahead of time. I usually can control my urges, especially if I’m already satisfied.

    I don’t know if this is true for others, but the information we got at the seminar and from the links above is what really helps me stick to this plan. Maybe it’s because I’m a geek, but having a better understanding of what insulin does or what function fat plays in my diet really clobbers any desire to eat a donut ;)

  3. Alycia says:

    Patience is a virtue. If you are seeing signs of symptoms going away, then that’s a clear indication that you were eating foods that your body wasn’t reacting well to. And you’re much healthier on the inside due to the dietary changes.
    For some people, 30 days just isn’t long enough to erase 30 years of bad eating. Keep with it, and maybe use Wodify to track your food and send it to a Nutrition coach for a review. There might be some things that we can tweak to help kickstart some weight loss.
    Also, I’m not sure about your stress levels or sleep, but if either are suffering, your weight loss will be dramatically slowed, if it happens at all.
    Try sleeping 1 extra hour each night this week, and removing all fruit (if you are eating any now) and keeping nuts to a minimum. See if that helps at all. replace those fruit/nut snacks with protein &fat.

  4. Dan Fisher says:

    Hey everyone. Hope you’re all doing well and had a good weekend. It was nice to meet and chat with some other members of the gym on Friday night at the potluck. The food was great and Jaclyn and I are both looking forward to the next one on the 18th.

    I think my favorite new recipe so far has been “better butter chicken” from Everyday Paleo. It’s easy to make and the spices and flavor are great.

    We haven’t been dining out much lately or had any social obligations which would make the challenge difficult, but it was hard not to devour the soft pretzels, chips, and cookie bars handed out after the Broad Street Run yesterday. Thankfully there was a banana, an orange and plenty of water to hold us off before we got some post run chipotle. I pretty much went face first into double barbacoa, double carnitas, with veggies and guac. It was worth the wait.

    For those who asked on friday night, here are the recipes for the barbacoa and chocolate snack cakes that we brought to the potluck. (although delicious and challenge friendly, if you’re looking to curb your sweet tooth and break some habits, save the snack cakes for after the 30 day as advised by Alycia)


    What we’ve learned from making the barbacoa a few times;

    Depending on the size and power of your slow cooker you may need to adjust the recipe. I don’t quarter the meat or trim the fat. I used a 4lb grass fed chuck roast. I also cooked on low for 8 hours after quickly browning the roast in a large skillet. When it was done I removed most of the excess sauce from the top of the meat (it can be VERY spicy). I shredded the beef with two forks on a large serving dish and then slowly added back the juices remaining in the slow cooker until evenly distributed. We’ve made this recipe several times. You can substitute the the canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce with dried chipotles and tomato paste, but beware these peppers can be much spicier!

  5. Brianna says:

    Paleo Potluck was a lot of fun and there was so many new recipes that I want to try. Dan thanks for posting the barbacoa recipe, I am going to try that this week.

    As far as weight loss… I have not stepped on a scale since the end of the paleo challenge we had in October. I use to be obsessed with weighing myself (like literally everyday) so I have tried to get over the number on the scale. I usually just know by how my clothes are fitting. And as of now clothes are fitting well, so that is a good sign.

    My favorite real food recipe right now would probably be the Balsamic Winter Throw Together Bake. I could eat this for breakfast, lunch and dinner http://paleomg.com/balsamic-winter-throw-bake/

    I did have a lunch meeting for a non profit I work with and they asked me what we should do for lunch some people there eat paleo others do not. So we compromised and had Taco’s. Everyone brought something and it was easy to keep it paleo, I had lots of meat, lettuce, tomatoes, guac. and salsa!

    WEEK 3 …. HERE WE GO!!!!

  6. Blair says:

    So I discovered parsnip fries tonight and may be slightly addicted. I have a feeling these fall into a category with sweet potatoes- an after workout kind of thing?

    Also, is it possible to eat too many veggies?? I ate about half (if not more) of an eggplant today in addition to my usual veggies. I’m just wondering because I eat wayyy more than a couple of cups of veggies a day.

    Favorite recipes- anything easy I’ve been dicing up eggplant and covering it with pasta sauce (challenge approved of course) and just throwing it in the oven. Pretty much any combination of veggies cooked in kerrygold is amazing. Another favorite- brussels sprouts, zucchini,
    mushrooms, cauliflower rice, and bacon.

  7. Ashley says:

    The balsamic winter throw together bake is absolutely amazing….might need to make this again this week!

    As far as weight loss, I am on the same page as Eric-I think since I actually increased my food intake, and especially intake of meats, I don’t feel any leaner yet….hoping that this is just taking my body some time to adjust to the new diet.

    My favorite real food recipes have been cauliflower rice ( I have made this several different ways), sweet potatoes baked in bacon fat-amazing, but I am cutting those out this week to see if that helps with the way I feel. Spaghetti squash with bacon and garlic, brussel sprouts have become a new favorite of mine that I never knew I liked and eggplant sliced with tomatoes and tomato sauce (challenge friendly) and baked like an eggplant parm minus the cheese and breading-delicious!

    I have unfortunately had to survive a few “party” events that were not optional and I basically stuck to raw veggies and berries and brought a larabar to have something paleo friendly with me.

    Looking forward to the next 15 days of this challenge, although this will definitely be a new lifestyle beyond the 30 day…and hopefully I will start seeing some body composition changes soon. My sleep has definitely gotten better and I do see increased energy levels throughout the day which is a plus :)

  8. Alycia says:

    Great feedback, guys!

    Yeah. parsnip chips cooked in kerrygold on the stove are mighty addictive. They are a root veggie, slightly more starchy/carb heavy than other veggies, so I eat them mostly on days when I work out, and usually after the workout.

    Definitely don’t about eating too many veggies. The best kinds of veggies to eat a lot of are the kind that are nutrient-dense, but calorie-light, so things like leafy greens, broccoli, eggplant, brussels…you’d have to eat a TON of them to make any significant difference in your overall carb intake, so I’d say you are fine with eating veggies freely. The sweet potatoes and other root veggies are a little different, so just eat those after you work out, and you should be fine.
    And go with your instinct. If you are really hungry after a workout, then have some extra food. If not, then no need to have it just because it’s there, ya know?

    Regarding weight loss – this definitely is NOT a ‘everyone loses weight’ diet. You WILL lose body fat, if you have extra on you, but the main goal of this eating style is to get your whole internal system fixed so that you don’t get a horrible disease and die too early. I know that sounds morbid, but it has happened to at least a few people in all of our families. Why go through that, if you can prevent it?
    A happy side effect of eating this way is usually a deflated stomach (no bloating or gastro distress. yay), less body fat, healthier skin/hair/nails, slower aging, etc. Again, if you have weight to lose, be patient, as it WILL come off.

    For the rest of the 30 days, my advice would be to continue to eat as you are now, see what happens, and then after, see me, Steve or Jamie for some extra advice as to how to tweak things if you aren’t seeing the results you’d like to see.
    PS – If you are a girl who is NOT carrying extra body fat, but is wondering why she didn’t ‘lean out’, I can help you, too, but not until after I lecture you about how the girls in the beauty magazines aren’t real…And how models are literally starving to death…And how skinny does not equal healthy….And that you should start to love your body and enjoy life because you look beautiful…And how if you stopped stressing over your body fat, you’d smile more and you’d appear better looking to others.
    And a bunch of other stuff that every girl needs to hear regularly. :)

  9. Eric A. says:

    Weird, I talked to Justin tonight about weight loss, and he didn’t tell me to stop comparing myself to girls in magazines or that I’m beautiful or that I look pretty when I smile. I guess it only applies to girls. ;)

  10. Shelley says:

    So, I wasn’t interested in weight loss at all, but I noticed my watch was wearing a bit looser, so I weighed myself, and evidently I’m down 3 lbs.

  11. Jon says:

    Anyone try grass-fed franks, ala http://www.grasslandbeef.com/Detail.bok?no=555 ? Any good?

  12. Julie T says:

    Some weight loss. Clothes fitting better for sure. New fav recipe is def better butter chicken it has been in my fridge every day since the challenge started. Luckily the only party I went to was at the gym so plenty to eat!!! Keep it up everyone. I started early so I am done on mothers day. French toast and Oatmeal for me! Kidding….cooking brunch of delicious paleo foods. May have a mimosa though:)

  13. Julie T says:

    Hahahaha! Will do fo sho!

  14. Doug says:

    Halfway through! I’ve definitely lost weight, although like Alex I noticed a slight weight gain at the beginning of week 3. Not concerned as I can plainly see I’ve trimmed down overall and I probably had a little too much fruit in Week 2.

    Here’s what has helped me so far:


    I chose at the beginning of the challenge to leave time each Sunday to go to Wegman’s (worst day ever to go there, but hey, that’s the easiest day for me…and 1,000 other people) and come home and prepare multiple dishes for the week. Chicken gets cooked and diced to be put in salads and the crock pot has eye round roast or some type of meat with a ton of veggies that will make 4-5 meals during the week. Glass tupperware is ready for lunches. BEFORE I go to Wegman’s, I pick 4 or 5 recipes I want to try and get those ingredients down on a shopping list so I don’t have to call audibles while I’m at the grocery store. I look at the list and buy what’s on it. This is something very basic but man it saves time, so if you aren’t doing this, consider it.

    Make the challenge known to your friends and family.

    I’ve read some posts about avoiding parties. Smart. For me, however, this challenge has crossed paths with a really busy month. I play in a cover band on the weekends. I had two shows that first weekend. Since then I’ve been to a Phillies game and 2 concerts that I had already purchased tickets to. No backing out. How did I not cheat? I told my friends about the challenge. It’s interesting to see the difference between telling someone ‘I want to live a healthy lifestyle’ and ‘I’m participating in a challenge’. It seems people identify with challenges easier than they do with complete lifestyle changes. Probably because at some point in their lives, everyone has taken part in some sort of challenge. Not everyone has attempted lifestyle changes. During these events I made sure everyone I was with knew I was taking part in this endeavor, and they stopped asking ‘Do you want a beer?’ and didn’t find it odd that I wasn’t eating at Dollar Dog night at the Phillie’s stadium (Yeah, didn’t really need the challenge to stay the hell away from those things). So if you do find yourself at party, lunch meeting, etc, this is an easy way to have less people tempting you. Hope this helps! Good luck and keep going everyone!


  15. Krystal says:

    I enjoyed what everyone brought to the potluck! I definitely have been trying out some of the recipes and they are amazing! I am super excited to make the paleo snack cake. Like many others, my weight loss has been slow. I have lost a few pounds, but nothing significant. I am cutting out fruit this week, except for gym days. I do feel better though.

    Any suggestions for good snacks while trying to slim down??

  16. Ashley says:

    So today was my first crockpot experience….took Alycia’s advice, put a whole chicken, some spices and mushrooms…needless to say-dinner was DELICIOUS! I can’t believe how easy that was and how juicy the chicken came out. Love my crockpot already :)

  17. Alycia says:

    Regarding Eric Allen’s “Painfully slow” weight loss…he lost 6 pounds in 2 weeks and looks and feels much better…not to mention the disappearance of acid reflux and joint pain. How is that painfully slow??? Symptoms that have been around for years….done in 14 days.
    Seriously, lookin’ good Eric. I can tell you lost weight. Keep doing what you are doing. Healthy weight loss definitely doesn’t happen at a rate of more than a pound or two every few days…then it slows as you approach your body’s desired fat %.

    Anyone who lost 3-6 pounds or so during the first two weeks is not losing weight ‘slowly’….instead, you’re losing weight healthily, without losing muscle. Very important distinction.

    You guys are all doing/looking great! Again, this isn’t a ‘get thin quick’ gimmick. It’s life. And you’re ruling at life right now. Keep cooking and eating delicious food. Just give it a try for a whole 30 days. You’ll be surprised at all of the improvements you’ll see!!

    Healthiest snacks are always smaller versions of regular meals.

  18. Eric A. says:

    In my defense, I did admit I was being an impatient brat! But really, I know things are going well. I think I just had elevated expectations. This comes from years of crash diets where you lose 10lbs super fast. But I know that isn’t sustainable or healthy. It’s one thing to lose weight, but it’s another to be able to lose weight and still set lifting PR’s while doing it! (I’m a slave to that green ribbon btw, it is definitely one of my favorite features on wodify. It keeps me pushing for better numbers every day)

    I do believe that what I am learning from this challenge will be both sustainable, and healthy, for life, and I know that is what is truly important.

  19. Jon says:

    Just had a flat iron steak, two sunny side up eggs, a red bell pepper, and half an avocado for breakfast. Now that’s a breakfast! ;)

  20. Mike H says:

    Eric that little green ribbon comment for Wodify is both hilarious and true, I love that little icon.

    Like most people a key to my success has been being organized and preparing foods in advance. I work shift work (nights) as a paramedic and you can imagine the healthy choices for food at 3 AM…

    I find making anything in the crock pot is easiest for me (and lets face it you can make almost anything in a crock pot). I prepare the food when I get home, go to sleep, and when I get up to go to work..or come to Aspire..its ready to go.

    In regards to weight loss, I have been following paleo since I started here in January. At times I have been less strict, so the 30 day challenge has helped me stay on track,..but the weight does come off. I have lost about 30 pounds so far.

    Anyone looking for continued weight loss, stick with it and be patient!

  21. Jon says:

    Do folks think this would be just as good without the sugar?


    – Jon

  22. Mike H says:

    Yea I think it would be fine without it..if you decide to make it let us know how it turns out!

  23. Jon Walka says:

    Everyone should eat more leafy greens!

  24. Alycia says:

    I made Chocolate Chili from the Well Fed cookbook….SO GOOD. I’ll probably re-make it for the Paleo Potluck. It’s amazing. (made w/ unsweetened cocoa powder, beef, tomato paste, spices, beef broth)
    And yes, more leafy greens. I eat them just about every day. Not just spinach – think kale, collard greens, swiss chard, escarole, bok choy, endive, mustard greens, arugula, etc. Filling and nutritious. nom.

  25. Mike H says:

    Thumbs up on the leafy greens

  26. Eric A. says:

    Mike H, good job with the paleo and the weight loss buddy. How did your ancho beef ribs turn out btw?

  27. Mike H says:

    Eh they weren’t that spicy or good…I’m with you, I probably wouldn’t make them again

  28. Jon says:

    Occassionally I snack on a small handful of pistachios. Thoughts?

  29. Jon Walka says:

    I made a Brisket last week with an ancho/coffee rub I made myself. It was equal parts coffee (something flavorful) and ancho chili powder along with the normal bbq spice rub goodness. I brewed a couple of cups of coffee to slow cook it with as well. It came out really good.

    As for the Leafy Greens, Whole Foods has a bunch of variety on that in the frozen bags. I keep a bag in the freezer at school so I always have them at lunch. On the daily I have about 4-6 cups of it a day.
    Right now is the time to get it at the Farmer’s Market!

    Throw it in your eggs, soups, or anything.

  30. Alycia says:

    We made the best brisket I’ve ever had – last night in the Crock Pot. It was Trader Joe’s Kosher Brisket ( about $8.50/lb, worth every penny!) in a crock pot with Justin’s signature blend of spices. The spices aren’t anything fancy, but the way that he combines them and the amounts that he uses are impossible for me to re-create well. Dark chili Powder, then a really hot indian version of chili powder, garlic powder, cumin and paprika. He covered the roast liberally with those spices and the juices that came out of the meat naturally made a fatty/spicy ‘sauce’ that we ladled over our green beans. SO GOOD and the meat was so tender. I think he did 6 hours on high.

    Also, here is a quick reminder about patience: http://crossfitlisbeth.com/2012/05/10/breathe-pause-recover/

  31. Jon says:

    Interesting discovery:

    I have been weighing myself from time to time. Over the first two weeks I noticed that I lost about 3 pounds. But then a few days later I noticed that I had put back on about a pound and a half. I didn’t worry too much about it – I still felt like I was getting leaner. However, given the continued emphasis on eating enough on these threads I decided to make a concious effort to eat more this week. Weighed myself this morning and I’m down 3 pounds. At this point I’m down about 4.5 lbs since the start.

    I suppose the moral is….just eat!

    – Jon

  32. Jon Walka says:

    After my initial 7 pound weight loss, I recovered all that and put on an additional 5. Which is awesome because my personal goal through this challenge was to put on more weight (hoping between 5-10 lbs.)

  33. Jon says:

    The Well Fed “Rice” pilaf is amazing, even if you forget to add the garlic clove!

  34. Steve says:

    Jon, no sweeteners. Is honey a sweetener? Yeah, even “raw.” Sorry, dude.

    • Jon says:

      Actually, it was in the short ribs sauce….though it’s still off limits, of course :) Good thing, though – I’d hate to give up that “rice” dish.

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