Managing PCOS Symptoms and a Family

Do you have trouble managing your PCOS symptoms while taking care of your crazy, awesome, busy, loving family?

If you answered yes, you’re not alone. This is 100% totally normal. So instead of pretending we have it all perfectly together, let’s talk about it!

PCOS Fit Revolution member Ellie is a homeschooling mother of three and small business owner. She is very familiar with the challenges of managing PCOS and a busy household. Today Ellie and I had an honest chat about how she and her family are slowly learning to live a PCOS-friendly lifestyle.

Do you want insider information and PCOS Fit Revolution strategies? You can get an inside look at our private Facebook group, discussions about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and PCOS management tips sent to your inbox. Click here to join for free.

How Ellie is learning to manage her PCOS symptoms and her crazy-awesome family

 

Ellie’s Tips

If it does not work out the first time, don’t give up.
It took Ellie several tries to find a meal planning strategy that worked for her. If you try to make a healthy change, and it does not go well, DO NOT beat yourself up! Instead, try a different strategy. Sometimes you have to experiment with a few different methods to make a new habit stick-toable.

Pair new habits with daily chores.
Pair new habits, like meal planning, with chores you already do on a regular basis. For Ellie, that meant prepping her healthy lunch and breakfast when she packed her husband’s sack lunch each day.

Embrace slow changes.
When you have a family in tow, making big changes to your diet can feel overwhelming and may not be practical. The cool thing is that you can see good results by making one small change at a time. Preparing lunch ahead of time helped Ellie dramatically reduce her sugar intake and lose 4 pounds in two weeks.

Give yourself credit!
When you do something well, give yourself credit. Wives, mothers, and women, in general, put a lot of pressure on themselves to be perfect. Celebrate the positive changes you are making instead of comparing yourself to impossible ideals.

Find social support.
Ellie mentioned that she struggles with being too hard on herself. When Ellie feels down on herself, she reaches out to her fellow PCOS Fit Revolution members. This is so smart! Instead of feeling isolated and disappointed with herself she gets affirmations and encouragement from women who really understand what she’s going through.

 

Erika’s Pro Tips

A PCOS-friendly diet is good for the whole family.
I know many women living with PCOS feel like they have to eat differently from the rest of their family, and this is a huge source of stress. The truth is that a PCOS-friendly diet is beneficial for all humans! Slowly introduce healthier foods and traditions into your family so that you can adjust to a new lifestyle together. Let your family join you on this journey and share in the health benefits!

Longterm success happens one step at a time.
If you are eager to embark on a PCOS-friendly lifestyle, start with the basics. Instead of becoming a gluten-free vegan, cross-fit junkie in the space of one week, just try adding veggies to every meal and strength training a few times a week.

Diving head-first into a complicated and demanding series of lifestyle changes is not necessary for managing PCOS and you might even do more harm than good.

Rethink “kid food.”
Many parents have come to me with the same story… “I bought the (name of junk food here) for the kids, but I ate most of it myself and now I feel awful.”

Children do not need to eat highly processed foods. In fact, it is better if they ate as few of these foods as possible. Consider cutting back on the “kid food” you buy for the family and gradually start replacing it with real food. For example, replace fruit snacks with freeze-dried fruit, PB&J with Apple & Almond Butter Sandwiches and goldfish crackers with roasted almonds. Looking for more ideas? Check out this list of 45 Real Food Snacks for Kids by Stacy Karen of the blog Keeper of the Home.

Be patient and kind to yourself.
It is ok to slip up now and then, that is part of being human! The key to successful PCOS management is not being perfect; the key is to keep trying. Look for ways to make the most out of your current situation. Making lasting changes takes some creativity and resilience.

Do you want insider information and PCOS Fit Revolution strategies? You can get an inside look at our private Facebook group, discussions about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and PCOS management tips sent to your inbox. Click here to join for free.

Your Post-Thanksgiving Recovery Plan

Have you ever noticed that the morning after an indulgent meal like Thanksgiving your body and mind are absolutely consumed by cravings?

Me too! It can drive a women nuts! You have every intention of “being good” and getting back on your diet the next day, but your body is just screaming give me more!

And on top of the cravings, we have to resist the time-honored tradition of grazing off of Thanksgiving leftovers the over the rest of the weekend. This “tradition” of extending your Thanksgiving feast by two or three days can turn one indulgent meal into a 2-5 pounds of rapid weight gain yikes!

To me, a healthy Thanksgiving is all about ending the feast once you leave the table! I would like to propose a sensible alternative that will allow you to revisit the delicious flavors of Thanksgiving and return to a nutrient-dense PCOS-friendly diet.

The plan below is made up of nutritious recipes that have a hint of holiday flavor without the added sugars, unhealthy fats and refined carbs that make our traditional feast detrimental to our health.

Your Ultimate Healthy Thanksgiving Recovery Plan

 

Meditate 

Start your day off with meditation. I know what you’re thinking: “how will meditating keep me from pigging out?”

Here’s the deal: after the excitement of a holiday celebration, it can be difficult to transition back to your normal routine and clean eating. Prepare yourself mentally for this challenging day by doing a brief meditation. A few minutes of quiet reflection will keep you more mindful and in control of the rest of the day.

You can try my favorite meditation app for free at headspace.com, or you can use this free mindfulness meditation series from DoYogaWithMe.com. Oh and BTW I love DoYogaWithMe.com’s online yoga classes too!

 

Photo By Lauren Geertsen
Photo By Lauren Geertsen

Breakfast

My grandma would let us eat leftover pie for breakfast the morning after Turkey day- yeah she was AWESOME! But today the adult me is going to skip the pie and whip up a batch of Grain-Free Pumpkin Pancakes.

I found this Recipe on the WellnessMama.com it was created by Lauren Geertsen of Empowered Sustenance.

 

Break a Sweat

Now that you’ve enjoyed a nutritious breakfast it is time to workout! You do not need to be a superhero today, just get moving! The natural high of physical activity will help keep you feeling balanced.

Do you have house guest and can’t get away to the gym? No problem! Click here to get my 10-Minute Quickie Workout sent to your inbox now!


 

Lunch

I know your first instinct will be to build yourself a monster-sized turkey sandwich. Let’s avoid the processed carbs by skipping the bread. Instead, whip up this Turkey and Baby Kale Salad With Avocado Sage Dressing from Green Lite Bites.

Since you already have cooked turkey on hand, you can skip the step of cooking turkey cutlets and have lunch on the table in no time!  

 

Avoid a late afternoon snack attack.

Many women struggle with a late afternoon cravings. Try to boost your endorphins (the feel good hormones) without snacking. Cuddle up and watch old movies with you sweetheart, go for a walk at a local park or play backyard football with the fam. Keep yourself busy and out of the kitchen!  

 

Dinner

Last night you chowed down on many inflammatory foods like sugary pies and cranberries floating in corn syrup. Soothe you body’s inflammatory response by having Omega-3 rich salmon for dinner. Researchers have discovered omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, and might ease the symptoms of disorders influenced by inflammation (like PCOS.)  

This Pan-Seared Salmon with Cranberry Walnut Relish from Paleo Grubs would pair nicely with a baked yam and steamed green beans.  

 

Get to bed!

Congratulations! You’re at the finish line. The last step of this no-nonsense recovery plan is to get a good nights sleep. Plan on being in bed at least 8 1/2 hours before you have to wake up. Sleep deprivation can compromise your wellbeing and your ability to stick to a healthy routine. Don’t undo all your hard work by skipping over this final step!  

Ready to bounce back from your turkey coma like a champ? Click here to get my 10-Minute Quickie Workout sent to your inbox now!  

Chocolate Peanut Butter Breakfast Sandwich!

Do you ever have one of those mornings when you feel like you deserve a door prize just for waking up? I do!

Even in beautiful Costa Rica, where  I wake up to the sun rising over the ocean, I sometimes just want to stay in bed.

 

El Roble Costa Rica
The view from my bedroom window 🙂

But the overwhelmingly delightful experience of chocolate and peanut butter for breakfast will get me out of bed every time!

chocolate peanut butter

 

When I had a low-energy morning in Los Angeles, I’d bribe myself with a trip to one of my favorite spots – the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Well, as you all know, Colin and I traded in our big city life for beach town living, so commercially prepared coffee drinks are no longer a viable option.

In fact, since going on the low FODMAP diet most of my favorite morning fare has been off limits. My breakfast go-tos like greek yogurt, oats, and protein bars are all high FODMAP foods. Breakfast has been challenging for me!

Luckily, I stumbled onto Purelytwins.com. This lovely blog, written by twin sisters Lorie and Michelle, introduced me to cooking with Plantains. Plantains make a great substitute for high FODMAP flours and they happen to be a Costa Rican supermarket staple!Plantains

My recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Breakfast Sandwiches is a gluten and sugar free, low FODMAP miracle! Seriously! This morning treat is loaded with nutrition but is so decadent you’ll feel guilty for starting off the day with such an indulgence.

Here are some of the nutritional highlights:

  • Unsweetened cocoa powder is loaded with disease-fighting flavonoids, fiber, iron, manganese, magnesium, copper and zinc. Oh, and cocoa is a natural mood elevator!
  • Plantains are a great source of B6, Vitamin A and C, folates, potassium, and iron.
  • Eggs are an amazing protein source and, if you buy omega-3 eggs (like me), they are also a source of healthy fat.

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Breakfast Sandwiches

chocolate peanut butter

Ingredients

  • 2 yellow plantains
  • 4-6 eggs (6 eggs if you prefer a cake-like texture and extra protein)
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1.5 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon of truvia, or an equivalent stevia sweetener
  • 1 tablespoon oil of your choice*
  • 3 tablespoons of natural peanut butter

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and lightly grease a 9×13 pan.
  2. Peel and slice the plantains into small chunks.
  3. Put plantain chunks, eggs, cocoa, vanilla, truvia, and oil into a food processor and blend until smooth.
  4. Pour batter into the pan and spread evenly.
  5. Bake for 18-20 minutes.
  6. Once the cake has cooled, slice into 12 equal pieces.
  7. Use 1/2 tbs of peanut butter and 2 slices of cake to create a sandwich.

*I used canola oil because I have limited options available to me at the local market. I would recommend virgin coconut oil, if you can find it.

My Experiments in Health: Living With The Low FODMAP Diet

Following a low FODMAP diet is challenging. Having a life while following a low FODMAPs diet is an art form. I have a few tips for those who are trying to coexist with a new low FODMAP life.

Read more about my first month on a low FODMAP diet here.

When people commit to making a big change like going on a diet, ditching cigarettes, or starting an exercise program, they put a lot of energy and focus behind that objective. But, eventually, they need to spend some of that time and energy on other areas of their lives.

Making the transition from a narrow focus on one behavior to a more balanced life is difficult. This is sometimes referred to as “maintenance” because you’re focused less upon making the change and more upon maintaining it. Often people are very successful with changes until they enter this “maintenance phase.”

What makes maintenance different from initial behavior changes is that you generally stop avoiding tempting situations. For example, people who quit smoking will avoid other smokers, bars, and break rooms while they are initiating a behavior change. Once they hit maintenance they might go back to the pub they frequented, but without the old urge to smoke the night away.

In my case with the low FODMAP diet, making the change was challenging, but totally manageable. I had complete control of my food supply. I do all the cooking; Colin’s talents don’t lie in the kitchen and our town does not offer much in the way of restaurants or fast food. There’s one pizza place but to be honest,  pizza they make tastes strange to our American taste buds.  Oh well! Less FODMAPs for us!

In about a month, I was the master of my low FODMAPs universe. It felt amazing. My IBS symptoms had gone down from a 10 to a 2 and I had tons more energy! It was time to focus on a new project.

So as part of my series on Cooking Less American, I decided to explore Italian cuisine for September. This proved to be a true test of my commitment to the low FODMAP lifestyle. Many on the ingredients most common to Italian food are high FODMAP like onions, garlic, and pasta.

Instead of giving up on the low FODMAP lifestyle, I decided to learn how to cook Italian without high FODMAP ingredients. Below are a few of my favorite tricks. They are practical, easy to do and can be applied to any type of cuisine.

My low FODMAP diet tips

Replace Onions with green onions.

Green Onions low FODMAP

It’s hard to find a recipe that does not call for onions. Green onions are a low FODMAP MVP! They can boost a dish’s flavor without irritating your gut.

  • Do not use the white part of the green onion.
  • Wash them well before use.
  • Use kitchen shears to slice them thinly.
  • Green onions do not need as much sautéing time as white or red onions.
  • Always have them on hand because many recipes call for onions.

Infuse your oil with garlic

garlic

I miss garlic, but I don’t miss all the indigestion that comes with eating it! Here is a simple way to get flavor instead of FODMAPs into your dish.

  • If a recipe calls for cloves of fresh garlic, you can infuse them into your cooking oil without adding any FODMAPs.
  • Pour the recipe’s recommended amount of oil into your skillet.
  • Add whole, peeled garlic cloves to the oil.
  • You can use the amount of garlic suggested by the recipe or more if you love garlic.
  • Let the garlic sauté in the oil until fragrant, then remove.

Replace bland high FODMAP pasta with flavorful roasted veggies.

Low FODMAP diet
Low FODMAP Grilled Chicken Alfredo.

I love this trick! Dry, boxed pasta is nearly flavorless. So why not replace it with some delicious roasted veggies? This tasty swap will lower the calorie count of your meal while adding nutrients – I love that!

  • Preheat oven to 425.
  • Clean your choice of veggies and chop into pasta-sized bites. You’ll need about 1 cup per serving.
  • In a large bowl, add 1/2 TBS olive oil for every cup of veggies.
  • Season to taste with Italian spices. Toss veggies until coated.
  • Spread out on to a pan. Don’t crowd the veggies. If the pan is overcrowded, the veggies will come out mushy.
  • Roast for 35-45 minutes. Turn veggies with a spatula every 15 minutes.
  • Treat the veggies like cooked pasta: toss in sauce, top with cheese, chicken, or shrimp.

Give up on prepared, processed foods.

Choc_Dipped_Coconut_Luna_Bar

Most refined or pre-made foods contain FODMAPs. Even packaged “health foods” like nutrition bars can be high in FODMAPs. There are exceptions to the rule, but even after a very careful inspection of a label you still might end up eating a FODMAP. Frankly, I’d rather not waste time researching labels. Instead, I focus my mental energy on cooking homemade low FODMAP meals. It’s a much more rewarding endeavor 🙂

Download this app

low FODMAP diet app

The Monash University Low FODMAP Diet App is a lifesaver. When you’re grocery shopping or eating out you can quickly use this app to identify high FODMAP foods. It also has a handy symptom tracker and recipes. To be honest, I was not at all impressed by the recipes. Nonetheless, this app can quickly give you the information you need to avoid high FODMAP foods.

Do you have any questions about the low FODMAP diet?

Please leave a comment and I will do my best to give you an answer!

Do you have any low FOMAP diet tips of your own?

Please share them! Leave a  comment 🙂

Cooking Less American: The Greek Chicken Dish You’ve Got to Try!

My love of Greek food has been with me for a long time. Nearly 5 years ago I had the remarkably good fortune to share an apartment with my dear friend and Greek goddess of the kitchen, Morgan. Having always favored Greek eateries, I really fell in love with Greek food while living with Morgan.

Oregano Roasted Chicken
Oregano Roasted Chicken made by yours truly!

Morgan is a good cook, but what I loved most about eating Greek was the passion and love she and her family put into their food. Morgan’s family uses food as a way to connect with their culture and each other. Their meals are long, relaxing, and meticulously prepared. If you are longing for a full belly and a few good hugs, go have dinner with a Greek family!

My fondness of Greek cuisine made Greece a natural choice for my “Cooking Less American” project. Lemon & Olives, a Greek cooking blog, was my go-to resource for all things Greek food.

Lemon and Olives is the brainchild of Kenton and Jane. An adorable, newly engaged couple that documents their exploration of Greek cooking by blogging and sharing recipes with their growing online audience.

Kenton was kind enough to share some of his thoughts on Greek cooking with us and his easy and delicious recipe for Feta Stuffed Chicken.

Kenton, from ‘Lemon and Olives,’ talks about Greek Cooking

Kenton and Jane
Kenton and Jane of ‘Lemon and Olives’

How, if at all, do Greeks and Americans approach food differently?

Overall, I think the entire concept of food is viewed differently. Here in America, we take quick lunches, eat in front of the TV, and opt to go out and not cook. However, there is a growing trend to start eating healthy, which is good.

In Greece, lunch or dinner is an event. It’s a time to sit and talk. Enjoy fresh food and company. It’s not uncommon for it to last a few hours. Granted a busy American lifestyle can’t get away with taking 2 hour lunches, but give it a try on the weekends, or enjoy a nice family dinner with no TV.

In the way they cook and dine, what are the biggest differences?

For cooking in Greece, you’d head down to your local fishmonger and get the day’s catch. Unlike here where it is presented nicely. In Greece you’d be dealing with whole octopus, fish, etc. We Americans like this presented to us nicely, but in other parts of the world, you’ve  got to get your hands dirty and clean out most of the fish, trim the fat from red meat, etc.

Also, Greeks tend to cook what is in season, this is even more true as you get outside the major cities and into the villages. If you like something that isn’t in season, you may actually have a hard time finding it. Seasonal local fresh produce has been the norm in Greek villages for thousands of years.

In terms of dining, like I mentioned  above, it’s an event. You can be sitting at a Greek’s table for hours. Prepare yourself 🙂

You obviously have a passion for Greek food.  What inspires you the most about this cuisine?

For me, it’s the connection I get to my heritage. I was born in the USA, but my Greek family made me feel like I was Greek first. Now that I’m older the people that inspired me most to cook, like my grandparents, are no longer alive, so in a way I’m carrying on the traditions. I enjoy cooking recipes that have been in my family for hundreds of years or cooking dishes that haven’t changed much since Plato and Aristotle dinned.

Jane loves the fact that Greek Mediterranean food is so healthy; focusing on healthy fats like olive oil, and limiting the amount of red meat. She likes having a lot of dishes that are vegetarian, fresh, and simple to make. She also loves exploring the cuisine because she knows how much it means to me. It’s moved from being my thing to our thing.

If you could teach every American just one thing about Greek cooking what would it be?

Keep it fresh and simple. There are a plethora of Greek dishes that only have a handful of ingredients in them. When cooking, don’t overload it with herbs and spices. Following a Greek diet can lead to so many health benefits. And please, put the butter or margarine down and pick up some olive oil when cooking. Also, ditch salad dressing and go for olive oil and lemon instead.

What is your favorite Greek dish?

This is a question we’re asked often. For me, it changes, but today I would have to say dolmathes.

Jane loves pistitsio and a traditional Greek salad (the one with no lettuce).  

If you like feta (who doesn’t?), you’ll LOVE this chicken recipe. It’s simple to make, very tasty and, of course, nutritious. I made it when we had house guests and it was a big hit!

Feta Stuffed Chicken

During my month long exploration of Greek cooking, Colin and I enjoyed many great dishes. Below are some of our favorites.

Are you ready to start cooking Greek?

I highly recommend you download a free copy of Jane and Kenton’s e-cookbook Top 10 Greek Recipes under 500 Calories.

Does your family use food to connect with their heritage?

Tell me about it in the comments section below!

I might choose your favorite cuisine for my “Cooking Less American” project!