Thursday, November 20, 2014

Primal Kitchen Does Disney, Including Gluten Free Dairy Free Dining and a Trip to CrossFit MouseTrap

This past summer's trip to Disney World was my brother's idea, and at first I thought, can we really do this? I had major doubts. The Disney website has a lot of information readily available about the nature of their dietary accommodations. About 3 months ahead, my husband made reservations for our group at restaurants where (because of researching the Disney website) we knew there to be options for those with restrictions.

Thankfully, many of my friends have made the Disney trek, and one girl friend in particular had road-tested a lot of the dietary restrictions for herself when dining at Disney restaurants. It was her personal testimonies about these experiences that gave me a little boost of confidence in thinking, "OK, yeah, maybe we really can pull this off."

Then, it was suddenly DISNEY WEEK, and we went from theory to practice. This is where I want to give a huge one-woman teary eyed round of applause to the Disney parks staff for the grace and courtesy we encountered everywhere we went. Never once did I witness a roll of the eyes or any other similar reaction from staff. With the exception of 1 or 2 restaurant visits, the staff seating us already knew that we had a gluten and dairy restriction in our party (my 4 year old daughter). The restaurants that did not have the
gluten/dairy information at hand when we arrived for our reservation, for whatever reason, did not skip a beat and continued as though they had known it all along.

Here are the restaurants where we had a fantastic experience.
The Disney dining staff were unfailingly gracious with our family. In most cases, we were greeted for our reservation with a host or hostess explaining that the chef would be out in a moment to discuss options for our daughter. There were 2 times that our attempt to designate dietary restrictions online did not go all the way through the system, yet in those cases, the Disney staff did not skip a beat, and we met with the chef as in all the other restaurant experiences.

The breakfast buffet/character breakfasts were a really REALLY great experience. The chefs were friendly, compassionate, efficient, and best of all, knowledgeably presented lots and lots of options that were dairy and gluten free. I would say that those dealing with cases of celiac disease who are especially paranoid about cross contamination should ask the chefs whether it is possible to get some fruit or other options they serve to be brought separately to the table. In our case, there were often separate areas where the gluten free breakfast pastries were served, OR we were offered some prepackaged. Enjoy Life and Kinnickinnick brand foods were commonly available in lots of the restaurants. That said, my daughter was able to enjoy hearty breakfasts with lots of whole foods and protein available...and good thing, because breakfast was often one of our biggest food stops of the day. Best of all, the character breakfast experiences allowed the girls to meet many of the characters AND got us into the park early, so I would recommend them for all families of small children, but especially families with spectrum kiddos who might otherwise avoid long outdoor lines to meet characters or be frustrated with slow line waiting to enter the park in the morning.

FABULOUS entertainment
at Biergarten - a live band!

For non-breakfast meals, Cinderella's Royal Table, the Epcot Biergarten, and Sanaa went the extra mile with exceptionally delicious gluten free dairy free options. The Rainforest Cafe and Teppan Edo met our family's needs graciously, but the fare was of the "naked protein and veggies with salt and pepper", very stripped down type. You could enjoy a gluten free dairy free meal with loved ones at all these locations, but if you are looking for a little extra oomph, the Royal Table, Biergarten, and Sanaa would be the first places I'd direct you out of the restaurants we'd visited.

Like any parents (and any parents of a dietary restricted kid), we brought LOTS of nonperishable gluten free dairy free snacks with us into the park: Larabars, rice crackers, raisins, beef jerky, and toasted seaweed. I also had a stash of Quest bars for myself to keep my protein consistently adequate over the course of the week, which was useful considering that we walked several miles each day through Disney parks and were far more active in a "low level activity" sense.

I visited CrossFit MouseTrap with my brother one morning for a drop-in fee. It was a nice experience - a friendly and accommodating box that is a well-oiled machine in terms of dealing with visitors. On the morning we visited, they had a group warmup, a strength set, and a 20 minute workout of the day. I'd heartily recommend checking them out if you are a Disney traveler looking for a group workout. They have some great graphics on their shirts, too, and the inventor of WOD Counters coaches there, so be prepared with some souvenir money!


Have you successfully done Disney with one or more trip members with dietary restrictions? What tips do you have to share about your trip?


This post contains an affiliate link. Shopping Amazon through this link results in a tiny percentage of the purchase price being given to Primal Kitchen, at no added cost to you, so thank you for supporting Primal Kitchen!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Back to School Platespinning Merry-Go-Round

The summer activities pulled me under like a rip tide. Thanks to my brother, we took our family's first trip to Disney World. WOW, what a learning experience! I hope to share some of those experiences with readers who may be wondering if they can pull it off in terms of dietary restrictions. This summer we also had swim lessons, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and then...there were the glasses. My 4.5 year old daughter was diagnosed with convergence excess, and prescribed corrective lens glasses and vision therapy to address the Venn-diagram-style triple vision that she would see when looking at a book.

This brings me to a cogent point - if you're a parent tinkering with diet as a means to support your child's growth and development, AWESOME. I give you all the high fives I can muster and congratulate you on your efforts and the (possibly very long) journey you are on to help your child to be his or her best.

That said: avoid being myopic. Do not pursue diet at the expense of having your child evaluated for other issues. Do not pursue diet at the expense of not getting your child started with proven therapies.

Our family's ideal is keeping my autistic 4 year old's diet train going - a gluten free, casein free, dye free diet with personalized tweaks - but ALSO having her in a steady chuggachugging weekly routine of private and public services: speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy. As I briefly mentioned above, we are about to add vision therapy to that list, too.

Because, think of it this way: even if you have mastered "THE PERFECT DIET (c)" for your child...but have never evaluated them for vision issues, they could be optimally fueled but still walking around with Venn-diagram-style triple vision, which would impact many kids' learning. OR, you could be getting so much valuable therapy for your child, but your little one could be distracted in therapy sessions by stomach ache and brain fog because of dietary sensitivities that have not yet been addressed.

In our case, we are glad to use diet to keep her tummy happy and her brain fog at bay- while she wears her new glasses and makes significant gains in occupational therapy with her handwriting. It's exceptionally difficult to keep many plates spinning - diet, therapies, evaluations - but ultimately they all support each other and help her to work toward her best, day in, day out.

What are your goals for your family this school year? Are you using nutritional strategies to support your child's growth and development?


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Throwback Thursday, a Love Letter to the CrossFit Coach

I recently stumbled across this picture taken of me in June 2011, about 3 months before I started doing CrossFit. I was probably sitting somewhere around 40%+ body fat.

I had two gorgeous daughters, but physically, life was not fun. I remember feeling winded from the slightest activities, like tall flights of stairs. Clothes never fit right, and dressing rooms were a nemesis. I simply wasn't comfortable in my own skin.

I had never been athletically gifted; even though I did swim team and soccer in high school and a year of water polo in college, I spend the vast quantity of my school athletics' game time on some sideline or bench somewhere. Even though I had the desire to play and the dedication to show up for practices, in the end, I didn't possess the innate interactive know-how of technical plays, or good reflexes on the field. Even in an individualized sport like swimming, I didn't possess the grace and power that propelled my betters through the water, so I was at the bottom of the totem pole when it came to getting extra help, because swim coaches wanted to focus on their teams' biggest points-winners. Coaches did not give me a whole lot of thought in those days, probably because I was not in any way integral to the win/lose destiny of my teams.

I was anxious about starting CrossFit, even that much more when I had contacted my local CrossFit box and decided to sign up for the ramp up course. Would my experience with CrossFit coaches be any different from my previous athletic/coaching experiences? By that point I was in the worst shape of my life, and I had serious doubts as to whether any fitness professional would look at me be able to see potential where before them stood a sedentary gal who weighed well over 200 lb. and at the time was spilling out of size 14 jeans.

I am happy, though, to say that in the nearly 3 years since then, I have been thrilled by what I've discovered in the CrossFit community's coaching. Because of that, I want to write a little love letter to my CrossFit coaches (and by extension CrossFit coaches everywhere!).


Dear CrossFit Coach,

Thank you. No. Really. THANK YOU.

The job you do is complex and grueling. I know this from watching you faithfully do it day in, day out, through almost three years of my CrossFit experience.

Thank you for not judging me harshly in the first session you ever had with me. Thank you for treating me with respect and patience, despite the awkward moments my body was not doing what my brain wanted it to do, because of lack of practice or sheer fatigue.

Thank you for not telling me to head for the hills every time I had an injury. Instead, you helped me to work around my sore spots and still get decent workouts while those spots rested. Thank you for being open to other scales or progressions or options that I brought up as possibilities during those times, too.

Thank you for never being skeptical that I would make it. Thank you that my willingness to show up and do the work was enough to get your coaching eyes on me day in, day out. Thank you that I didn't have to be the best in the room to get coaching attention.

Thank you for not pulling your hair out and cursing the heavens and then throwing rotten tomatoes at me whenever I did that thing with my form that you are always telling me to not do. Thank you for instead taking a phone video or giving me a new set of cues or correcting me using a fresh method to draw my attention to the mistake in a compassionate and constructive way.

Thank you for checking on my diet, my sleep, my mobility, and the other aspects of living that support a solid CrossFit experience. Thanks for messaging me when I was absent too long - because it brought me accountability but helped to know that I was missed, too.

Thank you for those moments you spoke positively about me to someone else, and I was allowed to overhear you. You might not realize it, but tiny moments like those can help an athlete sail through an otherwise bad day.

Thank you for celebrating with me. Thank you for high fiving me and playing motivating music, and for every encouraging message you wrote when I hit PRs, milestones, or tackled new skills. Thank you for birthday burpees. Thank you for understanding how much it means when you show that you're just as invested in our successes as we are.

Thank you for all the "off hours" unseen coaching work that you put in planning programming, preparing and maintaining the box, dealing with technical glitches, and organizing classes around each other. Many of these things are rarely thought about by athletes, and that means you are doing a fantastic job.

Thank you for every time you go the extra step to cultivate a family atmosphere at the box - one where we can tease each other, compete with each other, spar with each other, cheer each other, and BE THERE for each other. That makes you the family chieftain, as it were, and we are grateful for your leadership and friendship as you guide us on our CrossFit journeys.

THANK YOU for proving how awesome coaches can be!


PK and many other CrossFitting homies out there


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Boring Consistency Leading to My FIRST Dead Hang Pull Up

Soccer snacks, kicking it
Good people! What. Is. UP?! Over the last two weeks, the weather broke into deliriously uplifting springtime temperatures. I heard the collective sigh of my fellow midAtlantic parents, "Ahhhhhhhhhh!!" as the children regained school and activity routines.

Among our routines that kicked back off was spring soccer season. I love my 7 year old daughter's coach because he goes through the effort every season to ask parents to bring healthy snacks. While he does not get overly specific on what is not healthy, he encourages fruit and water as a starting point. YEAH! On average, his requests result in considerably less junky halftime and post-game snacks for our team. We brought last Saturday's snacks - grapes and sliced oranges. True story. I saw it on Pinterest.

The carpet was old anyway. NBD.

And oh, yes. Our basement kind of mini-flooded, just enough to dampen most of the carpet. Weeks of snow dumping followed by a week of almost continuous rain will do that when your sump pump suddenly quits for about 2 hours. Part of the thrills of living in a vintage home, and by vintage I mean: built in the late 1980s.

I found myself exceedingly grateful to be physically strong those few days we spent grunting and sweating 50 lb. rolls of carpet up our stairs. FUNCTIONAL. FITNESS. BABY. SCHWING!

I've been doing a bit of spring organizing, too. My baking supplies cabinet was totally overrun by various bags of open alternative flours. Let me ask you if this sounds familiar:

    Flour THIS!
  • Almond flour
  • Coconut flour
  • Cashew flour
  • Hazlenut flour
  • Buckwheat flour
  • Rice flour
  • Teff flour
  • All purpose gluten free flour
  • Nuts
  • Chocolate chips
  • Shredded unsweetened coconut

They were in complete rebellion. I finally picked up some inexpensive, tall sealable containers and mini chip clips and managed to contain most of them.

This is me, doing a
simple track stretch in an
empty speech therapist
reception area.
Other than little items like basement flooding and flour organizing, I have been boringly consistent.

What do I mean by "boringly consistent"? I mean, managing to take care of myself, even around my responsibilities.

Going to CrossFit. Refueling my body responsibly. Mobilizing. Sleeping. Going to hot yoga.

Keeping those little subroutines running in my software makes all the other big tasks in our lives - like lining up my 4 year old daughter's Individiualized Education Program (IEP) and getting her to preschool, speech therapy, and occupational therapy sessions - much more manageable. Put on your oxygen mask so you can put on your kiddos' oxygen masks.

Boringly consisten oven-baked
eggs with baby kale.

I have been in the Eat to Perform 90 day challenge since January, in part to regain ground lost during the holiday season and being snowed in for, oh, 234 weeks in a row. (True story.) You may recall that last fall I had a really good experience combining paleo parameters of the Whole Life Challenge with the carb timing parameters of Eat to Perform.

Boringly consistent post CrossFit
breakfast: leftover
chicken breast and leftover soft
baked sweet potato.
This time, for the official Eat to Perform online challenge, I had no Whole Life Challenge parameters, so I had a lot more leeway to dabble with grey area foods. I also discovered that those grey area foods - I'm talking about deli meat, premade rice pudding, etc. - while fulfilling my macros, were holding me back in terms of feeling my best. SHOCKER, RIGHT?! I also was not feeling magical on the numbers initially generated by the Eat to Perform intake calculator (whereas last fall when dabbling with the ETP timing principles only I naturally ate less in general).

Luckily, the ETP staff are super gracious and responsive. I used the ETP forum to ask specific questions about my intake levels related to my body fat, weight, age, gender, etc., and I received in turn customized advice.

Boringly consistent soft baked
sweet potato and leftover kebab beef.
Post-workout breakfast.
Also a speech therapist
parking lot breakfast.
I also decided to relegate grey area foods to more of an "emergency status" and return to the boringly consistent (there is that phrase again) active athlete's paleo template.

What does that look like? It means whole food meats, eggs, and fish. It means eating pumpkin and sweet potatoes and occasional white rice. It means more vegetables than you ever thought you could hold.

It means making tons and tons of food at a time so that when you are doing hairpin turnaround between early morning CrossFit and driving your 4 year old to speech therapy and school, you have those already made options ready to eat in the car while you wait for the speech therapy session to finish.

Boringly consistent emergency
speech therapist
parking lot breakfast.
No junk deli meat
and canned pumpkin. means that if the best post-workout option you have that morning is no junk ham and canned pumpkin, instead of getting all perfectionistic and beating yourself up about making a meal on a whole pack of deli meat, you go to town getting in your breakfast and move on with your day. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good, people.

In general, I am back in the happy momentum I enjoyed last fall at the end of the Whole Life Challenge. Paleo foods in sufficient quantity (including carbs) to sustain muscle mass and activity levels. Starchy carbs around workouts. Meat, eggs, and veggies any time else.

Boringly consistent spaghetti squash
and sausage scramble.
In addition to my Eat to Perform/paleo template, with some focused guidance, I have added some homework around my regular CrossFit workouts. I continue with my beloved hot yoga. To chip away at my mile time, I've been running single 800m sprints often as part of my pre-CrossFit-workout warmup. I've been doing pullup negatives and progressions like crazy, almost daily. Small, regular sets of plank, pushup, and squat drills.

Boringly consistent prebed snack
of salmon, beets, sweet potatoes.
I have definitely noticed an improvement in my body composition and performance. While leaning out more has happened and I've noticed increased muscle definition, I've also become much faster at climbing the 20' rope at CrossFit. My 800m run time has gone from 4:20 down to about 3:45 -- so I have hope that soon my mile time will be under 8 minutes.

And finally: on Friday, I did my first ever pullup. It was a dead hang, too. It's hard to describe how immensely gratifying that feeling was. If any of you reading ever had to suffer the indignities of the presidential fitness test, then you know exactly what I mean. As an athletically inept overweight kid, I never stood a chance of doing a pull up. Gaining a pullup was an affirmation of what I've long hoped: your past does not dictate your future. In fact, in all likelihood, you can steer your destiny more than you might have ever believed.
Boringly consistent chicken
and spaghetti squash dinner.

I wore a tank top from my brother's
NYC CrossFit box doing the pullup.
I may never wear another top to CrossFit;
it is my official lucky tank. ;)
Thanks, Bro!

Boringly consistent sauerkraut,
chicken, chard, carrots.

Boringly consistent
Mediterranean scramble.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Snow-Airbrushing, the Endless Cavalcade of Snow Days, and a Stomach Bug that Wouldn't Quit

Greetings, fellow captives of Winter 2014.

If you live anywhere in the mid-Atlantic all the way down through Florida, you are all too aware of the...*ahem*...variant weather patterns we are experiencing this season. Since the start of 2014, our county has had exactly one intact week of school - by which I mean one week without cancellations due to snow, ice, extreme cold, and so on.

I'd love to direct you to the pictures on the right - of travel-sized spray bottles filled with food-coloring-tinted water.

"Oh!" I could coo in a Pinterest-friendly soundbite, "Those dreary winter days trapped inside because of the snow could become so much brighter with this simple art project!"

And, this is a fun project to try out. My mom (an art teacher) was the one who originally sent my brother and I out into the snow with colored water to paint the wintry canvas more than 20 years ago...

---- Aaaaaaand, cut! ------- 
(Where the Pinterest-friendly "life is perfection" content stops. Feel free to gear up your kids for the snow-airbrushing.)

But here is the added truth of the matter.

I'm going a little bit crazy.

I'm a major introvert, and I really depend on:

  • Predictable routines
  • Planned kid-free times that I can more efficiently grocery shop, cook, work out, etc. Right now, this is 3 mornings per week while my youngest is in preschool.
  • Doses of quiet in my week (including, yes, mainly those 3 golden mornings) when I can let my frazzled mind rest in stillness
So, I am going - I will use the technical term here - guano crazy. The colored water was a last holdout in my admittedly small arsenal of snow day tricks, and it genuinely occupied my oldest, well, for about an hour.

Why is my arsenal of snow day tricks so small? Because typically, I don't need more than 2-3 days' worth of gambits in a given winter. We've blown way past that by now. Punxsutawney Phil (who did indeed see his shadow) may not be aware that he's made it on my hit list.

To complicate the cabin fever, our entire family got hit by a stomach bug last week. Luckily, our girls bounced back within about 12 hours. My husband and I were each worthless for about 36 hours, however. It took lots of sleeping, and some kombucha and full fat yoghurt to pull me out of that awful illness. By the time we had fully recovered, a foot of snow had fallen on the DC metro area. Two more days of school, cancelled.

In other words, two days of being housebound followed by two more days of being housebound. If anybody needs me, I'll be curled in the fetal position in the corner, eye twitch activated, rocking and mutter-humming to myself U2's, "Beautiful Day".


Are you trying to survive an erratic schedule owing to weather and illness? What are YOU doing to keep yourself healthy and sane when you feel like you're stuck in Groundhog Day?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Spiced Paleo Raisinets - Sugar Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Paleo and Primal Challenge Friendly

Last fall, when I was doing the Whole Life Challenge with my CrossFit box, my good friend was suffering some major chocolate cravings about halfway through the 8 week long challenge. We were permitted unsweetened chocolate at our chosen level (intermediate) of the challenge, so as a "hang in there" gesture, I came up with these.

These are paleo-friendly raisinets, and if you are involved in a challenge that permits their ingredients, they are little tasty nuggets of, "Phew, OK, I can do this."

Here's the dealeo:

Spiced Paleo Raisinets
Makes at least 32 servings at 1/2 oz. each

1 large round canister of raisins (3.5 cups' worth)
100g finely chopped Scharffen Berger unsweetened chocolate (or unsweetened high quality chocolate of choice)
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
Generous dash of cayenne

Did I mention how much
I LOVE the ingredient list
on this bad boy?


Place chopped chocolate in a large oven-safe dish and set in a warm oven (around 200 degrees, not too hot so the chocolate won't scald). Pour the entire canister of raisins into a large gallon-sized Ziploc bag. Add the salt and spices and shake well until raisin clumps are broken up and each raisin is evenly coated in a fine dusting of the salt and spices.

Pull the chocolate out of the oven. Dump spice-dusted raisins into melted chocolate and stir thoroughly until each raisin has a light coating of chocolate. Spread the chocolate-coated spiced raisins out on wax paper to cool.



These are really yummy. I mean REALLY yummy. If you have any appreciation for dark chocolate and especially "zippy" dark chocolate as complimented with warming winter spices, they will do. it. for. you. They do it for me so much, in fact, that I could easily blow through a whole batch in a matter of a couple of days without much thought.

For that reason, I love the little 1 ounce lidded plastic cups that you can find at many stores these days. For me, they aid in portion consciousness and help me to keep my runaway raisin snacking tendencies in check. Since I chose to log my food intake for athletic performance and fat loss purposes, I calculated that 18 g of these (a bit over half an ounce)  comes in at 63 calories, mostly carbs. Here you can see how I have made several half ounce portions in these cups. It's my DIY challenge-friendly answer to 100-calorie snacks that are sold these days, and a decent way to scratch a chocolate craving itch without swan diving off of the wagon.

Bonus: sharing the raisinets with your friends who are also eating conscientiously will definitely boost some spirits!


What snacks are you making these days that helps you to keep on track three weeks into the new year?

Screaming January Deals on Amazon, Nearly ~40% off Gluten Free Groceries and Paleo-Friendly Finds

About 10 days before the end of the month, my husband and I scroll through our Amazon Subscribe and Save subscriptions list. We usually pare down the list, often for items we added previously on a one-time deal. Then, we have the fun of shopping for temporary monthly coupon deals on Amazon that we couldn't find elsewhere. We are often able to combine up to 3 different discounts on Amazon to get the best deal possible, shipped free to our door.

Here are some things we scored this week in our shopping for the February 1 Subscribe and Save delivery. We bought $62.61 worth of items for $38.39 (a 39% overall discount).
  • Zico coconut water - I picked up 12 x 14 oz. bottles of Zico for $15.57 (retail before discounts was $25.31, so 38.5% discount). $1.29 per bottle is a bargain compared to the $2.50+ per bottle I usually see in grocery stores. The same 20% off coupon applies to different Zico sizes and flavors, too, so you can shop for your preferred Zico. I like the plastic bottles because they make sipping some before and after a workout easier without worrying about spilling.

  • Pistachios. I picked up a pound of them combining the $3 coupon with Subscribe and Save to get a price of $6.34 (almost 45% off the $11.49 price).

  • Garden of Life organic gluten free sprouted brown rice protein powder - As I mentioned in a recent protein-themed post, most of my protein intake is from organically and naturally raised animals, but I do use protein powders, particularly in cases where it means I would not otherwise get enough protein owing to time constraints or other circumstances. Because I try to refuel conscientiously to allow my muscles to recover, I would rather get some good quality protein powder after a workout if my alternative is not eating any protein! As vegetable-based protein powders go, Garden of Life looks like a solid choice. I am trying this for the first time as it is 33% cheaper per gram of protein than my usual protein powder choice. I got a $25.81 jar for $16.48, a 36% discount off the Amazon price.
There are many other Amazon grocery coupons, including a list of coupon deals that can be used to purchase gluten free foods. (Be careful, though, some coupons in the gluten free deals take you to lists of products for that brand, some of which are gluten free and some of which are not.)

Here is how to combine the limited-time January coupons with Subscribe and Save to maximize your discounts:

  • Make sure your coupon is clipped for the specific size/flavor of item you've chosen! Coupons will be for a percentage off or for dollars ($) off. You can clip the coupon on the coupon products page OR on the page of the item itself.
  • Chose the "Subscribe and Save" option instead of the "Add to Cart" single purchase option. You can cancel your Subscribe and Save subscription at any time.
  • If you have at least 5 Subscribe and Save subscriptions for the month of February, then your total discount off all items on your subscription list will be 20% off.
  • Verify before clicking the final subscribe confirmation that you are receiving BOTH your coupon discount and your maximum Subscribe and Save discount.
Are you snagging any Amazon coupon + Subscribe and Save deals on nonperishables? What is your favorite bargain?
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