Sunday, May 24, 2015

Paleo BBQ Sauce

Memorial Day Weekend beckons for a good barbecue.

I'm a big BBQ fan.  Pretty much any food on a grill gets a thumbs up from my book.  My faves? Salmon, chicken and beef.  However, it's not as easy to pair these proteins with a marinade or sauce that is gut friendly.

So I made my own barbecue sauce.

My favorite thing about my barbecue sauce is one of the key ingredients: organic red palm oil

I recently got introduced to this super food.  I was actually pretty baffled that I had never heard of it before or used it.  This oil has the highest amounts of Vitamins A and E of any plant-based oil.  Its dark red color comes from carotenes, like alpha-carotene and beta-carotene nutrients that provide colors to fruits and vegetables.  In addition, red palm oil contains at least ten other carotenes, including the antioxidants tocopherols and tocotrienols (Vitamin E).  It's a great cooking oil and is very stable for medium heat cooking temperatures.

So what exactly is red palm oil good for then?  For one, it is great for heart, skin, and neurological health.  Secondly, the tocotrienols it contains offer a protective role in cellular aging, atherosclerosis, cancer, arthritis and Alzheimer's disease.  It is also rich in medium chain triglycerides, which mobilize body fat stores, increase metabolism and are a great source of energy.

So time to get your barbecue on with my new favorite barbecue sauce.  Just a little bit of tang and spice for ya! :o)

Paleo BBQ Sauce

2 tbsp organic red palm oil
1/2 large vidalia onion, diced
1 organic red delicious apple, peeled, cored and grated
1/4 cup organic honey
1/3 cup Bragg's apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp ginger (spice or grated fresh)
1 tbsp garlic (spice or 1 clove crushed)
1 tspn cinnamon
1 tspn ground turmeric
pinch of himilayan sea salt
pinch of black pepper

First, heat the palm oil on medium heat in a saucepan, adding the diced onion and sautéing for 10 to 12 minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients to the saucepan, bringing heat to a boil before then reducing to low to maintain a summer.  Keep at a simmer for 12 to 15 minutes.  Then remove from the heat and let cool for 2 minutes before adding to a blender.  Puree for 30 seconds and then serve or can! Enjoy!



Friday, May 22, 2015

Organic Homemade Almond Milk

I miss dairy.

During pregnancy, I craved it, and I figured that was a good thing.  I truly believe if you're eating healthy than your body knows what it needs, and my body wanted calcium.  Organic milk and raw cheeses filled our fridge.  However, I still tried to have small servings because my body always has had an issue with dairy.

So after delivering my sweet baby boy, I knew I wanted to start Whole 30 Autoimmune Protocol rather quickly, to better serve my son and my health.  I noticed almost immediately a sensitivity to dairy again, with increased gas for my son.  So again I made the transition to dairy free eating.

Welcome back almond milk.

It's hard to find a reliable almond milk at the store, and I'll be honest, I've settled.  Probably the best brand I have found at most stores is Blue Diamond, which seems to have the least amount of gums.  Those who follow paleo know that even guar gum, carageenan, and other "natural" additives can offset our tummies and dietary goals.

So I have made my own almond milk in the past and decided to share how I make it today- as well as a new thing for me...making homemade almond meal!

So where to start?  You know, it's all about those almonds.  All almonds in the U.S. are pasteurized unless you can find them raw and unpasteurized directly from a local farm.  In the pasteurization process, the almonds lose important enzymes and nutrients that make them such a great food.  So finding raw almonds is best, and I was able to find a great product on Amazon.  Terrasoul Superfoods Raw Unpasteurized Almonds are from Spain and about $25 a bag for 2 pounds.

This was my first time using my nut milk bag for my recipe.  I got mine from Ellie's best and was excited to use it to make my almond milk even better and have leftover pulp for almond meal and baking.  I found Ellie's nut milk bag to be much easier to use than cheesecloth, especially for a larger quantity.

Is making your own almond milk cost effective over buying almond milk at the store?  I already had the other ingredients for other recipes so lets see how affordable the homemade almond milk is if you just break down the almond pricing.  I used 1 cup of almonds so thats about $6.25 of almonds (using brand I bought).  Considering a quart of blue diamond is $4 at most stores I've seen for 4 cups of milk, the blue diamond would equate to $1 a cup, while the homemade version would be $1.25 a cup.  So only a 25 cent difference for having a much healthier, cleaner, nutritious glass of almond milk that is free from all additives, gums and is only 5 ingredients.  I think it's worth it!  Not to mention the leftover pulp that I can use in recipes for baking and breads ;o)

You will see in my recipe that I soak and dehydrate my almonds.  That is to make them easier for the gut to digest.  Also, nutritional inhibitors and toxic substances found in nut grains and seed can be minimized or eliminated by the soaking process.  Dehydrating wasn't necessary for the almond milk, but I had used extra almonds as pictured because I was saving to make almond butter.

I hope you enjoy this recipe- it's one of my favorites, and I'm enjoying making it again!

Organic Homemade Almond Milk (makes 5 cups of almond milk or 1 quart and 1 cup) (GF, DF, Soy-free, GMO-free, preservative/additive free)

1 cup raw unpasteurized almonds
4 1/2 cups filtered water
4 organic dates
1 tspn organic vanilla extract
pinch of himilayan sea salt
pinch of cinnamon

Soak 1 cup of almonds in filtered water for 7 to 8 hours.  Use dehydrator if you plan on making almond butter; otherwise you can skip this step.  Place your almonds in a blender and add 4 1/2 cups filtered water.  Add the vanilla extract, pinch of salt and pinch of cinnamon.  Blend for a minute on high.  Pour mixture into cheesecloth or your nut milk bag placed in dish to catch almond milk.  Twist and squeeze the bag to get all the almond milk out.  You can set aside the leftover pulp in the fridge for baking.  Now enjoy or place in glass bottle and refrigerate!



Saturday, May 16, 2015

Postpartum Recovery & Weight Loss

Postpartum recovery.

Easier said than done.  Well, at least for first-timers I would think.  I have been planning out my recovery plan since my second trimester, really because enough people tell you crazy stories that you know you don't want to go into it blindly.  I wondered, how was I gonna feel?  I had many autoimmune symptoms prior to pregnancy, as well as gut sensitivities.  I wondered, how would my body change?  Oh gosh, it sure does!  These are questions I wanted to prepare myself for.

Oh and my friend the scale.  I haven't weighed myself in a long time minus knowing my weight at the OB's office.  One...because I don't like scales (I spent enough years obsessing over my identity being a number that I could care less now).  Two...because I've been too busy with my son to care.  But I was pleased to see that when I decided to check my weight 10 days postpartum, I had returned to my pre-pregnancy weight (though toning is needed!! :o))

How?  I think there were a few factors.  I want to help guide you through how I managed my weight gain during pregnancy, and how I navigated the beginning of my postpartum recovery.  Fortunately,  through guidance of many friends and mamas with more wisdom than I can fathom, I was able to start this journey.

Let's start:

1) Don't eat for two.  Sounds crazy right? Everybody and their mom will tell you with a big smile on their face, "Don't forget your eating for two!" Except no.  If the average female needs 1800 calories a day, should I be eating 3600 for my pregnancy? Yeah, you get the picture.  I think a lot of women go crazy with this, and you know what, that's totally ok.  But know that it will be more challenging or take longer in the postpartum period to get to your pre-pregnancy weight.  I don't think there is a right or wrong number for any woman (despite what your OB says) to gain while pregnant, but rather, I think you should go by how you feel and by consumption of a nutrient dense diet.  I incorporated these two factors into my diet plan and ate when I was hungry and stopped when I was full.  I didn't concern myself whether I was gaining or losing weight as long as my baby boy was growing healthy and strong.  Your body is smarter than you think, and more often than not, knows what to do.

So where is all the weight gain when your pregnant?  The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists gives us this breakdown: seven to nine pounds is the baby, four pounds is extra blood, one to two pounds is the placenta, two to three pounds is the breasts, one to two pounds is the amniotic fluid, one to two pounds is uterine enlargement, two to four pounds is increased fluid volume, and five to nine pounds is new stored fat.  Is this the standard for everybody? No, definitely not.  It wasn't for me, so I would't expect it to be for everybody.  Bottom line: your body knows best, and if you are eating a nutrient-rich diet you will gain an appropriate amount of weight that is appropriate for you and your baby.

2) Walk Often.  Daily activity is critically important to your overall health, and especially during pregnancy!  The old school way of thought was women shouldn't do any exercise while they are pregnant, but there is no current literature that supports those assumptions.  Daily activity, whether it be walking, running, yoga, or whatever you choose, will help prepare your body for the endurance of delivery and help it bounce back quicker during the postpartum period.  Of course, don't try to start running if you never have run before during pregnancy.  Walking and yoga are both great places to start if you are not used to exercising but would like to stay active during pregnancy.

Here is a great article by Baby Center with 13 rules of safe pregnancy exercise, which is helpful to review prior to and while exercising during pregnancy:  Even more important, listen to your body.  If you decide to run during pregnancy, you should be able to run at a pace where you can still talk or sing comfortably.  I remember around week 29 of my pregnancy, I started getting Braxton Hicks contractions during running.  That was my cue to stop and regroup, and I switched to the elliptical at the gym.  Again, at a certain point, I started getting uncomfortable, and that was when I switched to walking only.  Listening to your body and treating it with respect are critical parts of pregnancy, postpartum, and being a mom in general!

3) Bone Broth and Gut Restoration.  This is a priority.  I try to have a cup of bone broth every day in this postpartum period.  Why?  Bone broth is rich in protein, enzymes and minerals to help your gut and body.  It contains glycine, which supports the body's detoxification process and is used in the synthesis of hemoglobin, bile salts and other chemicals within the body.  Bone broth is also rich in gelatin, which plays an important role in both digestive and skin health.

Why do you need gut restoration after having a baby?  Having a baby puts a lot of stress on the gut!  You lose trace minerals, as the baby is taking some of the good stuff it needs to grow.  Also, baby is depending on you for a healthy gut with good bacteria.  Clinical research has proven that there is a difference between the microbiome of a baby born vaginally compared to a baby born c-section.  Babies born c-section have a significantly lower level of "good" bacteria, such as Bifidobacterium and lower bacterial diversity than vaginally born babies, putting them at more increased risk for particular diseases.  No reason to fear though!  Keeping your gut healthy and strong, especially while breastfeeding, is your baby's number one defense against disease- whether they were born vaginally or c-section!

4) Placenta Encapsulation & Supplementation.  If you had told me I would be eating my own placenta even just 2 years ago I would have said you are crazy.  In fact, part of me still feels crazy for doing it!!  But it has been by far one of the better decisions I have made.

Consuming your own placenta postpartum can help decrease the chances of postpartum depression, postpartum hemorrhage, repletes iron levels, and can increase milk supply.  Other women cite that it helps give them a boost of energy and decreases stress.  If those aren't selling features, I don't know what is!!  In fact, most other cultures practice placental consumption.

I definitely did not feel a major change in hormones when I got home from the hospital, nor at any time following delivery, and I think a good deal of that was related to consuming my placenta.  How can you go wrong consuming the very thing that helped nourish a new human being in it?!

In regards to supplementation, I have become quite into supplements over the past year, mostly because I realized my body was depleted in several vitamins and minerals, and also because I did not feel like I was getting enough of the vitamins from my diet.  As a result, I take several supplements now in the postpartum period, as I feel both me and baby are benefitting.  I won't go into detail about my specific supplements here, but I will say, it is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics to continue taking your prenatal during the postpartum period at the very least.

How do you know what's right for you?  Work with a physician you trust who analyzes important labs, such as Vitamin D and B12, and who is familiar with hormonal changes and the adrenals to come up with the right supplementation plan for yourself.

5) Relaxation, meditation, and praying.  I cannot say enough about these three tools while pregnant and in the postpartum period.  As someone who has lived most of my life in the fast lane with two many things on my plate, I have learned to pass on commitments and how to say no.  Do I miss opportunities?  Surely, I must.  But I firmly believe that God didn't put me on this planet to see how much I could occupy myself with to fill my day.  He gives us a purpose as part of his plan, and if we are too busy and consumed with day-to-day things, we will miss out on this.

I am a big believer in epsom salt baths and routinely have done them in my pregnancy and postpartum period.  Check out my link at to find out more about how you can set up your own epsom salt bath.  In addition, I believe daily meditation and prayer are important.  No matter what religion you are, you can find peace when you clear your mind and practice relaxation and deep breathing.  Daily prayer for me has helped me find comfort through many storms and trials...not just during pregnancy and postpartum.

I hope this helps you find some suggestions and ideas for your postpartum recovery.  Feel free to comment or message me further for more specific help, questions, or suggestions.  Everyone has a unique experience in pregnancy and postpartum and each experience is completely BEAUTIFUL <3



Wednesday, May 6, 2015

My Birth Story

I've been excited to share this for some time now.  I think because I knew before my son's birth...I knew then that I would have my own story and it would be exactly what God wanted.

I knew when I had written out my birth plan that it was flexible to change and not a legally binding document.  The thing most important to me was to just enjoy my experience to the best of my ability and to be proud of what I matter what.

And I did.

On April 30th, I attended a routine OB appointment where they were checking my amniotic fluid levels via ultrasound to make sure my son was okay, since I was nearing 41 weeks.  Unfortunately, my levels were dangerously low, and the safest thing for my son was for me to be admitted to the hospital to get IV fluids and induction.

Inside I was devastated.  I had never expected to be induced.  In fact, I was expecting to go to 42 weeks before that happened.  As long as my son was okay.

We couldn't risk his safety.  So my husband called our contacts to get ready, I called my doula, and I proceeded to grab a quick breakfast before being admitted.  When I arrived to my room, I was started on IV fluids and my OB gave me cervadil, with is a less invasive and aggressive cervical ripening agent that can help kickstart labor.  In fact, the OB on call that night told me this agent only works 10% of the time, and I would likely need pitocin.  How encouraging!!! (insert: sarcasm).  But I knew I had to trust God.  He knew what was best for my son, and I had to just go with it.

That night lasted forever.  I was constantly walking, on the pregnancy ball and in the shower.  Early labor had started and small contractions started happening.  The pain was enough that I couldn't sleep through it.  I was tired but encouraged.

The best decision I made in my entire labor experience was to not know how dilated I was.  I know myself.  If I had a number hanging out there in the air, I knew I was likely to get fixated on it and let it get to me.  Rather, I wanted to know if I was making progress...then I would know I was closer to meeting my son.  Meanwhile, my husband knew how dilated I was and continued to encourage me and pray with me.

The morning of May 1st, my new day nurse offered me if I wanted to move to a room with a hydrotherapy tub.  Moving was one of the best decisions I made that day because the tub helped a lot later on.  I was so fortunate to have 1:1 care from my nurse, which they reserve for patients who wish to not have an epidural and want a natural labor.  She, as well as all my nurses at the hospital, were attentive to my every need.  Even better, they always checked in with me on my birth plan, discussing it in front of me, in report, and asking me if there was anything I needed to change or update.  Their support was incredible.

At 8 AM, the covering OB arrived and told me he would need to break my water.  I wasn't progressing fast enough considering my decreased amniotic fluids.  I was internally having a mini meltdown, and for the first time, doubting God.  I said to my husband, "Why won't God let my body just progress naturally?" I was doubting and discouraged.  But God was with me then, as he is always.  Always faithful and always sovereign.  I reflected on the list of Bible verses I had brought into the hospital with me that specifically were for encouragement through the labor process.  My husband and I read them out loud together and prayed that my body would progress with labor.  The OB had said I needed to progress within the next hour or so to avoid needing pitocin.

Fortunately, within the hour I was (though I didn't know it) 5 cm dilated.  I wasn't walking in the halls at this point.  My doula had just arrived and my nurse was present as they explained to me that I was transitioning into active labor.  I would meet my son soon!

The next few hours are a blur.  Labor was by far the most challenging, yet rewarding experience I have received in this life.  The hydrotherapy tub, pregnancy ball, and peanut ball were my best buds.  My team helped me frequently change positions and prepared me to endure each contraction.

Another thing I was thankful in doing to prepare for labor was to take the week and a half that I had off from work prior to take time to meditate, pray and practice deep breathing.  Whether it was for 5 minutes or 20 minutes, I made this a daily practice so that I could take this with me into labor.  It was a good thing that I did.  Deep breathing and focusing on relaxing images was one way I was able to get through contractions.

As I neared 9 centimeters dilation, I was begging my doula and husband for an epidural.  "Too late," they said.  "You're doing this Lindsay!"  See, I knew this would happen.  In the weeks prior, I had told my labor team that I knew there would come a point that I would be asking for an epidural, and I needed them to encourage me and talk me through not getting it.  In active labor, they reminded me how close I was and how it was too late to get one because by the time I did, my son would be with me.  This gave me hope.  I remember saying, "I don't have enough strength to do this," to which my incredible doula replied, "God has given you just enough strength to do this Lindsay."

And He did.

Once I had gotten to almost 10 cm, my nurse told me that I could continue to endure contractions or attempt pushing to get to 10 cm.  I chose the latter, as I was ready to get this contraction thing over with and meet my son!  So the labor team started preparing the room for the OB and helped me with pushing.  The end was in sight, and I knew I would meet my son soon!!

From 1:00 pm and on I pushed.  Believe it or not, I felt like pushing was easier than contractions.  Maybe because you know your at the end?  Your kind of in this zone where you just know it's gotta get done.  I was probably about to take my husbands arm off between all my grabbing and clenching.  I was in almost this animalistic (for lack of a better term) mode.  I was reminded God's promises in these final moments and pushes.  Baby boy was crowning, and I was told I only needed to do maybe one or two last pushes.

At 2:05 PM, my son Jace Alexander was here.  With my last push my son was born, and I was able to hold him and immediately bring him to my chest.  The only word to describe it was surreal.  At 7 lb 13 oz and 20.5 inches long, he was my my perfect little miracle that I was so grateful for.

No one can describe the love and the emotions of those first few moments together.  What a gift that God has given experience this.  If I could have frozen those moments in time forever, I would have.

I couldn't say enough about my incredible husband, doula Melody Hamm, and my awesome nursing team at Sarasota Memorial who were so supportive, encouraging and blessed me so much!!  My hospital birthing experience was so special to me.  God was so faithful to his promises, and I am so thankful for my happy and healthy son.

You, like me, will have your own unique and special birth story.  The details in between are irrelevant.  Each child will be a new experience, and one that is a miracle.  What a relief and comfort to know God knows exactly how your birth story will turn out.  We can find rest and peace in that.  Some stories may be sad, discouraging and maybe even disappointing.  But God will reveal to you his perfect plan for your baby, and will bring glory to himself through it.  He will give you hope and strength.  He will be faithful.

Enjoy letting God write your birth story.