My husband and I recently welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world. And while many mamas are eager to shed those extra pounds ASAP, I spent the last nine months with super intense morning sickness, nausea, and heartburn that prevented me from eating basically anything I enjoy. For a self-proclaimed foodie, who loves bold flavors, global cuisine, and trying new recipes with my husband, it was torturous. I was not about to immediately jump into a strict diet plan post-birth that further prevented me from enjoying some of my favorite foods.
So, we gave ourselves a free pass and indulged in all the holiday goodies: We had an epic Thanksgiving dinner (plus many meals of amazing leftovers), calorie-rich appetizers at holiday parties, a few fancy dinner dates when we could round up babysitters, and more Christmas cookies than I'd ever admit to actually eating. After all, what's a couple of extra pounds at this point? I knew I was going to tackle healthy eating and exercise in January along with everyone else anyway. Plus, I already had a fantastic collection of very stretchy, elastic-waisted pants! So, we've been living the dream the past couple months, eating like our high school selves with no regard for calorie intake. So fantastic. But now we find ourselves in January and it's time to kick back into gear! I'm missing all of my beloved pants with buttons and zippers, and I'm honestly kind of tired of all of the sugar and carb overload.
About a year-and-a-half ago, we tried the Whole30 challenge: A diet rich in protein, veggies, and fruits with zero dairy, grains, legumes, or sugar. I'm not going to lie to you, it was rough. I will eat anything if you put enough cheese on it. And knowing I get to have a bit of ice cream after the kids go to bed, basically gets me through most days as a stay-at-home mama. And while I can cut out baked goods and sweets pretty easily, sugar is in EVERYTHING! It was really tricky to find any premade or processed foods without some sort of sugar or sweetener, even the supposedly healthy versions. But we persevered and came out of it thinner, healthier, and honestly with some beloved new recipes in our repertoire. We decided that we'd like to do another round to kick off the New Year, not just for weight loss, but as a much-needed reset from all the holiday carbs and sugars we'd grown too accustomed to eating. I'm excited to share some of my favorite recipes. If you find yourself in need of a bit of a change, or with a couple extra pounds hanging around, check out some delicious recipes below:
1. Chimichurri Chicken with Homemade Ranch DressingReal Food With Dana
One of the hardest parts of the Whole 30 for me is the lack of sauces, condiments, or dips. Everything pre-made has sugar in it, so you have to make them yourself... all from scratch. And I'm sad to say we've tried a few paleo ranch dressing recipes that tasted less like our favorite classic and more like garlicky coconut sunscreen. So no worries, I've done the hard work for you and found a ranch that's truly delicious. While this bold, cilantro-packed chimichurri doesn't need any additional sauce, a delicious homemade ranch is the perfect pairing. Plus, you can make extra for dipping lots of fresh veggies throughout the week. Full of fresh herbs, these rich flavors will leave your taste buds incredibly happy.
2. Italian-Style Egg SkilletMy Luscious Life
Perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, this Italian baked eggs skillet will never let you down. It's chock-full of veggies like peppers, onions, and mushrooms, plus, you can add in whatever else you have on hand. Sauté the veggies with bacon or sausage (or both!) for extra flavor and protein, then pour in your tomatoes and let it simmer. Soft-cooked eggs are one of my all time favorites and round out this dish beautifully. Serve as is or on top of some potatoes or zucchini noodles. Top with some fresh basil and enjoy!
3. Paleo Sweet Potato ToastsPaleo Paparazzi
Artisanal toasts layered with indulgent toppings are all the rage, but a diet with no grains makes this hard to achieve. Have no fear! Thinly slice up some sweet potatoes and brush them with olive oil. Next, bake and then broil them for extra crispness: They're the perfect alternative to gluten-filled toast! Top each slice with decadent additions to make a complete meal. My favorites include guacamole, prosciutto, and a soft poached egg. You can also try smoked salmon or some carnitas for a little extra protein. Add some crunch with cucumber, greens, or thinly sliced radish. No matter which toppings you choose, you definitely won't feel like you're dieting with these heartily delicious little "toasts."
4. Juicy Baked Chicken FingersEating Bird Food
Sometimes we need to take baby steps to start building new habits. These chicken fingers are juicy, crunchy, and full of flavor! Unlike their fried counterparts, they are grain-free and infinitely more healthy. Plus, this basic recipe can be modified in tons of different ways... depending on what you're craving. Pound chicken breasts thin and top them with marinara for a twist on chicken parmesan. Use them to add some crunch and protein to a yummy salad. Wrap them in prosciutto and top with Dijon mustard for a Whole30-approved take on cordon bleu. Or to keep it classic and simple, dip these babies in some of that homemade Whole30-approved ranch dressing. The possibilities are endless here, so get creative!
5. Veggie-Packed ChiliLaura Fuentes
Most chili recipes are probably close to being Whole30 compliant as long as you omit the beans. This one is our go-to recipe because not only is it full of rich, bold chili flavor, it's also packed with tons of fresh veggies. I like to make a big batch ahead of time and heat it up throughout the week. Plus, because it's loaded with carrots, peppers, onions, and zucchini, it really is a complete meal. You can even use it to top a baked potato or sweet potato for a little change-up or add a dollop of fresh guac to really make it indulgent.
6. Mmmmm Creamy Cauliflower HummusLiving Loving Paleo
As I mentioned before, I miss all the dips and sauces when we're doing a round of Whole30. I love fresh veggies, but I want some ranch or hummus, and unfortunately chickpeas are a no-no. This cauliflower hummus is the perfect substitute, and honestly, I like it just as much as the original version. Plus, what's healthier than dipping veggies into veggies?! Use tahini for a classic version, or swap it out for roasted red peppers or olives if you'd like a twist. No matter which route you go, your fresh veggies will have the perfect (healthy) companion.