Japanese School Lunch Challenge: Feb 11th

As I mentioned in my last post, the Japanese model for school lunches and food education has caught my attention. As I wrote, “the kids are taught they should eat 30 different foods a day and 100 different foods a week. As someone who craves variety, I thought this sounded like a fun challenge. So I’m going to occasionally track my daily variety count here.”

So here we go – this might be fun! I’m going to exclude things like baking soda, salt, and pepper, but try to include everything else.

Breakfast: Lemon poppyseed pancakes, apple

  1. almond flour
  2. milk
  3. eggs
  4. lemon juice, lemon rind
  5. poppyseeds
  6. apple
  7. butter

Lunch: Sole, coleslaw, cauliflower muffins

  1. Sole
  2. Parsley
  3. Shallots
  4. Green cabbage
  5. Green onion
  6. raisins
  7. sunflower seeds
  8. grapeseed oil
  9. grainy mustard
  10. white wine vinegar
  11. cauliflower
  12. jalapenos
  13. cheddar cheese
  14. parmesan cheese
  15. coconut flour
  16. garlic powder
  17. onion flakes

Dinner: Shawarma salad

  1. tomatoes
  2. cukes
  3. yellow onions
  4. chicken thighs
  5. allspice
  6. paprika
  7. cumin
  8. yogurt
  9. tahini
  10. garlic


  1. Dark chocolate

Total: at least 35 foods. Woo!!

Pregnant and Primal

This post title is misleading. I just liked the alliteration. I’m 20 weeks along but have not been following the Primal plan very closely these days.

Late fall I dealt with typical nausea and food aversions, although mercifully, they were not as bad as with my first pregnancy. This post on MDA was timely for me; I decided to take Mark’s words to heart and try not to stress about wanting to eat carby stuff. I bought rice pasta and we started eating rice, beans, and potatoes a little more often. I knew that since I was already eating a lot of veggies and fruit, that I wasn’t totally derailing my typical diet, I was just getting by, which is really all you can do in your first trimester. And then, the holidays hit.

Ugh. I ate like a maniac for about 6 weeks, tons of candy, sugar, and unfortunately, gluten. Although I didn’t notice any major gastrointestinal effects, the most apparent thing was my skin breaking out, like it did pre-Primal. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a combined work/pleasure trip a few weeks ago. Too much restaurant food in too short a time frame. I did stay away from gluten but gave myself license to have fries and as much “gluten-free” food (pizza, tortillas, bread) as I felt like. Big mistake. Several days in, I had zero appetite, was horribly irregular (not a normal thing for me) and started throwing up everything I ate. By the time I was travelling home I felt absolutely wretched, and caved and had a buttered bagel because it was the only thing I felt I could keep down. (And I did, thankfully.) A few days of yogurt and real food at home and I was right as rain, though. Although some of that may be attributable to travel and pregnancy, the bottom line is that I was not eating a very balanced diet, and my body just can’t handle that any more!

When I got home after all that, I thought, forget this, I have to get off the gluten for real, and stop letting myself see “gluten-free” foods as a treat. I am even reconsidering whether I want to be a regular beer drinker (I sometimes drink de-alcoholized beer these days). That was two weeks ago and I haven’t consciously eaten any gluten since. I have made rice and bought corn tortillas a few times, and I am still eating beans, since I love them and they don’t appear to have any negative effect on me. But I know I’ve been eating too much dairy, and need to cut back on that a bit.

I have also been eating too much sugar. I recognize now just how addictive sugar really is. Evidence: empty bag of chocolate chips in my office garbage can. I decide I need a little sugar fix and suddenly half a bag is gone. Ugh, how revolting! Not good for me or my baby.

I read an interesting post on Karen Le Billon’s blog the other day, about the Japanese approach to school lunches. What caught my attention was the emphasis on variety; the kids are taught they should eat 30 different foods a day and 100 different foods a week. As someone who craves variety, I thought this sounded like a fun challenge. So I’m going to occasionally track my daily variety count here. The last week or so I’ve been in a cooking mood and have tried lots of new recipes, including a new one for an almond-flour crust pizza that I loved and will put into regular rotation. I discovered a very quick and easy method for ricing cauliflower in a blender, which is great because I don’t have a food processor. And I blanched my own almonds for the first time ever the other day, and especially enjoyed all the recipes I made with them 🙂 So all hope is not lost; I think I was just in a funk and needed it to pass.

As for my actual pregnancy, it’s going well. I am so blessed to have gotten a space in a midwifery group, so that is about as awesome as it can get. And we met our new doula and she’s amazing! My only current complaint besides having to pee every five minutes is horrible nasal dryness and congestion. I have found a godsend, though: nasal strips at bedtime. This has made a world of different and between that and running a humidifier at night, things are manageable. I was so glad that I’d discovered the nasal strips when I subsequently got a  cold, too. Lifesaver!!

Despite eating like a maniac for most of the last few months, I have only gained a couple of pounds, though I am showing now. This makes me a little uneasy; I think we are so programmed to think that pregnancy=weight gain that to not see the numbers rising more is a little unsettling. I’m going to talk to my midwife about it this week. I think it’s likely the case that my body is still losing extra weight, while putting on pregnancy pounds, so the net increase is not that much. Of course, it’s also still early enough in my pregnancy – there’s still lots of time to gain weight. As a side note, I have a friend who went paleo during her pregnancy to see if it would improve her gastrointestinal problems (it did, although she’s since had a formal diagnosis of Crohn’s) and she barely gained any weight at all. Her baby was totally healthy and she has had a much more positive experience with nursing this time too. Those things may not be related, but I’m happy for her anyway.

Lastly, since getting off the post-Christmas gluten/junk train I realized that I was having joint pain over the holidays. I didn’t notice it until it wasn’t there anymore. More motivation to stay far away. There was an incredible, inspiring story in the NYT recently about reversing juvenile idiopathic arthritis by removing gluten and dairy, too.

Other random thoughts:

  • Over the holidays I bought the Wheat Belly Cookbook and have enjoyed making a bunch of the recipes. Dr Davis’s philosophy is similar to primal although dairy is more acceptable. The verdict is that so far, the baked goods I’ve tried (tortillas, breads, wraps, etc.) aren’t great, though the pancakes are okay and the mocha walnut brownies are awesome. But the other dishes have been great. Green bean casserole, pecan-crusted pork chops, salmon with horseradish sauce – all excellent. Most of these are naturally gluten-free anyway, but it’s nice to just be able to consult a recipe and not have to make any major changes.
  • The wheat-free diet/lifestyle has been in the news a lot lately, and the message that I keep seeing overlooked is the addictive quality of modern wheat. I know, for me, this is a big one. If I have one flour-based cookie, I want to have ten more. The very fact that people see the wheat-free diet as “deprivation” and impossible to sustain long-term supports this. But I do hope that its popularity in the media encourages more people to at least look into it and read some decent resources.
  • I now know two people who have been instructed by their doctors to get off gluten and dairy. Their reactions are just so sad; they just look at their current diet and see a giant hole where wheat and dairy used to be. They haven’t been given ANY resources on how to reshape the way they eat. They haven’t been told there are thousands of people in vibrant, enthusiastic communities online who eat this way and thrive because they still love food and have found ways to embrace the foods they DO eat. It’s sad. I made a point to share information about the paleo diet to both of these people. It may have fallen on deaf ears, but at least I can say I tried.