Preparing For A Nutrition Challenge

Nutrition challenges can be a lot of fun and rewarding, especially when doing it with a group or team. They can also be a little intimidating, especially if you have never done one before. Here is a short list of tips / ideas to help you prepare for a successful nutrition challenge.

1. Clean Out the Cupboards:
Take some time to clean out non-compliant foods from your pantry and refrigerator and re-stock with compliant options. Get rid of hydrogenated oils and refined sugars, replace them with healthy alternatives. Olive, coconut and avocado are great oils and stevia, coconut sugar or honey for sweeteners.

2. Meal Planning:
Prepare a thorough meal plan for the first week; include breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks. Then create the next weeks plan about midway through the current week. Try to change up some of the meals so you have variety.  Remember to focus on buying whole fresh foods, so you should be shopping at the perimeter of the store where the fresh foods are and not in the center aisles where all the processed foods live. Remember all broccoli is not created equal, there are far more nutrients in fresh broccoli than frozen.

Click to download a blank shopping / planning sheet. The sheet is in 2 columns, plan your meals on the left. As you add meals, start tallying the ingredients in the right column.
* Here is a sample menu / shopping list for a full week.

3. Weekly Food Prep:
One of the best ways to stay on track is  make 2 or 3 compliant meals ahead of time and be sure to have some leftovers. This makes lunch packing a breeze. Sundays are my food prep days. I usually do a big grill that consists of a few pounds of chicken, some salmon, 2 or 3 onions, 2-3 bell peppers, baby bella mushrooms and some zucchini. I’ll also make a pot of lentils or an Asian Chicken Salad. Occasionally I will make Egg Muffins for quick breakfasts. Remember variety is good, it’s easy to get burnt out on grilled chicken, rice and broccoli.

4. Have A Fall Back Plan:
Have a plan for when you are feeling weak (like when you walk into the break room to find a box Voodoo donuts on the table). This could be anything from going for a walk or run, check-in with a team mate, make a cup of tea, meditate. Find something that works for you. The first few days are the toughest, so having a plan ahead of time can be a game changer.

5. Prepare The Night Before:
Getting in the habit of packing the night before is a great way to set yourself up for success. If you created a meal plan for the week, then you should already know what is on the menu.

I set up the coffee pot, pack the gym bag and prep my meals. Doing this allows me time to “win” the morning, meaning I have time to enjoy my coffee while I do some reading. Then I foam roll / stretch out for about 15 minutes, then take 5 to 10 minutes to meditate and help prepare me for the day ahead. Once I go through my morning routine, I get the kids lunches packed and make breakfast. If you can win the morning, you can win the day, getting a head start the night before gives you that extra edge!

6. Experiment and Try New Things:
Take this opportunity to try some new foods or recipes like cauliflower fried rice. Try replacing your half n half with homemade cashew coffee creamer. If pasta and meatballs was a weekly favorite in the house, sub out the pasta for some, spaghetti squash, fried cabbage or cauliflower.

7. Start Making Small Food Changes a Few Days Before the Challenge Starts:
This is a great way to start weaning your body off the complex sugars ahead of time instead of going cold turkey.  If you eat a fair amount of processed foods, then your body will need a few days to detox. Sugar cravings can be intense, so getting that head start and having a fall back plan will help in your success. And remember to drink lots of water!

8. Have Fun
This is the most important tip. This is a time to experiment and learn, make the best of it by not taking things too seriously. You want this time to be fun and rewarding. When things get you down, remember…. this is something that you get to do – not something you have to do.  If you have a bad nutrition day, don’t let it get you down, pick up where you left off, keep going and lean on your teammates when things get tough.

This is my list of tips to be successful during a nutrition challenge. Hopefully some of these tips will become positive habits later on after your nutrition challenge. Feel free to add your personal tips by posting a comment.

Asian Chicken Salad (Paleo)

I was waiting my turn at the deli case the other day and saw an oriental chicken salad that looked really good, but it had those fried crispy noodles. I pulled out my phone and googled a Paleo version of the recipe and thought  I’d  experiment.  I derived it from a few a different Asian Chicken Salad recipes.  I think it turned out really good!


1 Head Napa Cabbage (sliced thin then cross-cut)
1/4 head Green Cabbage (sliced thin then cross-cut)
2-3 Large Carrots (peeled and shredded)
1/4 – 1/2 C Cilantro (chopped)
2 Tbsp Toasted Sesame Seeds
3-5 Green Onions (chopped, include the green & white parts)
2 Chicken Breasts
1/2 C Teriyaki Sauce
3 Tbsp Finely Chopped Ginger
1/8 C Avocado Oil
1/8 C Toasted Sesame Oil
1/4 C Red Chili Sauce
1/8 C Bragg’s Aminos
1/8 C Tamari
1/4 C Rice Vinegar
1 Tbsp Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tsp Sriracha (more if you like it hot)
Sea Salt to Taste


  1. Marinate the chicken in the Teriyaki for 30 minutes. Cook however you like…. I grilled mine. Once cooked, set aside and allow to cool thoroughly.  Once cooled, cut in to small bites.
  2. Combine the cabbage, carrots, cilantro, chicken and sesame seeds.
  3.  In mixing bowl, briskly whisk together the onions, ginger and all the wet ingredients (vinegars, oils, sauces, etc).
  4. Mix 1/2 to 3/4 of dressing mixture with salad mix. Thoroughly combine to  make sure the dressing is distributed through out. Add remaining dressing incrementally until you have your desired consistency.
  5. Add salt to taste.

Optional ingredients to add to this Paleo Asian Chicken Salad would be chopped cashews or sliced almonds. If you don’t have avocado oil, use a good virgin olive oil instead.



Pair of Kittens Need a Home

We have 2 adorable kittens that need a home. They are siblings and are very attached to each other. We are looking for a home that would take the pair together as we do not want to split them up. They are approximately 7-8 weeks old and were dropped off on our doorstep by a neighborhood mama cat when they were about 4 weeks old.

Burpee Challenge – 1000 Burpees in 30 Days

After doing all those burpees in Wednesdays WOD, I started thinking how worked I felt, then a light bulb flickered in my head and I got the idea for a burpee challenge. I thought, “I’ve been on the lookout for a good challenge lately and a burpee challenge sounds joyfully painful, yet rewarding”.

Why on earth would anyone want to do a burpee challenge?

Burpees are a full body workout with 6 body weight movements in one, making it one of the most effective and efficient exercises on the planet.  If you choose to accept this challenge, your reward will be increased strength, endurance, energy, stamina and a whole lot more. Its like Laura B. said the other day, “burpees are good for you like vitamins and kale”.

Burpee Challenge Rules:

The rules are pretty simple…

  • Do 1000 burpees in 30 days, partition as you like (examples below).
  • Not required to do them every day, rest days are ok.
  • Burpees done during class WODs do NOT count.

Partitioning Examples:

  • Everyday for 30 Days:  33 burpees a day for 29 days, then 43 burpees on the last day.
  • Scale Up Each Week: Week 1 – 160 burpees , Week 2 – 210, Week 3 – 280, Week 4 – 350
  • You can find various other partitioning options through a simple google search for burpee challenge.

Here is great video from, about how the burpee skill transfers to other movements like the handstand push-up.

Through my 10 minutes of research, some history of the burpee also came up. So who do we thank for this wonderful and heinous exercise?  A physiology student working on his doctoral thesis at Columbia University in the 1930s did, his name was Royal H. Burpee. (1).

The US Army started using burpees to assess fitness levels during WW II, which is what helped make it so popular today. The original burpee only had 4 movements compared to the 6 movement version we most commonly use today. You can find more burpee history on Wikipedia.

Do accept the burpee challenge? Reply with a comment either on the original blog post or on Facebook.

Cashew Coffee Creamer

I’ve made cashew coffee creamer few times, its super easy and tastes delicious! There are recipes out there with and without sweeteners. I’ve tried it both ways and that sweetener is not really needed, but I’ve included it as an optional ingredient.


  • 1/2 cup raw organic whole unsalted cashews
  • 3-4 cups of water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • Pinch of salt (optional)
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup (optional)


In airtight mason jar, combine the cashews and half of the water.  Put lid on jar and let stand at room temp for about 5 hours. You can also place in the refrigerator overnight.

Drain and discard the water from the soak. Place cashews in blender or food processor and add 1/2 water to start. We will gradually add more water as we go. If you are using vanilla and salt, add those also. Blend for about a minute or so, gradually adding water a couple of tablespoons at a time to get the mixture smooth and moving. Add maple syrup and continue adding water a little at a time until you get to a desired consistency.

Use mixture in your coffee just like you would a traditional creamer.  Cashew coffee creamer should last in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days.

WLC Week 1 – Dinner Menu Planning

This is a sample dinner plan to give folks some ideas for the first week of the Whole Life Challenge. This works for Kickstart, substitute as needed for other levels.  My first weeks menu looks something this…

Sunday:  Roasted chicken, steamed broccoli with butter, lemon & salt, cauliflower puree with caramelized onions & garlic.

Monday:  Rice bowls using the left over roasted chicken, topped with lots of fresh raw vegetables (purple cabbage, carrot, black olive, avocado, salsa, Greek Yogurt).

Tuesday:  Ground beef tacos on corn tortillas.

Wednesday:  Stuffed baked potato with left over taco meat, fresh salsa, grilled mushrooms, Greek yogurt and steamed broccoli.

Thursday: Slower cooker beef roast with root vegetables (parsnip, turnip, carrots).

Friday: Grilled pork chops, roasted sweet potatoes and steamed Brussels sprouts.

Edited June 1, 2017

Egg Muffins

Egg Muffins are my favorite breakfast food. I began making these a few years ago when I started CrossFitting and eating more on the Paleo side. These can be made with a variety of ingredients, so feel free to be creative.

Ingredients: Yields a dozen muffins

  • 2.5 – 3  cups broccoli florets (1/2 to 3/4 inch pieces)
  • 1/2 lb or so breakfast sausage or bacon
  • 10-12 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Coconut or olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper


  • Pre-heat oven @ 350 degrees (I have not had good luck with convection ovens)
  • Cook sausage thoroughly into small crumbles in a saute pan
  • Saute or blanch broccoli (I usually saute it in the sausage drippings pan)
  • Mix eggs and milk in large bowl with a little bit of salt and pepper
  • Layer ingredients in lightly grease the muffin pan
  • Pour egg over top of layered ingredients, to just below the lip.
  • Bake in oven for 25 – 30 minutes

This is my Paleo version, my non-Paleo version includes shredded hash brown potato and shredded cheddar cheese.

Paleo Almond Muffins

Almond muffins are one of my favorite  Paleo treats to make ahead of time and keep on hand. They are super easy to make and are absolutely delicious.

  • 5 cups almond meal
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1- 2 tb. vanilla extract

Optional Flavor Ideas

  • 1 cup dried cranberries + zest from about 1/2 an orange
  • 1/2 -3/4 cup frozen blueberries + zest from 1 lemon
  • Be creative and come up with your own 🙂

Measure the almond meal into a bowl and add baking powder, stir. Beat eggs and vanilla extract together. Add to almond meal and stir. Next stir in honey and your flavoring combinations.

Divide into greased muffin tray and cook for 30 -35 minutes at 300 degrees.

Another variation I just thought of is apple, raisin and cinnamon.


Paleo Sheperds Pie

I love shepherd’s pie and I love trying new paleo recipes so I had to give this one a try. My changes to the recipe were adding garlic & broccoli to the mixture and salt & pepper to the topping.

paleo sheperds pieThe Mixture
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic diced
1 pound bacon, cut into 2 inch slices
2 cups diced carrots
2 cups diced celery
2 cups broccoli in 1 inch pieces
1 pound ground beef
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
1 cup chicken broth

2 large heads cauliflower, trimmed, chopped and steamed until very soft
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a very large frying pan
Saute onion for 15 minutes until soft
Add bacon pieces to pan and sauté until cooked, about 10 minutes
Add broccoli, carrots and celery to pan and sauté in bacon fat for 10 minutes until soft
Add ground beef to pan and sauté until brown, just a few minutes
Season with salt, pepper and smoked paprika
Add chicken broth and cook down broth until 60% evaporated
Place cauliflower in food processor and puree with olive oil, salt and pepper until smooth
Pour ground beef mixture into a 9×13 inch Pyrex baking dish
Pour mashed cauliflower over beef mixture
Bake at 350° for 30 minutes

Serves 8

The original recipe can be found at Elana’s Pantry