Journey 106: My First LARABAR 


I stopped by a local grocery store in Joplin today, to pick up avocados. Checking out I spotted LARABARs for sale, above the plethora of candy bars available. I had read about these health bars on the Whole30 website. Curious, I purchased a Peanut Butter Cookie one to try, since I am in my slightly more relaxed second 30 days. 

On the Whole30 site, the bars are suggested as more of an emergency food to be consumed if no other healthy whole food is available. I assumed LARABARs had to be ordered online. It was a nice surprise to discover local availability. 

The packaging states Gluten Free • Dairy Free • Soy Free • Vegan • Kosher. The back of the packaging has a statement from the founder of the bar, Lara. “We at LARABAR believe that a sound mind, body and spirit are derived from food in its simplest most natural state. Made from 100% real food, LARABAR is a magical harmony of fruits, nuts, and spices that will lift your vitality and provide energy with every bite. Simple. Pure. Delicious. Enjoy the energy!”

I researched Lara and her bar and discovered that she had the idea for her creation while out hiking in the Rocky Mountains. Lara, who used to be a junk food junkie and is now passionate about healthy living, wanted a nutritious, good-for-you indulgence that used wholesome, simple ingredients. And indeed, her bars only contain two to eight ingredients. 

With a rolling pin and a Cuisinart, she tinkered with recipes, using her family as tasters. In May 2000 the LARABAR was launched in five delicious flavors. The first 500 bars were packaged and sold. Today, millions of bars are sold each year. 

It was time for my own taste test! I tried my bar with an unsweetened ice tea. The Peanut Butter Cookie Bar contains only three ingredients: dates, peanuts and sea salt. For the sake of clarity, this bar would not be allowed during the first 30 days, due to the inclusion of peanuts. I have tested my body’s response to peanuts during my second 30 days, as per the Whole30 guidelines, and I do not have allergic or inflammatory reactions to peanuts.   

The bar was moist and very tasty! One bar satisfied me and I didn’t crave another one, or anything else for that matter. Knowing these are available locally, I will occasionally buy ONE bar as an indulgence, as Lara suggests. It’s really about choices and how I feel and enjoying life, with a high level of energy and vitality. I believe savoring a LARABAR now and then fits right in with my lifestyle! 


           LARABAR founder, Lara Merriken 

Journey 85: Boom….Complete the Whole30

finished the whole 30

Boom is right! I did it…. I completed the Whole30 healthy eating plan. Thirty days of higher awareness of what I was putting on my plate, and more importantly, what I was putting in my body. Following the guidelines from the Whole30 website, I am spending about 10 days after my first Whole30 evaluating where I am and reintroducing the forbidden foods, except for sugar, back into my diet to see if my body reacts negatively to them.

The evaluation part is easy. I feel great. I know….I know….I know that this is the very best eating plan for me, a diet that focuses on lean proteins, vegetables and limited amounts of fruit, and healthy fats such as avocadoes and nuts. That’s it. That’s so simple. It has not been difficult for me to get into the routine of eating this way. Every meal needs to have that combo, when possible. I keep staples on hand like walnuts and avocadoes, lean meats in the freezer, eggs….lots of organic eggs. I buy bags of chopped salad for convenience. I add a fresh, chopped tomato and half an avocado, chopped as well, and a diced egg, and I have lunch.

Even when I eat out I have done well. “Naked” meats, meaning no coating, grilled or baked. And veggies. Baked sweet potatoes, plain in a restaurant or with clarified butter, also known as ghee, when I’m at home, are so filling. Almond butter and sliced apples are my favorite snack with afternoon tea or if I get hungry in the evenings. I have found my craving for sugar has disappeared. As has my craving for bread and carbs. I lost almost 10 pounds on the Whole30, which is an awesome bonus. Primarily, I want to feel great by reducing inflammation in my body, regaining flexibility and maintaining high energy levels. I am doing that. My one test each morning is to flex the fingers on my right hand. No pain means I’m eating well. Pain or stiffness means I let something creep into my diet, usually hidden sugar.

I’ve learned to check labels for that pesky sugar, appreciate the flavor of foods as my taste buds detoxified, and drink my tea plain, without a splash of milk. Today I wondered if I should celebrate my accomplishment with a “forbidden” treat but then decided why do that? I couldn’t even think of something that I wanted badly enough to do that to my body.

In the reintroduction phase, foods on the NO list are tried, one food group at a time, for one day. Then the food is not consumed for two days. The idea is to feel with the body what the reaction is to eating the food again, and then avoiding it for a couple of days and checking in with the body again. Today, I reintroduced non-gluten grains. I’ll check for pain and joint stiffness tomorrow, or digestive issues, and then see how I feel after two days of not eating those foods. Again, so easy. Any food group that brings pain, stiffness, indigestion or bloating, goes back on the NO list. Any food that does not create inflammation can remain on the YES list and be eaten in moderation. Sugar is the exception. It is toxic to me. I already know that. I may occasionally have a small piece of birthday cake or a small ice cream cone, but again, I may not want to trade my health for that small, quickly eaten treat.

For that is the real benefit that I am receiving from eating this way….health….wellness. Last August, limping in Scotland with a sore, stiff leg due to an inflamed sciatic nerve, I learned an important truth for myself: to appreciate my body and all that it does for me, in spite of the way I nourish it and feed it. Even when it is in pain, it does the very best that it can for me. I’d never water down the gasoline for my car and then complain about the way the car chugged and choked along. I’d know the poor quality of fuel was impeding the performance of the car. And yet, I’ve done that very thing to my body, giving it poor quality food and nourishment and then complained when it struggled along. I am so grateful that this whole food way of eating keeps showing up in my life. To show the highest level of appreciation for my marvelous body, I want to give it the very best nourishment that I can. I’m on board for another 30 days…and another….and another….as this way of fueling my body brings optimal health. I will Keep Calm…and Whole30 On!

finished the whole 30 keep calm

Journey 65: Healthy Nut Cookies

nut cookies with tea

While I’ve been on the Whole30 Program, I thought I would miss having an occasional frozen yogurt. I haven’t. What I have missed is having something with my afternoon cup of hot tea. While berries and nuts are a great health conscious choice to accompany tea time, I’ve missed having something to actually dunk into my tea. A strawberry dipped in hot tea just isn’t quite the same!

And then I saw this recipe for Healthy Nut Cookies on Rosie Battista’s Facebook page. Rosie is the author of Sleeping Naked After 40, and she is an amazing proponent of clean, healthy eating and being fit. I saved the recipe, which promised GRAIN FREE, SUGAR FREE, DAIRY FREE, GUILT FREE, and looked forward to seeing if the treats were as good as they looked.

Tonight, I made a batch as I hummed along with tunes on my iPod. I found all the ingredients at my local discount grocery store, without having to go to the health food store. Here is the recipe:

Dry Ingredients:

2 cups of Almond Flour (found this in the baking aisle at the store)

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon baking powder

1 Tablespoon chia seeds (found a small package of these next to the almond flour in the baking aisle)

½ cup raisins

½ cup pecans

½ Tablespoon cinnamon

Combine all of the above in a medium sized bowl and set aside.

nut cookies dry ingredients

Wet Ingredients:

In a blender combine:

1 Tablespoon coconut oil

6 pitted dates

¼ cup almond milk

¼ cup peanut butter, no sugar added (I bought organic peanut butter, no sugar added)

½ banana

1 ½ teaspoon vanilla

nut cookies wet ingredients

Blend ingredients until smooth and creamy. Combine wet and dry ingredients, stirring with spoon until dough forms. Drop by tablespoon onto greased cookie sheet and press down lightly with a fork to flatten slightly. Bake at 350 degrees 5–10 minutes, or until bottoms of cookies are lightly browned. The original recipe called for 14-18 minutes of baking time, but I found the cookies to be done after 5-6 minutes. Ovens vary. Watch your cookies so they don’t burn! I use my sense of smell. When I can smell the cookies, they are usually done. Does anyone else do that? Makes approximately 36 cookies.

nut cookies mixing

Allow cookies to cool and then store in the freezer. These cookies supposedly do not freeze rock hard and can be eaten straight from the freezer. Because the cookies are so dense and rich, one or two cookies are plenty for a snack. Keeping them frozen maintains freshness and keeps me from eating too many of them so they “don’t go to waste”.

I haven’t frozen my cookies yet. I tried two with a cup of hot tea. And….they were delicious. Subtly sweet, thanks to the dates, raisins and banana, and very flavorful and satisfying to munch on. Best of all….I could dip them into my hot tea! I’ll be freezing the rest. What a treat in the days to come, to have one or two with my tea, without the sugar, dairy, grains….or guilt.

nut cookies ready to bake

Journey 62: Whole30 Day 7

Whole30 day 7 dinner

A quick post this evening, with an update on how the Whole30 Program is going. After a week of awareness about what I am eating, and even more awareness about what I am NOT eating, I’d say the program is going well. Eating whole foods is easy to do, even with the occasional meal out, and I feel like there is a wealth of information available online. There are recipes and supportive sites that I’ve not even looked at yet.

It’s got to be simple for a program to work for me. My schedule can sometimes interfere with regular lunch and dinner times and I’m not a big breakfast eater, however, I’m relying on boiled eggs to supply protein in the mornings and after adding a handful of nuts and a cup of berries, I’m ready to go! Lunches and dinners have most often been grilled chicken or fish with fresh or frozen veggies. I love including sliced avocado, for healthy fat. And I’ve really savored baked sweet potatoes with a dab of clarified butter, also known as ghee. This class of butter originated in India and is available locally at health food stores. Shopping has been just as simple. Most of my purchases are in the fresh produce section and the meat section, with trips down the frozen vegetable aisle, in my usual grocery store. I make a weekly run to my favorite health food store for items such as ghee and almond flour.

Tea time, I feared, would become a casualty, but I’ve found I can still have my Scottish tea, I just don’t add that splash of milk. I like the tea plain, I’ve discovered, and I can appreciate the subtle flavors more. Instead of finger sandwiches or shortbread cookies or scones, I’m enjoying fresh fruit and a handful of nuts. It’s a great little pick me up and I don’t feel cheated out of afternoon tea. Soon I’ll be trying a grain-free, sugar-free, dairy-free recipe for nut cookies that I found. If they are as delicious as they look, and prove to be a perfect accompaniment for hot tea, I’ll pass the recipe along.

Whole30 day 7 tea time

A healthier version of afternoon tea

I’m careful about eating out, however, I’ve not found it difficult to get a grilled protein, such as fish or chicken or even steak, with plain sides like grilled asparagus or a baked sweet potato without the sugar/cinnamon mix added. Today, not having time to make it home for lunch before a closing, I had grilled chicken nuggets from Chick Fil A and a plain fruit cup. Perfect.

Best of all, after one week, I’m feeling great. Those little aches and pains disappeared within 24 hours after I stopped consuming sugar. I’m sleeping better, have more energy, feel lighter. The program does not rely on scales as a measure of success and health, and I like that! My jeans are loose…that tells me all I need to know about weight. It is so good for me to be reminded that sugar is poison to me. I can occasionally have a slice of birthday cake, if I choose to after the 30 days, however, why choose to? I don’t feel good when I eat that stuff. I think dairy affects me by clogging up my sinuses and causing allergy type reactions. I don’t know that I have any intolerance of grains, but I’ll experiment with those later.

I love the quote, posted below, that I found today, about my competition being the person I look at in the mirror. That’s it. I compete with no one, judge no one, including myself. I simply challenge myself to release that which is not best for me, and embrace that which is. My desire is to be the best me possible, for my own joy, because it makes me feel great. From that amazing and optimal space, I have so much energy that it fills me and naturally overflows to others. For me, that’s the most incredible benefit of all of a healthy lifestyle.

Whole30 day 7 strawberry smoothie

Another quick pick me up…almond milk, coconut oil, fresh strawberries blended together

Whole 30 day 7 look in the mirror