I was shopping at my local grocery store, filling my cart full of veggies, meats and nuts, when a fellow shopper looked in my cart and commented, "You must be on that Atkins diet." I explained to him that I was not on a "diet," rather a lifestyle that most call Paleo. I told him I don't eat grains such as wheat, rice, or beans and that I get my fiber from all of the vegetables and (occasional) fruit I eat. I told him that I believe most animal fats are good for you. He said that sounded hard and expensive to do and he didn't know what he would do if he couldn't eat bread, pasta, potatoes or rice. I explained that a diet full of vegetables and protein keeps you full and satisfied, and I feel healthier making the change. As most of us who follow Paleo know, most grains lack many nutrients and even contain anti-nutrients like phytates and can actually promote inflammation. In the case of simple carbs like potatoes, white rice and processed flours, they can exhaust your pancreas with over production of insulin resulting in weight gain and degenerative diseases like diabetes. For more information about why grains should not be a staple, check out Mark's Daily Apple article "Top 8 Most Common Reactions to Your Grain Free Diet and How to Respond." I think it covers many of the bases and will help you respond to people who have many questions, especially because grains have been part of our diets for a long time, albeit you are not getting optimal nutrition.
If you've recently decided to start this lifestyle, but need some help through the challenging phase of figuring out what to eat for each meal of the day, this post is for you. Keep in mind that I am not always a die-hard Paleo follower, and some of these recipes may have dairy or the occasional potatoes or rice, but that is usually to accommodate my non-paleo partner (I'm still working on him, wink wink) or for those readers that are just gluten free and not necessarily Paleo.
What to Eat?
Breakfast. My breakfast regimen almost always consists of a vegan (pea) protein shake. It doesn't sound appetizing but its pretty tasty, and since I have several food intolerances, this is a hypoallergenic choice for me that provides many nutrients and a good serving of protein to start my day. I'm currently on a physician prescribed brand called Douglas Laboratories - Ultra Protein Plus , but if this is unattainable, I also like Now Foods Pea Protein available at Amazon or your local health food stores. The vanilla flavor is a good base so I can mix it up from day to day. Add a tablespoon of almond butter which tastes like a peanut butter cookie, or a handful of berries, espresso to taste like a latte or some unsweetened cocoa powder and mint which curbs my chocolate cravings. I don't ever get tired of this, especially because it is grab and go and I can drink it on my way to work, and also because I think my body really absorbs the nutrients well (hard for me with regular food since my digestion is impaired due to a gut imbalance) and gives me the energy and focus I need.
So what other foods do I eat in a normal week? Below is a list of what I've eaten recently, and I hope some of this will inspire you. I also encourage you to look at the many Paleo cookbooks that are out there. You can find some of these on my Book and Product Recommendations page.
Eggs! Hard boiled eggs (I buy mine from Healthy Family Farms at my local farmers market, or Vital Farms at Whole Foods), or poached eggs with bacon and sauteed veggies, eggs and soy chorizo (soy is NOT a Paleo food) with sauteed onions and kale. You could also make these coconut flour biscuits which make an awesome egg and bacon breakfast sandwich, or use them to make my favorite, eggs benedict.
Apple Cinnamon Almond Meal Pancakes. I make these when I'm craving comfort food for breakfast or even dinner. It's a very simple recipe that you can find in many paleo cookbooks. I use almond meal or flour, stevia, vanilla extract, almond or coconut milk, cinnamon and diced apples. I try not to consume too many nuts on a daily basis, as most nuts have a higher omega 6 ratio, except for walnuts. Most people need more omega 3s which is good for reducing inflammation and is a great brain food.
Bunless Burger. A lettuce wrapped burger is one of my staples. I like mine with red or carmelized onion, sauteed mushrooms, bacon, avocado and a dash of Tapatio. I also order this with a side of sauteed veggies. If I am craving french fries (I'm not much of a potato person, thankfully) I might get an order of sweet potato fries, have a few and take the rest home to my fiance.
Roasted Chicken. A roast chicken is something that you can stretch for 2 to 3 meals. You can eat the roast chicken and its flavorful skin one night, then pull the chicken meat off the bone the next day and use in salads and casseroles, then make a nutritious bone broth in the crock pot overnight to use for soups. If you're not much of a cook, you can buy a pre-roasted chicken. I recommend an organic chicken fed only vegetarian feed (preferably no corn or soy) that is truly free-range. I don't mind spending a bit more on this as I'm going to get several meals from it. Besides, it's good to know when animals have been treated humanely, are provided the space to exercise and are eating what nature intended. The wandering birds leave droppings that boost soil fertility which is great for the environment. After all, didn't you know that soil is alive?
Grassfed Beef. I like to make meatloaf made from grassfed beef. I usually buy this from US Wellness Meats or Novy Ranches. Last week I made this with curried greens, a delicious recipe I found on Dr. Weil's website. The recipe calls for potatoes, so you can take em or leave em.
I also enjoy making my own breakfast sausages from ground beef or pork. Add sage, oregano, cayenne, salt and pepper and fry em up!
Salad. I like to make what Mark Sisson refers to as a "big-ass salad." I think that term is very appropriate! Last night I pulled together a fresh Mediterranean salad with romaine, cucumber, tomato, red onion, red bell pepper, kalamata olives, fresh Bulgarian feta cheese (I occasionally eat dairy) mixed with minced garlic, paprika, lemon zest, cayenne, salt and pepper. This was really a satisfying summer meal if I do say so myself!
Snacks Kind Bars, green apple with almond butter, veggie sticks. Dark Chocolate with almond butter. My snacks are usually very simple. I am however looking forward to buying a food dehydrator soon so I can make some jerky! Another good snack is to make almond or flax meal crackers. See my easy recipe for these here.
Dessert. "Paleo" brownie bites made in cupcake tins with stevia and dark chocolate chunks that do not contain dairy or soy (you can find the 365 brand at Whole Foods). I also make carrot-zuchinni muffins with almond flour, cinnamon and nutmeg and sprouted walnuts. Paleo peach or apple cobbler using pecans and almond flour crust is a favorite. Now and then I make a mean mexican chocolate pudding using egg yolks, coconut milk, cocoa powder and a dash of cayenne. For those that are following just the gluten free diet and not necessarily Paleo, Trader Joes has some almond horn cookies made out of almond flour and dipped in chocolate. They are muy delicioso.
What has everyone else enjoyed eating recently that is gluten free or Paleo? Looking forward to your comments and suggestions.