Paleo

Back in February 2012, my husband Cameron and I decided to make some major changes to our eating habits. We were in that post-New Year's winter blahs phase where we both weren't feeling the best about our bodies, but wanted to do more than just try and cut calories as we had tried that in the past and knew it wasn't something that we could maintain long-term. We were eating a diet that we thought was fairly healthy--lots of whole grains, lots of low-fat dairy, lots of beans, but we also knew we were indulging in far too many sweets/baked goods. After doing some research, we found out about the Paleo diet and were intrigued by the concept and the science behind it. Cameron ordered the book The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet by Robb Wolf and decided he wanted to give this Paleo thing a try. I'll admit, at first I was a little hesitant. I wasn't sure that I could really make what seemed liked such drastic changes to my diet.

However, we decided to give it a go.

And?

We've loved the results.

That's why I wanted to dedicate a place on my blog to answer questions about the Paleo diet, as well as talk about our individual experience. We definitely don't adhere to the Paleo diet in the strictest sense, rather we use its principles as a framework to structure our eating habits while still allowing ourselves to indulge now and then. It's still a work in progress finding that balance of what's best for our health but also works with our lifestyle, and we are still continually learning. Eating Paleo is definitely the topic I get the most questions about from family/friends/blog readers, and although I am by no means an expert I hope that this page can serve as a resource for those of you that might be interested in going Paleo! I've addressed the most frequently asked questions below, but if there are other things you're curious about, please contact me!

What is the Paleo diet?

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I was trying to figure out the best way to explain what the Paleo diet is, but I am a much more visual person and I thought that this infographic did the job perfectly. As the name implies, the Paleo diet is based on eating foods that our ancestors would have consumed before the agricultural revolutions. The central idea behind the diet is that meats/fruits/veggies/healthy fats provide our body with the nutrition it truly needs, where as today's modern diet of overly processed foods causes a plethora of health problems. I think it's important to note that Cam and I don't follow this diet because we're trying to live like cavemen (and honestly much of the knowledge we have about the life of paleolithic man is just speculation), rather we just really like the idea of eating a really clean, nutrient rich diet comprised of real food. (FYI--The Paleo diet is also sometimes referred to as the Primal diet or Primal Blueprint, although strictly speaking they do have slight differences which you can read about here. There is also another similar diet called Whole30 which also uses a lot of the same Paleo principles. I've included some Primal/Whole30 resources links on this page, but I use the term Paleo to refer to this idea of ancestral eating as it's the name most people are familiar with!). Many of the principles of the Paleo do go against "traditional" nutrition as we're told over and over how healthy whole grains and low-fat dairy are, while things like eggs and meat are made to seem like the worst foods ever in some circles. However, when you start to actually do some reasearch, assess the science, and think critically the principles of the Paleo diet really make a lot of sense.

"The Paleo diet is the healthiest way you can eat because it is the ONLY nutritional approach that works with your genetics to help you stay lean, strong and energetic! Research in biology, biochemistry, Ophthalmology, Dermatology and many other disciplines indicate it is our modern diet, full of refined foods, trans fats and sugar, that is at the root of degenerative diseases such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, depression and infertility."
{Robb Wolf on Paleo--Click to read more!}

"I eat “real” food – fresh, natural food like meat, vegetables and fruit. I choose foods that are nutrient dense, with lots of naturally-occurring vitamins and minerals, over foods that have more calories but less nutrition. And food quality is important – I’m careful about where my meat comes from, and buy produce locally and organically as often as possible. It’s not a low calorie “diet” – I eat as much as I need to maintain strength, energy and a healthy weight. In fact, my diet is probably much higher in fat than you’d imagine. Fat isn’t the enemy – it’s a great energy source when it comes from high quality foods like avocado, coconut and nuts. And I’m not trying to do a “low carb” thing, but since I’m eating vegetables and fruits instead of bread, cereal and pasta, it just happens to work out that way. Eating like this is good for maintaining a healthy metabolism, and reducing inflammation within the body. It’s been doing great things for my energy levels, body composition and performance in the gym. It also helps to minimize my risk for a whole host of lifestyle diseases and conditions, like diabetes, heart attack and stroke."
{The Paleo Pitch from Whole9 Nutrition}

For more info about this lifestyle check out: {The Primal Blueprint Definitive Guide}

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Why no grains?
The Paleo diet advises cutting out all grains from your diet--a hard pill to swallow for most people and probably the most daunting thing about making this change. I'm not going to lie, it was a challenge at first to remove them from my diet. The thing is once you try to cut them out, you realize what a huge part of your diet they actually are and it forces you to replace them with more healthful alternatives, like veggies! I discovered that my meals primarily centered around grains--cereal in the morning, a sandwich at lunch, and often pasa for dinner. Even though I was eating a lot of whole grains which I thought were healthy, learning about the science behind Paleo really opened my eyes to the fact that in contrast to other foods like meats and veggies, grains are nutritionally inferior. Rather than me go on about why the Paleo diet cuts out grains, I'd highly suggest checking out this link; it explains the problems with grains and this excerpt from the bottom of the article sums it up perfectly--"We’re not saying there is nothing good to be found in grains. They do contain vitamins and minerals in various proportions and amounts. But the serious down sides of grains far outweigh any potential health benefits. Bottom line – there is NOTHING found in grains that you can’t get from a better source with NO down sides (like vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds)."

Why no dairy?
If you're strictly following the Paleo diet you're not supposed eat dairy, and there are plenty of reasons why dairy should be avoided, especially conventional low-fat dairy. However, dairy is definitely a gray area with a lot of people who eat Paleo as there are some potential health benefits associated with eating certain types of dairy, particularly grass-fed organic full-fat fermented dairy. Cam and I have continued to avoid eating dairy products at home with the exception of the goat cheese here and there. To be perfectly honest, this is an area I really feel I need to do more research about before I can really form a specific opinion. It's something I'm currently investigating, so I'll keep you posted!

What results have you seen from eating Paleo?
Since eating starting to eat Paleo, we've both seen very positive results. Cameron has always been a bigger, football player type guy but since adapting these new eating habits, he's lost 70lbs and has been able to maintain this weight loss--pretty incredible! He's still continuing to lose weight, and he really loves eating this way and it's obvious that it definitely agrees with him! As for me, I've also lost weight and eating Paleo and I feel like my craving for sugar has been reduced drastically. I've always had a massive sweet tooth and when I used to eat a lot more sugar, I often felt like I could not control myself with those foods and it was like they had this addictive power where I constantly craved more and more. Now that I've eliminated a lot of sugar from my diet, I don't feel like sweets have the same hold over me like they used to which is awesome. (Don't get me wrong, I definitely still down a bag of candy with the best of them, but the amount of times I've done that in the past year are far fewer than ever before!) I've also noticed an improvement in my skin as well. I still have oily/acne-prone skin that's far from perfect, but since eating Paleo I feel like the number of major breakouts I've had has been drastically reduced. One other totally non-scientific thing that I've personally observed from eating Paleo is that my hair and nails seems to grow much faster than ever before. I suppose I can't say for sure that eating Paleo is the cause, but I feel like now that I'm consuming so much more protein/nutrients it's definitely played a part!


Do you follow the Paleo diet strictly?
In a word--NO.

I feel it's important to reiterate this fact because there are some people who are very extreme about the Paleo diet (especially in the blog world!) and they're very quick to point out when things are "not Paleo." I am not making any claims to eat 100% Paleo, I definitely indulge in "non-Paleo" foods more often then I should, and I will continue to post non-Paleo recipes (along with Paleo recipes) here on my blog. While the basis of the Paleo diet does come from the idea that our bodies function best eating a diet more similar to our hunter-gather ancestors, we are fully aware of the fact that we live in the 21st century and many things have changed since that time. We realize that there are many things we don't know about the lifestyle/diet of Paleolithic man, and so we are in no way approaching this Paleo lifestyle in an attempt to replicate their exact diet lifestyle. Our views on Paleo are it's something we use as a framework to structure our eating habits because we think that the nutritional science (along with our own experience) shows that eating a diet consisting of fruits/veggies/meats/healthy fats provides greater health benefits versus eating a diet filled with grains/dairy/processed foods. We probably only eat about 70-80% Paleo, and then the rest of the time we indulge do indulge in things like bread/cheese/sweets/etc. We travel a lot and want to enjoy the foods of places we visit, and that's what works for us. Some people might argue that this is negating the effects of eating Paleo in the first place, as a lot of the science behind cutting out things like grains and dairy has to do with healing your digestive system, so by eating non-Paleo foods, you're essentially undoing that progress. However, my feeling is that we eat so much healthier now that we're 80% Paleo, so I'm not going to beat myself up over the other 20%. Cameron and I both love and appreciate good food, so when we do choose to indulge, we make sure it's worth it. For example, I love pasta so if I'm going to have it, I'm not just going to make boxed boring pasta at home. I'll order it when we're at an amazing Italian restaurant where they make the pasta fresh and I'll get a really complicated dish I'd never make at home so it's truly a treat and an experience.

Finally, I realize and respect that people have a wide variety of opinions when it comes to nutrition, including moral/religious views that would prevent them from eating certain foods. I'm not claiming to have all the answers, I just feel that the science behind the Paleo diet is sound and we've had an extremely positive experience that I want to share with others. At the end of the day, you have to do what's right for you and your body. However, no matter what your views on nutrition are one thing I think pretty much everyone can agree on is the fact that processed foods that are high in sugar/high fructose corn syrup provide no nutritional value and are detrimental to the health of this country. The Paleo diet does eliminate these types of foods and that's something that I think most people can get on board with even if they're ready to completely give up grains/dairy just yet! :)

What do you eat in a normal day at home?
I am definitely a creature of habit when it comes to eating healthy, and I tend to stick to the same foods for breakfast and lunch almost every single day. Granted, this approach doesn't work for everyone but I find that I get enough variety with having different dinners each night/going out to eat on the weekends that I don't need to reinvent the wheel for breakfast and lunch each week! Here's what a typical day looks like for me:

Breakfast:
Eggs! We pretty much eat eggs every morning and I really look forward to them each day. We have an electric griddle we use for our eggs and I typically have 2 eggs over medium with a little sea salt. Occassionally I'll mix it up and have scrambled eggs with veggies or an omlette with a little goat cheese, but I pretty much eat eggs every morning. Normally I'll have a small side of meat as well, which is usually either one piece of organic bacon or half a nitrate-free chicken sausage.

I also don't drink coffee every morning, not because it's not technically Paleo (even though many people who eat Paleo still drink coffee) but because a) we only have a French press and I don't feel always feel like making it every morning and b) I don't like getting in the habit of having every day because then I find I get in to a negative cycle where if I don't have it I have withdrawl migraines--not good! I do enjoy it though so I do usually have it on the weekends and then occassionally during the week. If I'm not drinking coffee then I pretty much always make myself a cup of green tea in the morning (it's also something I'll drink in the afternoon/after dinner). I love green tea, and Tazo Zen is my personal favorite.



I also have a mid-morning snack each day which is usually a small bowl of berries (raspberries are my favorite!) or a piece of fruit, and then occassionally I'll have a handful of almonds as well.

Lunch:
Salad is the name of the game! I pretty much eat a salad for lunch every.single.day. but honestly I love it! Cam jokes that my salads I make for lunch could feed a family of four and that's probably true...but that's why I like them! I eat with my eyes, so I like having a huge bowl of food to eat for lunch as the time it takes to consume a giant salad helps my mind catch up with my stomach in telling me I'm full, plus salad greens have pretty much zero calories so you can eat really eat as much as you want, plus they're jam packed with nutrients. Here's what I put in my salad each day:



Base: Some sort of greens (usually spinach, but sometimes I'll mix it up and use kale, argula, or some other dark leafy green) and typically use 4-6 cups (like I said, it's a big salad!) The greens are the bulk of my salad, and everything else I add more sparingly.
Veggies/Fruit: I'll usually add at least 1-2 types of fruits/veggies to my salad such as heirloom tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, snap peas, grilled peaches, or whatever is in the fridge...I try to mix it up depending on what's in season!
Protein: I'll top my salad with some organic roasted boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs (I usually cook a big batch on the weekend so I have them for my salads during the week), or I'll use leftover salmon or steak to top my salad and give me some protein
Fats: I almost always add avocado to my salad, they are one of my all time favorite foods! Occassionally I'll add goat cheese to my salads, and sometimes a few nuts if I want some crunch. As far as dressing, I use a very small drizzle of either olive oil or truffle oil and then I also sprinkle on a liberal amount of vinegar (either balsamic, golden balsamic, white wine, or champagne vinegar).

I put all these things in a giant bowl and toss them together so the oil and vinegar coat salad completely (and the avocado/goat cheese usually help make it more creamy!). Eating a big salad like this really fills me up and it honestly takes me less than 5 minutes to make at lunchtime. I look forward to it each day and it's nice to know I'm getting a giant serving of veggies, along with protein and healthy fat. And the great thing is I feel really full after eating a salad like this, but it's a good full, not the type of full I used to get after going out for a big carb-ladden restaurant meal with my co-workers back when I worked in an office. After eating a heavy lunch I'd always just want to curl up and take a nap, whereas my lunch now helps to give me energy for the rest of my day!

{I typically allow myself a little after lunch treat like a square of dark chocolate after my salad as well!}

I do mix up my lunch occassionally, particularly in the winter months where I like to have a hot bowl of homemade soup so be on the look out for more of thsoe recipes in the coming months! As for Cam, sometimes I'll make him salads to take to work for lunch, but usually he'll just have leftovers from whatever we had for dinner the night before for lunch and that seems to work well for him.

Dinner:
This is where the variety comes in, I'm always trying new recipes for dinner! The constant is that every dinner always includes some sort of meat and some sort of veggie. I also try to vary the type of protein we eat, so for example if we have a beef pot roast for two nights in row, then the following night we'll probably have salmon or chicken. Often we'll just have something simple that doesn't involve a recipe like chicken on the grill with roasted brussels sprouts or baked salmon with steamed green beans. However, I do try to throw more complicated recipes in the mix as well and I'm always on the hunt for new ideas. I also LOVE making dinner in my crock pot and use that about once a week in the fall/winter months. I'll definitely be sharing lots of Paleo dinners here on the blog over the next few months!

Another important thing to note is that you do eat a lot of meat on this diet, so it's very important that you're chosing high-quality meat to truly get the benefits. Pink slime ground beef, chicken filled with antibotics, and other meats filled with hormones is NOT the point of this lifestyle. My dad hunted and fished, so growing up I ate a lot of fresh fish and venison. While I don't have the luxury of having those meats readily available any more, we really make an effort to choose the best meats possible. We only buy organic, free-range, antibiotic/hormone free poultry, we only buy wild fish (so not farmed), and we always buy organic, grass-fed beef. (To find out more about why grass-fed beef is so important, check out this article!) We also make an effort to buy primarily organic fruits/veggies, and we always buy local if possible. Shopping this way does cost a little more, however, the whole point of this diet is eating for optimum health so we feel that spending money on high-quality food is one of the best investments we can make.

Snacks/Treats:
After lunch, I'll typically have a small afternoon snack around 3:30-4pm, and usually it's some sort of fruit/veggie + protein source. I'll have a small handful of trail mix (Trader Joe's Happy Trekking trail mix is a favorite, and we bring it with us hiking a lot as well) and a chopped bell pepper, an apple with some almond butter, or nectarine and few pieces of jerky. (Sometimes though I'm so full from my salad that I don't even want anything until dinner!) As for snacks when I'm on the go, I really like LaraBars as many of the flavors are Paleo and they're made with really simple ingredients. (My favorite is the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough...but it does have a fair amount of sugar so I usually save it for when we're out hiking or when I'm traveling as I figure it's better than buying candy in the airport!)



As for alcohol, it's not really Paleo but we are not big drinkers anyway so that wasn't really an issue. If we are going to drink at home during the week, we'll usually opt for a glass (or two...) of either red or white wine depending on what we're having for dinner (or if it's after dinner it's just whatever we're in the mood for). Wine is definitely more Paleo-friendly than beer as it's made from fruit instead of grains, and that's usually what we'd drink at home anyway even before starting Paleo. (However, Cameron is from Oregon aka the land of the microbrewery and we both enjoy good beer and won't ever give that up completely, gluten be damned! It's just like with any indulgence for us though, if we're going to have it, we want it to be worth. So if we're at a new brewery on vacation, we'll have beer, but we're not going to have Bud Light or some crappy beer just for the heck of it.)

As far as after dinner sweets, dark chocolate is our go-to treat. We buy the Pound Plus bars of 72% dark chocolate from Trader Joe's as they're really cheap yet really delicious Belgian chocolate, so we always keep them on hand. We also really love Luna and Larry Coconut Bliss Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert if we're craving ice cream. This stuff is a little pricey, but it's organic, dairy free, and tastes amazing. Our favorite flavors are Dark Chocolate and Naked Almond Fudge, and then we love the Dark Chocolate Coconut Bliss Bars (they taste like the most creamy fudgesicle ever).



{Also, this is a great article about the benefits of indulging on Paleo}

One thing to note--I don't {typically} do a lot of "Paleo baking". While there are many recipes out there for Paleo versions of every baked good imaginable, in my experience (so far) they don't even compare to normal baked goods. Paleo baked goods typically use almond meal or coconut flour and while these ingredients are capable of producing foods that look similar to their non-Paleo counterparts, the texture is usually really different. Plus, if a Paleo treat has a ton of honey or agave nectar it might technically be Paleo, but still it's probably something you don't need to be eating much of anyway. That's why if I'm going to indulge in sweets I typically always have the real thing that I'm craving. I am not gluten/lactose intolerant so for me, so if I'm going to treat myself, I'll just have a normal cookie/brownie/cupcake and enjoy it, as it's only something I have once in awhile. I love bread/cookies/cake/muffins/pretty much all baked goods too much to ever give them up completely, so my version of modern Paleo allows for a little enjoyment of these foods here and there!

So that's what my day looks like, and I find it works pretty well at keeping me full and feeling good throughout the day. However, someone else who eats Paleo might eat completely different things so it really comes down to personal preference and figuring out what works for you!

What are some of your favorite Paleo recipes?
All of the Paleo recipes I've tried and loved and featured on the blog can be found under my Recipes tab and are noted with an asterisk. I've got lots of new Paleo recipes that I hope to try over the coming months so check back often as that page is continually be updated!

What type of workouts do you do?
The reason I bring up working out is because it's something that's definitely an important component of the Paleo lifestyle, along with stress management and getting enough sleep. Many people who follow the Paleo diet do a type of workout called Crossfit, and for a lot of people that's how they hear about the Paleo diet in the first place. The Paleo diet encourages more natural movement exercise, strength and conditioning, and high intensity intervals over lots of steady state cardio. Because Crossfit provides this type of workout, many people who eat Paleo seem to gravitate towards it. However, I've never personally taken Crossfit, so I can't really speak to what it's like at all but you can read more about the Paleo/Crossfit connection here. I have heard many mixed things about Crossfit though and the conclusion I've drawn is that it really comes down to your individual gym or "box" as there seems to be a fair amount of variety between them. Because Crossfit involves lifting heavy weight really quickly, it's very easy to injure yourself if you're not using proper form. I've heard some people go to Crossfit boxes where they have coaches that really focus on form and injury prevention, whereas I've heard other people talk about horror stories from Crossfit that resulted in serious injury. My advice would be if you're thinking about checking out Crossfit, just make sure you're going to a box with a knowledgeable staff!

As for me personally, I don't do Crossfit. However, Cam and I do attend a gym here in Tahoe called Elevated Fitness that offers strength and conditioning courses with lots of variety and high intensity interval training. (You can read my post about it here) While I think certain things at our gym are similar to Crossfit style workouts, our trainers are very focused on form and injury prevention while still pushing you to peak performance. I really enjoy the workouts and I feel like my strength has increased dramatically. I feel like eating Paleo goes hand in hand with leading an active lifestyle as it gives you the proper fuel to be able to workout at a higher level. And then in addition to going to our gym, I also enjoy lower intensity activities as well such as yoga and long morning walks with Lola. Cameron and I also enjoy being active and doing things outdoors, so that's a main motivation for us to exercise and eat healthy. We want to be strong and properly fueled so we can hike, kayak, ski, and enjoy all the amazing things Tahoe has to offer!



{photos via my Instagram}

What are some of your favorite Paleo resources?
There are so many great Paleo websites/blogs, and I'm constantly turning to them for advice, recipes, and inspiration. Here are some of my favorites:

Robb Wolf: Revolutionary Solutions to Modern Life {great starting point!}
The Food Lovers Primal Palate
Everyday Paleo
Mark's Daily Apple
Paleo Plan
PaleOMG
The Paleo Project
CupcakesOMG!
The Urban Poser
Freckled Italian
Nom Nom Paleo
Carrots 'N' Cake
Cave Girl Eats

If you're serious about this making this change to your life, I'd highly suggest reading The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet by Robb Wolf as it goes it to a lot more detail about the science behind the diet. Other books that I've heard good things about (but do not own personally...but would like to buy soon!) are:

The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson
Well-Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat
Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole Foods Lifestyle

Thanks so much for checking out my Paleo page, please feel free to reach out to me via email{inthepinkandgreen@gmail.com} if you have any additional questions! Xoxo
*Disclaimer: I am not a doctor/nutritionist, so please keep that in mind when reading this page. I am simply an individual striving to be healthy and sharing my own personal experience!*

3 comments:

  1. I am so glad I found this site! I have been wanting to try paleo. Love your blog! Following you!

    www.nightchayde.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yay, love finding another Portland blogger who does Paleo!! My husband got us into it last Christmas with Bulletproof Coffee (with unsalted grassfed butter and MCT oil) and the addition of healthy fats changed how I felt immediately. Now we are full-on Paleo (I was vegetarian and raw vegan for 13 years before!) and have both experienced SOOOO many positive changes! My story is here http://www.adventuresindressmaking.com/2013/02/big-changes-in-diet.html#.UgMFlpLVB8G and he has a blog about our new lifestyle as well http://www.grassfedgeek.com.) Wold love to chat with you at a Portland Bloggers event sometime and connect online as well! =)

    ReplyDelete
  3. OMG, I just noticed this. I didn't realize you were paleo! I'm not paleo myself (obviously, hahaha) but I'm a big Crossfitter and it's their diet of choice. Also Juli of PaleoOMG was my old Crossfit coach in Colorado. :-)

    ReplyDelete

Your sweet words make my day! :)

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