Making the change to a paleo lifestyle is a huge change for most of us, particularly in the area of food. It leaves us asking the question, `Now what can I eat?’ Grains have become so much a part of our daily life that we don’t know where to turn. Let’s see if we can point you in the right direction.
Firstly, it is important to not focus on the things that you `can’t have’. Who says you can’t have them? What you eat is your choice!
But be warned – our body will go toward the things on which our thoughts are focused. If you’ve adopted a paleo lifestyle then you have decided to make choices that promote health and well-being. For me – I choose to think about all the amazing, health promoting foods that are available to me and leave the others behind.
So what do we focus on?
There are a number of things that we should be focusing on for good health and well-being, but for this post we will just focus on the food aspect. Here goes….
Think: Whole, unprocessed, nutrient dense foods! Yum!
Think of all those wonderful grass fed meats, eggs, wild caught fish, fresh vegetables and sumptuous fresh fruits. Then there are all those yummy nuts and seeds….in moderation of course. Add some good fats and you have the makings of a great, healthy diet.
Of course when we focus on health, there are some things that we should avoid. These fall into the following general categories:
- grains (that includes not only wheat, but, rye, oats, barley, rice, quinoa, and corn),
- legumes (soy and peanuts are legumes),
- sugar (remember: sugar = sugar = sugar)
- industrialised oils (canola oil, sunflower oil, margarine, cottonseed oil, soybean oil, corn oil)
- processed `junk’
But, back to all the good things we have to choose from…
Meat: Grass-fed beef, lamb, goat, venison, kangaroo should be high on the list. You will often read about the need to choose grass-fed meats on American websites etc. This is because it is not easy to find grass-fed beef in USA. Even beef that is `grass-fed’ is generally supplemented with some type of grain feed, usually corn. Here is Australia, it’s very easy to get grain fed beef, even in the supermarkets. Woolworths state that their Macro brand comes from grass fed animals and Aldi have a grass fed range.
I went to our local butcher recently and asked about the origin of their beef. He pointed to a picture of cattle grazing in lush, green pastures and said that was a picture from the farm where he sources his beef, just a couple of hours drive away.
Notice that pork and chicken were not on that list. That’s not to say don’t have them, but I’d recommend not making them the main deal as they are almost always grain fed, and therefore have a much higher Omega 6 content. My research into chicken shows that even the supermarket brands that are labeled `free range’ are still fed on some grains, though that’s better than all grain fed.
Eggs – there is such a huge variety of claims out there, it can be quite confusing at times. Free range, barn laid, omega-3, caged, organic….the trick is knowing what each of these might mean. Obviously the best thing would to be having chooks (that’s Aussie for `chickens’) in our back yard, feeding them table scraps and letting them roam around and forage for grass, seeds, insects and worms. Then we could enjoy those rich tasting eggs with a dark orange yolk. I like to get my eggs at the local farmer’s market. There I get to talk with the grower and ask about what the chooks have been fed.
Fish – we have a wonderful variety of wild caught (ie. not farmed) fish available to us here in Australia. Let’s make the best of it.
Vegetables – if you’re not used to eating veges then it’s time to learn. (No, potatoes don’t count!!) Aim for a variety of fresh vegetables, preferably those in season. Make sure to include lots of leafy greens, cruciferous veges, mushrooms, fresh herbs.
Dairy – go easy on the dairy, especially if you have an auto-immune disorder. Many people who are intolerant of milk are able to have these items as they are primarily the fat of the milk and in most cases intolerance is to the lactose or protein. We suggest making the change to A2 milk (full-cream). Try to include butter, cream, A2 yogurt, and some cheeses in your diet if you tolerate them.
Fruits – fresh fruit in season is great. If you are trying to lose weight, go easy. It is very easy to overdo it on fruit, especially dried fruits which can mess with your blood sugar levels.
Nuts and seeds – have these in moderation. When you first switch over to a paleo/primal diet it is easy to go overboard on the nuts, particularly as handy snacks. Then it seems that almonds creep into everything – almond butter, almond milk, almond flour/meal. Soon you are having the equivalent of several hundred grams of almonds a day!! I think that nuts were created in shells so that it took us longer to get them and thus making it harder us to over-indulge! Most nuts are high in Omega 6, except macadamia nuts. (I’m glad we have a tree in our back yard.)
Fats – it is important to include good fats into your diet!! For so long we have been conditioned to think that fat is our enemy, especially saturated fats. We’ve been trained to look for low-fat everything – even reduced fat butter, or reduced fat cream!!! (Read: reduced fat fat.) Oh, and don’t forget to make sure everything is polyunsaturated!! Thankfully, that myth has been exposed.
We really need to avoid any of the processed oils as they are high in Omega 6 and cause inflammation. The ones to avoid include margarines, canola oil, soy bean oil, cottonseed oil, peanut oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, and anything that is `partially hydrogenated’ (ie. manipulated to be solid at room temperature).
The good fats include: butter, olive oil, sesame oil, avocado oil, macadamia oil, and coconut oil.
Beware: when you ditch the grains you have to replace that energy source with something. This should include a good amount of these fats. Fat is your friend here – especially coconut oil.
Now let’s get even more practical.
- Keep your meals simple
- Presentation counts – take the time to present food well. Digestion begins when we begin to prepare, cook and serve the meal. Our nose and eyes contribute to the process.
- Plan your meals
- Always read food labels – carefully! Then read again. You might even feel like they are written in a foreign language, or at least not for the general public to really understand. Don’t’ be sucked in by words such as `natural’, `no added sugar’ (or whatever else it is you are trying to avoid), `safe’, `whole…’, `healthy’ etc. If it’s in a package or has a label, it’s probably best to leave it alone.
- Always have your pantry and fridge stocked with the basics of `good choices’ foods. Even have some prepared things in the fridge so that you’re not tempted to eat/buy the old SAD foods.
- Make it tasty!!! No bland foods allowed. Experiment with all those great herbs and spices, and don’t be afraid of some good sea salt. (Remember, you are not getting all that salt from processed foods now.)