Paleo. More than a “diet”.

Skyler and I have been eating the Paleo way for almost two years now.  In that time we’ve had people question (sometimes annoyed at what we decide we won’t be eating) and wonder why we eat like we do.  Most people have asked because they are interested and want to know more.  We always eagerly sit down to share with you (or heck, even invite you over to share a Paleo meal with us as we tell you all about it!) because we are passionate about it.  Though, I will admit Skyler is far more passionate than I am.  But I’ll get to that in a minute.  In the last couple weeks, I’ve had probably 10 friends email me or message me, wanting to know more.  I’ve said a long while ago that I would post more about it, so… here goes!  BUT, before I totally delve into it, let me give you a background to what life was like before Paleo…

Before Paleo

We always felt like we ate pretty healthy.  I ate more carbs than I knew I should, being a pasta lover, but I felt like I always balanced it with other “good” stuff and that it was pretty moderate.  However, fall term at Western Oregon University two years ago, Skyler took a nutrition class that has forever changed his (and our families) life.  The first week started out with a bang, his instructor gave them the assignment of cutting out ALL sugar, except natural sugars found in fruits.   This meant no breads, no pastas, no desserts, no juices, no coffee creamer… many many things were cut out.  I was mildly annoyed at this assignment because it made me change what I served for dinner for the week, and was thankful it was only for a week.  At the end of the assignment, Skyler came home telling me that his instructor extended the assignment and not only that, broadened it.  He gave me a whole page of food listed out that he could no longer eat.

Being 7 months pregnant at the time, I was NOT amused.  This “diet” he was on required him to eat LOTS of meat, and I just wasn’t really a meat eater.  I grew tired of this very quickly and no idea what to feed my husband (who felt like an entirely new husband, since he used to always eat anything I put in front of him with gratitude).  I got so irritated at this, that after a short time, I’d plop down a steak and a handful of broccoli on his plate every night for dinner with an annoyed statement of, “I don’t know what else to feed you.  Here.”

He spent many many hours talking to me about why he was doing this “diet” and what he was learning.  But I wasn’t totally convinced (plus, come on.  Don’t try to change a 7 month pregnant lady’s diet!).  I saw him drop weight.  VERY rapidly.  If you know Skyler, you know he’s already pretty thin.  He got REALLY thin.  I didn’t like it.  He went from a size 32 pants to a size 30 in less than 30 days.  (I did have photos, but I think I deleted them.)

It wasn’t until right after Zeek was born (a few months later) that I started to be more accepting of this “diet” and jumped on board.  I actually started enjoying searching for recipes and figuring out new “favorite family meals” for us.  I enjoyed opening my fridge and seeing it stocked with eggs, vegetables and fruits and GOOD clean food, more than would fit in the little produce drawer.  I felt better.  I stopped craving or even desiring pasta’s – in fact, they now really gross me out and do not satisfy at all.  I stopped wanting juice.  I stopped wanting cereal for breakfast.  And now…

Life on Paleo
Now, Paleo is a lifestyle.  We don’t follow it 100%.  We aim to follow about 80% of the time, with making some allowances for ourselves.  (I’ll get to that in a minute.)  We still battle some family members on it and they can’t understand why we won’t eat bread or pasta and why we eat eggs every morning.  But we have seen and felt the difference for ourselves and are so glad we have made this change.  Yes, that means I am so glad that Skyler persevered for 3 months of me being upset with him and mad at him for trying to flip my pregnant way of eating upside down.  I’m so glad he dove in deeper than just the one nutrition class; that he bought books and read articles and spoke with other people who follow the Paleo way of eating (including our awesome chiropractor doctor!  He’s been an awesome source of information and encouragement).
So… what is Paleo?
For us, Paleo is not a diet.  We don’t like to call it that.  We call it a lifestyle change.
You have to WANT to do it and have to be committed to making changes in your diet and changing your mindset about certain foods or ideas.  I’m not going to go all scientific on you in this post; you can read more about the science behind Paleo here
Probably the biggest “shocker” about eating Paleo is the avoidance of grains (wheat, barley, anything with gluten).  This goes against the food pyramid and what our grandmother’s have all taught us.  “Eat your whole grains!”  This was true some time ago.  However, with everything so processed and genetically modified now, grains included, our body’s cannot process them correctly.  Grains (gluten) has shown to be a gut irritant.  We just can’t process it and it becomes a sugar in our body and we gain weight.  Me, being a carb-lover, had a really hard time with this.  I fought Skyler – “What do I give you as a side dish now?!  No rice, no mashed potatoes, no garlic bread?!” I didn’t know what to do other than give him a slab of meat and some raw veggies.  
Here’s the general list of things to avoid if eating Paleo:
  • Grains
  • Dairy (Eggs are not dairy)
  • Legumes
  • Starches
  • Processed Foods (including corn; even if you grow it yourself, it has been so processed over time that it’s just not as easily digestible as it used to be)
  • Sugars
  • Alcohol

Things OK to eat:

  • Lean meats
  • Seafood
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Nuts and Seeds (Newsflash: peanuts are not nuts.  Weird huh?  They are actually legumes.)
  • Healthy Fats
Let me make this a little more personalized now… These are the things we personally (more detailed) had to cut out from our normal diet:
  • Mac & Cheese
  • Hamburger Helper
  • Pasta Roni
  • Spaghetti
  • Peanuts
  • Breads, Crackers, Bagels etc.
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Milk
  • Potatoes
  • Rice
  • Juice
  • Anything with added sugar
  • Granola/Oatmeal
  • Corn
  • Beans

    How it’s worked for us:
    Like I said, we aim to eat this way 80% of the time.  We still have the occasional dessert, but certainly not after every dinner like Skyler was accustomed to.  When Skyler does have dessert, he’ll have a glass of milk.  Milk is my major obsession and I used to drink 5-6 tall glasses a day.  I have compromised and cut back to usually only 2 glasses a day (which still seems like a lot to most, but for me seems “fair”).  We still enjoy peanut butter with apple slices.  We’ve tried Sunflower Butter and Almond Butter, and while many Paleo substitutes are awesome, these butter’s just aren’t the same…   Skyler still has the occasional slice of cheese and I still make an occasional grilled cheese sandwich.  Pasta’s are completely gone and out.  Now, they make me sick to my stomach, literally.  I can’t help but think, “I’m literally eating just a bowl of sugar” any time I have some, and suddenly, it just tastes disgusting.  (Again, more on this.)  I still do some flavored creamer in my coffee (because come on, black coffee?! GROSS!).  I’m sure there are more things that we still allow in our diet that I’m not thinking of, but we really try to limit them.
    Simple changes we have made to help us with this new eating lifestyle and some substitutes we have made for “normal” food:
    • Eggs for breakfast every day.  2-3 eggs each.  Even Zeek!  He usually eats 2 eggs every morning.  2-3 times a week, we’ll add breakfast sausage or bacon.  
    • Changing condiments for “no sugar added” ones, even if more expensive.  Yes, we are a poor college kid/stay at home mom.  We don’t flow in money.  But little changes like this, especially in condiments where they last quite a while, are worth it to us.  
    • Drinking much more water than before – and almost NO juice.  Occasionally, I get a hankering for orange juice… but usually it’s either water, milk or tea (sometimes sweetened with local honey or agave syrup).  
    • Always having plenty and a variety of fruits and veggies on hand.  And not just on hand, but washed, cut up and readily available to snack on in the fridge.  This makes it a lot easier to grab a good/healthy snack verses grabbing chips or crackers to snack on.
    • Experimenting with different squashes to use as sides to replace the feeling of needing rice/potatoes as a side dish (we also use yams and quinoa as sides occasionally).  Especially using spaghetti squash instead of spaghetti pasta.  Did you know there was such a thing?! I didn’t until we started eating this way and started researching other foods to eat.  It is SO good and I can hardly tell the difference.  You just slice the squash in half and put it in the microwave for 8-10 minutes, pull it out (with hot pads!) and the “spaghetti” just forks right out!  It’s amazing. 🙂

    •  We make our spaghetti with the spaghetti squash, a lb of ground beef, onions and mushrooms and some no sugar added tomato sauce.  Usually with a helping of green beans on the side!
    • Having your pantry (and fridge) stocked with things you can make good meals from!  (Read this post from Everyday Paleo for a great list of things to keep on hand!)
    • Trading out milk for coconut milk/almond milk, especially for Ezekiel now that he’s no longer nursing.  One thing we have learned recently though was that a known carcinogen (cancer causer) called Carrageenan that was included in almost all almond milks, even organic ones!  We were really bummed to find this out, but I have finally found one at the local health food store, LifeSource here in Salem. 

     About the grains… well, Skyler also learned in his nutrition class that grains (even organic/whole) essentially just turns into sugar as soon as it enters the human body.  If you’re cutting out sugar, you need to cut out wheat.  An argument I hear sometimes from friends is, but it’s a staple in the Bible?  Here’s a little snippet from The No Grain Diet that explains simply,

    “If wheat were still harvested as it was hundreds of years ago, we would not need a no grain diet. In the old days, when it was harvested, it was left in the fields for a few days and it partially sprouted from the dew. That enhanced the nutrition of it greatly.” (Here)
    One of the books we have read (well, haven’t quite finished yet) is called “Wheat Belly” by William Davis, MD.  It is an awesome read and we have found it to be easy to understand and also really informative.  Another great book is Suicide by Sugar by Nancy Appleton, PhD.
    Recipes and Food Ideas
    If you’re like me, you might be wanting to try out this way of eating, but are intimidated by the idea of throwing out your old recipes and searching for Paleo one’s!  I promise, eating Paleo is so much easier than it seems.  At first, it is a little daunting to remember what is ok and what is not ok to eat.  Almost every night as we sit down to dinner, Skyler thanks me for “slaving” away over dinner…and just about every night I tell him, “I feel like I didn’t have to do anything to make dinner, it’s just so easy”.  I feel like somehow I’m “cheating” because I’m not slaving over a stovetop or have breads or casseroles baking in the oven… 
    Here are some easy meal ideas that we really enjoy…
    • Cooked yams (either boiled and mashed or cooked in skin in the microwave for about 8 minutes) with sprinkled cinnamon, dried cranberries (look for a no sugar added kind) and cashews on top.  Steak slab cooked in a fry pan with seasoning (the easiest way I like to cook them).  Broccoli salad or a spinach salad.
    • After the above meal, with leftovers I usually do the following for lunches:  layer of mashed yams, layer of spinach, layer of Skyler’s home-canned tuna fish,  dried cranberries and cashews sprinkled on top. SO amazing.  I promise.

    • Panko Chicken, served with mashed sweet potatoes (less starchy than white) broccoli salad or a spinach/pear/avocado salad (which I will post a recipe for soon!).

    • Asian Beef & Spinach Dish.  This is a meal in itself for us.  We love having a bed of spinach with any sort of meat piled on top 🙂
    •  For lunches, I like to grab a variety of foods, like the meal below.  I try to make it a colorful meal with fruits, veggies and usually a meat. 
    •  We have traded out potato chips for Kale chips (SO delicious!).
    How to Make it Work for You:
    I know it can be intimidating to just up and change everything.  Obviously, I threw a ginormous fit for 3 months. 😉 But once I got on board and understood more about it, I was ready to go.  We cleared out our pantries and cupboards and took all of our pasta’s, canned corn, crackers, cookies, anything with added sugar and packed it all up and took it to the food shelter.  We knew we had to get it out of the house to not tempt us as we were making this a lifestyle change, not just a temporary diet.  
    We stocked our pantry with the items that we could make good hearty meals from, did some of our own canning for during the winter months, stocked our fridge with fruits and veggies, bought a 1/4 of a cow, 6 whole chickens and some bacon from a farm to throw in the freezer, and started buying free range eggs from a guy Skyler works with.  
    We had the make the choice to follow this lifestyle and to want to do it.  I’ll definitely admit that as a carb lover, it was hard to “detox” at first.  When you have sugar, you crave more sugar.  But the more you cut it out, the less you start desiring it and the less appealing it sounds.  
    Like I mentioned, we try to live this way 80%.  We make allowances.  We eat some desserts, we (I) drink some milk, when I was in the first trimester I ate a lot of bagels for breakfast and had mac and cheese for lunch because I couldn’t stomach anything else.  We eat peanut butter.  If we’re invited over for dinner somewhere, we will eat whatever is on our plates.  We will be gracious and thankful for whatever food we are given. 🙂
    Sometimes Skyler will surprise me with a treat! 😉

    We have also worked hard to keep Ezekiel on the same eating lifestyle as us, which can be quite challenging at times!  This blog post is long enough, but soon I’ll post about the changes we made for Zeek and how we’ve gotten around not giving him cheerios or crackers for snacks, mac and cheese or sandwiches for lunch, etc.  
    Hope this helped answer some questions and definitely let me know if you have any other questions (that I might be able to answer! ;)).  Skyler’s totally the more knowledgeable one on this topic, but I enjoy talking about my experiences and what I do know.  🙂  I will definitely be posting more recipes in the future as I’ve been branching out and experimenting more.  I’m really having a lot of fun discovering new foods and new ways to use veggies/meats in meals. 

    Great Paleo Resources we’ve enjoyed:

    1. Everyday Paleo – Blog and Book!  I have pre-ordered the book and am excited to get it!  I am loving expanding our Paleo recipe collection. 🙂
    2. myKitchen iPhone or Android App – I have this Paleo recipe resource downloaded on my iPhone and love it!  You can search recipes, make meal plans, and even make shopping lists AND it’s FREE
    3. Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD
    4. Suicide By Sugar by Nancy Appleton, PhD
    5. Here’s a really great extensive resource list for everything Paleo (by the same people who made the myKitchen app): http://beta.primal-palate.com/about/resources/
    6. Healthy Eating on the Run – The No Grain Diet 
    7. The Paleo Diet (Info)
    8. Nom Nom Paleo (Recipes)

    Love, 

    K


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