One of the biggest complaints about Paleo I’ve heard is it’s too difficult shopping for such a restrictive diet. I know, that’s actually two complaints wrapped into one.
The idea Paleo is a restrictive diet is more of a mindset than anything. I’ll say two things about restrictive dieting, and then we’ll move onto shopping.
- Think of Paleo as a template to eating whole, natural foods. No, caveman didn’t eat cereal bars. They also didn’t get their meat from a butcher shop, eat almond flour pancakes, or drink alcohol, but Paleo doesn’t stop us from consuming these. Caveman ate bugs and grass, but you don’t hear Paleo followers demand you eat Cajun Crickets or mow your lawn with your teeth.
The point is, don’t be so harsh with the Paleo diet. Understand that no matter how strict you try to make Paleo, you are not copying a caveman’s diet verbatim. So ease up. Add legumes if you are adamant about beans. Have some fermented grape juice. Make sure what you do eat, though, is natural, whole ingredients. That’s the Paleo lifestyle I’m touting.
- If you think you can’t live without certain foods which are definitely out of the Paleo (cheese, breads, and sugary treats- you know, highly processed foods), you’re in luck. Paleo does allow certain substitutes made with approved ingredients to satisfy your cravings. Honey, maple syrup, and agave nectar are fantastic substitutes for sugar and cook with them all the time. Olive oil is a great substitute for butter.
I also make a mean vegan paleo substitute for cheese, which I’ll share down below. Use this cheese to make soups, pizza, and eggplant parmesan or lasagna. Does it taste EXACTLY like cheese? Well, no. But it’s close enough that I don’t crave cheese all the time.
And breads, oh, breads. You do NOT need to go without bread on Paleo. While grains aren’t approved ingredients, many non-gluten flours are. You’ve got almond and coconut flour as your main sources. But there is also tapioca flour, arrowroot flour, and I found BANANA flour the other day. I have a good friend who is gluten intolerant, and wanting to spoil her just as rotten as I spoil myself, I have made many of my recipes with these Paleo approved ingredients. And they are GOOOOOD!
6 servings; 60 calories, Carbs” 7.6 g, Fat: 5 g, Protein: 2.1 g
- 2 or 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 c coconut/almond milk
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 3 Tbsp tahini
- ½ nutritional yeast
- ⅓ c almond flour
- 1 T tapioca flour
- ½ tsp ground mustard
- 1½ tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp salt
- In a small pan, lightly brown garlic slices on stovetop
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor/ninja. Blend together until smooth
- Transfer mixture to saucepan and cook over medium heat until it thickens, stirring constantly
- Scoop mixture into a resealable container and place in fridge for at least 3 hours prior to using in recipes
I hope you see Paleo isn’t as restrictive as you once believed. But if you feel deprived at the end of the trial week on Conservation Fitness Program, the you never have to do it again.
But easing up on the restrictions doesn’t make shopping easier. So, here are some of my main tips for the grocery store:
- Shop the perimeter of the store. Stay away from the center aisles. The center aisles are where all the processed, packaged foods live. The perimeter? It has most of your whole, natural foods- your meat and seafood, dairy/eggs, fruits, and veggies.
- If your store has a bulk food section, become good, good friends with that area. I adore my bulk section of my local grocery store. Not only can get a majority of dry goods there, but you eliminate a lot of plastic package waste. I get all my flours I need there, all my nuts, dried fruits (no sugar added), spices, and tea. For the record, I also get my oats, rice, hummus, and beans (but I’m leaning toward them being Paleo anyways) in the bulk section, too. Find your bulk section, and let the good times roll.
- Go for natural sugars- maple syrup, agave nectar, and honey. If you ask my honest opinion, stick with honey. You need less of it to make your dishes sweeter, and eating local, organic, raw honey has tons of additional health benefits. It’s terrific for helping alleviate pollen and seasonal allergies (start taking it about mid-February for best results). And honey has yet another benefit- it helps conserve vital pollinators our food needs. Supporting local beekeepers doesn’t just give to a local vendor, it supports organic produce in your region. We need bees, and eating honey is a great way to ensure they stick around.
- READ LABELS- This is tricky because when you first start reading labels, all the words mush together and you have to get a magnifying glass to see the fine print of ingredients. But after a few times, the buzz word ingredients will literally start jumping out at you. You’ll learn to recognize words like “palm kernel oil”, “high fructose corn syrup”, and ingredients you have no idea how to begin to pronounce. Stay away from these products, for your health and the health of the planet.
I’ll be honest, too. I sometimes use this technique to justify getting something I am craving but probably shouldn’t eat. If it has palm oil or high fructose corn syrup in it, I put it back, no questions asked. No pouting. It’s just my one incredibly bright line which I do not cross. If it has palm oil or high fructose corn syrup, I put the food back on the shelf. If it doesn’t have the ingredients I’m looking to avoid, then I allow myself this one small indulgence. As you can probably imagine, though, this RARELY happens.
- On the same side of reading labels, look at labels for your meat and seafood too. Wording matters. Look for beef and chicken with the phrase “pasture raised” or “free range”. Grass fed beef is better than no label at all, but it doesn’t mean the cow lived on an open field for its entire life. It means at one point in the cow’s life, it lived on an open field. That frame of time can mean a month, or a year.
Seafood labels are important, too. Look for labels which say MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) or if getting fish from behind the counter, look for the Seafood Watch Card rating on the fish. Many stores provide this service- Haggens in the Northwest, QFC, and Whole Foods- and it’s just a helpful way to know your meal is healthy for you, and supports a healthy ocean, too.
Hopefully these tips will make your next trip to the grocery store a little easier to make healthy choices, and have a better impact on the environment. Start small, and go easy on yourself. Small successive steps make lifelong habits.
Breakfast: Paleo Egg Muffins
Lunch: Cauliflower Rice Soup
Dinner: Roast Chicken with Balsamic Bell Peppers 2 servings- 283 calories, Carbs: 8g, Fat :11g, Protein: 35g
- 1 tsp salt, divided
- 1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
- ½ tsp ground black pepper, divided
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp dried oregano
- 2 four oz boneless chicken breasts
- 3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- 2 cups thinly sliced red bell pepper
- 1 cup thinly sliced yellow bell pepper
- ½ cup thinly sliced shallots
- 1 tsp rosemary
- 1 cup broth
- 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Combine ½ tsp salt, fennel seeds, ¼ tsp black pepper, garlic powder, and oregano. Brush chicken with 1 tablespoon of oil, then sprinkle spice rub over chicken.
- Add 1 tablespoon oil to skillet. Add chicken and cook for 4 minutes or until browned. Turn chicken over and cook another 2 minutes. Arrange chicken in a baking dish brushed with olive oil. Turn temperature to 450 F. Bake in oven for 20 minutes or until done.
- Heat remaining olive oil over medium heat. Add bell peppers, shallots, and rosemary. Saute for 5 minutes. Stir in broth, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat, simmer for 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium high. Stir in vinegar, and remainder of salt and pepper. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve bell pepper mixture over chicken.
Snacks: I caved and had a couple Epic bars. I’m not exactly proud of it, but they were Paleo, so…
Workout: CrossFit Beginners (burpees and wall ball sit-ups)
Mood: I’ll admit, something about this menu is not satisfying me completely. I’ve been having major munchies at night, even after a pretty big and delicious dinner. I also am feeling overwhelmed and anxious about my writing for some reason. I have an event tomorrow night where I’ll be reading a piece of my work for open mic night, and I still haven’t done anything for that. And other projects are starting to pile up. But I haven’t even finished what I’ve started, and oh god, I think I’m having a panic attack while I write this…
Okay, deep breath. I am under no obligations at this point to finish anything in any certain time frame. So, relax, enjoy the week, get some writing done, and let it be.
Challenges: While I panic and freak out about writing, I have decided to take a hard stance on my workouts and limit my squatting to help prevent aggravating my knees. My limit is 50 squats throughout the entire workout. So if we do 20 squats for the skill/strength section, that brings the total amount down to 30 for the workout. This is a challenge, because dear god, CrossFit LOVES to program squats into their WODs.
But the repetition limit isn’t just to alleviate pain. It’s to allow me to work on form and not worry about how long it will take to do a good squat with good form.
Today, the workout was a CrossFit benchmark called “Karen” which is 150 wall balls. Not gonna happen. So I did 5 sets of 10 wall balls with 7 burpees between each set. The last 100 reps I switched to wall ball sit-ups. I still challenged myself, and I still worked REALLY hard, but I didn’t overdo it.
I still need to go to the doctor and see about getting proper knee braces or possibly the non-invasive surgery. That’s on my massively growing to do list too.