Almost 2 months ago, I wrote about my decision to incorporate the Paleo lifestyle into my diet for a couple of weeks to see how my body and mind felt on it. You can read my full post on why I wanted to give it a go if you’d like, but basically, after a lot of research and time spent learning about the Paleo diet and its scientific backing, I was intrigued and I’m willing to try just about anything new to see how it works with my body. I’m a curious person by nature and, since health and fitness are so subjective, I think it’s always best to try things out for yourself rather than listening to other’s opinions.
For about 2 or 3 weeks, I followed the Paleo diet strictly and didn’t eat any grains, dairy, legumes, etc. In addition to cutting out these items, I also incorporated a lot of “new-to-me” things into my diet like bone broth and palm oil. I even started making my own almond milk! Like I said in my original post, I didn’t make the decision to try the Paleo lifestyle because I was experiencing any health issues, but simply because I always have the desire to optimize my health. Ultimately, after the 2 or 3 week period, I decided to not practice the diet strictly 100% of the time, but I have incorporated a lot of the practices I learned and felt had a positive effect on my health and mindset. I don’t think there’s any ONE diet that works best for everyone – I think we have to just get out there and see what works for us! Here are some practices and things I’ve incorporated into my diet since my foray into the Paleo lifestyle:
1. I’ve lowered my intake of wheat and grains. To be honest, I’ve never been someone who has eaten a lot of wheat (pasta or bread) in the first place. I never make myself sandwiches for lunch simply because I don’t really find them appealing. I’d rather have something a bit “jazzier” and more exciting for lunch and sandwiches and salads usually tend to bore me. If I do get a desire for bread, 99% of the time it will be an open faced sandwich where I only use 1 slice. Despite not having a huge craving for things like bread or pasta, I do love me some brown rice and it was usually an integral part to many of my lunches and dinners throughout the week. While I do still incorporate rice into my diet, I’ve switched a lot of it out for cauliflower rice recently which, depending on how you cook it, is just as yummy and has a lot of nutrients. If I for some reason want pasta, I’ve been using spaghetti squash or zoodles instead.
2. I buy higher quality meats and fruits/veggies. The Paleo community places a large emphasis on buying high quality food if and when possible. Throughout the years, I’ve always tried to do this but, due to budgetary restraints, this would fall to the wayside a lot of the time. I think the #1 worst thing that we as a society do to our bodies is putting unnecessary chemicals and toxins into it. Health and fitness professionals tend to focus a lot of their work and teachings on calories or macronutrients, when really the first thing someone should focus on when switching to a clean diet is ridding themselves of all the chemical-laden food they’ve been eating. Instead of letting this fall to the wayside like I was, I’ve been prioritizing it more and cutting corners in other areas of my life.
3. I’ve upped my vegetable and healthy fat intake. When I first heard about the Paleo diet at my former Crossfit box, I immediately thought it was a ludicrous diet followed by stupid guys justifying their desire to eat lots of meat and potatoes. I thought to myself “Well, that doesn’t sound healthy or balanced at all.” After learning more about it, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The Paleo community strongly emphasizes eating an array of vegetables, healthy fats, fruits, and meat. This was a relief to me because I really feel like the main components of any diet should be vegetables and fruit since they provide so many nutrients to our bodies.
4. I’m more likely to try new foods that I would have otherwise shied away from. Before trying this out, there is no way you would have been able to convince me to sip on bone broth or put coconut oil and butter in my coffee. I would have looked at you like you had 20 heads. But, since I was giving this new lifestyle I go, I decided to embrace all parts and try things even if I didn’t think they were for me. The only way to know is to try, right? I ended up finding lots of new things that I’ve loved and have since incorporated into my diet. I’ve already mention a few of these, but some new items I now include my diet are: coconut aminos, bone broth, homemade coconut milk yogurt, homemade almond milk, kombucha, cauliflower rice, and zucchini noodles.
5. I get inspiration for recipes from cookbooks and blogs more often. On my iPhone, I have a bookmark tab called “Recipes” where I place any recipes from blogs that I’d like to try. While I do end up making some of these recipes, a lot of them I never end up looking at again. When I first transitioned to Paleo, I sometimes was unsure of what types of things to cook if I wanted a dinner that was a bit more complex or fun than just chicken and a vegetable. I bought three cookbooks in order to get ideas and I have loved every recipe I’ve made from all 3! There’s a reason certain people make cookbooks – because they’re awesome cooks and make amazing food – so, instead of getting stuck in a rut, I tried out so many new recipes that I loved. Practical Paleo is great because it gives you an overview of the Paleo diet and the science behind it in addition to recipes. Nom Nom Paleo has a ton of unique, asian-inspired recipes that I would have never thought to try! Make it Paleo also has unique recipes like their Coconut-Nested Eggs, but also features some basic recipes that anyone following the diet would like to know how to make – like their recipes for almond milk, coconut milk, and cauliflower rice. In addition to these cookbooks, I’ve also made a few recipes from PaleOMG and Elana’s Pantry that have all been equally as amazing.
To sum it up – Do I still eat brown rice with dinner sometimes and have my Ezekiel bread with mashed avocado on occasion? Yes. What can I say? I like it and I haven’t noticed any adverse effects to my health from it, but I have toned it down quite a bit. If there comes a point in time where I do notice negative side effects, then I’ll stop. Until then, I’m really glad that I’ve exposed myself to something I otherwise wouldn’t have and I’m happy I was able to take things from it. I, by no means, know it all when it comes to, well, just about anything. The only thing I can do is what I feel is best for me and my body.