Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Paleo Diet Update

I started eating Paleo/Primal/Caveman/Clean/[whatever label you want to stick] since the week of Christmas. Not one of my better ideas. But I survived. I started eating this way for a few reasons:

  1. My metabolism hates me. Even with meds for my thyroid and insulin sensitivity, I can’t lose weight. I’ve had doctors tell me to workout more (?!?!) and when I tell them my workout schedule their eyebrows go way up. And then they tell me to eat less.  Helpful.  My metabolism is broken. I only lost 5 lbs during my IMTX training (ironically in the last month of training) and my clothes really didn’t fit all that much differently.
  2. I already know that soy and beans to not agree with me. Beans = feeling like I have food poisoning. Soy really screwed up my hormones. Do you know how hard it is to stay away from soy? It's in EVERYTHING!
  3. I went to a triathlon seminar a while back where the speaker was a dietician talking about nutritional periodization. A lot of what she said really rang true to me. Eat real foods. Limit grains during the build portion of your training. Train your body to burn fat.
  4. I’ve had some good friends switch to eating this way with really good results.
  5. With my hypoglycemia, I eat fairly low carb already and try to avoid sugars. This really seemed like a natural progression in my eating habits.
For those who don’t know, the paleo diet means no grains (including legumes), no processed food, minimal sugar, no (or some) dairy. Lots of meat, lots of fruit, lots of nuts, lots of veggies. Also: lots of cooking. I’m cooking a lot more than I used to.
So its been nearly 2 months. I really didn’t notice that much of a difference. I had some energy lags during workouts that are pretty common initially. I have maybe lost a bit of weight, but I’m not sure. I really wasn’t sure that eating this way was benefiting me much. Until we were in Idaho last week for my father-in-law’s funeral. Saturday, I had bread/pasta with EVERY meal. Sunday, my gut felt awful. REALLY awful. I had some sort of grain every day for 5 days. And my poor gut felt it. Bloated, cramping, overall feeling icky.

Those 5 days pretty much told me that I really do not need to eat grains.

So, what do I eat in a typical day?

Breakfast – apple with almond butter. Peanuts = legume, and are therefore off the list. I like Justin’s Nut Butter in maple almond, but I could make my own just as easy (and probably cheaper).

Lunch – mixed greens, meat (usually chopped up lunchmeat), hard boiled eggs, olive oil. Vinegar is iffy (depending on which paleo website you read). I didn’t believe it, until I put vinegar on my salad and felt awful 2 hrs later. So, my “salad dressing” is olive oil and maybe a squeeze of lemon. This lunch is easy and I can bring my own from home or hit the salad bar at work.

Snack – 2 clementines (I love Cuties!) and mixed nuts.

Dinner – meat and veggies of some sort.

Dessert – dark chocolate. Right now I have dark choc covered almonds which are way too good and they need to go away. Alternately, I’ll cook a fruit crisp with some sort of fruit, honey, coconut and a crumb topping with coconut flour or almond flour.

What are the challenges?

In the beginning, I struggled most with breakfast. I am NOT a breakfast person. Very few things sound good early in the morning, and still, sometimes I’m almost gagging as I eat. Also, I’m not much for savory foods in the morning. At first, I was eating a few hard boiled eggs, a Clementine, and some sausage for breakfast. But the eggs were hard to get down, were a pain to peel, and got really, really old really, really quick. Then I tried to make mini-egg “muffins” – egg, sausage, veggies, sweet potato. Did not like those at all. Then some blueberry muffins with coconut flower, which were just ok but left me wanting real muffins. Finally settled on the apple/almond butter combo. Its easy to bring to work, I don’t have to make anything, and really, I could eat this about every day. For now, at least. Weekends I’ll play a bit, making paleo pancakes, omelets, etc.

I’m trying to limit my carb sources. Cutting out bread isn’t that hard (as long as it's not in the house. You can’t eat it if its not there!). I miss noodles. I will have rice noodles occasionally (paleo websites say that if you have to eat a grain, rice is the best choice). I did find some crazy-good red yams at the grocery store. I do oven “fries” with them. Slice into wedges, douse in olive oil, sprinkle on some Hawaiian red salt, bake until done. TASTY. Again, I could eat these every day (but really, I shouldn’t). I also try to be creative with food. A good example is fajitas with guac. I’ll buy tortillas and chips for Will, but I forgo the tortilla and use red pepper and carrot sticks instead of tortilla chips as my guac delivery device.

Most paleo says you should give up all dairy in the beginning and introduce it slowly. I can eliminate all dairy except for my half and half in my coffee. I tried the coconut creamer stuff. It was nasty. I really don’t think that my splash of creamer will destroy my efforts. Also: a bit of feta in my salad or in my burger/meatloaf is tasty. And if you wonder, why give up dairy? Just do a bit of reading on modern dairy practices and all the nasties that go into milk. You’ll be giving it up. Really, milk is nasty.

Eating out, eating while traveling, eating with family is HARD. Eating out isn’t so bad as long as I pick the appropriate restaurant (ie Italian = fail) and make smart choices. Eating while on the road is impossible. Qdoba bowls (without rice) are about the closest thing to paleo as I could find. However, good luck finding Qdoba while driving from Denver to Idaho. Also: Qdoba bowls are impossible to eat while driving. So are salads. So, nasty fast food burgers or chicken sandwiches or whatever was at the highway exit was what we ate. Ugh. And finally, explaining my crazy eating habits to Will’s family is impossible. Especially when the person cooking dinner (who is AWESOME and I love) decided to give up any meat which the family did not raise (they’re ranchers), and dinner is a vegetarian stroganoff with pasta and bread. You should have seen the raised eyebrows at breakfast when I turned down toast. Essentially, its “eat what is placed in front of you or go hungry”. Basically, paleo is easy to do when you can plan, but its really hard to do on the fly.

Beer, technically, should be on the “food to avoid” list. But I love beer. So, for now, I drink beer guilt free.

 Tasty dinners I’ve made:

 It helps that I’ve had access to kick-ass meat, thanks to beef from Will’s family and meat from my CSA.

Grass-fed Idaho pot roast. Brown the roast in a pan. Put in a crockpot with onions, shrooms, and carrots. Add in half a can of tomato sauce (no sugar), some wine, and some salt. Cook for 10 hrs on low. Boil up some potatoes and serve as a side dish.

Sausage and sauerkraut. My favorite little grocery store has chicken sausage in all varieties for $2.99/lb. CHEAP. And they’re made with real ingredients, no crappy filler. Back in December, I didn’t know what to do with my 4 heads of CSA cabbage, so I turned them into sauerkraut. It was a bit scary (open air fermentation and the only thing I sterilized were the glass jars). But it turned out TASTY. Just put some sausages in a pan, add in kraut and maybe a little beer, then simmer on the stove for ~30 to 60 min. YUM.

Miscellaneous ground beef stir fry. I got a bunch of gluten-free asian sauces. Basically, sauté your veggies and set them aside. Sauté your grass-fed ground beef (or stew meat). Add veggies. Then add your sauce. Could be salsa, could be a tomato based sauce, or it could be some sort of curry. What you will end up with is something tasty (mainly because grass-fed beef is TASTY) and easy.

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