Our family made a bit of a lifestyle change this past spring when we decided to look into the Paleolithic/Primal diet.
I think the word "diet" is a bit of a misnomer, actually.
It has become more like a lifestyle for us.
It actually began back in January or February of this year. My brother and sister-in-law had mentioned they were eating "caveman style" and when I asked what exactly that meant they said it was eating the way cavemen did.
I still wasn't sure what that looked like but when they said it meant cutting out grains I laughed and said the most commonly spoken words when talking to a proponent of homeschoolers, minimalists, and caveman wannabees... "I could never do that!"
The mere thought of giving up noodles, potatoes, or breads was borderline blasphamy in our house.
When I told Hubs about it we both agreed "it would be impossible.....right?"
To be honest, we couldn't argue with the idea that more veggies in our diet would be a good thing but seriously, what do you replace bread with at the dinner table?! We ALWAYS had meat, we ALWAYS had a veggie side dish (usually of boiled corn, peas, green beans, or a salad), and we ALWAYS had a starch and we usually ate more of the bread/potato/pasta than anything else on our plates.
How on earth were we supposed to feel satisfied?
Living off rabbit food didn't sound too appetizing and since greens are so light and non-filling we'd probably spend a fortune in grocery bills just to remain satisfied.
So later that week I made the executive decision to swap the starch with another veggie and see how it went. One night, instead of salad and bread we had sweet potato and a salad. Another night, instead of a cheese burger with a bun we had a cheese burger in a lettuce wrap.
For about a week we made these simple swaps and something strange began to happen...
I noticed that I no longer got the bloated, gassy feeling after a meal. (TMI?)
I didn't feel heavy and icky after a meal which, to be honest, was something I had become accustomed to.
The first change I noticed after a couple of weeks was that for most of my life I had assumed the way I felt after a meal was normal. I assumed feeling tired after a meal was just my body focusing its energy on digesting.
NO, my friend! What I took as a normal sign of a happy, full belly was really my body's way of telling me that it was struggling with what I had just ingested. My stomach wasn't sure of what to do with the things I had just overloaded it with. Silly me!
What I'm saying is that I was thirty years old before I knew what it felt like to feel satiated without feeling sick.
And that's why I'm sharing this with you today...
I'm not a doctor. I'm not even a nurse. At best, I'm a mom of four, a wife of one and caretaker of this body I have been given and I can only tell you, based on my own personal experience, that changing our families eating habits have changed parts of our lives in a way that we can never turn back from. We just can't.
We have been eating differently for a little over nine months now. My meat loving, carb-loading husband, who was very much afraid of feeling hungry all the time now loves our diet. It didn't take him long to get on board when he realized how good he felt after eating a meal. For me, I have a lot more energy than I had before. I don't crash after meals like I used to. My mood has been generally better (or so I think... you may want to double check with Hubs). My favorite part - and the part that surprised me the most - is that I don't crave things I used to. I thought for sure I'd miss bread and want to sneak it constantly but to be honest, we rarely have it (when we go out or others cook) and when we do, it's not hard to control ourselves unlike in the past. I also thought that my sugar cravings would go through the roof if I cut myself off. Just a year ago Hubs and I smuggled away much of the kid's Halloween candy and snacked on it more often than we'd like to admit. This year, we have barely touched it. I also found that when I have had the desire to sneak a piece I've turned to my homemade chocolate bar that contains no refined sugars and just a piece or two keeps me satisfied and kills my longing for more. Don't get me wrong, we have the occassional Reese's, ice cream, or quesadilla but we don't eat much and don't leave longing for more. In fact, I often find that the things that used to be treats now taste funny and not much like real food.
I found that the most valuable resource to get started, for me, was a book called Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo. I first checked it out at the library to make sure it was worth my while and I loved it so much that I immediately bought the Kindle version. (I'm pretty sure I'll end up with the paperback version in the near future as well.)
Yes. It's THAT good.
There are so many great sources on why the Paleo/Primal/Caveman diet is so good, and even necessary. They explain why the generally accepted food pyramid should be turned on it's head. They explain why grains are no longer beneficial to your body the way they were created to be. They cover how a low fat diet is actually starving your brain of the goodness it needs to function at its best and how natural fats like those found in bacon are... wait for it... good.for.you!
So let's cut to the chase, right? What does a Paleo diet mean you have to give up?
The more you research "real food" the more common these "bad guys" become...
Grains - especially wheat and corn.
Legumes - most people are confused about this one... to the best of my understanding it has to do with their indigestibility and how they make your body work to break them down. If you're familiar with soaking your grains or beans before cooking or consuming them, I believe it's for the same reasons as soaking helps "pre-digest" these foods.
Refined Sugars - this means basically anything other than maple syrup and honey though I've found that some also consider xylitol and stevia Primal-friendly.
Diary - This, like grains, has more to do with what modern farming, processing, and regulations have done to milk. If you're not familiar with what happens between milking a cow and consuming your milk... let's just say... it's gross. Many skip dairy altogether but I've encountered enough others who are absolutely fine with raw dairy that it seems either way you're good.
Soy - I don't know if this should fall under a grain but just to be certain it's included I'll give it's own catagory. Most soy is not accepted because, like corn, and dairy, it has been so messed with that it is no longer good for the body.
Now... before you laugh and ask "what exactly does that leave me with?!"... I can't think of a single recipe I love that hasn't been reworked and made Paleo friendly. Most importantly, as I said before, after a short adjustment period, our family stopped craving most of the things we used to long for.
Our beautiful Miss Mak has been the pickiest eater in our family from day one. She never liked vegetables and by age 1 we already knew she'd be another carb-loading love bug. When given a mix of finger foods including Cheerios, beans, sweet potato, and chicken, she would always eat the Cheerios and leave the rest. I got smart and stopped offering the Cheerios and then, and only then, she'd eat all the sweet potato and leave everything else. If it wasn't sweet or wasn't grain-laden, she wasn't having it. There was no fooling her either. I'd hide it, she'd find it, or would just flat out refuse it. This was a habit that carried her into the beginning of her third year of life. In the spring, when we began eating differently, I'd worry that she wouldn't eat anything and occasionally let her have baked pretzels with her meal but realized, quickly, that it was a slippery slope, and that she, again, always opted for the grains first. So we began only offering pretzels or tortilla chips as a bonus at the end of a meal and eventually phased out those kinds of snacks altogether. And the most amazing thing happened.... after about 6 weeks, as if someone flipped a switch... Mak began requesting things like kale...and avocado... and even the occasional asparagus! She used to ask for cereal and oatmeal every day for breakfast and now does a happy dance when I offer her scrambled eggs and bacon for the 60th morning in a row.
I cannot fully express the miracle this is!
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, every.single.night when Miss Mak asks me what's for dinner, no matter what my answer is, her response is always "I don't like that!" or "Ew, gross!" But for several months now we have explained that "It is either what is on the table or nothing." and she has not gone to bed hungry once. From Roasted Butternut Soup with Chicken, to Chocolate Paleo Chili, to Kale Chips... she eats it.
We eat a lot of things but I'm finding that an accidental trend is that we're beginning to eat more "seasonally" than we ever have before. Pineapple, tomatoes, kale, and green peppers in the summer. Apples, butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, and pumpkin in the fall. Stews and soups in the winter and early spring, etc.
In general we eat a LOT of eggs (about 4 dozen a week for our family of six). We eat a lot of greens in the form of fresh and wilted salads. We also eat a good bit of meat in the form of ground beef, chicken thighs, and ground pork mixed with fennel and sage to make our own homemade sausage mix. We also have a good bit of nuts and dried fruit for snacks as well as homemade chocolate, as I mentioned before.
I have found some amazing recipes and resources on Pinterest and if you happen to use Pinterest I have saved several of our favorites on my Paleo boards that you can find and follow using the link: Pinterest Boards
If this all seems a bit overwhelming then I assure you, you're not alone and there are wonderful guides out there to help you along. I am no expert. We, as a family, are wandering our way through all of the information out there, but once we learn something, like how far removed our food has become from how God intended it, we can't unlearn it and thankfully there are many more sources that will help explain about it all and what you can do much better than I can.
Practical Paleo Cookbook
Joel Salatin - youtube.com search
A few of my favorite recipe sites are:
George Bryant - The Civilized Caveman
Lindsay Kujawa - Delighted Momma
Danielle Walker - Against All Grain