A Paleo Journey

About a month ago Kyle told me he wanted to try the Paleo Diet. My first reaction was, “Eek, I could never do it. Good luck with that.” My second response was, “But you don’t like to eat red meat.” And, then my third response was, “I’m going to try it with you.” Because, let’s face it, I do most of the cooking and how in the world would we shop for and prepare different meals for the week? Not very successfully, in my opinion. So in true Crystal fashion, I researched the diet, asked friends for advice, looked up recipes and got totally on board.

If you’re not familiar with the Paleo diet, it’s a pretty basic concept. You eat meat, fish, fruits, vegetables and nuts, just like cavemen ate in the Paleolithic era. It’s not really a new diet since this is the way our ancestors ate long before we started packaging and processing foods. I’m reluctant to even call it a diet, because it’s not meant to be a quick-fix to weight loss, though you can lose weight in the process. It’s eating the way we were meant to eat. Paleo is credited with boosting energy, increasing weight loss and improving overall health.

Luckily for Kyle and me, we didn’t have to make a huge adjustment to our existing diet, because we already ate a lot of protein, fresh vegetables and fruits, as well as eggs and nuts. However, we have had to eliminate some key foods we do eat regularly. There is a gray area and some different theories on what should be restricted from the menu, but in general, Paleo does not consist of pasteurized dairy, legumes and grains, as well as vegetable oils and artificial sweeteners. For us, that means giving up milk, quinoa, oatmeal, beans and bread. We also have had to add foods to our diet that we don’t regularly eat, like red meat.

It’s been almost a week since we switched to Paleo and this is where we are.

I’ve substituted my normal coffee creamer with almond milk. Not as bad as I thought, but definitely not as tasty. The kicker is, I’m finishing our vanilla flavored almond milk so it isn’t wasted and I just know my coffee will be bland when I switch to unsweetened almond milk. Maybe the slow transition will allow me to drink my coffee black without cringing. By the way, coffee is allowed in moderation. I don’t know why or how, because I’m pretty sure cavemen didn’t sit around drinking a cup of joe at the top of the morning.

It’s only been 5 days and I’m starting to feel concerned about some of the diet’s allowances. We’ve had more red meat and eggs than I prefer. Paleo has been compared to the Atkins diet, and I find that diet completely unhealthy. Both diets allow no limits on the consumption of red meat, even the fatty kind. When Kyle told me he wanted to reduce our red meat intake a couple years ago, I didn’t think I could live without a steak at least once a week. But, it was easy and I only craved it once in awhile. I’m so used to not eating red meat that now I’m alarmingly aware of how much I’ve consumed in the past week. And, really, it’s only been a steak, some prosciutto on asparagus and with my eggs and ground beef stuffed in peppers. But, normally, I might have that much red meat in a month. Suddenly, I’m concerned with the high level of fat and cholesterol that comes with consuming meat.

I’m also wondering how many eggs I can stand to eat before I get sick of them. Most breakfast recipes I’ve found include eggs. There isn’t much else you can have for breakfast on this diet. You can cook an egg a thousand ways and add all kinds of fun vegetables, but an egg is still an egg, and I wonder if consuming too much is bad for me.

In reading about the pros and cons of the diet, I’ve come to my own conclusion. I’m going to modify it to fit our family’s preferred lifestyle. I’m going to limit our red meat intake to once a week. We’ll continue to eat salmon and halibut, as well as chicken, most days. We will not eat bacon, but turkey bacon is fine in moderation. I am going to balance my egg intake by having egg whites some days, eggs with yolk on others. We will continue to eat fresh vegetables and fruits and keep packaged/processed foods off our plates. Pasta may make an appearance on a very limited basis, as well as quinoa and oatmeal.

While I think that Paleo has more positive benefits than negative, I don’t want to get so locked into it that we digest some foods that really should be consumed in moderation.

The plusses: Kyle and I have both felt really good this week. I was hungry a little more than normal in between meals the first couple of days, but I’ve since figured out what snacks to have and when to have them to stop the hunger pangs before they start. I have lost 2.5 pounds, and Kyle has lost more.

The drawbacks: We spent a crap load on groceries and my planning kicked into ridiculous overdrive to ensure we stayed on course during the work week. I’ve been serious about being successful and learning how to eat even cleaner. I write down every planned meal so I know what to pack for lunch and prepare for breakfast and dinner. And, then I log it into a food diary. This sound ridiculous, I know. But, I’m not doing this for nothing.

My 2 cents: The bottom line is, it costs a lot to eat healthy. Buying grass-fed beef and a cart full of fish and produce is not cheap. We spent $200 alone on meat, fish and chicken and another $150 on produce. We normally spend $85-100 a week on groceries. I did buy fish in bulk (to freeze) so that we won’t have to buy it for at least another week. That will save on groceries this weekend with only having to purchase produce. But, eating any other way is just as costly. Buying fast food once or twice a week and eating out at a restaurant, in addition to buying groceries for regular meals at home adds up. I’d rather spend money on good food that I know is healthy because I am the one who prepared it. Not to mention, regularly eating foods high in fat, calories and sugar will catch up with you and cost you physically and eventually financially when you have to see a doctor. Also, might I add, it’s a plus for our kids.

I plan to stick with Paleo as much as possible, and see how I feel in a month from now. I’m not going to fret if I stray from time to time. I can guarantee you I will mess it up this weekend with friends in town. There will be drinking :). I’ll let you know how it’s going as we progress!