Hey guys! Contrary to what you may have started to believe, I haven’t fallen off the face of the planet. I just got back from Asheville and am seriously struggling to recover from the five days of festivities and socializing that took place. It’s amazing how a business week’s worth of wine drinking, wedding going, and friend time can wear a girl down! But I had a blast and was very grateful to have some QT with my bestest friends and family.
I have quite a few pictures in que to edit and get posted. I’m hoping to hop on that tonight so you guys have something more interesting than my babble to read. But in the meantime, I was reading another blog this morning, and they had posted their best healthy grocery shopping tips. It got me thinking about how my plan of attack for grocery shopping has changed since we moved to South Dakota.
South Dakota has a short growing season. The farmer’s markets have more crafts than they do produce. And it’s just really impossible to find specialty ingredients. Even organic foods are hard to find and expensive. When we lived in Charlotte we were just a few miles from a Trader Joe’s and an Earth Fare (like a Whole Foods). I did 90% of my weekly shopping at TJ’s, 8% at Earth Fare, and the remaining 2% at conventional stores like Harris Teeter. Thanks to TJ’s incredible prices Husband and I were able to eat quality foods, mostly organic, at a very affordable price. Eating mostly vegetarian/pescatarian was a non-issue, because there was an abundance of fresh produce, and wild caught fish options. Our weekly meals usually included one night of a bean/legume based meal (think black bean tacos or chickpea curry), a couple of nights of a soy-based faux meat based meal (think sauteed tofu, tempeh kebabs), and a couple of nights of a fish based meal (grilled salmon, shrimp pasta). The weekends varied based on our social plans, and Sunday night was always Pei Wei and a movie (pad thai for me, curry for Husband).
In South Dakota it is extremely hard to even find wild caught frozen fish, and you can forget wild caught fresh fish (unless you are ok with pieces that look like they have been withering in the ice counter for a few weeks). Trying to stick to our mostly vegetarian diet, we found that we were depending more and more on processed soy-based products and beans. This bothered me for two reasons. The first being that neither of these are great sources of lean protein, and two, our main goal is to eat as natural and whole foods based as we can, and although we only buy non-GMO organic soy products, I didn’t like the idea of them becoming a major food staple in our diet.
It was around this time that I started Crossfit. As many know, the Paleo diet is the diet of choice for most Crossfitters. The Paleo Diet focuses on eating grass fed meats, wild caught seafood, fresh vegetables, limited amounts of fruit, nuts and seeds, and healthful oils and fats. Foods not included in this diet include grains, legumes (no beans including soy, and no peanuts), dairy, refined sugar, processed foods, potatoes, and refined oils. The concept behind this diet is to eat as our ancestors ate. It is a high protein, low carb, higher fat diet, and lends itself to the strenuous Crossfit WOD’s as it provides ample animal based protein to help recover and build muscle mass.
There are a number of arguments to the benefits as well as the harmful effects of this diet. I think it would take a whole series of posts to address and research fully. The main concern for me was figuring out how this diet fit into my lifestyle, and based on my own health issues and background, what was the best route for me to take.
I have spent 3 years now converting into a mostly vegetarian/pescatarian lifestyle, and I have managed to rid myself of the hormone triggered migraines I suffered from for the seven years prior, as well as the digestive issues I had most of my life. To put it simply, I was very afraid of adding meat back to my diet for fear that those issues would return. So I thought about the basis for what caused those issues in the first place, and why removing meat and refined sugar from my diet made a difference. I have no medical proof or anything to prove this, this is simply my personal belief and determination based on the changes I made and the effects I experienced. My migraines were a result of hormonal imbalance as far as I can tell. Although eating “healthy,” my healthy at the time included bags of frozen chicken breasts, loads of cheap grain-fed steak, convenience diet foods (Lean Cuisines, Pre-made Rice Sides), and low calorie/low fat desserts. All of these contained preservatives, chemicals, pesticides, and antibiotic and hormone treated animals. All of which can easily lead to a hormone imbalance in the body. Two weeks after changing my diet, the headaches and stomach issues stopped.
So back to the available groceries here in South Dakota. With fish not being readily available, and not wanting to depend on soy-based products, it left me trying to figure out how to not only maintain my previous protein levels, but to also increase them to accommodate my new workouts. My answer for now has been bison. I posted on this earlier, so I won’t repeat that post. But the journey doesn’t exactly end there. There was still the issue of finding quality produce. I had previously been able to buy almost totally organic produce, or take advantage of our family’s garden output. Now I try to buy organic in the foods that are is most important (dirty dozen), and that are available, and then buy conventional in the rest. This has unfortunately reduced the variety of vegetables and fruits we eat on a regular basis. It has also played up the importance of really washing our produce. But at this point I would rather eat the same things every day than to subject my body to harmful foods.
I don’t foresee my diet changing to a meat-based diet, nor do I anticipate grains and dairy being cut. I don’t like the idea of cutting whole food groups. Grains like quinoa offer a plethora of nutritional benefits, and I have learned that carbs at breakfast and lunch make a huge difference in my overall satisfaction and energy levels. We don’t eat a lot of cheese, but I love it. We also love greek yogurt, and I think it does have digestive benefits. And finally, meat has become much harder for my body to process and more than a meal or two a week including it causes me a lot of stomach cramping. So beans and some soy-based faux meats will still be a part of our diet. Currently I am trying to focus on protein, good fats, and carbs at breakfast (usually two eggs, 1/4 avocado, and a slice of whole wheat toast), lots of fresh vegetables, a lean protein, good fats, and sometimes a few carbs at lunch (leafy green salad, fresh veggies, wild caught herring filets, 1/4 avocado, and vinaigrette dressing), a Clif Builder’s (protein) bar for snack #1, and some sort of fruit for snack #2. Then dinner consists of mostly vegetables, a lean protein, and occasionally a few low-glycemic starches/carbs (simple example would be roasted broccoli and sweet potatoes with a bison steak). I have started spiralizing zucchini in place of pasta, but I do generally still include a 1/4 cup or so of the pasta or rice because I’m not kidding myself that zucchini tastes like either of these, although I have found that I am very satiated with the zucchini pasta, and I love not feeling so bloated and full at the end of the meal.
So this is where I stand currently with my take on the Paleo Diet. No diet or lifestyle is one size fits all. Each and every person has to determine what is best for their body and their life. My ultimate goal is just to feel as good and healthy as possible. I’m not going to over-analyze the ratios on my plate or every morsel that enters my mouth. Life should not be ruled by food.
So back at you guys. Any of you tried Paleo? Or have any awesome adaptations? I would love to hear your take on it!