In a previous post, I shared some practical tips for going paleo (see also “What is Clean Eating?”). It can be an overwhelming undertaking if you’re brand new to it, and it can be even harder to maintain in the first few weeks. With all of the research I’ve read and my family’s personal experience with it, eating paleo makes sense. Omit gut irritating foods, feed your body real food, and feel better. Our bodies work harder when fed foods we aren’t meant to have (grains, legumes, dairy). When provided foods that are sources of energy, vitamins and minerals (meat, vegetables, fruit), our bodies work more efficiently thus making us feel better. This is how my family eats 90% of the time.
90% because life happens. Birthday parties, holidays, t-ball snacks, vacations, samples at Costco. Life happens! Enjoy it, savor it, and try not to feel guilty about it. Guilt perpetuates an unhealthy relationship with food which inhibits your ability to feel better. And the goal is to feel better- both mentally and physically.
Through a lot of trial and error over the past year, what works best for us is to plan a week at a time. We are a busy family with school, sports and activities. Rather than scramble at the last minute to make dinner before running out the door to swimming lessons, or worse yet stopping at a drive-thru, planning and shopping for the week helps alleviate some stress.
Sundays are usually pretty slow and allow time to map out everyone’s schedules for the week. Once this is done, I think about dinners and what makes sense to make on which night. A t-ball game right at dinner time means something in the slow-cooker. My nephew Sawyer over for dinner means no shrimp. A Board meeting at the preschool means making a big dinner because Uncle Matt usually babysits and has a healthy appetite.
Whatever your specific situation, planning doesn’t take much time and makes all the difference as the week progresses.
Check your pantry, cupboards, fridge and freezer for ingredients already on hand. As you plan your weekly menu, make a shopping list for ingredients you don’t have. Make a note of staples you need to stock up on.
Cookbooks offer inspiration in addition to providing recipes. And most recipes can be made paleo with some simple swap outs and substitutions. Instead of sugar, use honey or agave. Coconut aminos instead of soy sauce. Grated cauliflower instead of rice. Lettuce leaves instead of buns or tortillas. Coconut or olive oil instead of canola or vegetable. Coconut milk instead of half and half or cream. So when I’m looking at recipes in cookbooks or online, if it sounds good, my kids will eat it, and if I can paleoize it, I add it to the menu for the week.
As for breakfast, lunch and snacks, we aren’t very creative. Breakfast is usually eggs and meat in some form: cupcakes, frittata, scramble, or an omelet. Other options (depending on your degree of paleoness) include gluten-free Chex (there are a few different flavors to choose from) and gluten-free waffles (make a double batch and freeze extras). The easiest lunch is leftovers or a salad. Easy snacks: fruit, nuts, veggies, muffins or banana bread, and jerky.
After you’ve compiled your menu and shopping list for the week, head to the store. Allow some flexibility for meat that is on sale or veg that looks especially vibrant and delicious. Load up on real food; skip food that doesn’t do anything for you. And maybe toss in some dark chocolate for those moments when you feel a Dairy Queen bender coming on.
Taking time to plan and prepare food for the week makes for seamless mornings, fulfilling lunches, and tasty, healthful dinners. Don’t skip meals. Smart snacking helps curb sugar cravings and helps prevent the mid-afternoon slump. Eat when you’re hungry. With as hard as we’re working out, we should be smart about the food we use as fuel. Don’t undo all of that hard work and progress you’ve made at the gym with a double-decker supreme (not to mention what that will do to your gut later on).
Fitness isn’t just how you look physically on the outside but also how your body and mind function internally. Wod hard, eat smart, experience positive change, and reap the benefits.