Saturday, September 1, 2012

Practical Tips for a Paleo Lifestyle - Complete with Meal Planning Guide and Shopping Lists

Discovering Paleo is what introduced me to a life of healthy eating and even inspired me to go back to school for holistic nutrition and I will be forever grateful for what I am learning. Kevin and I have been at this healthy eating thing for a couple of years and recently we've started to experiment with more of a real food approach to eating, while keeping the focus on the healthy, nutrient dense foods that our ancestors would have eaten. I feel like we all have our own personal definition of "paleo" and mine has come to be this: I eat real food that nourishes my body and makes me feel good inside and out. I eat whole foods and avoid refined foods. I eat local, organic, grass fed and pasture raised whenever possible. Vegetables, fruit, meat, nuts and seeds make up 99.9% of my diet. The other .1% is probably chocolate.

We've added in some new foods here and there and I strongly believe that a diet of real, whole, nutritious, unrefined food is the secret to a healthy life. The majority of our diet and the recipes you will see on this website are 100% A-OK Paleo approved!

We are all different and you may have your own methods for applying ancestral nutrition to your life. If you have any tips, tricks, websites or books you have picked up along the way, I would love for you to leave a comment and share them with everyone because you can never have too many helpful resources!

So, here goes....

  •  Paleo in a nutshell
A lot of people in the Paleo world are now putting the focus on nutrient density and re-introducing foods that they may have once thought were off limits. This boils the strict Paleo diet down to its most basic level. Sound crazy? Read on through this post for resources to learn more about why this way of eating can improve your health inside and out!

Eat These

    • Vegetables
    • Fruits
    • Meat
    • Seafood
    • Nuts and Seeds
    • Healthy Fats
    Avoid These
    • Grains
    • Legumes
    • Dairy
    • Refined Foods and Sugars
    • Vegetable and Seed Oils

    •  Books and Websites to check out if you are just getting started 

    After Kevin brought up this whole Paleo business many, many times, my curiosity got the best of me and I started doing some research of my own. These are some of the resources that informed and inspired me in those first few weeks.

    Robb Wolf - What is the Paleo Diet? A GREAT introduction to Paleo! Robb has ideas for how to get started, a quick-start guide, meal ideas and so much more. A really good place to start.

    Paleo Plan - Another good site to check out if you are just getting started. Awesome recipe database and if you sign up for their monthly service you will receive meal plans and shopping lists delivered straight to your inbox. Really takes the guesswork out of Paleo if you are feeling confused on what to eat each day.

    Paleo Diet Lifestyle - This one was a lifesaver for me when I was trying to figure out what Paleo was all about. This website has a food list, two-week meal plan and tons of yummy recipes.

    The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet by Robb Wolf

    The Complete Idiot's Guide to Eating Paleo by Neely Quinn and Jason Glaspey

    Everyday Paleo by Sarah Fragoso

    It Starts with Food by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig

    • 1,000,001 Real Food Recipes

    The following sites pull recipes from Paleo and Primal blogs all over the interwebs, which makes it super simple for you to find exactly what you are looking for. Turn to these if you have a pound of ground mutton and a bushel of apples on hand and no idea what to do with them, or if you want to satisfy that craving for grass fed bison jerky. You'll start to find some favorite blogs through these aggregator sites. Bookmark these blogs, like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter so you will never miss one of their tasty treasures!

    Fast Paleo

    Now you can purchase the Fast Paleo Top 100 of 2013 eBook! This eBook includes the top 100 recipes featured on Fast Paleo in 2013, as well as bonus eBooks with the top Cookie, Ice Cream, Muffin and Smoothie recipes from 2013! Click the banner to learn more.

    Chow Stalker

    • Dive Right In!

    Obviously, I liked what I found and we jumped right off the deep end and into a sea of Paleo. After hours and hours of research, Paleo just made so much sense! We would only eat whole, fresh foods that supported our health and cut out all of the processed crap that promotes disease and makes you feel like a bloated, lethargic whale after eating it. We would eat a wide variety of foods to get the widest variety of nutrients. And we would feel good about every single food we put into our bodies.

    1) Clean out your fridge and pantry - Just do it. Go through everything and if it has grains, dairy, legumes, added sugars or ingredients you couldn't spell correctly in a spelling bee then throw it out. Your kitchen might look pretty naked afterwards, but don't worry, you are about to give it a beautiful makeover!

    2) What do I eat now - Spend some time with the multitude of books and websites (ahem, like the one you are on right now!) out there and choose some meal and snack ideas that you like. Bookmark your favorites for later use. Eventually, you will have a large database of tasty recipes that you can turn to and you should never have to turn to the drive thru or Hot Pockets ever again!

    3) Let's go shopping - Once you get an idea of what your meals will look like for the week, you are ready to make a shopping list and hit the grocery store. Better yet, stop by your local farmers' market!

    Now, go forth and bask in the glory of your bright, colorful, fresh, fully-stocked kitchen and get ready to be the healthiest you that you can be!

    • Work it!

    For those first couple of months, we stuck pretty closely to the recipes that were already out there. This was all so new to us and I had never cooked this way in the past. After a while, though, we started to come up with our own meal ideas. We felt confident enough to get creative in the kitchen and put our own spin on things. Start out by just taking a favorite meal and switching up the protein or spices. You can sub shredded chicken for ground beef or use different seasonings to totally change the flavor of the meal!

    We also got into making a weekly meal plan so that we could purchase only the foods we needed for the week. It also stopped us from standing in the kitchen after work wondering what to make for dinner. This way, we are never tempted to take the easy way out and stray from our healthy eating plan. Here is how we do it...

    1) Scan the kitchen - Do a lap around your pantry and fridge to determine what you have on hand and what is in danger of spoiling if you don't use it up. 

    2) Choose your recipes for the week - I pull out my favorite Paleo books and go through the recipes I have bookmarked from the web and choose a few I'd like to make that week. I also think about any new recipes I want to try out (in hopes of sharing them on the blog). Keep in mind how many people you are cooking for. Try to make enough so that you have leftovers that can be used for lunches or busy evenings when you may not have time to cook.

    3) Get your meal plan on - I use my handy meal planning calendar (see below to print or download) to plan out my breakfasts, lunches, snacks and dinners for the week. Maybe you go out to lunch everyday and just want to plan your dinners. You can also record meals you know will be eaten away from home. Using the meal plan gives you a big picture view of the week ahead. If you know you will be getting home late one night, you can throw something in the crock pot in the morning.

    You can save or print the following PDF's for easy access!

    If you are all tech savvy and prefer to do your meal planning online, PrimalPal is another awesome resource. You can pick and choose your meals for the week from their database and it will generate a customized shopping list for you!

    4) Head to the grocery store  - Once you know what you will be cooking and eating for the week, you can make your grocery list and head to the store. I even have a helpful shopping list with many of the staple items that are in a lot of Paleo recipes. There is also space on the shopping list for you to add in some new foods you want to try.

    NOTE: The meal planner and grocery list I provide do have some options that are not considered hardcore Paleo, but they are all real, whole foods. Listen to your body and eat what makes you feel good. If you are including grains, legumes and dairy in your diet, it is important to look for high quality, nutrient dense sources like organic and/or raw dairy and whole grains and focus on proper preparation for maximum nutrient absorption while minimizing anti-nutrients.

    5) Weekly Prep/Cook Ahead - Every Sunday, I like to spend a few hours in the kitchen prepping and cooking as much food as I possibly can to save a little time during the week. Take a look at your meal plan and see which items you can make ahead of time. A couple pounds of roasted pork in the crock pot can be shredded and used throughout the week in egg scrambles or to top salads. By having various proteins and vegetables ready to go, your weeknight meals will come together much quicker! Here are some other ideas...
    • Grill a batch of chicken breasts or thighs
    • Grill a batch of burgers or mini burgers
    • Bake whole and cubed sweet potatoes
    • Cook a large roast in the crock pot
    • Make a stew in the crock pot
    • Shred or chop veggies to be used in various meals
    • Make any sauces, dips or dressings you plan to use
    • Cut up veggie sticks for snacks
    • Make apple sauce in the crock pot

    6) Have a few "quick meals" on hand - We all have those mornings where we sleep straight through the alarm and wake up with 30 minutes to get ready and be at work. Or maybe you get stuck in traffic on the way home and are in no mood to cook when you finally get to the house. It is good to have some ready-to-eat foods on hand when these situations arrive. These are a few of the items we always keep stocked in our kitchen...
    • Canned Tuna and Salmon
    • Sun Dried Tomatoes
    • Black and Green Olives
    • Frozen Peppers and Onions
    • Shredded Cabbage
    • Nitrate-Free Deli Meats
    Any (or all) of these items can be thrown on a bed of spinach or lettuce for a quick and easy meal.

    • Brave New World - Visiting a Restaurant

    Going out to eat can be a bit intimidating when you are trying to stick to a healthy eating plan. Below are a few things we have learned that make restaurant meals an enjoyable, instead of a nerve-wracking, experience.

    1) Research the menu before you go - Get online and check out the menu before your visit. This should give you a good idea of what they have to offer and what you can make into a healthy meal.

    2) Ask questions - Not sure what is in a certain dressing? Want to know how the chicken is prepared? Just ask your server. They should be very knowledgeable about the menu and will help guide you to a meal that meets your needs. Let them know if you are avoiding grains, dairy, legumes and added sugars and they should be able to suggest some items for you.

    3) Get creative - You might have to get a little creative with the menu. I'll sometimes see a tasty looking sandwich and order it without the bread. Or I'll order barbecue pork and a side salad and just mix them together into a giant salad. You can almost always substitute fries for steamed or grilled veggies. You just have to ask!

    4) Know the lingo - You pretty much always want to avoid words like fried, battered, creamy, crispy or breaded. Anything that is poached, roasted, grilled, pan-seared, steamed or roasted should be good to go.

    5) Order your salad without cheese or croutons and get the dressing on the side - Even if the menu doesn't say a salad has cheese or croutons, I always order it that way. If I don't, I usually end up with a salad that has both cheese and croutons.

    • Time to Get Away - Taking Real Food on the Road

    Kevin and I have been on a weeklong road trip, as well as a few vacations since we started following a real food way of eating. Here are a few of the tips we have learned that stop us from pulling over at the nearest McDonald's when hunger strikes.

    1) Look for hotels with full kitchens. Bonus points if it is within five minutes of a grocery store - We always look for accommodations with full kitchens and easy access to fresh groceries. This really makes it no different than being at home. We can still cook all of the same meals we are accustomed to cooking at home.

    2) Make use of what you have - If you can't get a hotel with a full kitchen, try to make sure they at least have a mini fridge and microwave. You can keep the fridge stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables, nitrate-free deli meats and even pre-cooked meats and veggies that you can bring from home. Baked sweet potatoes, roasted chicken, and pre-cooked ground beef can be combined with any combination of vegetables and heated in the microwave to make a wholesome meal.

    3) Get a HUGE cooler - Kevin and I have a fairly large cooler that we will pack up for long days in the car or even days when we just know we will be away from our hotel all day doing some site seeing. We pack the cooler full of water, deli meat, veggie sticks, salsa and guacamole, jerky, fresh fruits, almond butter, nuts, and even a few Lara Bars or squares of dark chocolate for a treat. If you freeze the water overnight, it can be used to keep everything else cool for most of the day.

    4) Research the local fare - Just like at home, you can research restaurants online before you go. One of our favorite things about traveling is finding fun, new places to eat!

    For additional information on sticking to a paleo diet when you are away from home, you can also check out the following posts -

    Paleo Eating at Walt Disney World

    Paleo Eating at a Music Festival

    • Local Southern Indiana / Louisville Resources

    This presentation was geared toward my Southern Indiana / Louisville area friends so I wanted to list some of the local stores, restaurants and farmers that I mentioned.

    • Grass Corp -  owned and operated by the Steckler family, Grass Corp is a small pasture-based farm located in beautiful Southern Indiana. You can pre-order meat, eggs and even animal bones from their online store and pick them up at the farmers' market on Saturday.
    • Foxhollow Farm - If you are closer to the Crestwood area you HAVE to stop by Foxhollow Farm. In the Farm Store, they sell grass fed beef and biodynamically grown fruits and vegetables. You can also pre-order your beef online. Check the website for store hours.
    • New Albany Farmers' Market - Speaking of farmers' markets, New Albany has an awesome one. Not all of the farmers grow their veggies organically, but ask around and you will find the ones that do. We are able to get the majority of our fruits and veggies there for the week.
    • Trader Joe's - I am so happy to have a Trader Joe's in the area! We do the majority of our grocery shopping here. They have a decent selection of organic produce and a whole aisle of nuts and dried fruit without added sugar, salt or oil. They also have coconut milk with two ingredients - coconut milk and water.
    • Whole Foods - A little on the pricey side for us, but lots of organic produce, grass fed meats and an awesome salad bar if you show up hungry.
    • Earth Fare - Similar to Whole Foods in both price and selection...and the presence of an awesome salad bar.
    • Rainbow Blossom - Rainbow Blossom is my favorite local resource for supplements like fish oil, tasty, all natural treats and a few good seasoning alternatives (like coconut aminos vs. soy sauce). They also have a good selection of grass fed meats from local producers.
    • Feast Barbecue - A recent addition to the New Albany dining scene, Feast has a nice selection of barbecued meats, salads, veggie-based side dishes and even a vinegar slaw. We have been a few times since they opened and always enjoy it.
    • Havana Rumba - If you are looking for a meal with a little Cuban flair, this is a great option. Havana Rumba has chicken, beef and pork dishes and you can sub steamed veggies for the sweet potato fries or rice and beans that come with most meals.
    • Silver Dollar - Another good barbecue joint. Located on Frankfort Avenue in Louisville, Silver Dollar has some of the best brisket we have ever tasted. They also have greens or mixed veggies available as side dishes.
    • Qdoba - Always right around the corner if we are out and about and need a meal. I stick with the naked taco salad, sans dressing, topped with chicken, grilled fajita veggies, pico de gallo and salsa verde.
    • Addis Grill - Kevin is a regular here. Literally. They know exactly what he wants when he walks in the door. He orders the chicken kabobs and subs a side salad for the rice. 
    • Ramsi's Cafe on the World - Ramsi's has a huge menu. The menu has designations for vegetarian, vegan and gluten free items. Plenty of salads, stir fries and veggie-based dishes to choose from.
    • Gordon Biersch Brewery - Kevin discovered a hidden gem on this menu. We typically avoid the 4th St. area, but when we have had a tough training day and feel we earned a special treat, we will head to Gordon Biersch and order the Farmhouse Burger (without the bun, veggies on the side). This is a burger topped with bacon jam and a fried egg. Sadly, I think the bacon jam must have some amount of sugar or molasses in it, but nobody's perfect and there isn't much of it on the burger anyway. This is an occasional treat for us and I am willing to live with it for the egg and bacon-y goodness atop this burger.

    Obviously, there are tons of other local restaurants in Louisville and we have never had trouble finding something to eat no matter where we go. These are just some that we visit frequently.

    • Time to Spread Your Wings!

    I think the common theme here is planning and preparation. By putting a little effort into things up front, you will be prepared for anything that comes your way. And the best part is that the longer you do these things, the easier they will become. You are breaking your old habits and creating new ones. After a while, it will be like second nature and you will be happier and healthier than ever before!


    Note-Some links on this page are affiliate links. I only promote items I believe in, already own, or would purchase myself. I wouldn't steer you wrong. Obviously.