Whoever said that there is no ‘hunting and gathering’ in the modern world has obviously never tried to grocery shop on a ‘hunter-gatherer’ diet.
For those that aren’t yet familiar with this paleo/primal/caveman diet thing that seems to become such a big deal in the health and fitness world, it’s pretty simple and yet highly restrictive. Basically, you eat like our paleolithic ancestors might. Anything that could be hunted or gathered is what you are allowed to eat. This includes grass-fed/cage free meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Simple. That, in turn, eliminates grains, legumes, dairy, refined/added sugars, soy and any artificial flavors, ingredients and preservatives of any kind. The idea is that it goes back to what we are meant to eat on an evolutionary level, the argument being that things like grains, dairy etc. are the products of modern technology and agriculture and we are not really ‘programmed’ to have them as dietary staples.
“Sure okay, no problem.” you say? Okay, maybe you don’t say, but that’s what I said…and then I went grocery shopping.
A friend of mine keeps joking with me when he watches me eat, “You didn’t hunt down that cow, you can’t eat that.” But, oh did I ever have to hunt it down. Just like I had to hunt down tomato sauce that didn’t have sugar added, almond milk without preservatives, trail mix that didn’t have peanuts, and chicken stock made with sea salt. It’s never more brutally apparent how unnatural our society is until you’re trying to live all natural. Even with things like organic and even gluten-free foods becoming more mainstream, the grocery trip for a paleo eater is still most definitely a hunt.
But it’s not impossible.
Here are a few things that have made paleo living just a little easier for me since I started:
The Paleo Central App for iPhone
This little gem was developed by the fine fellow over at nerdfitness.com, who has a hilarious and awesome blog that you should probably check out and read. I’m a firm believer in the fact that there’s an app for everything, and sure ’nuff there’s one for this too. I can’t tell you how full my google history was with “Is _____ paleo?” (the answer is usually no, by the way) before I found this thing. It’s basically a big, long, ridiculous, I-don’t-even-know-how-he-curated-this-thing list of foods, paleo and non-paleo that you can search or browse to find out if a particular food is allowed on this diet or not. It’s a life-saver when I’m combing grocery isles for anything I can eat.
So I can’t exactly get a pizza delivered anymore, but it surprised me to find all the companies that exist solely to bring healthy, organic groceries to your door. It’s not really an inexpensive option, which is why I don’t do it often, but if it’s a really busy week it’s nice to have as a back-up. My sister bought me a voucher for the Paleo Perfect Tasting Menu over at Beetnik Foods which I can’t wait to receive. Grass-fed steaks and burgers, perfectly portioned snacks of fruit and nuts, veggie sides. All boxed up and brought to me. There are also options like Greenling and Farmhouse Delivery, who carry local and organic produce and groceries. I’ve used Greenling off and on for a couple of years now, even when I wasn’t on any special diet. It’s like bringing the farmer’s market to your door. Or, if you’re up for some regular super-local deliveries, local farms like Johnson’s Backyard Garden offer Community Support Agriculture (CSA) memberships that get you a big box of farm-fresh food delivered weekly or bi-weekly.
The paleo diet almost immediately eliminates a lot of eating-out options, which is pretty debilitating for people with a busy-bee on-the-go lifestyle. Sure, it would be ideal to cook every single meal at home, but really–who does that? I’ve found a lot of restaurants that will cater to dietary restrictions. Hell, even my favorite sushi restaurant agreed to make me rolls sans rice so I could still eat there, but Chipotle is great because they have options straight off the menu that are paleo friendly. There’s no feeling like a pest for making special requests here. Their meat is all grass-fed/cage free, they have tons of veggie options and of course…guacamole. My favorite paleo friendly friend. My go-to is a salad with double meat, peppers, onions, pico, salsa and a hearty helping of guac.
Paleo bloggers are like your own hard-working, totally kitchen savvy support system. Not only are they always there to answer your paleo questions, but they are also there to tell you that it’s okay to slip up, show you that you CAN make donuts and pancakes paleo, and collect all the ways and reasons that bacon is your friend. Blogs like PaleOMG and Everyday Paleo are the reason that I get through some days. Especially the days when I’m like, “ALL I WANT IS A COOKIE!” …yep, they can show you how to do that too.
Overall, I’m 10 days in to this whole paleo thing and while it’s wildly inconvenient sometimes I am really loving it. I feel really good, have a lot more energy and surprisingly I don’t even really feel that restricted even though I’ve eliminated about half of the things I usually ate. Heck, I almost feel like the most difficult change I had to make was to start drinking black coffee at Starbucks since I can’t drink soymilk anymore. I’m aiming to make it at LEAST a month doing this thing, I love all sorts of food far too much to stay this restricted forever, but who knows, maybe I’ll like it so much that I’ll stick with it for longer.