Eating Paleo/Primal

The first time I heard about Paleo was about four (or more?) years ago. Brody’s buddy from Chicago was visiting and had started doing this crazy workout called Crossfit and not eating grains. Say what? I recall being baffled by the “diet” and I likely told him I could never do that.

Then, just over a year ago, our friends, Mel and Tim (the couple I trained for the marathon with) started eating this way. I still could not see myself ever giving up bread (what would I have for breakfast?!?!), pasta, or pita chips.

This spring, a few things led to Brody and I overhauling our diet:

1) I became more knowledgeable about eating grains and gluten. I listen to the Balanced Bites podcast every week (often while I’m driving or working out), I read Eat the Yolks, and I subscribe to Mark’s Daily Apple.

2) Our friends Bridget and JP did a vegan cleanse in the late winter as part of Bridget’s yoga teacher training. This inspired Brody to do something similar.

3) This was a tough winter, and although I was able to get to the gym and do at-home workouts regularly, Brody struggled to find time to exercise. Finley goes to bed at 7pm, and Brody would go in to work by 6:45/7am most days so he could be home by 5:30pm to see Finley. Come spring, he wasn’t feeling healthy.

4) Brody went to Texas for the Final Four games. At this point, we had been tossing around the idea of going Paleo/Primal for a couple months. I had actually already begun to cut out a good amount of grains from my diet, but Brody had not. While he was gone, he asked me to purge our house.

I’ve learned that my body actually handles gluten quite well. While in Switzerland, I experienced almost no side effects of eating bread or pasta. Brody, on the other hand, definitely feels it. As I mentioned in one of the Switzerland recaps, he had horrible stomach cramps our fifth day there. They started the day after a big pasta dinner, and probably all of the bread finally caught up to him.

Because I believe my body does okay with grains (as far as I can tell), I follow more of an 80/20 approach. I may have a piece of sprouted toast for breakfast or some pasta salad at a friend’s happy hour. Also, Brody and I made the decision to eat dairy, so I guess some people may not consider our diet Paleo/Primal.

Here’s a typical day of eats:

6:30am: two eggs fried in bacon fat, a piece of GF banana bread, and a cup or so of fruit

10:00am: a quick snack, maybe some mixed nuts or a Fage yogurt

12:00pm: leftovers from last night’s dinner, so often meat and roasted veggies, sometimes half an avocado, and another serving of fruit

4:00pm: another small snack such as a few chunks of cheese

6:00pm: a meat (flank steak, roasted chicken) and a vegetable (roasted broccoli or asparagus, baked potato)

8:00pm: a few pieces of dark chocolate

Brody’s daily eats are a little different from mine because he’s at work and going out to lunch every day. For breakfast, he eats a Larabar, and apple, and a yogurt. He keeps pistachios, cheese, and beef jerky at work for snacks or lunch in a pinch. Most days he has a salad for lunch. He’s then home for dinner for whatever I prepare.

Finley also doesn’t eat too many grains since we don’t have much in the house. She eats meat, fruit, vegetables, eggs, and yogurt. We do give her plain Cheerios and occasionally some Annie’s cheddar bunnies. She also had Annie’s mac and cheese this week for the first time and loved it. I’d say she’s about 80/20 Paleo also.

I’m not a strict Paleo/Primal eater, but I’m feeling good about the food I’m putting into my body. Along with changing our diet, I’ve started buying better quality meat and eggs. When I can get to Whole Foods, I load up on meat and freeze it. Otherwise my grocery store carries Strauss meats (in the frozen section), so I’ve been using their ground pork and chicken for recipes. I now buy Phil’s eggs, and at $2.69 a dozen, it’s not too pricey. Buying organic produce (probably because eat so much of it, which would be an argument either way) is still a struggle for me, so as of now, we eat mostly conventional.

Speaking of money, I don’t follow a weekly or monthly food budget, so I can’t say for certain how much more we’re spending, but it doesn’t feel like much more. No longer do I buy three 12-packs of soda at a time, crackers, or bread. As someone told me when I started eating this way, “You can pay for it now, or you can pay for it later.”

It’s been a whole lot easier than I ever thought it would be, and I don’t see us ever going back to being a grain-eating family again. As Mel just told me at lunch today, “You can’t unknow what you know.”

April’s Freezer Meals

Hey hey! How are things? I’m checking in to share the recipes from this month’s freezer meals group and talk a little about what’s going on with food in our household.

The group skipped March, and like me, I’m guessing everyone had empty freezers ready to be stuffed with delicious meals. Seven ladies were in for this month, and we met on Monday night for assembly. After putting Finley down, I grabbed my meat in gallon baggies, some food I prepped ahead of time for assembly, and a cookie sheet and headed out the door.

Before meeting, the super woman who organizes this whole operation informed us we’d need to bring the following meats: 2 lbs raw chicken breasts, 2 cups cooked diced chicken, 1 lb cooked Italian sausage, 1 lb cooked ground turkey, and 3 total lbs of cooked ground beef. On Monday morning, my mom (who was visiting for the weekend), Finley and I made the trek to Whole Foods in Madison to buy meat.

To back up a smidge, the super woman who did the shopping dropped off 10 lbs of onions, 2 heads of celery, and 7 boxes of chicken flavored rice for me to prep before Monday. It was quite fortunate that my mom was in town and likes doing stuff in the kitchen, because she helped me with the dicing and sautéing. 

The assembly took only an hour or so. I was responsible for putting together the bags of food for the Pasta Fagioli and labeling the cans of broth and kidney beans with everyone’s name and the meal it goes with. Everyone had come with gallon baggies with their names and the meal on each. This system, or each person putting together all seven of the same meal, works well, and as I said, went really fast.

So the recipes – here they are! I haven’t made any, so I can’t vouch for what’s good or not, but they all sound great.

Breaded Ranch Chicken

Pizza Casserole

Pasta Fagioli

Poppyseed Chicken Casserole

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Emily’s Sloppy Joe Recipe (no link)

  • 1.5 lbs. ground beef
  • 3/4 cup finely diced green pepper
  • 3/4 cup finely diced onion
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 can Healthy Request tomato soup
  • 1/2 cup BBQ sauce
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 tbs yellow mustard
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • small drizzle of maple syrup
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions: Saute green pepper, onion, celery and garlic. Brown meat. Add all other ingredients. Let simmer for 30-45 minutes.

Italian Rice Bake (no link)

  • 1 package chicken flavored rice
  • 1 lb Italian sausage (sweet)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 1/2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese

Instructions: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare rice according to box. Brown the meat, sprinkling with onion powder as it cooks. Combine rice, sausage, marinara sauce, and seasonings. Put into greased baking dish. Pour extra sauce over top if desired and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Sadly, some of these freezer meals may sit in our freezer for a while, as Brody and I have officially started eating Paleo/Primal. We’re not 100%, especially me – I’ve cheated a bunch. Brody, though, has been. From what I’ve read, following this lifestyle is quite personal – what works for you may or may not work for others. In essence, we’ve cut out all grains and processed foods. We’re still eating dairy, and I highly doubt will ever go the raw route.

I had already been transitioning into this way of eating, and it hasn’t been very difficult. Being home full time, I’m surrounded by the food I buy, so as long as a package of Oreo’s or Wheat Thins doesn’t end up in my shopping cart, I don’t have access to it. Brody, on the other hand, has faced some obstacles. On Monday he sent me pictures of amazing looking desserts from his office, and on Wednesday he went to the Brewers game to which he was handed a beer as he walked on to the bus.

I’ll keep you posted on our journey and on the freezer meals we eat.

Happy Friday!