Paleo Without a Kitchen: When Cooking is not an Option

I’ve been living two different lifestyles over the past year. One is at my parents where I have a full kitchen to work with. The other is multiple days at the hotel where I’m often the manager on duty, which forces me to stay there, sometimes for weeks at a time.

It is true that Paleo can be a very labor intensive way of life, particularly in cooking. When I have a kitchen to work with, I’m pure Paleo — meat, fresh fruits and vegitables, nuts and alternative flours.

But the hotel is a different story. I have a microwave and a small fridge and a tiny coffee pot. And it’s a life I’m fairly familiar with since I started 2018 homeless and living in my car. I describe the diet I followed then as “Paleo-ish” because there were certain aspects of it that were definitely not Paleo. Paleo or Paleo-ish, it’s what I have to fall back on when I’m at the hotel.

But, I do have a kitchen at home for cooking. Why should I fall back on a diet that can include processed meat, bottled drinks and prepackaged meals when I don’t?

There are a few reasons.

I Hate Reheating

I’m a lousy meal prepper. I know people who get together with other people and they have meal prep parties. They’ll have two weeks to a month of meals prepared and ready to toss in the oven or take to work.

I am not one of those people.

I love to have a freshly cooked meal on my plate, and I will enjoy cooking it. I’ll even reheat some the next day. Maybe, and that’s a very firm maybe, I’ll reheat some the day after that.

I just don’t like reheated food, and the further from the cook date it gets, the worse it tastes on reheat. The next day isn’t bad, and, depending on what it is, I might even be able to go a day further, but the fact is, I just don’t like reheated food.

Let’s add microwave food to this because that’s all it is — already cooked food that is frozen and is being reheated. Is it convenient? Yes. And some people like it. Just not me. So the problem here is that if I’m stuck in a hotel room with the likely probability that I’m going to be eating reheated food, I’ll order a pizza. Dominio’s is right across the street and they have my phone number memorized.

I Eat What I Call “Hotel Paleo”

Mind you, Hotel Paleo can get expensive. And this just doesn’t work for hotels. This is how I did things when I lived in my car as well. I fell back on stuff that was already made for me and was still Paleo. You’ll find many of those things under the “Favorite Things” tab in the top right-hand corner of this page. Bolthouse Farms smoothies. RX Bars. Jerky. Pre-made salads. Mozzarella pearls. Olives. GoGo Squeez. These are just a handful of things I’ve found that are either Paleo or Paleo-ish and can be stocked in my hotel refrigerator and drawers to serve me as meals.

There is also grocery store meals. Walk into any Safeway or Kroger and you’re going to find a hot counter with chicken and a few other prepared items. In larger stores, you’ll find a salad bar. When I was homeless, I worked as a merchandizer in both Safeway and Kroger, and I worked seven days a week. Every day I had either a baked chicken meal with two pieces of chicken, mashed potatoes and a vegetable, or I had the salad bar.

One of my other tricks was to eat out. Domino’s and Wendy’s were favorites. How did that work? I would go to Wendy’s, order a Son of Baconator with no sauces and a side salad. I’d toss the buns, cut the burger into bite-sized pieces, and throw it into my salad. My other go to is from Domino’s, and it’s not pizza. It’s their wings. Their plain wings are not breaded or fried like everyone else’s. They’re fun through the oven. So the fat you’re getting is the good saturated fat from the animal and not the bad saturated fat from whatever they’re frying the animal in. I order a Caesar salad with them.

Understand that this was not the entirety of my diet. I still get most of my meals cooked at home, and, even when I was homeless, I had temporary places to stay while I cooked my own meals. But, when living in cars and hotel rooms, where cooking is not an option, there are ways to stick relatively close to plan, even if you’re going to have to do it for a while.

Be Prepared

For all of my talk about how I can’t do meal prep, it doesn’t mean I’m not pepared. For what? For a lot. I travel with an emergency kit in the back of my van. I have food, blankets, waterproof fire starters, a tent. I have an emergency tool kit with flares, jumper cables and a mini air generator in the event my car breaks down. I have a spare tripod for my camera, a Swiss Army walking stick and my snow brush and ice scraper back there as well. I’m prepared.

I also have a “hotel kit” that I keep in the back of my van. It has paper plates and bowls, plastic flatware, a small bottle of olive oil, picnic-sized salt and pepper shakers, a bottle of Garam Masala, and tiny canisters of tumeric and smoked paprika.  It goes with me every time I move into the hotel, even if it’s only for a day or two. If I’m staying more than a day or two, I’ll acutally unpack them. 

What do I stock? Mozerella pearls or ciliegine. Tyson precooked chicken breasts or strips. Premade salads, hard-boiled eggs. Dry bone broth. Plastic-wrapped sweet potatoes. I’ll have Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches in the freezer, made with fritattas rather than bread or muffins. Johnsonville or Sam’s Choice smoked sausage because they have far less sugar or cornsyrup than Hillshire Farms. Delmonte has good fruit cups with the fruit in 100 percent fruit juice rather than syrup. In my drawers, I’ll have not-so-perishables like olives, GoGo Squeez (mango and banana are my faves), Ghirardelli Intense Dark chocolate bars and snack bars like RX, Epic or Lära Bars.

What Does a Typical Day Look Like?

Breakfast is usually courtesy of Jimmy Dean. If it’s not a fritatta sandwich, then it’s a scramble, which can be found at any Walmart near the bacon. If I don’t have a fruit cup or a piece of fresh fruit, I have a Bolthouse Farms smoothie. And coffee. Always coffee.

Because this is not one of my big cooked breakfasts from home, I’m going to be hungry again in just a few hours. I’ll grab a GoGo Squeez to get me to the next meal, or perhaps a food bar.

Lunch will be a salad with maybe some extra meat from what I have in my mini-fridge. Today, I had to run home, so I brought some pumpkin sausage soup to have with my salad. I don’t tend to mind reheating soup.

After lunch, I was hungry again, so I made a little antipasto salad with mozzarella pearls, hard-boiled egg, olives and a little smoked sausage. I tossed it with olive oil, salt, pepper and turmeric.

That actually held me until dinner which was a salad from my fridge and wings from Dominos. At some point, between dinner and bedtime, I’ll probably have a food bar or a smoothie. Before bed, it will probably be a couple of squares of Ghirardelli.

I drink mostly water throughout the day, but I’m usually nursing a cup of coffee as well. If I need something with flavor, I’ll try to grab an Izze. They drink like soda, but they’re just fruit juice and carbonated water.

For dinner tomorrow, I have grilled beef strips that I plan having with a sweet potato on the side. I get plastic-wrapped sweet potatoes from Walmart in the produce aisle. They cook in the microwave in about seven minutes.

A Seamless Transition Makes a Difference

Because I live two lifestyles, the transition is very important. If I let that slip, it all goes to pieces. It becomes easier to eat a pizza and buy a Coke than eat the way I’m supposed to eat because I don’t want to reheat something I cooked two or three days ago. A weird hang-up I’m sure, but it’s enough to keep me off kilter if I don’t keep it in mind.

Over the first part of last year, I lost 50 lbs. and was pain-free. As I start 2019, I’ve regained that 50 lbs., and I’m remembering why I started down the Paleo road in the first place. How did that happen? I didn’t allow myself an easy transition between cooking at home and not being able to cook at the hotel. And given how much time I actually spend at the hotel, it was a recipe for disaster.

But, as they used to say on G. I. Joe, knowing is half that battle, and I know where I went wrong. But, I also understand that this plan works.

So I’ve fixed that little glitch, that uneven seam, so I can get back on track.

Paleo Magazine

This has been an indispensable tool for me.

Paleo Magazine is the ONLY print magazine dedicated wholly to the Paleo lifestyle. It has articles on ancestral health, farming and ranching your own food, the benefits of the paleo life, profiles of business that cater to the Paleo lifestyle, profiles of athletes who maintain a Paleo lifestyle exercises, recipes and advertisements for all kinds of new, nifty Paleo things you didn’t know you could get. Recipes take current trends into consideration, so you’ll find recipes for sous vide and Instapot.

I generally try one or two (maybe three or four) recipes. You can get into a rut of just eating a meat, a veggie, a fruit, etc. each meal, but you’ll find some new recipes with Paleo Magazine. They come through the mail six times a year and you also have access to the online magazine.

Understand, this is not a health and lifestyle magazine that includes the Paleo lifestyle. This is a magazine DEDICATED to the Paleo lifestyle. Nothing is going to be confusing. It’s not going to make you wonder if this is the route you should be taking. If you’re getting Paleo magazine, you’re already on your way.

While I get Paleo Magazine primarily for the recipes, I do get a lot out of the articles, particularly those dealing with autoimmune and inflammatory diseases (I have osteoarthritis). I have gotten insight on foods that might not be as Paleo as I thought (like agave nectar), products that will help keep me on plan in the somewhat transient lifestyle I live, and vitamins or supplements and in what foods I can find specific nutrients.

Sometimes you just need a little assistance to keep up with what you’re doing, and Paleo Magazine definitely provides that assistance. Not every issue is a goldmine, but there is always something.

Paleo on the Go

Paleo done best is at home with fresh food that you prepare yourself. Unfortunately, that is not always a reality. Trips, travel schedules, business meetings and long hours can cause you to slip back into your old ways. Don’t worry about it. It doesn’t have to be the end of the world.

But it also doesn’t necessarily have to happen. With a little pre-planning and foreknowledge, you can be prepared to Paleo on the go.

Be Prepared

It’s not always the case that the boss comes in, says, “We need you at this place, like, yesterday,” puts you on a plane without so much as a change of clothes, and you find yourself out of your element. Most people have the chance to plan.

If you know where you’re going and where you’re going to be staying, you’re already ahead of the game. Get a hold of the hotel. Find out if there’s a refrigerator. Most hotels these days have a fridge, microwave and a coffee pot, particularly if it’s an extended stay hotel. Ask about their breakfast. Even a cold continental will have things like hard-boiled eggs and fruit.

Keep in mind that most hotels will not allow you to cook in the rooms. It’s not what the rooms are for and cooking in the rooms is very often against fire codes. It’s not something you want to do anyway. Hotel rooms aren’t great places to try to wash dishes. If you’re driving to your location, though, precooked food will go into the microwave nicely. And don’t forget the fridges are small. A lot of little Tupperwares take up a lot of space. I put my prepared meals into Ziploc storage bags. They take up much less space.

It wouldn’t hurt to take along a small pack with paper plates, paper bowls and plastic flatware. Not all hotels have those on hand, and it’s a little frustrating to realize you have food to eat, but nothing on which to eat it.

Fresh is Best

If there is a grocery store nearby, grabbing a few days worth of fresh food is not hard. Places like Safeway and Kroger stores have shredded rotisserie chicken, so you don’t have to buy a whole one. The produce department is a great place to look, and there are now Paleo foods in the freezer section. You’re going to want to pick up things like juice for breakfast because the juice in most hotels is full of sugar. Bottles of water are wise purchases because you don’t have to worry about the quality and flavor of the tap water. One 16.5 oz bottle of water will make one of those little pots of coffee in the room, and, of course, you’re going to want to be drinking it as well. I don’t tend to recommend deli meats, but high-end roast beef is good for a day or two. Peel and eat shrimp is also a great one to take along.

Know Your Snack Options

Two weeks after I started eating Paleo I was living in my car. Because it was a circumstance I knew was coming, I had a chance to prepare for it. I had already started looking for Paleo snacks to take to work or to eat in lieu of candy bars. Once I had to move into my car, I already had a good idea of what I was going to buy to eat. Items like Lära Bars replaced candy bars, RX Bars stood in occasionally for lunch. I tested jerkies (Epic is good, and so is Old Trapper) and fruit sauces like GoGo Squeez. I could have two hard-boiled eggs, some jerky and a Bolthouse Farms smoothie for breakfast for next to nothing, and because I was living in my car during the winter, I could put food in the trunk of my car and it would keep nicely.

What do my homeless adventures matter to you? The items I learned I could eat and stay Paleo are great pack-along snacks to have in your hotel room, your briefcase, and your rental car. They can help you keep to plan when everyone else is munching on candy bars or granola bars during the business meeting. And when you just can’t live without the chocolate, Ghirardelli’s Intense Dark chocolates fall in line with both the Paleo and Keto eating plans. Just sayin’.

Hot Food

Okay, I get it. You’re not going to just want to eat food heated in the microwave. Once in a while, you’re going to want something that feels a little more “real.” One of my biggest problems with hotel living is the fact all of my food is nuked or reheated. Yes, I definitely want hot food sitting in front of me rather than a frozen meal or prepackaged finger food.

Go ahead. Do it. Hit a restaurant. If you’re concerned with staying on plan, look for something basic and not covered in cheese or sauce. A small steak with a salad is a great option, and, if you need more, throw in a potato or, better yet, a sweet potato, if you can get it. A place like Denny’s and Perkins where you can piece together your own breakfast are great as long as they don’t have a problem with substitutions. Can you have more bacon instead of hash browns or fruit instead of pancakes? Don’t want to leave your room. Try my favorite go-to. Dominos Pizza’s plain wings and a Caesar salad. The wings have nothing on them and are baked in the pizza oven rather than deep-fried. There are always options.

Don’t Sweat It

It’s getting easier and easier to find items that fit the Paleo lifestyle, and if you can’t find that, fall back on Keto. They are very similar. But, really, in the long run, don’t sweat it. Do the best you can with what you have and remember that Paleo is not about what you can’t have. It’s about what you do have.

The world will not end if you miss a Paleo meal. Neither will your diet.


Could Paleo be Bad for You?

As with any item, idea or plan, there are going to be naysayers, people have every reason to give you why you’re getting or doing something wrong, and you should be getting it or doing it their way. 

Paleo is no different. 

Go to your search engine and type in “why paleo is bad,” and Google will be happy to provide you with pages of articles explaining why Paleo is one of the worst diets you can be on. If you’re new to the lifestyle, it can be a little unnerving to see all this “proof” from experts that you’re making a big mistake. 

Don’t worry. You’re not. 

Where did the Paleo Diet Come From?

Paleo is short for Paleolithic, in reference to a specific point in history where, theoretically, we were all cavemen. Fast forward a few dozen millennia, and we are all eating junk out of boxes because it’s faster than actually cooking in our society of double incomes. 

Some credit the Paleo diet to Colorado Dr. Loren Cordain, a college professor specializing in exercise physiology or to Australian celebrity chef Pete Evans, but the fact is, this diet has always been around. There are tribes in remote areas that still eat this diet and have since the beginning of time. What Dr. Cordain and Mr. Evans did was bring it to the public’s attention. 

What do the Experts Say?

The restriction on grains deprives you of B vitamins, fiber, iron, magnesium and selenium. 

I’m going to assume, with that argument, that grains are the only place you can find the above vitamins, minerals and nutrients. The fact is, Paleo is full of these things without the need for grains.  Let’s take a look at where those eating Paleo get what they need.

B Vitamins

Red meat

Eggs

Seeds (specifically sunflower and almond)

Dark leafy greens

Fruits (specifically citrus fruits, avocado and banana)

Fiber

Dark Leafy Greens (specifically kale, collard greens and spinach)

Broccoli

Cabbage and Brussels sprouts

Beets understudy

Sweet potatoes and yams

Berries

Coconut

Nuts and seeds (specifically almonds and pumpkin seeds)

Iron

Red meat

Pork

Poultry

Seafood

Peas

Leafy greens

Dried fruits (cranberries, figs, raisins, apricots, etc.)

Magnesium

Spinach

Almonds and cashews

Dark chocolate

Avocado

Selenium

Seafood

Lean meats 

Poultry

Eggs

Nuts (specifically Brazil nuts)

Seeds

That is a lot of non-grain foods that cover those vitamins. And these options are not foods that will cause inflammation for those with osteoarthritis and autoimmune problems. 

The restriction on dairy causes deficiencies of calcium and vitamin D

This is another argument that can be countered by checking out what foods also have calcium and vitamin D. 

Calcium

Sardines

Leafy greens (specifically collard greens, turnip, bok choy)

Almonds (Almond milk has half again the calcium of regular milk)

Vitamin D

Fatty fish (tuna, mackerel, salmon)

Beef liver

Egg yolks

Mushrooms

Sunlight

Yes, sunlight. If you can get 30 minutes of good sun without sunscreen, you can get your daily allowance of vitamin D from the sun. There are, of course, a few problems with this method if skin cancer runs in the family. And the rule of thumb is that you aren’t getting any vitamin D if your shadow is longer than your body. Honestly, I’d stick with the food method and wear sunscreen in the sun. 

The high intake of red meat and saturated fats can increase LDL cholesterol and increase the risk of colorectal cancer

Even those who oppose Paleo have to admit that not all saturated fats are created equal. (Read more here)In fact, many have been forced to admit that naturally occurring saturated fats are actually good for you. The fats in red meats, coconuts, butter and fish are beneficial, but items like canola oil, vegetable shortening and stick margarine (the “healthy” alternative to real butter) are bad for you.

Studies showing that red meat leads to colorectal cancer have been flawed.(This study says evidence is weak, at best.) The controls for the tests were very loose, and some studies relied on the memories of people to recall what they’d eaten over a lifetime. One study “followed more than 72,000 women for 18 years found that those who ate a Western-style diet high in red and processed meats, desserts, refined grains, and French fries had an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, and death from other causes.” The emphasis here is mine. These women were eating desserts, refined grains and French fries, but it was the red meat that was blamed for the cancer. Go figure. 

There is another problem with this reasoning that Paleo is bad for you. Who said you have to eat a high intake of red meat? Take a look at the food lists I reference for the vitamins and minerals. There is pork, fish, shellfish, poultry. The idea that Paleo mavens eat large amounts of red meat is misguided and foolish. We eat all kinds of meat. We don’t limit ourselves to red. 

The fact is, the Paleolithic people ate what was convenient to them. Those living along the coasts tended toward fish. Those living more inland would tend toward wild game such as squirrels, rabbits, deer and buffalo. Yes, some of them ate more red meat than others. So what? Hunter/gatherer tribes existing today still live like this. In the Amazon, they eat macaws, turtles, monkeys and, in some places, tarantulas. In Africa, tribes eat antelope, zebra and even large predatory cats. The Pacific islanders eat terns, fish, sometimes whales. Just because we eat a meat-based diet does not mean we limit ourselves to red meat. 

The Paleo diet is bad for diabetics.

Again, this is reaching. (Read this story.) The paleo diet is naturally low-glycemic and has been shown to help diabetics as well as those with osteoarthritis, lupus, rheumatoid disease and autoimmune deficiencies. My own doctor specialized in arthritis and gout, and she advised me to go on a Paleo diet, not only for my osteoarthritis, for which she was treating me, but also because I was borderline diabetic and I wouldn’t have to juggle two different diets. 

Some of the Experts Reasons to be Anti-Paleo are…Interesting.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Calling some foods good and some foods bad can cause low self-esteem in dieters.

Hello? Doesn’t every diet call some foods good and some foods bad? The reasoning given for this statement is that if a dieter falls off the wagon and eats a “bad” food, they feel bad about themselves and they develop low self-esteem. This is the reality of, literally, EVERY DIET ON THE MARKET!! 

And most people on Paleo don’t think of foods as good or bad. It’s just that they do eat this and don’t eat that. 

Most of us don’t hunt for our food.

These experts clearly never coupon and sale shopped with their mothers when they were kids. All day, five different stores, a kit full of coupons and an armload of sales fliers. No, many don’t hunt for their food. We can pick it up on the sales rack. What difference does that make? It’s the same type of food (For what it’s worth, I grew up in the ‘80s on game meat in the winter and trout in the summer. Some of us still hunt for our food.).

We have many food choices available.

Yes, we do. And we are making a choice. 

It can get expensive.

It can get expensive. Any diet or change of culinary lifestyle can get expensive. With nutritionists pushing organic foods that cost a fortune, anything we put in our mouths is going to cost more than we want to pay. That doesn’t make the diet bad. 

It’s difficult for vegetarians.

No, I am not kidding. A licensed nutritionist actually made this argument. Yes, a Paleo diet would be difficult for a vegetarian. That’s why vegetarians go on a vegetarian diet. 

The lifespan of a caveman was only about 30 years.

I would argue that it was probably closer to 25, but the fact is, the caveman’s diet was probably the only thing going for him. He did not have medicines and disease or infection prevention, and predatory animals were a lot bigger and more aggressive back then. 

Completely cutting out carbs will make you cranky and weak. 

I know several Paleo and Keto bodybuilders who would disagree. 

There is nothing wrong with the Paleo diet. It’s one of many healthy choices people can make. For those dealing with various forms of inflammation and pain, as well as high blood sugar, it’s a fantastic choice. It is, obviously, disputed by many experts in the nutrition field. Without fail, every one of them recommended getting dietary advice from the governments approved plan…the same government that declared pizza a vegetable. 

That’s all I’m going to say about that.

 

 

Paleo Schools of Thought

Let’s complicate matters a little. It’s only a little, and it’s just by way of giving the first-time paleo dieter a few choices.

There a few different schools of thought where Paleo is concerned. If you are confused by what “hunter/gatherer” means, that’s okay. It doesn’t always mean the same thing to everyone. There are nomadic tribes out there that spend seasons in one place, and, because they do, they tend to eat things that earlier nomadic peoples who were migrating may not have. There are certainly more agrarian items on their diet than a caveman would have had.

So, what are the two main Paleo schools of thought?

Caveman Diet

This is also sometimes referred to as Primal. It’s pretty simple. If it would be on a caveman’s diet, it’s Paleo. Eggs. roots such as onions, carrots and beets. Leafy greens like dandelion, kale and Swiss chard. Whatever mighty beast Mr. Cavman managed to down with his spear. Whatever fish he managed to trap. Whatever rodent or bird he managed to snare. Grill these over a fire or eat them raw (We’re talking raw veggies here. Cook the meat unless you’re into sashimi or steak tartare.). Drink lots of water. They most likely knew of plants to make teas with for different aspects of their lives. Energy. Sleep. Nausea. Don’t let the ignorant caveman image fool you. People who have to survive in certain ways are amazingly adaptive.

Given the primal nature of this particular group of people, food preservation is not going to be something they specialized in. They acted in many ways like the animals they were hunting. They killed what they needed, ate it all and then got up to hunt again another day. That’s not to suggest you need to take daily trips to the store if you decide to go caveman, it’s just something to know when you consider how they ate. The caveman version of Paleo is going to be far more restrictive than what people do now. They didn’t grind tree nuts into flour, they ate them raw. What they ate had a lot to do with where they lived. Primal peoples living in the South Pacific were eating diets of seafood and coconuts. Primal people in the mountains of just about any continent were killing some kind of deer, trapping birds and were probably less into vegetation than peoples who were lower down in the valleys. Primal people ate what they had available.

Hunter/Gatherer Diet

This is what most of us consider Paleo. No grains, no dairy, no sugars. Just meats, veggies, fruits, nuts an lots of water, coffee and tea…and creativity. We’re the groups that takes that simple nut and figures out how to make flour with it so we don’t have to deprive ourselves of the things we’re getting away from. I mean, if you can find a healthy way to have a piece of chocolate cake, what’s stopping you?

The Hunter/Gather peoples tend to spend time in one place for a while. Think of the Native Americans. Many of them stayed in wintering grounds where food was easy to get during the hard times, but they also naturally preserved and stored food. In the spring the would pull stakes and head for their summering grounds were they ate a different kind of food and got ready for the move in the winter. While they hunted and gathered often, it wasn’t necessarily every day like the caveman. 

This lifestyle can still be witnessed in nomadic peoples in Central Asia and Africa. Pacific Islanders who are hunter/gatherer societies may never leave the island they live on. Some of our current Paleo practices come from these peoples who live both permanently and semi-permanently in different areas. We occasionally have fermented foods. Ghee is something favored by Paleo mavens, but it is made from butter, something not necessarily on the Paleo food lists because it is dairy. These people are more likely to dry fruit, make jerky, bake starchy breads from roots like taro. Cavemen don’t have recipes. Hunter/gatherers just might. They have a little more time on their hands for recreational living than the cavemen did.

What These Lifestyles Had in Common

These two groups of peoples had one thing in common that is important to remember.

They didn’t live fat-free.

They ate animal fats. They ate the fat from egg yolks. Those who stayed in one place long enough or who had milk-giving animals drank whole-fat milk. Coconuts are high in fat. So are certain insects and larvae.

The Paleo life is not fat-free. I cannot stress that enough. But I’m also not encouraging a reckless lifestyle. Animal fat is not necessarily bad for you. Neither are certain oils like olive, avocado and coconut oil. I cook in butter on my Paleo diet, and that is also not non-fat.

If you are eating a diet with no grains and no sugars, your body needs the fat. That’s what it burns for energy. When I tried to make my diet low-fat and then complained to the doctor who recommended it, she told me to eat the fat. She asked me, “Do you really think the cavemen trimmed their steaks before they ate them?”

The answer is no, they didn’t.

The caveat here is that, over the centuries, we have invited in some problems. Heart disease. High blood pressure. Thyroid problems. Ulcerative Colitis. Gout.


Most Paleo practices will work with these problems, but not all of them. If you have medical problems, talk to your doctor about how to adapt this way of eating.

Are You A Caveman Or A Hunter/Gatherer?

The way you do Paleo is up to you. Some people like the stricter guidelines of a caveman or primal diet. And there are others who would never make it that regimented and are thrilled to have a diet with adapted recipes of their favorite snacks, desserts or meals. The hunter/gatherer formula seems to work better for beginners, but there are no rules here. Try on this lifestyle the way you want to. Ease into it, or go all-or-nothing.

Paleo Is Paleo Is Paleo…Not!

Clearly, there are some differences. Some of us eat a little dairy. Some of us don’t. Some eat only straightforward, unadulterated foods. Some of us still want cookies, cakes and ice cream. Fortunately, one of Paleo’s schools of thought provides for that. The other is hardcore. Take your pick.

It’s your life.

Paleo Edible Cookie Dough

I am all about treats. I know there’s things I shouldn’t be eating, but with the ability to modify recipes to Paleo, I feel that I can indulge in some tasty goodness that doesn’t just claim to be “guilt-free,” it is guilt-free.

My latest effort is edible cookie dough. I’ve been seeing it stores and reading recipes online, and I’ve wanted to try it, but I’ve only run across it when I’m actually on plan rather than taking a trip off the wagon. The recipe I used comes from someone called Natalie Jill, and she shared this recipe on The Doctors. Here is my adaptation.

  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup tapioca starch
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips (Nestle has 67 percent dark chocolate)
  • sea salt to taste
  1. Combine almond flour, tapioca starch, honey, vanilla and butter in a blender and blend until smooth. If it seems a little dry, try adding a tablespoon of liquid. I put a little black coffee into my chocolate chip cookie dough.
  2. Stir in chocolate chips and sea salt and spoon into dessert dishes.
  3. Refrigerate one hour.
  4. Enjoy.

The beauty of this recipe is that the dough can be anything you want. Chocolate chocolate chip? Stir in a little unsweetened cocoa. Snickerdoodle? Add cream of tartar and a little cinnamon and coconut or maple sugar. Pecan Sandie? Mix in chopped pecans. There are any number of nominations that can be made with a flavored extract rather than vanilla, different spices and other stir-ins that fit the paleo diet.

Also, Natalie Jill says this recipe serves four. I’m a realist when it comes to snacks and deserts. It serves two.

Should I Cleanse Before I Paleo

You’ve made up your mind. You’re going Paleo. No more grains, no more sugar, no more dairy. You have a menu plan and a shopping list. You’re ready to go. But then a magazine at the checkout stand got you thinking.

Should you cleanse first?

It seems that everyone talks about it. Why not get all these toxins out of your body before you start a new way of eating?

Maybe a little information beforehand would be in order

What Does a Cleanse Do?

Wikipedia CommonsI can tell you what it doesn’t do. It doesn’t dispel toxins from your body. There isn’t a shred of scientific proof. If you’re looking at a detox that claims to do so, these are only the claims of the person who is pushing to detox. If you have a healthy liver and kidneys, then your body is getting rid of the toxins on its own. Not to be crass, but dispelling toxins is what you do every time you sit on the toilet (Or stand at it. Sorry, guys. Didn’t mean to leave you out.) Urination and defecation is our bodies getting rid of the toxins.

So, what does the cleanse or detox really do? Basically, it gives you a jumpstart on weight loss, if that is your goal. But, buyer beware. Detoxes and cleanses can be complicated and they can actually be dangerous. I would personally not recommend any detox or cleanse that does not have you eating actual food over the course of the short diet. I wouldn’t do one that is more than three days. And I definitely wouldn’t stop taking my vitamins while I was on it.

Why I Didn’t Cleanse first

When I decided to go Paleo, weight loss was the furthest thing from my mind. I was in pain, but the last thing I wanted to do was going on a daily regimen of meds. Two years earlier I had been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, and my doctor specialized in pain management. She was the person who recommended Paleo to me as both a way to manage my pain and a way to manage my blood sugar as I am also borderline diabetic.

I wasn’t worried about cleanses and detoxes. I was worried about being in pain. I was worried about not being able to stand on my own two feet at work or climbing the four flights of stairs to my daughter’s apartment where I was staying. I was worried about facing a lifetime of pain meds and limited mobility. So, the first thing on my mind was not “I should do a cleanse first.” I went to the store, bought clean foods and started eating right.Wikipedia Commons

That being said, I do occasionally cleanse. I’ll do one if I’ve been off plan for two long. I am, in fact, on day one of a three day cleanse as I type this. I do a cleanse that is Paleo-friendly, and, at the end of three days, go back to eating on plan. Why? Because, although my Paleo life started because of pain, it has now also become about weight loss. If I do a quick cleanse when I’ve been too far off plan, I tend to get rid of those few extra pounds and pick up close to where I left off so I don’t feel too far behind.

If You Insist

If you are hell-bent on doing a cleanse, find a safe one. Don’t spend three days drinking water and juice. The human body was not made to subsist on liquids, and you’re talking a lot of sugar, even if it is natural. But don’t be drinking a lot of specialized potions and mixes either. You can cleanse just fine without special products that are really not doing anything other than putting money in someone’s pockets.

Do you have health problems? Pay attention to the kind of cleanse you do. What kind of cleanse is it, and how is it going to impact those problems?

Do not do something that demands you repeat it too often. The cleanse I do can only be done every 30 days, and I generally will go longer than that. I only use it when I need it. If you’re looking at something that is telling you that you need to be doing it more often than every 30 days, there’s a problem.

Do not go on any cleanse that insists you have to drink more than 90 oz. of water a day. Once you get past that 90 oz., you’re washing away electrolytes and dehydrating yourself (Drinking water. How ironic is that?).

The cleanse I do was (or maybe still is) a pre-diet cleanse for a diet called Slim4Life, which is not a diet I recommend, but several people I worked with at the time were on it. Really, the only good thing I carried away from that program was this jumpstart cleanse.

My Cleanse

I usually lose between eight and 10 lbs. on this cleanse, but that’s not a guarantee. I’ve lost as few as three pounds. There is no pork on this cleanse, so save the bacon for later.

Each morning for breakfast, I have two eggs cooked any way I want. I usually fry them, but I’m in a hotel for a few days, so I’m having them hard-boiled. I will also have some kind of meat that isn’t pork, a raw green veggie (It’s asparagus spears while I’m at the hotel), and a clementine or half an orange. For the rest of the day, I have all the meat (again, not pork) and raw green vegetables that I want. The meat can be cooked any way you like it, but it cannot be breaded. Before I go to bed, I eat another clementine or the other half of the orange. During the three days of this cleanse, I will have five bottles of water every day on top of any black coffee I care to drink. For those of you checking, that’s 84.5 oz. per day.

Do not try to make this a low fat cleanse, or you will have no energy. I don’t trim the meat. When I fry or scramble my eggs, I cook them in butter. Your only sugar is coming from the orange or clementines. If you don’t want to be dragging, don’t go low fat.

Another point: I continue to take all of my vitamins during this three days. I would never do a cleanse that recommends you stop your vitamins, particularly if you’re taking certain ones (or not taking certain ones) on the advice of your doctor.

It’s Your Call

Honestly, cleanse is your choice. Just be wise when making it. My advice, thought, is skip the cleanse unless you’re trying to jumpstart your weight loss. Just start eating Paleo. There’s no need to preface it.

Kelli’s Paleo Pantry Essentials

Living Paleo is no different from living not Paleo. If you get hungry, you walk into your kitchen and take food out of your fridge your freezer or your pantry. You cook it or you nuke it, but the fact is, it’s there to prepare.

You’re going to do better with the Paleo lifestyle change if you have the materials to make that change at hand. This isn’t something you want to do by finding a recipe and going to get the supplies for that recipe, only to do the same for other recipes. You’re going to want a few staples on hand so you can be a little more spontaneous than that.

What is your pantry going to look like? Different from mine. Just because we’re following the same lifestyle does not mean we’re going to do it the same way. You may prefer fish and poultry while I prefer heavier-flavored game meats. You may want to eat a lot of salads while I prefer my veggies sautéed. You may drink tea while I drink coffee.


One of the free resources I offer is a pantry list. It’s very important to have a pantry you can work from. There are a few things that are top-of-the-list important for me, though. These are my Paleo pantry essentials.

Inside My Paleo Fridge

Obviously, you’re going to be shopping for fresh meats, veggies and fruits to eat, but the pantry items on my list are more about preparation and spontaneity. These are things my fridge cannot be without.

Eggs — I eat a LOT of eggs. I always have two in the morning, In the summer, when I’m more likely to eat cold meals, I’ll have two hard-boiled eggs at lunchtime. Believe it or not, eggs are good for you, particularly the yolk, which is full of all kinds of vitamins and the vital nutrient choline. They also can help give your meal staying power so you’re not wanting to nosh unnecessarily.

Salsa — I keep a bottle of mild Pace picante sauce in my fridge for impromptu “chili” which is usually a meat, sweet potatoes, a veggie and “chili stuff,” which, for me, tends to be salsa, peach puree, spices and cayenne. Pace is paleo friendly.

Maple syrup — Real maple syrup is a sweetener for me and I always have some on hand. I cook with it, bake with it and, occasionally, I actually put it over pancakes.

Butter — I know this seems out of place given Paleo’s ban on dairy, but I still use butter daily for cooking. We’re talking about real, unsalted butter, not substitutes. Grass fed is best. Almost all of my pan frying and sauté is done in butter.

Stocking a Paleo Freezer

Your freezer is going to have some meats and veggies in it, but there are a few things you don’t want to miss.

Cauliflower rice — I was skeptical of cauliflower rice when it became popular, but I love it. I use it as…well…rice. I’ve made fried rice, I’ve put it in soups and stews, and I’ve just added it to dished for a little extra texture. It’s great to have in a pinch.

Fruit — I got a wild hair and made a blueberry mocha smoothie. How? I had the materials. Frozen fruit is fantastic to have as part of your stock and smoothies made with frozen fruit don’t need ice to water them down. Keep your favorites on hand.

Chocolate — True dark chocolate is good for you, and sometimes it’s just what you need for that sweet tooth. Dark chocolate bars (70% – 90% cocoa) in the freezer can be a great bonus, and Ghriardelli has a great 60% chocolate chip that’s great for mixing with nuts and fruit for a snack. If you decide you want Paleo chocolate chip cookies or to try your hand at Paleo hot cocoa, having the materials on hand never hurts.

Paleo Pantry Staples

This is the area where I tend to have more stock than anywhere else. I keep cans of olives, jars of fruit purées, boxes of bone broth and nuts. But what is most important to me here is baking supplies.

Flours — True, you’re not supposed to have any grain flours on this eating plan, but there are others. I highly recommend keeping almond flour on hand. Of the alternative flours, I find that it’s the one that behaves the most like regular wheat flour. For those who can’t have tree nuts, coconut flour and cassava flour are also handy. Be aware that if you use some of these flours slowly, they may need to be stored in the fridge or freezer.

Honey — This is another sweetener for me, but I sometimes use it as a topping as well. Bananas with a little honey and cinnamon make a great snack.

Arrowroot starch — Cornstarch is out, so if you like gravies and stews, makes sure you have arrowroot on hand. Tapioca starch also works really well.

Spices — This is a big one. I can’t tell you how many people have asked me how I can stomach such a bland diet. I’m not sure what brand of Paleo they were on, but there is nothing bland about it. I love food with Mediterranean or Middle Eastern spices. I’m usually putting a touch (too much) of cayenne in my meals. I eat Garam Masala on my sweet potatoes. There is no reason for this lifestyle to be bland.

Bottled water — Why? Because you should drink about 8 cups (not glasses) of water a day, and that’s about four bottles. They’re handy. Just open one up and drink at your leisure. If you’re someone who knows they don’t drink enough water, this is a great way to get some down.

What’s on My Paleo Shopping List?

Paleo is clean eating. That mean fresh food, not prepackaged with all kinds of preservatives, salts, sugars and grains that you don’t need. I like my veggies sautéed, so I buy leafy greens like spinach, sweet peppers, onions, zucchini, broccoli and asparagus. I prefer bacon for breakfast, but ground turkey or chicken with lots of poultry seasoning makes a great substitute sausage. Because I’m single, I can grab packs of breakfast steaks, chicken thighs and fish portions, separate them and freeze them in portions.

But I’m also on the go a lot. I grab Paleo-friendly snacks like GoGoSqeez, Epic bars and Lära bars. If i’m on the road, I always have beef jerky, and Epic makes some great uncured jerkies. I do whatever I need to do to keep from pulling over and hitting McDonalds. Having something handy in the car helps cut back on Bacon Double Cheeseburgers.

Conclusion

Really, when you get down to it, Paleo living looks exactly like non-Paleo living. The ingredients are just a little different. Start slow. Start small. Don’t go whole hog until you know you want the whole hog. Then make sure that your life isn’t disrupted by the fact you’ve just rolled out of bed wanting pancakes, and you don’t have the supplies to make the.

Any questions? Feel free to ask in the comments below.

Jimmy’s Cookies

I’m always looking for noshy, munchy things, and I found these cookies while I was shopping at Walmart one day. They were in the freezer section with the gluten-free and paleo foods, and I was instantly intrigued, thought it took me a while to try them. There are, to the best of my knowledge, two varieties — Chocolate Chunk, pictured here, which are pretty much just chocolate chunk cookies, and Pecan Chocolate Chunk. They are both very tasty.

There are a few cons with this product. One is that they are expensive. A tub of 18 costs $9 at Walmart. The second is that they stay frozen and have to sit out for an hour before you can eat them.

There are a few pros with this product. One is that they are expensive. A tub of 18 costs $9 at Walmart. The second is that they stay frozen and have to sit out for an hour before you can eat them.

Yeah, I know the pros look exactly like the cons, but the fact is, at that price, I’m not going to sit and eat the entire tub, and with the need to thaw them, I’m not going to eat them impulsively.

These are great for stashing in your freezer for a rainy day. You just take two out and put them on a plate while you make yourself a nice bowl of soup. Then, after lunch, you can make a cup of tea and have your cookies.

Starting the “It’s Not a Diet” Change

Okay, maybe it’s a diet in the most scientific use of the word. It’s the word you look up when you find a baby bird and need to know how to feed it. What is the bird’s diet? In the world of Paleo, diet falls under that same heading. This is the way our ancestors ate. They weren’t trying to lose weight, they were trying to survive, and they did it with the resources they had. When we talk about primal and Paleo diets, we’re taking the idea of the original diet all the way back to the cavemen. Yes, their diet would differ by region and resources, but the idea is still the same. Paleo is not a diet in the modern sense of the term. It is a lifestyle, and it can be very hard to change lifestyles.

Start Slow

When I was first told I needed to adopt a Paleo diet for my osteoarthritis, I went whole hog even though I didn’t know, really, what I was getting into. I thought it would be easy. After all, I had already dropped (or mostly dropped) two of the three Paleo restrictions. I am allergic to lactose, so I had already stopped drinking milk, and I had stopped buying bread when I lived in a shelter because I didn’t have a place to hide if from my hyperactive kitten who loved crinkly bags and would tear open my bread bags. Certainly I could just drop the refined sugar, and I would be on my way to a healthier, pain-free me. I didn’t bother reading anything about the lifestyle. I totally had this.

Except I didn’t. Inside of two weeks, I was miserable. I had no energy. I learned that bread-free and grain-free are two different things. I learned that, as a nation, we put grain and cheese on, literally, everything. And we put sugar even in things that don’t need sugar. I couldn’t figure out where my energy was supposed to come from. And, while I understood that I was supposed to be making a lifestyle change, I was treating it like a diet.

Forget Low Fat

One of the hallmarks of the American weight loss diet is low-fat food. It is so ingrained in our thinking, that the minute we suggest a change in the way we eat we subconsciously start thinking of ways to cut the fat. I was no exception. When I followed up with my doctor and told her the problems I was having, particularly with energy, she had me give a rundown of what I was eating. I explained everything from drinking water to eating salads to trimming fat. She stopped me there and asked why I was trimming the fat from meat. What she told me next changed the course of my diet (ahem…lifestyle change.).

“Do you really think the cavemen trimmed their steaks before they ate them”

I was essentially trimming the energy I needed from my food and throwing it away. Then I spent the days complaining that I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I don’t trim my meat. I eat bacon. I don’t limit myself to egg whites. And, while Paleo is a non-dairy diet, I do cook in butter (I did mention only practically Paleo, right?).

Stop Drinking Your Calories

This is actually a big one, and certainly was for me. I drank a lot of soda. I drank a lot of Starbucks. I drank a lot of juices. Now, unless the drink is a very specific part of my meal, I only drink water, black coffee or tea. While that doesn’t seem all that interesting, that’s just my day-to-day hydration. There are times that I will forgo a piece of fruit for a smoothie or cup of juice. Once in a while, I’ll decide to spoil myself with a non-fat latte. Or, if I feel like I want a soda, I’ll grab and Izze (Check out what I have to say about those here.) Honestly, it’s not as hard as it sounds.

Stop Counting Calories

Stop. Just don’t. And stop measuring things unless you’re making a specific recipe. Eat when you’re hungry, just make sure it’s not dairy, grain or sugar. When I get up and have breakfast, it goes something like this:

“I’m hungry, what’s to eat? I’ll have a couple of eggs, and look! Bacon! I’ll have a few strips of that. I think I’ll sauté some zuchini and have an orange, too.”

I’ll cook that all and have a cup of coffee with it. How much do I eat? As much as it takes for me to not be hungry. Some mornings that’s a breakfast steak, a sweet potato, two eggs and a banana. Other days it’s a hard-boiled egg and a tangerine. Some days I won’t have lunch until nearly 2 p.m., other days I’ll be snacking all day on fruit, nuts, veggies and beef jerky. There is no specified time to eat. There are no hard and fast rules. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re not, don’t. It’s as easy as that.

Baby Steps

No lifestyle change is going to work if you stop the old one cold turkey and make an abrupt change. Don’t throw out the dairy, grain and sugar and expect to suddenly be Paleo. You’ll be setting yourself up to fail. Years of habits can’t be broken overnight There needs to be creation of entirely new habits and that takes time, 30 days, according to some experts. Start slowly and feel yourself out. How is this lifestyle going to work best for you. If you are someone that just HAS to have hard and fast rules, take those 30 days to make those rules that you want to stick to. There’s no need for detoxes or cleanses to start. Just slowly replace processed foods with clean foods. Slowly change habit into better habits. Making a decision is one thing. Implementing it can be a whole different animal. Don’t just grab it by the horns. It’s easier to sneak up on it first.