I was first introduced to the “paleo” style of eating when I participated in a nutrition challenge at my Crossfit gym last year. I ended up being one of three winners. We are getting ready to start another “Performance Nutrition Challenge” so I thought I’d share my tips for success.
These tips should be helpful to anyone embarking on a paleo, performance or “Whole30” challenge. For simplicity, I will use the term paleo here on out.
Plan Your Food
Remember the old adage? “Failure to plan is a plan to fail.”
Menu/Meal Planning is the way to go. I’ve been doing this for years, even before eating paleo. It makes life so much simpler. I generally come up with a plan on Saturday or Sunday and get my shopping done Sunday afternoon.
If you are new to this style of eating, you’ll want to find some recipes. I have a list of my favorite Paleo recipes on my site. I also search Pinterest, ChowStalker and my favorite paleo blogs (links below) for inspiration.
What To Make?
Each week, I include a variety of protein — some grass-fed beef, some chicken, some seafood and some pork.
Not only do I vary the type of food, I vary the complexity of the meals.
Some nights the meals are quick to make, some nights require more effort, and some nights are quite simply, leftovers.
Each week I try and experiment with one new recipe, but I also include lots of familiar staples. Adding new foods and new recipes to your diet expands your palate and keeps things interesting. But it also requires more work and concentration, and that can be exhausting. So find a balance and keep some nights super simple and easy.
Batch cooking / batch meal prep is a huge time saver. I don’t do as much of this as I should, but for folks who work, it’s a great idea. Carve out your Sunday afternoon / evening and make a couple of meals. Use your crockpot. Chop all the veggies you need for your Tuesday night stir fry on Sunday night. The more you can do in advance, the easier it will be to eat right during the week.
Make double portions. Any meal that can be easily doubled, do it. I do this all the time with recipes like spaghetti sauce, autumn stew, chicken zoodle soup, etc. I make twice as much and then either freeze the extra or plan on eating the leftovers throughout the week for lunches.
Don’t forget, if you are eating paleo — you need to plan your breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can’t grab a bowl of cereal or a sandwich, so what are you going to eat?
For breakfast, I eat a lot of eggs — scrambled eggs with salsa, meat and veggie scrambles and omelets. Lots of people eat dinner for breakfast (aka leftovers). Figure out something that works and have it ready to go.
Plan Your Snacks
Mid-afternoon is my biggest weakness, food-wise. I get the munchies and feel my willpower crumbling if I dont’ have something good to snack on. Here’s a few snack ideas:
- Sliced avocado with sea salt
- raw almonds or other nuts
- sliced veggies with fresh salsa or guacamole,
- homemade paleo bars
- apple slices w/almond butter
- sunflower seeds
- hard-boiled egg
Remove the Junk
Get rid of the garbage food that tempts you. Its harder to eat crap if its not within reach. It is more challenging when you live with a spouse/ children/ roommate that are still eating this stuff, but to the extent you have control, empty your pantry of all the garbage you used to reach for — corn chips, ice cream, cookies, beer — whatever is your weakness, get it out of the house!
Stock Your Pantry with Paleo-friendly foods.
Many paleo recipes call for ingredients you might not have had on hand before. Make a list of foods/recipes you want to try and fill your pantry and fridge with things you need. For me, it was things like a quality fish sauce (Red Boat rocks), Coconut Aminos (instead of soy sauce), coconut milk (instead of dairy), and lots of fresh veggies — especially things like onions, sweet potatoes and garlic.
If you are doing any baking, you might want to have a bag of almond and/or coconut flour on hand.
Take Advantage of Short Cuts
If you are looking for shortcuts, there are companies out there that provide pre-made paleo meals. Power Supply is one such company that caters to the paleo community in the DC area.
Many of these companies do weekly deliveries to area Crossfit boxes so if you ask around, you can probably find something. It’s a good way to get through the 21 meals you need to eat each week — just be sure to ask about their ingredients up front, to make sure their stuff complies with your rules.
Do NOT Give Yourself Permission to Cheat
The challenge we did was for 60 days and before I began, I was unsure if I could do it for that long. BUT, I told myself no matter what, I was definitely sticking with it for a month.
Guess what — the first two weeks are really hard. Your body has to adjust to the absence of certain things and your palate has to adjust to the flavors of new foods. But by the time the first month was up, it didn’t seem hard at all. I had my rhythm, I felt great and saw no reason to stop. Don’t approach this with the attitude of “I’m just going to see if I can do it…”
You must unlearn what you have learned. Try not. Do or do not, there is no try.
Be Accountable — Have A Buddy, Group, etc.
You are much more likely to be successful if you are in it with someone else. Doing it as a group with the gym meant we shared recipes, we could commiserate with the challenges and celebrate the successes. Not to mention, it was a competition, which fed into some of our competitive natures (ahem).
Even if you decide to do this on your own, find someone else to do it with you, or find an online group to lend support.
EAT. A lot.
One of my favorite things about eating paleo is that there is no calorie counting, no weighing, no measuring. You simply exclude foods that are bad for your health and eat as much as you want of things that are good for you.
Listen to your body and it will self-regulate. But don’t be surprised if your food intake increases — especially if you are undertaking a new exercise regimen as well.
Here are some of my favorite Paleo blogs and sources for recipe inspiration:
- The Meanest Momma’s Paleo Recipe Round-Up — my collection of go-to recipes from around the web
- Chow Stalker — Aggregator of yummy recipes
- Civilized Caveman
- Clothes Make the Girl
- Elana’s Pantry
- Everyday Paleo
- Fast Paleo
- Health Bent
- Marks Daily Apple
- Multiply Delicious
- Nom Nom Paleo
- Paleo Diet Lifestyle
- Paleo Hacks
- Paleo on Pinterest
- Paleo Parents
- Paleo Princess
- Primal Palate
- The Paleo Mom
- Whole9 Life
Adjusting to this lifestyle does take work, but its worth doing. And a little planning goes a long way.
Did I leave anything out? What are your tips for success?