|Typical Brekky: Eggs, Sautéed Kale, Cherry Tomatoes and Prosciutto.|
It's all good and well to talk Paleo and Primal and 'no grain' this and 'no dairy' that and 'low Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratios' and blah blah blah. But if the whole concept of Paleo or 'evolutionary eating' is foreign to you it can be difficult to conceptualise what a Paleo diet would actually look like on a day-to-day basis.I often get asked, 'so what do you eat, caveman?' Well, soon I will describe to you 'my typical/ideal eating day'. But before I get into the nitty gritty, if you really have no idea what the Paleo diet is, I would start with Robb Wolf's explanation here: 'What is the Paleo Diet?'
If you can't be bothered checking that out now, basically being Paleo involves eating whole, real foods that we have evolved to eat over millions of years and that don't make us fat, sick and eventually die - either prematurely or gradually with chronic illness.
It involves cutting the crap (processed food including grains, legumes, sugar and all of their derivatives) and instead eating healthy plants (typically non-starchy roots, tubers, bulbs and above-ground vegetables, including some nuts, seeds and fruit) and healthy animals (including wild-caught seafood, grass-fed or wild ruminant animals, pastured pork, poultry and eggs). Dairy remains a grey area as I have explained in 'My Big Four Paleo Exceptions' post, but fair to say conventional milk, cheese and ice cream is a no no!
Theoretical Paleo Day
(wake up at 7am… I said 'theoretical'!)
7:15 - black brewed coffee, 1 big cup. (I loves my caffeine!)
If I am eating breakfast this day then usually within 2 hours of waking I'll have a savory meal as follows:
Typically I'll eat eggs or something that looks like left-over dinner:
Example One: Eggs (in order of healthiness of cooking) poached/boiled/lightly fried/scrambled, with bacon, half an avocado, some spinach or even salad leaves
Example Two: Some left over salmon, lamb, sausage, etc reheated with some greens or veggies. Once again I may throw in one piece of bacon to add flavor and fat or else I will add some butter or coconut oil at the end.
Example Three: Occasionally (maybe once or twice a week) I'll whip up a paleo pancake if I feel like something sweet - 2 eggs beaten with half a mashed banana and about 1/3 cup of desiccated coconut. I'll usually put some blueberries or raspberries, nuts and coconut cream on top of that. (See post below for method and photos)
About 4-5 hours later i'll have lunch, at say 1pm:
Big salad with mixed greens, some kind of protein usually from seafood (tuna, salmon, sardines or prawns), or possibly beef, chicken, pork etc, avocado, tomato, red onion, maybe some nuts, capsicum/red peppers or any other vegetables (even some seaweed if I can get it).
Generous dressing of high quality extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil and a dash of balsamic vinegar and lemon.
This is usually a huge salad with enough fat and protein to keep me going.
If I want something sweet after this I may have some (25-30gm) 85% cocoa dark chocolate.
I usually don't snack between meals as I just don't feel like it but if I am really hungry for some reason i'll chomp on a couple of carrots and maybe some nuts, or a mouthful of dried coconut and a teaspoon of coconut oil or whatever else is at hand.
A side note on nuts...
Macadamia seem to be the healthiest nuts (high in omega-3 and low in omega-6) so long as they are not rancid or old. Almonds, walnuts, pecans and brazil are all nuts I often eat too but I don't go nuts on the nuts because of the high omega-6 content which can be problematic (pro-inflammatory and prone to oxidation when eaten in high quantity).
Not to mention the fact that nuts are delicious and easy to over-consume. Eating a whole jar of almond butter does not seem like a very Paleo/Primal thing to do. I don't know about you but I don't have a spare ten hours to climb almond trees and break open nuts all day. A few nuts here or there seems more in line with our evolution.
Therefore it is best to use nuts as a condiment rather than a staple. And don't eat peanuts! They are not nuts but legumes and are problematic for most people due to some nasty anti-nutrients (lectins) that are particularly stubborn and irritating to the gut in the case of peanuts.
Note that I haven't eaten practically any carbs so far in the day. I am adapted to this diet so I am fine with this but at first you may struggle with such a low carb day for the first few weeks. So if you're feeling flat you could throw in some fruit (not more than 3-4 pieces a day max!) or preferably some more starch from sweet potato, pumpkin/squash, etc in your salad.
I understand that having sweet potato or squash on hand at all times is pretty hard and fruit is very convenient but fructose really is not a great carbohydrate source and you'd be much better off with some more root vegetables instead. Having said that I still eat probably two servings of fruit a day. Usually a banana post workout and some berries at night.
TRAINING AND POST WORKOUT MEAL
I usually train in the late afternoon. If I do a hard session I'll throw in some carbs immediately post workout (maybe a banana and some coconut water) and then within half an hour I'll have some fat and protein and possibly more carbs depending on the workout.
Example: A small amount of chicken, some cold cut meat or maybe a couple of boiled eggs. You could even toy with a protein shake with coconut milk or water if you tolerate whey. If possible use a high quality grass-fed, cold processed, unflavoured whey protein.
I usually get this post workout meal from a salad bar in a deli near the gym or a supermarket like Whole Foods. You could just as easily walk into any supermarket and grab a handful of cooked wild-caught prawns/shrimp or some sliced meat or smoked salmon from the deli, along with a piece of fruit and some nuts or 85% dark chocolate. I keep this meal small and usually it only costs me $5-10.
Dinner is typically the biggest meal of the day. Some time between 6-8pm i'll cook up a protein - once again fish (i like wild-caught salmon, smaller tuna, or maybe a white fish), a nice grass-fed steak or non-lean ground beef, pork loin or chops, chicken, lamb, etc. Doesn't really matter what it is, just mix it up. Then i'll steam or roast some sweet potato, steam or sauté some veggies (I like broccoli, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, red onions, peppers, cauliflower) and then smother them in butter and/or coconut oil and salt and pepper. It's a basic meat and three-veg type deal, sometimes with a basic side salad.
There are many different ways to prepare this meal. I love cooking but I am all about convenience, simplicity and efficiency. 90% of my meals can be cooked in 15 minutes or less, including prep! Here are some staple cooking styles I often use:
- With red meat or chicken I will sauté some red onions and peppers with the meat and then throw in the greens at the end with some butter, salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon.
- With white fish I will sometimes coat the fish in desiccated coconut and lightly fry it in butter.
- With grass-fed ground beef I will fry it up with carrot, onions, garlic and then add some coconut cream at the end to make it nice and creamy like a good Bolognese.
- Green thai curry fish/chicken/beef with cauliflower rice
- sweet potato roasted in the oven with some coconut oil and a rasher of bacon on top for flavor - a great side dish to the protein
- With salmon or tuna I will coat it in sesame seeds and sear it in the pan and serve it with cauliflower rice (or even white rice if I'm having a higher carb day) with soy sauce and dried seaweed.
- I often do a side salad of chopped tomato and avocado and red onion, sometimes sprinkled with dried/desiccated coconut for a more summery feel
I usually eat some kind of dessert, which while sweet (for me) are still relatively low on carbs and fructose and moderate on fat. I am all into the creamy texture and mouth-feel of coconut cream or chocolate, with some crunch. These are my staples:
- 85% cocoa dark chocolate, sometimes with some nuts or desiccated coconut straight from the jar/bag
- Berries with coconut cream, desiccated coconut and some nuts, sometimes with half a banana
- Goat cheese with 1/3 of a chopped banana and some cinnamon (not strictly Paleo but goat cheese is great and healthy in my opinion - it has a fatty acid profile closest to human mother's milk)
That's pretty much the typical, I guess you could say 'ideal' Paleo day for me. But here are a list of other things that aren't strictly Paleo that I also eat in moderation (but not everyday!)
- White rice/sushi
- Heavy cream occasionally in my coffee or sour cream with Mexican food (grass-fed, organic if possible)
- Whey protein shake (post workout on a heavy lifting day) usually with water and sometimes coconut water/milk and berries
- Red wine
- On very special occasions (maybe once a month): a good quality simple organic ice-cream made from grass-fed cream, egg yolks, cane sugar, and cocoa... How ice-cream should be!
- I use only grass-fed butter, coconut oil or sometimes bacon grease to cook in.
- I try not to overcook or char any of the protein and always lightly cook the veggies (usually steam) or eat them raw.
- I do not cook with olive oil as the unsaturated fats denature at high temperature (lower smoke point).
- I am liberal with my healthy fats… I think I am officially half human, half coconut.
- PALEO IS NOT A NO CARB DIET!
- Paleo tends to be low carb compared to a typical Western diet but it does not have to be very low carb and I always recommend eating sufficient carbs for your personal situation.
- If you are diabetic then yes, you should probably be very low carb (<10% of calories).
- If you are a professional power athlete then you should probably be moderate to high carb (20-50% of calories)
- I have made the mistake more than once of going too low carb while training intensely or while under stress from lack of sleep (partying), travel, etc.
- If you are strict Paleo but feeling lethargic, moody, anxious or your mental and/or physical performance is suffering you may not be eating enough carbohydrates.
- Add some more starch to your diet from sweet potato or even peeled white potatoes and white rice and see if your symptoms improve.
On Crappy Oils
- I avoid all vegetable and seed oils and would never willingly eat them. e.g. I never use them at all but sometimes when eating out it is unavoidable. These include canola, soybean, sunflower, safflower and corn oils, as well as mayonnaise, vinaigrettes or other condiments that use these crappy oils.
- They are extremely high in omega-6, screw up your metabolism and hormones and are BAD NEWS! Mark my words, vegetable oils are the new trans-fats. It is only a matter of time before people clue on and start cutting them out completely. You are better off eating duck or bacon fat than canola oil!
On "Paleo Snacks"
- Besides the snacks and desserts I mentioned above, I disagree with the general idea of "Paleo snacks" and "Paleo Desserts"… Especially sweet ones or ones that are sold commercially. Why?
- These hyper-palatable foods rely too much on nut flours (high calorie and high omega-6) and natural sweeteners like dried fruit, agave, maple syrup or honey (all very high fructose).
- Just because a food is "Paleo" does not necessarily mean it is healthy. You can eat Paleo and still gain weight if you are overindulging in these types of foods that combine fats and carbohydrates in an unnatural way and potential raise insulin.
- I know it's fun but please don't go crazy on the Paleo desserts! You are missing the point if you think you can get away with eating Paleo muffins and rolled date and coconut logs all day long. Yes, it's better than a Mars Bar but it's still not good.
- If you find yourself getting really addicted to any particular food it is probably a warning that this food is either not Paleo, or it is not Paleo in the quantities you are eating it!
- I am the first to admit that I probably eat too much 85% dark chocolate and drink too much tequila. Choose your vices carefully!
On Bulletproof Coffee / Intermittent Fast
Some days I will skip breakfast and instead have a "bulletproof coffee" (click link for more info) where I brew about 300ml of black coffee and then add in roughly 20gm butter and 20ml coconut/MCT oil and blend that up. That will be my breakfast substitute, which gives me a nice buzz and also satiates me. Then I won't eat until lunch.
And that's that! If you need more comprehensive guides on how to become a lean, sexy Paleo ninja check out these ebooks by Robb Wolf.