This is the first of a series of articles about the dos and don’ts of Paleo eating, as is commonly pitched in the Paleo Community at the time of my experiment. I’ve been over the general principles in the past, but for those that want a really quick introduction to the foundation of the diet, I would recommend the Food Guide over at Paleo Plan. To start things off on a positive note, I figured we’d talk about what we can eat versus what we can’t.
Despite all the bacon hysteria that surrounds most popular articles on the Paleo Diet (both pro and con) I’m going to start with what non-meat on the diet plan. By volume, the overwhelming majority of what one should be eating are not meats but plants. While they may not be sexy or counter-cultural “just eat your vegetables” is probably one of the biggest part of the diet. In fact, the more varied the vegetable selection can be the better! Any whole foods diet is going to have lots of vegetables as their base, and this is no different. What sorts of vegetables should we be eating? All of them, at least all of the real vegetables anyway.
Unfortunately when many people think of vegetables the first thing they may go to are potatoes. We get to potatoes later, but that’s not a vegetable. The next vegetable they may go to is corn. Again, corn actually isn’t a vegetable. Corn is a grain, before humans domesticated it it used to look like wheat. I’m guessing the next up on the list of people’s potential vegetables is broccoli. Finally, we nailed one! While broccoli is a great vegetable, and one I thoroughly enjoy, we are going to have to expand into far more than just one vegetable type.
No one food provides all the nutrients that our bodies need. That’s one of the reasons why it is very important to eat a varied diet. Even in ideal conditions where our foods are grown in nutrient rich soils it’s important to eat a wide variety of vegetables. It’s even more important when we aren’t able to ensure that we do. The Paleo diet doesn’t really distinguish between vegetables options. While I could enumerate all the potential vegetables, I’m sure you can work Google as well. I’ll be using a lot of dark green leafy vegetables like kale, chard, beet greens, arugula, dandelion and spinach for salads and quite sautes. I’ll also be having lots of various squash, peppers, eggplant, carrots, beets, turnips and so on. I’ve actually been wanting to try a lot of these for many years, for example I’ve never cooked a turnip, and this is a great opportunity to try.
Fruit is also an important component of this diet, but that takes on certain potential restrictions depending on which version of Paleo and what your overall objectives are. Since many people are looking up the Paleo diet as a means to lose weight several sources suggest not eating many fruits since they can be high in sugar and can have a high glycemic index. The glycemic index is a measure of how fast blood sugar levels rise when you eat a food. It can be somewhat paradoxical since a food that is low in sugar may have a high glycemic index (since it just measures how fast the response is not how much sugar is being consumed). Still for people that are sugar sensitive or trying to lose weight these sorts of things need to be factored in. Because of that many Paleo diets want people to concentrate on berries over things like apples or watermelon.
Since I’m not interested in losing weight nor am I sugar sensitive, I am going to go back to what I said on the vegetables, which is the more variety the better. I have a wide variety of likes in that department anyway, so that shouldn’t be a problem. The bigger problem for me is keeping a good stock of that stuff up. One way around that I’ve found is frozen fruit. I already have a lot of frozen berries for smoothies, but I also keep a good stock of frozen fruit like mango, pineapple and peaches. The Paleo experiment is going to be partially during the beginning of watermelon season. I can literally eat half of a basketball sized seedless watermelon in one sitting I love it so much. Okay, now my mouth is watering.
So again, the big first take away about Paleo is to eat your vegetables…lots of them, and add some fruit to round things out too.