2 People – 31 Days – 100% Commitment
At the beginning of this month my friend and I began our own ‘Paleo Diet Challenge’ – following a Paleo Diet (100% – NO CHEATING!) for the duration of July (read out previous post for more details of the challenge). Each week I’ll be writing a review of our experiences – the highs, the lows, the tasty recipes, the pitfalls, and, hopefully, the changes in physique!
Below is a review of our first week following this diet… it’s fair to say it hasn’t been all plain sailing, there have been several obstacles that have needed to be overcome – temptation and cravings being the main ones, but so far so good!
The three main issues we encountered during the first week of the challenge were:
1. Cost: My first mistake was to get the majority of my herbs, spices and staple vegetables and meats from the local supermarket! Aside from the quality being questionable, I thought I would have to take out a new credit card for the month if I was to continue on this fashion!
2. Preparation Time: The Paleo diet is definitely ‘heavy’ on preparation time – unless you want to live on raw veg and scrambled eggs, turning fresh, whole foods into tasty meals takes time! This challenge has really made me appreciate how often I used to eat ‘convenience’ foods that required minimal preparation time.
3. Breakfast: This was a real problem (and one I’ve heard other people mention before when following a Paleo diet for the first time) – what on earth do you eat for breakfast that doesn’t have grains or dairy AND that doesn’t take forever to prepare? – toast is out, cereals (yes, even even oats!) are out, milk is out, fresh fruit salad with yoghurt is out….what on earth does that leave? So, breakfast has been difficult, with time (specifically a lack of it), being the biggest obstacle. As anybody in the fitness industry will vouch, the early morning alarm times are often savage at best! Therefore, preparing a substantial Paleo breakfast, that is both edible and appetising at such an early hour is challenging. Personally I also found that, without the option of using a blender (due to the fact that I live in shared accommodation and don’t want to wake people up), the options available to me were even more restricted (espcially considering that part of this challenge is to produce varied meal alternatives that are easily prepared).
1. Buy ‘Local’: I’ve always liked the traditional romance of buying local produce from farmers markets, butchers and grocers but have lacked the motivation to take the time to visit each place separately when a supermarket caters for them all under one roof! However, the reality is that it’s amazingly easy to buy from independents AND the food is incomparably better. You might also be surprised to hear that I found this way of shopping fantastically cheaper than buying from supermarkets! Also, try buying your spices from local ethnic stores or in the world food aisles of the supermarkets (you’d be surprised how much cheaper they are than the spices in the regular ‘spice’ aisle). Once bought these will last you for quite some time so it’s worth the initial effort to ensure you’re well stocked up.
2. Buy in Bulk: Another way to help reduce cost is to buy in bulk (sometimes you can often negotiate generous discounts). The main ‘problem’ with buying in bulk is ensuring the produce stays fresh – however, meats can be frozen along with any freshly prepared sauces, soups and vegetables; or you can just use sealed containers to keep fresh supplies for several days to a week or so in the fridge (these containers also make storage and preparation far easier).
3. Pre-Prepare: To help reduce on-the-go preparation time, try keeping of stock of ready-prepared meals/snacks. This week I have been preparing and storing (ready for when I need them) the following: a mix of dried fruits, nuts and seeds; a home-prepared fruit salad; assorted stir-fry vegetables and pre-roasted assorted vegetables that can be quickly reheated. These pre-prepared snacks mean that I always have a Paleo snack or meal option that can be created on short-notice with minimal fuss.
4. Eggs, eggs, eggs: With regards to breakfast, eggs have played a key role in my quest for early morning fulfilment – they have been accompanied at times by salmon, mackerel, spinach, melon, avocado and salad in various combinations with olive oil and lemon juice based dressings. So far the best I have created is smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, honeydew melon, spinach and lemon juice! A dawn-of-day taste sensation if ever there was one!
The Positive Experience of ‘going Paleo’…
So far the change in what I eat has left me feeling a lot more energetic and generally more alert. I’d even say my sleep has been better!
Highlights have also included cooking venison for the first time, making my own mayonnaise, learning how to use spices and herbs more effectively and making the Fitness Newspaper’s Sweet potato soup which was amazing!!!
The Not-Quite-So-Positive Experience of ‘going Paleo’…
I think so far the greatest revelation has been the level of cravings and strong feelings of ‘need’ for sweets and pastries I have experienced. I have always considered myself to have a ‘healthy’ diet, but since placing a restriction on what I consume, it has become apparent how much I used to indulge in ‘empty calories’ to appease my junk food cravings. I have also found that I have been getting hungry a little quicker then normal. This could be because I have to take time out to prepare food before eating without resorting to a fast food alternative whenever hunger hits me, so I need to be able to prepare my food more time efficiently and maybe also eat at more regular intervals.
Our Top 5 Meals of Week 1:
1. Pan fried Venison Steak, Red Wine Sautéed Onions, mushrooms & garlic, Boiled Kale & asparagus, Sweet Potato Rosti.
2. Turkey Breast coated in an Egg, Flax Seed, Pumpkin Seed, Sunflower Seed & Hemp Seed crust with a roasted sweet potato chips, boiled kale and homemade lemon and coriander mayonnaise.
3. Berry, cinnamon, almond flakes and vanilla omlette (apple optional): Cook berries, cinnamon, vanilla and almond flakes until soft and add 2 eggs and paritally cook. Place under grill.
4. Chilli, ginger and garlic beef with stir fry veg: Cook red onions, garlic with chilli and ginger, soften and add thinly sliced steak. Add thinly sliced veg of your choice and use cooked steak juice as a sauce.
5. Fruit & Nut Salad: Baby gem lettuce, cherry tomatos, cucumber, red & yellow peppers, spinach, rocket, honeydew melon, beetroot, raisins, almond flakes, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, hard boiled eggs – lime juice, chilli flakes, ginger, lemon grass & olive oil dressing.
So that concludes my summary of our experience of Week 1 on the Paleo diet. My plan for Week 2 is to talk about Paleo and how it can effect sporting performance and the trials of trying to maintain it when you are out and about (as both myself and my friend have struggled with this aspect of the diet)! In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, just leave them in the comment box below!