People often give my funny looks when they find out I don’t eat grains of any kind. I get even funnier looks when they find out that I eat three meals a day without any snacking. But it’s true and I feel more healthy and energetic than ever before at the ripe young age of 40.
What does it mean to eat primal? Basically, if you could hunt or gather it back in paleolithic times, it’s ok to eat. Some joke that you just need to eat like grok. But the premise is to eat as our ancestors did and thereby avoid a lot of the modern day toxins that are present in our food sources.
The biggest difference from mainstream diets is that I don’t eat any grains. And I mean any grains, including wheat, barley, rye, rice, corn and quinoa. Legumes are also not eaten and that includes all beans, peanuts and soy. Since we are primal in our home we do eat dairy and the occasional starchy tuber like sweet potatoes. And the big no-no for most people…. no processed foods.
Now, you may think that after cutting all of that out of my diet that I am left with nothing to eat. On the contrary! My menus have never been tastier. I enjoy all cuts of meat and make sure they are grass fed. The nutritional benefits of grass fed are significant and if you buy locally, the price is normally reasonable. I eat most any vegetables, typically buying locally and what is in season. By doing that I can support local farmers and find I don’t get bored with our food. In our home we eat a lot of fruit too, with small kids fresh fruit is a nice treat to have in place of sugar or other processed foods. And like I mentioned, I eat dairy, lots of grass fed butter, cream, cheeses, raw milk and kefir.
My journey to primal eating has been a typical one. I got really tired of my afternoon sluggishness, the extra pounds I was carrying around my middle, and my poor quality of sleep. I was eating a typical American diet full of whole grains, lean meats and cheeses, fruit and some vegetables. I didn’t eat great, but didn’t consider it to be all that bad either.
I didn’t realize I could be doing so much more for my health and the health of my family. I will admit, it seemed far fetched when I was first introduced to the primal lifestyle by a friend. But, given the way I was feeling and my desire to lose some weight, get fit and stay that way, I didn’t have anything to lose.
The first thing I did was to cut grains out of my diet completely, cold turkey. I’m an all or nothing kind of gal so that was the best tact to take. I estimate that one change cut around 200-300 carbs from my daily macronutrients. I started eating fat again. I had forgotten how wonderful food tastes when cooked in butter! I then cut out sugar. I tend to like a sweet treat on a regular basis, but my palate changed so much after cutting grains out that the typical sweet treat became too sweet to enjoy. Now a square of 85% dark cacao does the trick, but I rarely crave anything sweet anymore.
Those changes were the backbone of my primal beginnings. It didn’t take long before the whole family was primal and no one has regretted it. We are more active, healthier and we feel better with this lifestyle. Overall, it’s been the right choice for our family. Financially it hasn’t made a difference. Yes, our meats are slightly more expensive, but that is offset by the fact that we don’t buy anything in the center of the grocery store. All the savings from cereals, crackers, cookies, and any other processed foods cover the increased costs of meats and produce easily. The family also cooks more together. It’s created a common interest in us and we have really enjoyed discovering new foods and recipes to try together. Every weekend we make almond flour pancakes together and that ritual has become a family favorite.
For me personally, I’ll never eat any other way again. In the first year of being primal I lost 20 pounds with no exercise, dropped 40 points of cholesterol and began sleeping better than I ever have in my life. My seasonal allergies are gone and I’ve always suffered every spring and fall. My energy levels are constant through the day and are always high. My joints feel better, I just don’t have the typical aches and pains anymore (that’s due to less inflammation caused by grains). And, it’s gotten my family outdoors and more active than ever. Swimming, hiking and walking are all daily activities now rather than just weekly. And like I mentioned before, it’s brought us closer together and forged common interests between us that will be there our entire lives. It’s why I call this our primal journey, because it will never end it will just continue evolving and sustaining us through many, many years to come.
Interested in learning more about primal eating and living? Check out Mark’s Daily Apple or google “primal eating” or “paleo eating” to read more.