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Eating healthier: Is paleo the way to go?

Paleo power has activated. Many people are eating paleo diets these days. In fact, you can find people who earn a living by cooking and delivering paleo meals to your home. And though it’s about going back to caveman-like simplicity, eating paleo is no walk in the park. So is eating paleo really the way to go?

What does eating paleo mean?

Eating paleo is more than a diet. It’s a lifestyle change. You need to avoid many packaged goods, find new ways to eat on the go and spend more time shopping and cooking. You will inevitably have to give up some of your ol’ favorites. No more potato chips with cottage cheese or pizza as we once knew them.

When eating paleo, you need to avoid:

  • all grains, especially wheat and gluten but also rice and corn.
  • dairy.
  • legumes and starchy vegetables, including alfalfa, beans, carob, chickpeas, lentils, peanuts, peas, potatoes and soybeans.
  • refined sugars.
  • processed foods.
  • additives and chemicals — if a food contains an ingredient you can’t pronounce, don’t buy it.
  • alcohol.

Shew. So what can you eat?

paleo fish with saladWhen going paleo, you may eat:

  • fresh caught wild fish, lean and clean organic meats and eggs, all in moderation.
  • organic vegetables.
  • organic fruits.
  • organic, raw nuts, nut butters and seeds.
  • certain oils, only at recommended temperatures to avoid making them rancid.
  • spices without additives, gluten or anything else non-paleo.

When is eating paleo right for you?

If you don’t digest lean meats easily, paleo is probably not for you! If you’re not willing to spend extra time looking at labels, grocery shopping and preparing foods, it may not be the right time for you to adopt a paleo eating style.

However, eating paleo makes sense in several instances:

  • You have lots of sensitivities to foods and need to find substitutes. I’ve been eating paleo-like (sans nuts) during my version of an elimination diet the past couple of months and it’s helped me find alternative recipes for many things I thought I had to totally give up, such as tortilla shells, tortilla chips, cookies and even a carrot cake. Hello tapioca, coconut and many other flours I never knew! What a great way to get more foods into my rotation, so I’m truly able to eat all things in moderation. Follow this adventure on Facebook — even join me with your own eating healthier challenge!
  • You want to lose weight. Duh. Look at all the foods and carbs you give up when eating paleo! When you want to lose weight, improving your lifestyle is always better than dieting, because results from diets are so temporary. Maybe you would find it easier to delve in full-blown paleo first and then add some foods back as you determine which ones really help you feel good?
  • You have chronic inflammation. This could include allergies or arthritis to heart disease, because many health issues begin with inflammation.

If you decide that eating paleo is for you, remember a few key notes.

  1. If you suffer from chronic inflammation, you may want to avoid the nuts, too, because they can cause inflammation for many. Peanuts are technically a legume, are not paleo and may be the least healthy of the nuts. If you eat them, choose organic. Coconut is a fruit, so that is an option if your body tolerates it and you like it. You may still tolerate seeds from sunflower, pumpkin or sesame — think as flour or as spreadables — not just by the handful.
  2. Make sure you are getting enough calories and nutrients, especially vitamin D, calcium and healthy fats.
  3. Eat lean meats and fish in moderation. When I did this diet before as a 3-week cleanse, I was eating hamburgers for a snack. NOT ideal! But this time, my appetite has leveled out so I don’t need as much protein to feel full or satisfied.
  4. Every body is different and our bodies change with age (I am blaming my surge of food sensitivities on hormones in the 40s!). If you eat paleo and feel great, it may be your ideal lifestyle — for now. Listen to your body and review your blood work, especially as it relates to your vitamin D. You can always add foods back as you learn what works for you.

We definitely have a place for paleo in this world. Paleo or not, we all should avoid packaged foods with additives, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and refined sugars. Most of us could eat more vegetables and more organic foods.

Even if paleo is not perfect for you, try embracing some paleo beliefs!

For more ideas about eating paleo-like, including a shopping list and meal plan, read Digested – eating healthier made easy 3 ways.

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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Elimination diet – to eat or not to eat for better health

Elimination diet or not? That is my latest personal dilemma. Should I strip my diet down even further to re-find out exactly what foods I’m allergic to? Put my sanity on the line? And my family on the fringe of this temporary hell?

Lots of people do an elimination diet to help identify food allergies. I think this technique is particularly helpful in pinpointing foods we may not test positive to in a blood allergy test. Blood allergy tests may not be that accurate, depending on the type of test (IgE v IgG) and whether the food is in your system at the time.

The elimination diet dilemma

Done right, an elimination diet takes a lot of self-discipline and constant monitoring. And I’m the type of gal who likes to keep life simple.

sliced veggies elimination dietI could think of the elimination diet as being real simple, especially if I eat the same few meals for 3 weeks before adding back in foods. And I could just plan to eat all my meals at home during this time – no going out or snacking thoughtlessly while on the run.

But we do have family birthdays and spring break coming up. Whoever celebrated those without cake and with a strict diet in place? My doc did say I need to take care of my own energy first, even if that means forgoing the cake. Ugh!

Plus, after 3 weeks, the diet is far from over. Then I would add back 1 new food every 3-4 days, so it may take 6 months or longer to do it right.

I could starve during this process. And morph into an intolerable bitch. I hate feeling hungry and having to be high-maintenance. And I hate not having a glass of wine when it’s my turn to cook, or a beverage for happy hour on my deck, especially with spring in the air.

On the other hand, I’ve already been doing a sort of elimination diet for about 4 weeks. No gluten, nuts, corn or barley – which includes beer and wine (sigh). Very minimal sugar and dairy. Still, I’ve had a stuffy nose, headaches on several days and irregular, um, irregularity all around. Except for the rather regular migraines!

Could it be due to my poor attempt at beginning yoga? The new GF crackers I ate about 10 of? The spinach? Avocado oil on my tuna? I could make myself crazy trying to pinpoint my food culprits – and healthy ones to boot!

My theory, based on several girlfriends’ and my own experiences, is that in our 40s, hormones mess us up in ways we will never understand!

The elimination diet verdict

Even my trusted doctor isn’t sure an elimination diet is the best idea right now, with spring airborne allergens likely to complicate my results.

However, I’m already 4 weeks into eating a bare bones diet of mostly lean proteins and veggies. If I stick to it, I could reboot my body before spring allergies strike.

Yet if I don’t get to feeling consistently uncongested, there’s not much point in adding foods back in 1 nut at a time, 1 cheese at a time, etc.

See my dilemma? So is doing an elimination diet worth it or not?

Only God really knows. And sometimes I think all this ambiguity is just another way God’s telling me he’s in control. That no matter how much I control what I eat, he’s in charge of how or if that works out for me.

What I’ve realized is that this is one area of life I’m still trying to fix on my own. Maybe I should go pray about it instead.

Stay tuned to my Facebook page for my verdict. Please feel free to post and share updates about your own elimination diet woes and successes. We can muddle through together.

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.