Many others may be finding themselves intrigued by the concept, maybe even testing the waters a bit. Primal eating sounds good to you. It makes a lot of sense. The mind is clearly motivated, but you are cautious about diving right in. I have heard the following feedback from these folks:
“It sounds great, but I really have no idea what I would eat.”
“You were already so committed to your health and fitness. I could never bring myself to make this big of a change.”
“I just can’t imagine my life without pasta, rice, or fill-in-the-blank.”
It’s not uncommon to question our motivation and ability when making a significant lifestyle change. There is no doubt that these changes can be difficult, but we must keep our eye on the prize and remember just why it is we’re doing this in the first place. There’s nothing like the promise of a life full of health and vitality to put everything back into perspective. However, far too many of us (myself included!) make mountains out of molehills, essentially derailing our efforts before getting out of the starting blocks. Don’t be your own worst enemy! You are only thirty days away from a brand new life!
Perhaps a step-by-step plan of action will help with the transition to primal eating.
Luckily today’s first blog post deals with this exact topic. So grab your notes and let’s get started!
It all starts with a thorough shopping list, and off you go to the grocery store. Follow these steps below and you will find yourself largely “perimeter shopping,” a concept I fantasized about before going primal but could never quite master. Now my shopping trips are amazingly efficient and streamlined: produce, meat, seafood, dairy, cash register. No more double backing through the aisles looking for that one darn thing I always missed. It’s heaven, really.
Your first stop is the produce section. Or, if you have a local farmers market, even better! Buy what is in season. What about organic? In a perfect world, yes, but don’t use a lack of organics (or their often hefty price tag) to forego fruits and vegetables for pasta and tortilla chips.
Oftentimes people strive to be perfect just so they can “fail” and give up. Don’t be one of these people; don’t complicate uncomplicated matters!
Try to get a broad array of colours from the rainbow: ROY-G-BIV, anyone? You needn’t have the colour spectrum represented at every meal, or even in a given day, but over the course of a week these colours should all be included, ideally.
Think: Red peppers, carrots, spaghetti squash, broccoli, blueberries, cabbage, and beets. The sky really is the limit here; this is by no means an exhaustive list.
Make sure to also include items to flavour your food with: basil, parsley, shallots, garlic, ginger, and rosemary.
Moving on to the meat section. Look for lean cuts of meat when they are on sale and stock up. This is where a large freezer comes in really handy! Grass-fed is ideal, but again, don’t let the price or lack of grass-fed options send you running to the cookie and cracker aisles!
Think: pork loin, lean ground beef, chicken and turkey (breast or thighs).
When buying seafood consider how close the species is to the top of the food chain. Sword and tuna tend to have higher contents of mercury and other toxins than smaller fish. Look for “wild” when buying fish, instead of the farmed fish that are fed refined grains. Hey, if we shouldn’t eat that stuff, it follows that they shouldn’t either.
Think: Pacific salmon, mackerel, tilapia, shrimp, mussels, and clams.
Eggs & Dairy
Primal diehards will be avoiding dairy altogether; others may consume it in moderation. You are the best judge of which camp you will fall into. Most with intolerances to dairy are already well aware. In my family, we still consume dairy in moderation, mostly because the thought of giving up cheese is too much for me to handle right now! Plus, we don’t have any allergies/intolerances. Perhaps there will come a day when we consider paring down, but right now we are content with our cheeses and yogurt.
Stock up on omega-3-enriched eggs, too. They are a bit more expensive, but well worth the splurge.
Oils, Spices, Coffee and More
Ok, there are exceptions to every rule, right? I will allow you to duck briefly into the dreaded “middle aisles” for a few items.
A high-quality olive oil is essential to use in salad dressings and to brush onto oven roasted veggies.
Coconut oil is a solid at room temperature and retains its healthy properties with high-temperature cooking. It is also a great natural option for dry skin and cuts. It can be found at the Bulk Barn.
Avocado/Walnut oils are other great options for high-temperature cooking.
Coconut milk is delicious in curries and stews and helps to heal irritation in the digestive tract.
Nuts and seeds make for quick and easy primal snacks. Macadamia nuts, pistachios, cashews, almonds, and walnuts can be mixed together into single serving quantities. Pine nuts, almond slivers, and pecans make ideal toppings for salads.
Dry herbs and spices can compliment the fresh herbs from the produce section in almost every dish.
The above ingredients can be combined together to create countless meals. Recipes and cookbooks can go a long way in helping you see the limitless options available within primal cooking, but me, I’m a very simple kind of girl. I enjoy not making things any more complicated than they need to be in the kitchen.
So if you’re new to primal living, set yourself up for success by simply combining items from the above categories to make your meals. 9 times out of 10, it will go something like this:
1. Heat oil in a pan on the stovetop.
2. Brown some meat in that oil.
3. Add your herbs/spices (for hearty ones like ginger, add before the meat; for delicate ones like basil, add when the dish is almost complete).
4. Add veggies.
5. Stir a bit, cover and cook 5-10 minutes.
6. Check on it. If not done, set timer again. If done, eat.
I’m living and breathing proof that you needn’t be a gourmet chef to eat primal. I prefer to spend my time outside playing with my kids, running, or visiting with friends. I tend to abide by the KISS principle here (Keep It Simple, umm, and Straightforward!).
Once again, I’m not a great cook (have you got the message yet?) so my meal plans are very simple. The point is, regardless of your talents in the kitchen, a rough meal plan is strongly advised to help you reach your desired goals. Motivation will only get you so far. Without a concrete plan of action, even the most well-intentioned and enthusiastic “primal seeker” will fall prey to common pitfalls, the most common being temptations of “cheap food” everywhere you turn.
The following is a simple 3-day meal plan:
Breakfast: 2-3 scrambled eggs, 6-10 almonds, small piece of fruit/berries, tea/coffee
Lunch: Huge primal salad: lettuce, chicken strips, tomato, sliced almonds, carrot strips, and olives. Top with olive oil and vinegar of your choice. Save 1/3 for your snack.
Snack: Leftover salad from lunch
Dinner: Grilled salmon, asparagus, small salad
Breakfast: Leftover salmon, walnuts, tea/coffee
Lunch: Chicken Club Lettuce Wrap: 3 large lettuce leaves, diced cooked chicken, sliced red pepper, plum tomato, avocado, mayonnaise
Snack: 1 hard-boiled egg, apple with almond butter
Dinner: Beef Stir Fry
Breakfast: Omelet topped with sliced avocado and salsa, fruit/berries, tea/coffee
Lunch: Burger (sans bun), side salad
Snack: Nut mixture (pistachios, cashews, almonds, single serving dark chocolate >85% cocoa
Dinner: Grilled steak, steamed veggies, red wine
So there you have it! Some tools to help you get started. I wish you all the best, and please feel free to send me your feedback on how it’s going.