Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What Works? What Challenges?

I am taking this post to reflect on the things that have worked for me as I have pursued Paleo eating. And I will also describe some of the challenges I have found. This is very individual, of course. Each person will find his or her own triumphs and trials.

What Works:
  • Sharp knives! There is a lot of vegetable-cutting to be done, so high-quality sharp knives make life easier.
  • Coconut This has become the cream in my coffee, the liquid in my greens, the oil in my pan, the soy substitute in my Asian dishes, the flour in my pancakes, the whipped cream *and* the crunchy topping on my dessert... An incredible array of things is made from this homely drupe: milk (I use the full-fat canned version) from which cream may be separated (for coffee, or whipped for dessert), oil, aminos (which taste just like soy sauce), flour, shreds, flakes, and even a "nectar" for sweetening.
  • Avocado I love this fruit now more than ever before! I have eaten it for any meal of the day, or just as a snack. Mashed and made into a dip or a mayonnaise stand-in. Sliced as a side dish. Chopped in a salad. Even just eaten with a spoon, right out of its handy peel-bowl. It goes with everything, sweet or savory. And it is full of fabulous fat.
  • Eggs Once I challenged them on day 21 and detected no obvious adverse reaction I began eating them almost every day. I hard cook a dozen at a time in the oven and keep them on hand for quick eating. My guys really love this.
  • Homemade Mayonnaise Using pasteurized eggs I have made this with both lemon juice and with Bubbies pickle juice. Both ways taste great. The immersion blender makes incredibly quick work of this task. This is the only way other than mail-order to get mayo without any unhealthy oils in it. I use it for tuna salad, on hard cooked eggs, or for dipping cold leftover veggies or meats.
  • Creative eating Keeping myself open to eating things in unusual combinations, or at unconventional times of day. Many people are fond of eating breakfast for dinner, but I have grown to enjoy eating dinner leftovers for breakfast. Some of my most delicious lunches have resulted from just grabbing things out of the fridge and putting them together as some kind of salad.
  • Enjoying foods for what they ARE The coconut aminos I mentioned above do taste just like soy sauce to me, but that is the exception, not the rule. Coconut cream does not taste like dairy milk cream, but it is delicious to me in its own right. I love spaghetti squash, as squash. I do not expect it to taste (or feel) like pasta.
  • Never eating food I don't like Not that every bite has to taste amazing, but I'm not going to subject myself to choking something down because it is touted as being good for me. No way. Knowing that I am going to enjoy every food I put in my mouth is a great encouragement to stay on plan.
Challenges: (with growth areas)
  • Eating out  My husband and I love to eat out, but we have found it surprisingly difficult to find menu items that are Paleo-compliant. It doesn't seem as if finding meat/chicken/fish and vegetables would be so difficult, but there are very few entrees on the menus at our favorite eateries that don't contain grains, dairy, or legumes in some form. Even things described as "grilled" have arrived at our table having obviously been lightly breaded and pan-fried. (We are learning to make fewer assumptions and ask for exactly what we need.)
  • Unsweetened beverages This has been particularly tough for my husband, who loves juice and sweetened tea, but I, too have struggled to stay hydrated. (Citrus slices added to water help, and Good Earth Organic Original herbal tea has a [hopefully]natural sweetness and is good hot or cold.)
  • Planning I am still struggling to plan effectively in order to keep adequate food in the house, and decently-constructed meals coming out of the kitchen every day. With eating out being a challenge, planning is all the more imperative! (I am getting better as time goes on.)
  • Refrigerator space Uncooked vegetables are bulky! Each of the three of us should ideally be eating about 8 cups of vegetables a day. So the fridge can get pretty crowded. (I try to make an additional produce run midway through the week.)
  • Out-of-stock staples Especially eggs. Since I use unconventional eggs (from pasture-roaming hens, as well as pasteurized eggs), they are sometimes unavailable. This has happened with other items, as well. (Sometimes I locate an alternate source. But also I am learning patience and trust and thankfulness for the abundance that I do have.)
Two-Sided Coins:
  • An abundance of online information Lots of helpful things, but it can certainly become overwhelming.
  • Clean kitchen Such an important part of being able to cook efficiently, but it takes a considerable amount of time every day! 
I always imagine the Paleo pros effortlessly serving up perfect meals to their adoring family and friends while snapping magazine-quality photos of each step of the process. That sure isn't what my kitchen is like (or is ever likely to become). I am okay with that. It is great to be having new kitchen adventures, and discovering yummy new recipes, all while feeling noticeably better.  

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