Paleo is a hot topic these days, but what does it mean exactly, why do people do it, and what does it encompass? We are excited to offer these answers and more in today’s sponsored post by our friend Allison Stevens, who is a chef and nutritionist with her company Prep Dish and also lives the paleo(-ish, as she puts it) life. She offers her insight and story below.
by Allison Stevens
Paleo often gets a bad rap. And I have to admit, I used to think this diet trend (based on eating similar to our Paleolithic ancestors) was ridiculous because I didn’t truly understand it. Today, I am proud to say I am, what I call, Paleo-ish. Here is what I mean by this and why I choose to eat this way.
At the core, what most widely seems to be considered Paleo is eating real food—principles that are very similar to Lisa’s. Although Paleo goes a step farther, following the principle that if a food item wasn’t eaten thousands of years ago, pre-agriculture, don’t eat it. This not only eliminates processed foods from your diet, but also food such as grains and legumes. There are foods that are allowed and avoided when following a Paleo lifestyle, as outlined below.
The following are allowed on the traditional Paleo diet:
- Veggies – There are many veggies allowed, I never get bored or run out of options!
- Grass-fed & pastured meats
- Sustainable seafood
- Nuts & seeds
- Grass-fed dairy
The following are avoided on the Paleo diet:
- Most processed foods
Why I Call Myself Paleo-ish
Four years ago I discovered I was gluten intolerant (believe me, as a dietitian, this came as a shock!). When I removed gluten from my diet, I had more energy. My occasional bouts of nausea or digestive problems disappeared. Better yet, I stopped getting sick as often as I used to! I used to think that getting sick a few times a year (colds and usually one episode of strep throat) was just the norm.
In addition, while I was never quite overweight when I was eating gluten, I certainly looked “puffy” in pictures taken prior to going gluten-free (likely inflammation from the gluten).
After removing gluten, I became much more aware of how food makes me feel. Sugar is not something I eat daily since it really impacts my energy levels. For example, I am aware of how much sugar I consume, and I limit it to an occasional piece of dark chocolate or a gluten-free brownie or cupcake on special occasions. I also found that other grains, especially oats, cause stomach pains, and thus I eliminated oats from my diet. Slowly but surely, I was unknowingly becoming Paleo.
I was eating a primarily Paleo diet without even realizing it and have since come to embrace a Paleo-ish lifestyle. Personally, I think Paleo’s strength is that it is based on following a healthy diet with real foods at its core. What I’ve come to realize is that, just as everyone has their own personal definition of real food, the definition of Paleo varies from person to person. Indeed, it has been said that there are as many definitions of Paleo as there are practitioners.
The Guidelines I Follow
There are a lot of gray areas in following the Paleo lifestyle; this is how I choose to handle them. Maybe you do the same?
Some Paleo folks shun dairy. I find that as long as I stick to low-lactose cheeses and avoid heavy cream, I’m fine. I choose grass-fed dairy whenever possible.
While I don’t actively add beans into my diet, I don’t avoid beans, either. I lump foods such as green beans and peanut butter into this category.
I still eat rice and quinoa on occasion, and okay, gluten-free pizza as a treat (this is so not Paleo!).
I enjoy having a glass of red wine with dinner and include this as part of my regular diet most days of the week. Here I have a confession: when I met my fiancé, I was nervous when I learned he was Paleo because I was afraid this meant he didn’t drink!
Many of you reading this will recognize that I don’t follow Paleo precisely. Those of you with an auto-immune condition may follow a stricter version of a Paleo diet for health reasons. The overall goal, I believe, is to eat healthier, less processed foods in order to feel better. Everyone has a different definition of what that means for them, and that’s okay.
A Day in the Life
For example, here’s a day in the life of my Paleo-ish diet:
Breakfast: Caramelized onion, mushroom, potato, & chicken sausage frittata
Lunch: Butternut squash & bison chili
Dinner: Paprika roasted chicken leg with trio of roasted root veggies, side salad, & glass of old vine Zinfandel
I cook Paleo meals just like the ones above for my fiancé, friends, and clients, and I don’t feel the need to advertise it as Paleo. There’s a good chance that some of your favorite real food meals are Paleo already! I find Paleo to be very approachable and enjoyable and most of all – healthy!
I’m really lucky that I can use my personal experience in my working world as well. Here’s more on how that has evolved.
Prep Dish Meal Planning Service
I have run a successful personal chef company in Austin, Texas, for the past five years, preparing meals for my many clients – individuals, busy families, and even celebrities.
After a few years of owning and operating my business, I realized I could reach a much larger audience with my healthy foods by creating meal plans so that families and individuals everywhere could use my recipes and procedures for prepping meals ahead of time. I strongly believe that having prep work done in advance is the KEY to actually enjoying your meals.
So my company, PrepDish.com, was born. I provide subscribers with a weekly meal plan that includes a grocery list and instructions for spending 2 to 3 hours prepping meals ahead of time (on the weekend, if you prefer). All of the meals are gluten-free and based on real foods – my version of Paleo. I also have strict Paleo meal plans available, if desired.
With my meal plans, I aim to make healthy eating approachable. I also take care of the planning so that meal prep is as quick and efficient as possible.
I personally follow my own prep ahead method in order to have food on the table after my workday. What does this look like? Once a week I spend 2 to 3 hours prepping my food for the week. That way, at 5:00 pm I’m not scrambling to make dinner. Instead, I pre-heat the oven and pop in a delicious Chilean sea bass and an assortment of roasted veggies that I’ve pre-cut (how’s that for “convenience food?!”).
A Special Deal for You!
Does chipotle shrimp with asparagus and sweet potato wedges sound good to you? How about spinach pesto chicken with zucchini noodles? Do you want to add variety to your Paleo lifestyle or want to experiment with the diet for the first time, perhaps for your own personal health reasons or just to get more whole foods in your diet?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above, then please try a FREE week of PrepDish Paleo! Sign up for my newsletter on PrepDish.com. Plus use code “REALFOODB25″ to receive 25% off your subscription.*
For those of you that are Paleo-curious, this is a great way to get your feet wet! I’d love to hear your thoughts about the Paleo lifestyle in the comments.
*This is <$1.50/week for the annual subscription and <$3/week a monthly subscription. Valid on the first month of a monthly subscription or a yearly subscription. Subscription renews automatically. Cancel at any time. Offer expires on March 1, 2015.