Anyone who enjoys food must marvel at the tremendous variety of cuisines available, but those on the Paleo Diet may have to look beyond existing menus.
At its core, the Paleo Diet is based on foods that humans ate prior to agriculture and animal husbandry. That means no refined or processed foods; no sugar, dairy, legumes, vegetable oils or grains.
The theory, of course, is that the human body has evolved very little since the Neolithic Era began about 12,000 years ago, so our bodies are designed to function best on meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, nuts, berries and seeds.
It also means preparing foods in simple ways—mainly raw, roasted or baked—and without the accompaniment of breading, gravies or sauces. In short, the Paleo Diet presents a culinary challenge—how to turn nutritious into delicious while remaining true to the realities of the Stone Age.
Fortunately, where our bodies have not evolved, our cooking skills have. It may not be possible to replicate the diet of cavemen with absolute accuracy, but it is not difficult at all to approximate Paleolithic eating habits with meals that are “Paleo friendly.”
At home, this should be no problem at all. Start by cleaning out the pantry and refrigerator of non-Paleo foods, and then go grocery shopping with cave culture in mind. Plan meals that stick closely to the requirements of the Paleo Diet.
For example, instead of opening your morning with cereal and milk, have a bowl of diced apples, raisins and shredded carrot. Ditch the hamburger casserole for dinner and substitute pan-seared mahi-mahi and zucchini spears seasoned with dill weed and lemon. Rather than potato or corn chips for a snack, munch on almonds.
You won’t be eating exactly like a caveman, of course, but you can come close. The larger concern is what to order in restaurants that may or may not embrace the concept of “Paleo friendly.”
First, be choosy about where you dine out. Come up with a list of healthy alternatives to fast food chains—eateries serving fresh, whole foods, not pre-processed—that will prepare what you want to order. If you scout out good lunch spots near your office in advance, you can suggest one of them in place of the poor choices that coworkers might make.
If you choose the right restaurants, you can have virtually the same sorts of meals you would at home. Just be a little demanding. Ask the server to hold such pre-meal temptations as bread, snack mix or chips and salsa. Avoid starters that are fried or come with unhealthy dips or sauces. Make salad your appetizer with vinegar and olive oil on the side.
For the main course, choose unadorned meats and vegetables. Leave out the potatoes, pastas and rice. Ask for fruit for dessert. And drink water or iced tea with lemon and no sugar. Again, it’s not eating exactly like a caveman, but you can make dining out a Paleo friendly experience.
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