Wow me with Paleo!
December 20, 2011 6:15 PM   Subscribe

Help turn a sugar and carb addict into a cavegirl!

I recently started CrossFit and in order to not kill all my gains at dinner, I need to change my eating style. The problem? I <3 carbs.

I love ice cream and candy and potatoes and rice and all of those things that are so not conducive to a healthy, athletic life. I've read the general literature on the Paleo diet, but what I need are the OMGAMAZING recipes that will make me forget about all the cookies and french fries that I'm missing. I need this to be a lifestyle change, not just a diet but my willpower is weak in the face of Ben and Jerry.

Difficulty level: I don't eat a whole lot of meat for ethical reasons. I'm fine with sustainably raised meat, but it's pricey so I tend to stay mostly veg. Eggs and tofu and such are totally fine. I'm willing to trade cooking time for cheapness. Things I can cook ahead of time and freeze win bonus points.

posted by youcancallmeal to Food & Drink (25 answers total) 107 users marked this as a favorite
I'll let the actual paleo eaters answer the recipe issue, but I will note that the key willpower happens at the store. If you don't want to eat carbs, don't buy them, and get rid of the ones you have in the freezer and cupboards. Buying ice cream and then trying to not eat it is enormously more work than just not buying it in the first place.

If you have any space at all (as compared to living in a college dorm, say), the way you solve the price issue for ethical meat is to buy a chest freezer, and then buy whole or half animals. (No, it doesn't arrive at your house on the hoof -- the cutting place takes care of breaking the carcass down into regular cuts and wrapping up the meat in freezer-ready packages). Per-pound it is cheaper than the grocery store, and there's some serious convenience advantages. Even a small chest freezer will hold a lot of meat, and a mid-sized one lets you buy a year's worth in one go.
posted by Forktine at 6:28 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: re: bulk meat. The problem is having that sort of cash to outlay in the first place. I don't. I am considering getting a few meat rabbits in the near future for raising / processing / eating. Not a lot of meat there, but it's something.
posted by youcancallmeal at 6:32 PM on December 20, 2011

You're going to have to eat a LOT of eggs.

My wife and I aren't strictly paleo, but we did move to a low[er]-carb mode of eating after reading Gary Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories. Taubes' contention -- which I have found to be true -- is that if you try to diet by limiting calories, you will fail, and if you try to diet by cutting carbs but don't replace them with fat, you will fail as well. Essentially, you need something to tell your brain you've had enough calories so you don't get the screaming hungries. Fat is very good at this.

If you're not going to be eating much meat AND you're cutting out grains and the like to go paleo, you are going to have to work extra hard to get enough fat into your diet to be able to resist ordering a pizza five days in. That means a ton of eggs and dairy -- these may also come with an ethical price tag you don't care for, but at least cage-free eggs are relatively inexpensive. (I think $2.79/dozen at Trader Joe's?) You'll also want to get a ton of nuts for snacking, and find a way to work olive oil and heavy cream into every dish you can.

To sum up: my experience with this is that you can lose weight and feel better by cutting out grains and sugar and potatoes, but you must add a lot of fat to your diet, and that's harder to do without meat, and nearly impossible to do without eggs or dairy.

PS -- On preview, you say you can't afford bulk meat. If you live near any farms, I would see if they would cut you a deal where you could pay over time for part of an animal. Good luck!
posted by thehandsomecamel at 6:42 PM on December 20, 2011 [11 favorites]

I'm two months into a diet that is similar. I've found the less I eat sugar/refined grains/simple carbs, the less I crave them.

My diet does allow for one cheat day a week. This helps me psychologically. I have something to look forward to.
posted by tayknight at 6:44 PM on December 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

Once you start eating good meat with plenty of fat (ignore boneless, skinless factory-raised chicken breasts), you'll be full because of the fat, happier (protein's a mood elevator) and healthier. I think all the fake recipes aren't worth the time and trouble.
Meat might be expensive but you'll save because you're not eating all the other junk.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:11 PM on December 20, 2011

About 5 years ago I decided to cut out sugar and simple carbs. At the time I craved sugar so much that if I went to a friend's house to spend the night, and she didn't have anything sugary when I got there, I would have to go back out and go to the convenience store and get something, since it was like torture to go through a night without it. I had these bizarre alcoholism-esque behaviors around it.

The thing that made cutting it out easiest was -- time. It was insanely, insanely hard at first. It took about 3 days to not think about wanting something sugary all the time. But it just got easier and easier from there. Within a few months I got to the point where I wasn't even thinking about it at all.

So, I would say that the main thing is just to be patient -- get over that 3 day hump, get over the first week hump, and it gets a lot easier.

If you're not going to be eating much meat AND you're cutting out grains and the like to go paleo, you are going to have to work extra hard to get enough fat into your diet to be able to resist ordering a pizza five days in. That means a ton of eggs and dairy

Definitely this might be the case for some people. But not for everyone, so definitely keep it in mind but just observe how you personally feel as you experiment with different things. I've been a vegetarian since 10, and didn't need to start eating tons of fat once I cut out sugar and simple carbs. I was actually way less hungry all the time overall. So much so that I lost 20 lbs completely unintentionally. I was mainly just eating kind of plain, high-fiber stuff at that time, not because I was dieting but because I just felt like it.

Now if you *do* find yourself craving fat, I'd recommend avocados, cashews, and olive oil. You can make so many simple things that include them that you don't need fancy recipes for. Roasted veggies drizzled in olive oil, and shirataki noodles with cashew sauce would be awesome to start with.
posted by cairdeas at 7:22 PM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

This mashed cauliflower recipe is rich and amazing-we love it:
posted by purenitrous at 7:23 PM on December 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

When Inwant to up my Meat intake, I do up a big blade roast and have days of scrumptious leftover meat that can be eaten warm or cold.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:32 PM on December 20, 2011

Man, you sound like me when I first started paleo!

Sounds like almond meal might be great for you in terms of controlling the cookie/cake/usually processed junk food cravings. It's much higher in protein than normal flour and I find you generally get the same consistency as baking with wheat flour. Things might become lumpier than normal, but whatever, it still tastes great. I generally used agave nectar to substitute for sugar. Almond meal pancake with a fresh fruit compote? Awesome.

If you're craving potato chips or fries, make veggie chips instead. My roommate makes some awesome kale chips by just tossing everything in olive oil and tossing it in the oven. A local restaurant does veggie chips with squash, carrots, and a few other things I haven't quite figured out what they are, but it's still great. I'm not sure what *exactly* it is that she does, but I'll MeMail you when I find out.

I found I've just started eating obscene amounts of vegetables to stave off the bad carb cravings. Every time I crave mashed potatoes, I'll just eat 2-3 bell peppers. Dinner for me generally consists of 1/4 pound of some meat (broiled organic chicken thigh, steak, or salmon) then maybe 1-2 pound of vegetables. Lunch usually is just leftovers from dinner and I don't really eat breakfast. Since you're not much of a meat eater, I'd imagine a lot of eggs can easily replace meats.

Bulk meat: Local organic farms will sell you 1/4 of a cow/pig/other large animal for much cheaper than grocery stores. Get a some friends to pitch in so that you'll each end up with about 10-20 pounds worth of meat per person. Chuck it all in the freezer and thaw as needed.

Good luck with paleo! It really does suck balls in the beginning, but once you get used to it, it's pretty great :)
posted by astapasta24 at 7:38 PM on December 20, 2011

I'm a vegetarian, so I can't speak to any omnivorous aspects, but one of the most helpful proteiny things for me has been Greek yogurt. Eating a lot of, say, nuts makes me feel more queasy than satiated, but yogurt gets me to an actual, satisfied 'full' much more readily.
posted by threeants at 7:52 PM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Lentils, nuts, and beans are all good things to eat if you aren't eating much meat. Avocado too, will help with feeling full.

I would strongly suggest looking for South Beach recipes, as they are low on the bad carbs and high on the good carbs, and since it has been so popular for so long, there are a ton of good recipes out there.

One thing that we make as a base for various things is to take quinoa, lentils, beans, onions, tomatos, bell peppers, olive oil and spinach and put those all together in a salad. If you add some pesto and parmesian cheese you've got an italian dish, if you add feta and kalamata olives you've got a greek dish, if you add some salad dressing it goes great over some lettuce or spinach as a salad, if you add some cheese and put it in a tortilla wrap it makes a great lunch sandwich, and if you add some tofu and soy sauce it has a nice asian flavor. It is quite filling, has enough good carbs to give you energy, and enough fiber to help feel full. Plus, no meat required!
posted by markblasco at 7:55 PM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

If you live near any farms, I would see if they would cut you a deal where you could pay over time for part of an animal.

I buy pig from one person, cow from another, and lamb from a third. I've never needed to ask, but my guess is that all three of them would be willing to set up some kind of a payment plan -- especially because you usually order the meat way ahead, so there would be tons of time to pay for most of it in installments before the animal is even slaughtered. Yes, buying an entire cow would be expensive, but moderate amounts of ethical meat are not prohibitive if you do your homework.

Or do what astapasta24 says and go in with some friends. Seriously, unless you are buying the super boutique, ultra-high end stuff, the per-pound price should be pleasantly low. You can get cheaper meat by carefully shopping sales at the grocery store, but you won't be able to get better meat. Also (and my guess is that this would be important if you are going totally paleo) you can give the butcher exact instructions about cutting, and can ask for all kinds of "extra" parts that would normally get sent to the rendering plant.

If the wikipedia entry on the paleo diet is correct ("Centered on commonly available modern foods, the "contemporary" Paleolithic diet consists mainly of fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, vegetables, fruit, roots, and nuts, and excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar, and processed oils"), I probably eat about 2/3 this way just because it makes me happy. (I love my high-fat dairy, and I enjoy grains and legumes in moderation.) I haven't found that avoiding bulk carbs requires any special recipes, but definitely if you buy meat in bulk you will need to learn how to cook a lot more different cuts of meat than you find in the local meat counter. But that's a lot of the fun -- pulling some new cut of meat (new only to me; usually it turns out to be a very traditional cut that is no longer sold in the supermarket) out of the freezer and finding out how to turn it into pure deliciousness.

In other words, the more you fill your kitchen with good things (meat or otherwise), the easier it is to be eating good stuff at every meal. Simply don't buy crap, and the meals should follow.
posted by Forktine at 7:58 PM on December 20, 2011

This website--Healthy Indulgences--has a ton of paleo-ish low carb dessert recipes. Some are dairy free, some not. All of her recipes are low carb. I like Mark's Daily Apple for paleo recipes and links to recipe sites too.
posted by sunnychef88 at 7:59 PM on December 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

Another relatively inexpensive way to eat higher-quality meat is to buy things like roasts and whole birds. A chicken lasts me and my partner for at least three meals -- usually legs, wings & thighs the night we roast it, breasts another night, and soup from whatever's left. We'll buy a pork shoulder, slow-cook it, and have pulled pork for EVER.

I've also been trying to reduce simple carbs, and the answer for me is simply not to have them around anywhere. It sucks. Things that help me:
- I increase fat (butter in everything!)
- I increase umami by adding fermented foods wherever possible -- soy sauce, miso paste, fish sauce, live sauerkraut. (The last is really easy to make at home.)
- Dark chocolate. I portion out a bar of really good chocolate, and when I NEED SUGAR, I have a piece.
posted by linettasky at 9:12 PM on December 20, 2011

(You know tofu is not official/strict Paleo-OK, right? Soy is a no go, just like other beans and legumes.)

So here's the thing. It suuuuuucccccccccckkkkkssssss in the beginning, when you're detoxing from your grain- and sugar-heavy normal diet. What you need to do most of all is make sure you are eating enough protein (you can eat plenty of eggs, but they are also higher in fat, whereas meat is no carbs and wonderful wonderful protein to support the healing of those muscles that you're tearing up in Crossfit all week), and enough veggie-derived fat (coconut, avocado, olive, whatever you love the most). It will keep you full and replenish your energy so that you can still function throughout the day and while you work out.

Tips and tricks I have used:
- Make sure you are eating enough fat!
- To make sure I have nuts/trail mix in my desk drawer at work, in my car, wherever I need to be, because it is a good snack that will be ready when I need it.
- I buy rotisserie chickens from Whole Foods or other natural grocery stores and they last me through several days. I have very little time to prep food, so this works nicely for me. At my local store I pay about $6-7 for a whole chicken.
- I learned to eat fruit after dinner to have some sweetness to go on. Pomegranate seeds take me forever to eat, so it feels like I'm having more.
- Make sure you are eating enough fat!!!! No, really.
- I get a lot of stuff at Trader Joe's because it is almost always cheaper, and they almost always have an organic version.
- I liked the book The Vegetarian Myth (I was veggie 15 years before I started Paleo, have not felt this great in all of the time I was veggie, but that's my story) because it has some information about why the agriculture industry and factory farming are the real problems that afflict the earth in relation to human eating habits--not the idea that many people have, which is that "eating meat" is the worst you can do for the planet. Eating grains and factory-farmed meat are actually very destructive to your home and your health.

Some of my favorite recipe blogs, info sites, etc. are:
- Whole 9 (resources page)
- Whole 30 recipes
- The Clothes Make the Girl
- Everyday Paleo
- Whole Life Eating
- Robb Wolf

A lot of people like Mark's Daily Apple but I personally find the dude fairly obnoxious. TONS of recipes though.
posted by so_gracefully at 9:33 PM on December 20, 2011 [18 favorites]

Although it's not recipes, here is the website of a friend of mine who is into the scientific/research aspects of paleo. There are some interesting articles about satiety that might help you.

We don't eat paleo, but my daughter has Celiac disease so that makes the home foods look an awful lot like paleo anyway. One way to get (wheat) carbs out of your diet is to eat like you have a gluten sensitivity (although substituting in other carbs would be what is called "faileo").
posted by plinth at 3:17 AM on December 21, 2011

My only advice is to take it one step at a time. Eliminate the worst offenders first, and work your way down. So week one: no more ice cream. Week two: no more soda or sugary beverages. At the end of that you might find your cravings will have gone way down - not gone completely, but manageable. Allow for cheat days as needed, but don't let one cheat day become two.
posted by knave at 6:49 AM on December 21, 2011

So here's the thing. It suuuuuucccccccccckkkkkssssss in the beginning

This. If you can be strict about it for a solid week -- no cheating AT ALL -- your cravings will lessen substantially. But until you go through an extended period of abstinence, you WILL crave, and those cravings WILL rule your thoughts.

There's no magic bullet to changing your diet, unfortunately. It just sucks for awhile.
posted by coolguymichael at 9:13 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

> Things I can cook ahead of time and freeze win bonus points.

Nom Nom Paleo
, my favorite Paleo recipe site, has a lot of Crock Pot cooking, if that helps with your time management.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:41 AM on December 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

Go cold turkey on sugar and wheat. If you simply cut back, the cravings just get worse. A week of cold turkey on fast carbs, you'll feel like ass for awhile, and then you'll feel normal, except you'll start losing weight around your midsection.

Stop buying sugar and wheat, and stop buying things made from sugar and wheat. Dessert isn't something the human body was every designed to eat; dessert was designed for French royalty, which weren't exactly known for svelte builds or long lives.

I had a potato and tortilla chip addiction. I get the crunchy snacks in now with seaweed snacks, which are salty deliciousness, or with salted nuts, which are always delicious. The typical new-to-paleo diet is usually really, really nut heavy.

Dinner ideas:
- Quice (egg and spinach pie)
- Chicken noodle soup, made from whole (ethically treated) chickens. The chicken will run you $8, but this will make a *large* amount of soup.
- Curry. Traditional wisdom is that coconut milk is bad for you; too much saturated fat. Paleo wisdom, which holds as long as you go easy on carbs, is that saturated fat is good for you. Curry is cheap, easy, and vegetarian. Favor vegetables with slow-digesting carbs, and avoid white potatoes.

posted by talldean at 12:44 PM on December 21, 2011

Best answer: I definitely feel your pain. I've been slowly adjusting into the Paleo diet as I get into Crossfit, but I only eat seafood as it's relatively cheap and easy to find wild-caught where I am. While I don't have many recipes to share (yet!), the No-Meat Athlete's article on Paleo Diet for Vegetarians helped me work reconcile vegetarianism (or nearly so) with going paleo. Having no-sugar added applesauce and a variety of nuts at my desk helps with the cravings, and I've been living for hearty bean and vegetable soups.
posted by manimimi at 2:59 PM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

In my experience all it took was going cold turkey on sugar and wheat for a couple of weeks. I felt so much better than I'd ever felt in my entire life that I've simply never looked back. This from a guy who ate enough Ben & Jerry's in college to earn the nickname "Pint Killer"! Note that fat without sugar is still really really tasty. Remember to make sure you are eating enough fat!


Whip 1/3 to 1/2 cup heavy cream (IKEA whipping sticks are just $2.99!) and add ~16oz hot coffee.

Saute half a pack of baby bella mushrooms in 1-2 Tbs butter. Roll up with a bunch of cheese inside a 3-egg omelette cooked in a stainless steel pan with a heaping Tbs coconut oil. (Once you let the fat back in, you can ditch the Teflon!)

Rinse a bunch of greens (spinach, kale, mustard/beet/turnip/radish greens) and drain. Heat 3-5 Tbs butter and/or coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add greens and cook until wilted and tender.

Rinse a bag of brussels sprouts, trim stems & discard funky leaves. Slice in half, toss in an oven-safe dish with salt, pepper, and 2-3 Tbs coconut oil, olive oil, or butter. Cook at 425 for 25-35m, until tender and browning.

Quiche is yummy with no crust or in an almond meal crust. Skip the cream and you can call it a "frittata" or "egg bake". Still yummy!
posted by sudama at 7:07 PM on December 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

This guy has great info on veg-friendly paleo fitness & nutrition:
posted by sudama at 7:14 PM on December 22, 2011

Regarding temptation, what's worked for me is simply not letting my mind make a big thing of it, dont entertain the thought. It's only your mind saying it's torture not to be able to eat that cookie.
First I gave up smoking after 20 years this way, then excessive drinking (as well as recognising triggers that make me go overboard) and the last 6 months I've been on a diet free of refined-carbs, gluten and lactose, which hasn't been torture.
As for Paleo, I'm doing cross-fit and have become much fitter and leaner, but I'm a bit skeptical about grains, legumes and beans being a no-no, being that about 80% of the world gets their sustenance from these food groups. And I think it's far better in a holistic sense to include these in our diet, rather than devouring carcass after carcass. But that's just my 2 cents.
posted by boogiefunk at 8:29 PM on December 22, 2011

I have been pretty strict paleo the last few months. This is the second time I've tried it, and the first time it ended mostly due to laziness and a bit of cost concerns. I am actually more in need of saving money now, but I have still been able to keep costs down and maintain things for quite a while now (including Thanksgiving). I'm not the best source for recipes, but let me give you a few tips from my experience:

- Be careful with nuts and dried fruits. These can seem like such a safe and easy source for snacking, but can really be easy to overdo. I like to think that if your food doesn't involve a bit of work, it probably isn't the safest thing to have around the house. I had this GIANT tub of "fancy" nuts -- cashews, pecans, etc. I dumped some dried cherries and other fruits into it. And I noticed that I was taking out huge handfuls and I had eaten about half of it in a week. This was my brilliant move (I should really write a diet book called "Hot to Piss Yourself Off -- and Lose Weight"): I dumped a huge bag of pumpkin seeds into it and shook it all up. Now, it is still the same snack, with the added benefit of pumpkin seeds. But I can no longer pick up a fistful and shove it in my mouth. Now, I need to actually stop and eat things a bit more carefully -- pick out the seeds, etc. It just slows you down a bit.

- If you have a Costco near you, go there with the sole mission of buying cheap canned meats. Only bring a backpack, so you can't overdo it and load your whole car up. I bought a dozen cans of salmon (amazing), canned crab meat (pretty good), sardines (I unexpectedly love these), canned chicken (so-so). It is just good to have these around -- it is so easy to make a lunch from any of these (and you won't have to default to eggs). There were two different kinds of canned salmon the last time I went, and I got the one with the white label (A guy next to me swore it was the best, and they are good).

- Yes, get rid of anything in your house that isn't paleo. And stock up on all the little things you may need like spices, oils, etc so you are ready to cook anything. For example, I started regularly buying a jar of Kimchi from my grocery store that really livens up any cuts of meat, and gives you some fermented probiotic goodness.

- I would drink all sorts of diet sodas, teas, beverages like crazy -- I have limited myself to seltzer water only and I try and keep that in stock.

- Lunch during work is the most difficult thing -- it is SO easy to get a sandwich anywhere. It isn't that tough to find a salad bar, and that has been my savior: base of spinach, some grilled chicken, avocado, broccoli, etc. You are all set.

- If you need a sweet snack, have some VERY dark chocolate around. You can even find no-sugar versions that are pretty good. The higher the % of cacao (?) the better as it is harder to over-indulge in the really dark stuff and the health benefits appear to be a bit better.

- Also, I have actually enjoyed trying lots of odd cuts of meat: braised oxtails, liver, marrow bones, etc. A dutch oven, crockpot, stew pot, etc can really do a number on any of the tougher cuts -- the oxtails I made were so good that I tanked the whole thing right out of the pot. I don't use recipes, but here is basically what I did.

- Heat up some olive oil or other fat/oil in a big dutch oven or stew pot.
- Brown some oxtails (or any other tough cut of meat) in a big pot and move them off to a plate for a bit.
- Toss some onions, garlic, celery, red peppers, serrano peppers and any other vegetables you have into the pot and saute for a while in olive oil.
- Add in a large can of tomatoes.
- When that begins to simmer, put your oxtails back in (I also added some marrow bones).
- Reduce the heat a bit and let that simmer on your oven for as long as you can -- Mine was on there for about 4 or 5 hours at least.

You can do that sort of thing to almost anything -- the only difficult thing is waiting it out.

Good luck with the diet -- as others have said here, the first few weeks are brutal. After a while, it just becomes natural and you don't crave things.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 10:17 PM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

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