Did cavemen really grind almond flour?
March 3, 2013 3:46 PM   Subscribe

I'm seeking your suggestions for easy, accessible, flexible paleo-ish meals. Snowflakes!

I'm starting Crossfit foundations tomorrow (yay!). My research so far shows that a zone or paleo eating style is greatly encouraged. I don't want this to derail me from learning to be strong.

I eat mostly vegetarian, but more importantly I eat cheap and boring. Recently I've been eating pretty much the same thing everyday with occasional meals out (I usually get salad or a veggie burger). So it looks like this:

Breakfast: Oatmeal, maybe a banana and lots of coffee with lots of almond milk
Lunch: Egg salad (1 egg, 1 egg white & 1 tbsp olive oil mayo) with lettuce & tomato in a Flatout
Dinner: Lentils & rice with Greek yogurt
Snacks: liberal hummus and baby carrots

I like this because it's cheap, reliable and I've got all the points right for Weight Watchers. I do not like to cook, I do not like to grocery shop, and I really, really do not like the idea of going paleo and eating meat three (3??) times a day, but it's already obvious to me I'm going to need more protein.

Can you suggest your best meals that closely resemble my current diet? They would ideally be:

Fast and easy to make
Complemented your Crossfitting awesomely

I'm just not going to be grinding my own almond flour for organic-blueberry-paleo-gluten-free muffins. Thanks!!
posted by mibo to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
You'll enjoy Crossfit a lot more if you stand your ground and don't let peer pressure totally dictate your entire lifestyle. Actually, you might enjoy giving in to the groupthink, but that's in the same way that people "enjoy" being members of a cult. I actually did Crossfit for a long time and it was a lot of fun, I just see in you the beginnings of a willingness to bend to the will of your Crossfit peers that it isn't always fun or healthy.

That said -- greek yogurt is a fantastic vegetarian source of protein. In general, eggs and high quality dairy will be your best sources of protein unless you start eating meat. Egg salad, greek yogurt, and cottage cheese.

I don't think you need to go paleo. I do think you should eat more protein. By my count you're getting about 40 g per day, depending on your size you should aim for more like three times that. You'll have to replace some of your calorie-dense low-protein foods (rice, oatmeal, lentils, hummus -- it's a vegetarian myth that the latter two are good sources of protein; if you're trying to lose weight, you need protein sources with way fewer carbohydrates) with high-protein foods, like eggs, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or meat if you choose to start eating it.

For example, you could switch your snack from hummus with baby carrots to tzatziki with baby carrots. Tzatziki is very easy to make: greek yogurt + chopped cucumber + garlic + lemon juice. For breakfast you could have eggs prepared any which way -- fast/easy/portable/cheap probably means hardboiled. At dinner I would replace your lentils and rice with any kind of roasted vegetables.
posted by telegraph at 3:58 PM on March 3, 2013 [6 favorites]

Whole foods are going to be way easier than almond-flour-whatevers. I suggest quick scrambled eggs for breakfast (takes no longer than oatmeal, lots more protein), salad with baked protein and liberal fat for lunch, and some braised meat dish or chili for dinner. Make the chili/braise/baked protein in one weekend day, then portion out as needed. Good snacks would be nuts, jerky, a bit of cheese if you handle dairy okay, half an avocado with lime and salt, etc.
posted by Bebo at 4:01 PM on March 3, 2013

There is a Facebook Crossfit Vegans & Vegetarians group that you might want to check out and vegan crossfit cross Danette "Dizzle" Rivera has written a few articles in Breaking Muscle about her experience, a round up is here, A Dozen By Dizzle: Articles From a Vegan CrossFit Coach.
posted by katinka-katinka at 4:24 PM on March 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

The thing about all these nutrition guidelines, especially when taken from a large group like Crossfitters, is that many of them conflict or are just too numerous to be practical. The Zone dictates quantity and ratios of macronutrients, Paleo doesn't care about ratios so much as food sources, and other strength training dogma ups the protein from things like milk. Most people can agree on the basics like unprocessed foods and higher protein but after that it's a mess.

What worked for me and made it interesting along the way is to run experiments on myself. If you're in it for the long haul you have a lot of time to figure things out. Spend 4-6 weeks implementing one major guideline from zone/paleo/whatever and see how it affects you. Maybe the first thing for you to try is go paleo and get rid of the oatmeal and the Flatout bread. Try replacing them with squash, sweet potatoes, and cauliflower. Some people consider rice and legumes non-paleo so maybe 6 weeks down the road replace those with something else. Or you could start the experiment by upping your protein with more eggs, or experiment with protein powder, or if you're willing some meat. At the end of whatever short experiment you're on, evaluate how you felt, how your body changed, your hunger levels, etc. Maybe you'll find, as I did, that you don't need to go super strict paleo and you can add back the rice and legumes. Or you might find that upping the protein is more satiating and you'll keep that permanently. (Btw it will help to record your lifting progress, your bodyweight, your hunger levels, etc.)

The point is, make incremental changes, see how sustainable they are and how they affect you, and then decide what is important for your diet and your sanity.
posted by Durin's Bane at 4:31 PM on March 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

I started eating natto because it was one of the foods allowed for vegetarians during a paleo challenge; I really love it now and it is fairly cheap if you can find it, but def a acquired taste. I mix it with watercress/scallions/wild rice or quinoa. I eat a lot of hummus with veggies, and some nuts. I occasionally make a smoothie with blueberries, cashews, chia seeds.
posted by katinka-katinka at 4:52 PM on March 3, 2013

Re eating more protein/not liking to cook (especially in the AM): for breakfast, I have a bowl of steel-cut oats (easy procedure here in my recent Ask) with an egg cracked in it, plus maybe a little cheese (shredded/crumbled) and/or dried red chile/herbs de Provence. Two minutes, forty seconds at half power in the micro (YMMV - your microwave may vary) sets the whites (booger whites give me the heebie jeebies), yet leaves the yolk runny, heats the oatmeal, and melts the cheese. Yum!
posted by mon-ma-tron at 5:18 PM on March 3, 2013

It's entirely, entirely possible to do CrossFit and not eat Paleo. The Zone is extremely doable as a vegetarian. It helps to actually concentrate more on macronutrients, as Durin's Bane said above. Almond flour muffins are kind of imbalanced toward being high-carbohydrate, for example, but eating eggs and almonds and veggies is a nice fat-carb-protein balance.

It's fine not to allow CrossFit to start dictating that your entire life change before you really even get started! There is no requirement that you do CF and Paleo at the same time, and it's not true that you're going to somehow be behind the curve and never get strong or excel at CF if you don't start eating Paleo or Zone immediately. Do what's going to be sustainable and enjoyable to you, or there's no point.
posted by so_gracefully at 5:26 PM on March 3, 2013 [6 favorites]

Yes, experiment. You'll probably-definitely need more protein, and whether you want to start eating more meat or not is up to you, but otherwise, don't feel obligated to do this-or-that just because your peers are doing that. I mean, duh. If it works for you great. But not just for peer pressure.

I'm the laziest cook/grocery shopper person EVER and I am managing right now to eat a gluten free, unprocessed, very healthy diet and feed a two year old on said diet; it's not impossible.

What I see missing from your diet right now is meat (obviously) and vegetables. A salad and baby carrots aren't really enough vegetables. So: what I do is, when I'm at the grocery store, I walk through the meat section, and I buy whatever is good and on sale. Very very little red meat (some lean ground beef for corn tacos, as I still eat corn) - but chicken and wild salmon are my staples.

Canned tuna is not as great, but cheap and easy.

Vegetables - buy anything you see that's on sale or fresh and experiment with it. My go-to lazy move is chop it up, dump a spoon of olive oil in a frying pan and throw all the veggies into the pan. Season as desired, eat. Sometimes I eat it with rice. Sometimes I add meat. It's a little more work than a sandwich or something, but it's pretty darn easy.

And keep raw almonds in a bag with you and eat them whenever. I do that, and it's really filling and keeps my energy levels more stable.
posted by celtalitha at 6:23 PM on March 3, 2013

There's a Japanese dish that I discovered that a) is butt-simple, b) uses stuff that you can keep in your pantry at all times, and c) is tasty. I will let you ascertain whether it fits a paleo diet.

All you need is:

Salmon (you can even use canned)
dried seaweed (I use a kind called "wakame")
a cup of cooked rice
About a cup and a half of hot green tea

For one person:

Take a small handful of the dried wakame and crush it up in your hand a bit. Let that soak in a half cup of the green tea while you're doing everything else.

If you're using fresh salmon, just poach it however you would normally; add a splash of soy sauce to the poaching liquid. When it's cooked, flake it up. If you're using canned salmon, just open the can and flake it up.

Put the rice in a bowl (you can warm it up in the microwave a little if it's cold). Put the salmon on top, then dump the half-cup of green tea and wakame all in one swoop over the rice. Stir everything up together. Add soy sauce to taste if you want.

And what you do with the other cup of green tea is....drink it with your meal.

(I found this in a cookbook a month ago, at about the time that I was wondering "now what should I do with those cans of canned salmon I got in my panic-buying before Hurricane Sandy?")
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:09 AM on March 4, 2013 [6 favorites]

I've been incorporating Crossfit into my routine for a few months now. I think the easiest way to make dietary changes is to do them one or two small things at a time. Instead of going "all Paleo" (which is a horrible misnomer as a lot what's advocated as "caveman" in that diet doesn't jive with what anthropology tells us pre-agricultural people ate), try to make small change, maybe one a week, and see how you feel and if they are easy enough to maintain. For e.g., add one serving of meat or fish in each day for a week (without changing anything else), or switch something carby for something higher protein. For me, the thing that made the biggest change was eliminating consumption of alcohol at home (I'd previously had one drink each night with supper). Other people might find other changes more important.
posted by Kurichina at 7:18 AM on March 4, 2013

Yeah, I was also stressed about paleo diet stuff before starting CrossFit as someone who also ate mostly vegetarian. The reality is that I'm four months in and no one has tried to convert me to paleo diet. Somebody gave me an almond flour cookie once, but that's about as far as it's gone.

The reality is that as I've been building strength I've Wanted a lot more protein. As other above have noted, see what works for you. I feel strong, healthy, and good when I eat pulses and beans - hummus is a healthy food, so I'm not cutting them out. However, I have started to add more fish and meat, too, because I found myself craving it. And I'm trying to cut back on wheat flour just to see how I feel away from it.

Seeing as you're already making egg salad, hard boiled eggs are another fast way to add protein as a snack or breakfast ingredient. I just cook up a bunch of time, grab, and go. Good luck, I've been loving this being stronger and fitter stuff, and hope you do, too.
posted by ldthomps at 8:11 AM on March 4, 2013

I'd rework your diet as follows:

Breakfast: Oatmeal, a hardboiled egg or 2 or scrambled egg whites or omelet, and lots of coffee with lots of almond milk
Lunch: Egg salad (1 egg, 1 egg white & 1 tbsp olive oil mayo) with lettuce & tomato in a Flatout, plus a cup of green veggies - broccoli, beans, asparagus
Dinner: Tofu/Fish and veggies - baked, stir-fried, etc etc.
Snacks: liberal hummus/tzatziki and baby carrots and almonds, or protein shake

That should be pretty easy to adjust from status quo. I have been eating something rather similar since January and am losing weight steadily while lifting pretty heavy.
posted by tatiana131 at 10:58 AM on March 4, 2013

For veg-friendly athletic diet advice and recipes you might want to check out the Precision Nutrition forums, esp. anything from Ryan Andrews (who has some IMO quite reasonable things to say about grains, btw).
posted by en forme de poire at 6:15 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Thank you all! Kurichina and EFDP's article especially nailed my discomfort about the Paleo thing, because for all the screaming about not eating rice or grains, I can't help but think quietly that, after all, those things are actually plants and perhaps some plucky caveman picked them and ate them. I'm not a nutritionist or an anthropologist, but the whole "caveman" = "meat and ugh and strong" makes me uncomfortable because it seems to buy into the noble savage mythos, but that's another post.

I started CF two days ago, still achy, ready to implement some of this stuff even if it means eggs in my oatmeal.
posted by mibo at 6:27 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

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