Healthy Eating: Paleo Diet Challenge
It was late January when I took my first CrossFit class. It was being offered to my local Mom’s Group for 3 weeks for free – so why not? I was finding it harder and harder to run, despite my previous attempts in becoming a runner. I needed to do something and was a little curious about what CrossFit was all about. I LOVED it! I knew I wanted to incorporate it into my goal for the Well Aware Challenge.
In May, my CrossFit gym held a Paleo Diet Challenge. Basically, it’s a competition with a small wager – $40.00 to participate, with all sorts of rules and Paleo diet food restrictions to follow. Participants would be broken up into four teams under the guidance of our four CrossFit coaches. At the end of the competition, the winning team would donate the funds to a charity of choice. Being that CrossFit Resilience is based in Hopkinton, MA (the start of the Boston Marathon), I’m sure it won’t surprise you that regardless of which team won, all four teams choose to donate the $2000.00 “winnings” to The One Fund.
On the kick-off day, the coaches made it very clear: Don’t think of Paleo as a diet, but rather a way of life. With that in mind, my weight, body fat and a benchmark workout recorded, I set off! On Day 1 I failed on purpose. I was off to a friend’s for lunch and then we had dinner plans. I knew I’d be ill-prepared to officially start eating Paleo (including cutting off alcohol). Day 2, I planned to cheat too. We had a First Communion that day. I decided at that party, however, that I’d try as long as I could. So I stared at the cheese, crackers, chips, dips and turned up my nose. I also said “no” numerous times to margaritas. I ate shrimp (with no cocktail sauce), fruit, veggies and spent some time on my iPhone searching for foods I could eat. For dinner I loaded up on the grilled veggies and the chicken but passed on the bread, potatoes and salad (since jar dressing is off limits.) On day 2, this didn’t seem like it was going to be too hard. Boy was I wrong!
Eating Paleo was a bit of a full-time job. Paleo is similar to Atkins, yet there are some key differences. The biggest challenge was the type of meats that were recommended: a combination of grass-fed, organic, pastured, wild-caught or nitrate free depending on the meat or fish. I must have been at Whole Foods twice a week this month with grocery bills that reflected my expensive eating habits. At night, I searched for recipes for things that I could eat and that my children might be happy with too. Here’s some things that ultimately helped me through the 28-day challenge.
Family-Friendly Paleo Diet Foods
Salads. I had a huge salad for lunch almost every day. I made a homemade dressing with olive oil, vinegar, and sliced garlic. Surprisingly, I’m still not sick of these.
Baked sweet potatoes. I used these to have in lieu of the potatoes or pasta my family was eating. I primarily ate them sliced up, tossed with olive oil/salt and baked. Once I discovered these, I never felt like I was missing out (too much).
Eggs. Sometimes I ate as many as 3-4 Omega-3 eggs a day! I actually ate eggs for breakfast a few days a week and then had them on salads for lunch.
Avocados. I loved avocados before I was eating Paleo but now I could eat them, guilt-free. And I did, almost 5 times a week!
Artichokes. I ate these for dinner a lot and turned my son onto them too.
Grass Fed Tenderloin. Not the cheapest item at Whole Foods, but the easiest to prepare and the most delicious. I would justify the cost of the grass-fed tenderloin by the savings on alcohol!
Homemade Lara Bars. Black coffee was really hard to get used to but once I was given this recipe by a co-worker, the black coffee was a bit sweeter.
Paleo Approved Green & Black’s Organic Dark Chocolate. As long as the chocolate was pure and 70%, it was Paleo friendly. I had these on hand for those late night cravings. Yum!
Paleo Diet Recipes for Families
What were some of the recipes I tried that I might make again? Here are some great Paleo diet recipes that went over well in my house.
Paleo Cauliflower Crust Pizza – this was actually very good. Next time I wouldn’t use coconut oil. Sorry, I can taste coconut as slight as it may be in anything (don’t tell my husband who loves and works for Vita Coco). Other than the couple chunks of coconut, this was delicious! Next time I will use olive oil.
Paleo Chicken Fingers – these were actually pretty good. Next time around, I wouldn’t make my family the regular breaded kind. After I got over craving what was on their plate, these tasted pretty good.
Paleo Tacos – WOW! Who would have thought taco seasoning could be so good. I’ve now made a vat of the seasoning in this recipe and use it with chicken and beef. Tip: Throw some raw chicken in the crockpot, add some seasoning and salsa and you have another Paleo meal. Tacos in lettuce wraps are amazing. With tomatoes, avocado and the meat I didn’t even miss the cheese, sour cream shells.
Paleo Stir-Fried Beef with Vegetables – This was good as well. A little salt would have made it great but I’m always scared to add too much salt during cooking. Next time I will.
Herb-Crusted Pork Loin – Truth be told, we WILL be having this again. I actually made two loins with all the seasonings and put one in the freezer. My husband loved this more than I did. I’m not a huge rosemary fan but it did the trick during the Paleo challenge.
Paleo Chili – This is one meal I wish I made when my husband wasn’t traveling. It was very good — I had it for dinner 3 nights in a row!
My Paleo Challenge: The Results
How did I do? I ate “Paleo Perfect” 23 of the 28 days (pretty good considering we had 2 birthday parties, 2 First Communions, 1 Baptism, 1 Wedding and Mother’s Day all in May). I lost a little over 7 lbs in the month and I shaved 51 seconds off my benchmark workout. Plus, I now think about everything I eat. While I didn’t get this euphoric feeling many Paleo followers talk about, I did change my attitude about food. I find I’m thinking twice about the amount of pasta and sugar I’m eating and serving. One thing I didn’t like about the challenge was I found I was often eating different meals than my family and as a result at different times. This was a hard adjustment for me since I’m so accustomed to eating as a family. Now that I have a better understanding of what it means to eat Paleo and less pressure, I hope to get better organized so this won’t be the case the next time I participate in a Paleo Challenge. I can’t wait!