Paleo at Six Months: 10 Lessons Learned

14 May


image courtesy of Hanna-Barbera/Warner Bros.

Note: this was written in May 2011. Check out my one year recap post here, as well as my three-year recap post here.

So right now I’m hovering around the 6-month mark on my modified Paleo diet (which = “Paleo + some dairy + white rice”), and I thought that I should share a few musings and pointers.

Since starting the diet, I’ve lost a few things (besides fifteen unwanted pounds). Namely, I’ve lost post-meal tiredness, midday tiredness, and stomach issues (read: gas). For better or worse, I’ve also lost my taste for beer and most wines, mostly because they make me tired and give me headaches. I’ve gained a ton of energy, a much more pleasant and positive mood, and lately I’ve been able to exercise for the first time in over six years.

Here are some pointers that I wish I had known six months ago.

1. You will not miss the “finer” things about non-Paleo foods after a while. Simply put, the cravings go away after about a month, provided that first month is fairly strict. Now, candy doesn’t even phase me (although I will smell it from time to time – I know, it’s weird). Many dishes can be made without wheat, and if done right, you won’t notice (or care about) any difference. For instance, pizza is easily replicated with tapioca-starch-and-cheese crusts.

2. If you can tolerate rice, there’s nothing you’ll be missing out on (except crusty french bread, which I still haven’t found). Rice (or even sweet potato starch) noodles are awesome. You can even find Italian pasta made with rice in most grocery stores. Rice-based breads are hit and miss, but Udi’s white bread and bagels are absolutely perfect, relatively cheap ($4/loaf), and their worst ingredient is canola oil. In fact, I have been drying and blending Udi’s white bread to make some killer breadcrumbs, too. Kinnikinnick hamburger buns (pictured above) aren’t bad either, and Whole Foods makes a good gluten-free hamburger bun as well (you can find them in the frozen food section). Bear in mind that these rice-based breads have an element of processing to them, and probably shouldn’t be everyday items – but they’re great ways to enjoy a meal from time to time without going totally overboard.

3. Hard cider has been a seamless beer replacement for me. I prefer imported Strongbow (in a can – although I have a sneaking suspicion they use a sweetener in their recipe) which is hard to find in our neck of the woods, so I usually settle on Woodchuck green apple cider. I’ve also stumbled upon a couple organic ciders in the DC area that are great.

4. If you look hard enough, you can find Paleo-friendly condiments, or something that’s darn close. We’ve found many ingredients that others have told me are impossible to find: liquid smoke, worcestershire, ketchup, mayo, barbeque, ranch, hoisin, and oyster sauce to name a few. Although we prefer to make our own stocks, broths, and rendered fats, I’m not ready to tackle condiments just yet, and I’m thankful that we’ve found all of those things after a little searching.

5. Although I disagree with the whole idea behind “cheat meals” or “cheat days” – wherein you eat whatever you want – I can see the virtue in an occasional indulgence. But I don’t feel that indulgence has to be completely off the Paleo spectrum. For instance, I eat a little dark chocolate once or twice a week after dinner, and it’s satisfying. Indulgences don’t have to be all-out binges; when you focus on the small sidesteps, you can be indulged without having any overbearing guilt (or feeling lousy afterwards).

6. Coconut water. This stuff is basically nature’s sports drink, full of magnesium and potassium. I tend to drink two or three a week, and they’re the ultimate pick-me-up on those long afternoons. I like the Naked brand coconut water. Shopper’s hint – if you buy 12 of them at Whole Foods they’ll give you a case discount.

7. Kerrygold, Kerrygold, Kerrygold. All of their products are grass fed and imported from Ireland. The butter is delicious, and every cheese I’ve tried has been tasty as well. The best thing about the brand is that they actually don’t label their products as being “grass fed” so the prices are reasonable. Plus, you can find them at Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s.

8. Once in a while my wife and I will have ice cream, and we love Haagen Dazs’ “Five” line. The ice creams contain only five ingredients: milk (lactose reduced), cream, sugar, egg yolks, and whatever flavor the ice cream is (strawberries, for instance). They also happen to be the best tasting ice creams I’ve ever had. Word to the wise, though – many of their “natural” Haagen Dazs ice creams have those same ingredients, but for a better price.

9. Search around for local farms that sell pastured, grass-fed meats. Many places will sell in convenient sizes (30-40 lb. packs) or a la carte, at prices much lower than what you’ll find at supermarkets. The packs are great because they’ll inspire you to cook new meals using the cuts of meat that you may not usually buy on their own. If you have the room, look into getting an extra freezer – they’re pretty cheap and definitely worth it. Grass-fed meat is usually available seasonally, so stock up when you can get a chance. EatWild is a good starting place to find good meats in your area. I advise against buying meat online and having it shipped because the prices are usually high, you’re not supporting local farms, and it seems like wasting fuel.

10. I love seafood but I’m not a big fan of fish; luckily, there are ways of getting more fish in your diet without eating a ton of it. Every morning I take two teaspoons of Barlean’s omega swirl which doesn’t taste like fish at all. Twice a week I eat a can of these boneless, skinless sardines in olive oil, which are actually pretty dang good. Also, I try to eat smoked salmon with my breakfast every few days.

12 Responses to “Paleo at Six Months: 10 Lessons Learned”

  1. Seth DuVernay July 31, 2011 at 1:12 am #

    As someone who is coming off of Tim Ferriss’s ‘slow carb diet’ and about to start paleo, I really appreciate a post like this. I agree about indulgences or cheat days: for a while I was going all out (as Tim recommends) once a week, but I began to feel worse and worse each week I did that, and I’ve recently realized these epic cheat days are stalling my weight loss. The paleo diet seems like a logical progression from the slow carb way of eating, and this post helps me look into the future and have an idea of what to expect. Thanks!

    • Manny Tulumaris September 3, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

      Nice to hear someone else make the transition from “Slow-carb” to Paleo! Those cheat days made me feel horrible and actually helped me recognize my relatively severe gluten intolerance. Been Paleo/primal since Jan 1 and never going back!

  2. Tyler Wainright November 11, 2011 at 12:45 pm #

    I know this post is a few months old but thanks for the tips. I’ve been paleo for a couple of months now and it’s always good to learn from others.

    • Russ Crandall November 15, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

      Hi Tyler, glad you liked the tips. I’m coming up on my 1-year “anniversary” soon, so I’ll have to post a couple other new findings! :)

  3. Amanda January 17, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

    What mayo have you found that is paleo-friendly? Condiments have always been a struggle for me, too (been paleo for 16 months). I think if you were to put together a list of some of your more commonly used condiments, a lot of folks would find that quite helpful! Love your site, by the way :)

    • Russ Crandall January 17, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

      Hi Amanda, glad you like the site! I do think that a handy paleo-friendly condiment guide is in order; I’ll start looking around at what I can find!

      At the time of writing this site we were using Hellman’s olive oil mayo, because it was pretty clean except for some corn starch and sugar (although they were low on the list). But it started to bother me (mentally, not physically) so we’re now making our own since it’s so dead simple. There are plenty of YouTube videos out there about how to do it in like 30 seconds :)

      We’ve also started making our own bbq sauce, and I plan on slowly replacing each of our condiments with homemade recipes, and bringing my readers along for the ride. It might take me a while to get the tastes right!

    • Sarah June 8, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

      I use Spectrum natural: Organ Mayonnaise with Olive Oil. I buy mine from earth fare but I’m sure you can find it at any Whole Foods or Organic Grocery. The only thing it has in it that is non-paleo is Soy/Canola Oil. But everything else in it is totally paleo friendly. I find it easier to use this once in awhile, since making my own always turned out yucky:(

      • Andria June 24, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

        No commercial made mayo is paleo friendly due to soy/canola oil! Stay far far away

  4. alisha January 6, 2014 at 4:29 pm #

    Russ, this is solo helpful and encouraging. Although we’re not ready for all the yummy “extra’s” Paleo can offer us yet, we’re looking forward to these “treats” and conveniences after our Whole30. Loving your blog! This is totally a doable thing! Thanks for all you share.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    [...] to the Domestic Man who has posted about the top ten things learnt after 6 months on the Paleo diet says that the [...]

  2. The Paleo Diet: One Year Later « The Domestic Man - January 12, 2012

    [...] to a modified Paleo diet (which = Paleo + white rice and some dairy). At the six-month mark I made this post with some lessons I’d learned; while many of these tips still ring true (although we [...]

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