Friday, September 28, 2012

Fitness Friday: The Paleo Plate

If you know me in real life, or if you have been reading this blog for any amout of time, you have seen or heard the word Paleo pop up here and there. I have written this post in my head time and time again but have never actually taken the time to turn my thoughts into words, and those words into a blog post. Fitness Friday (hosted by my dear friend Jen from A Daily Dose of Davis) seems like as good of a time as any to dive right in and get to business.

Let me first start out by saying that I am not a professional. While I do not have a background in nutrition, health or fitness, I am very passionate about all three. I will also add that I strongly dislike the word "diet". If you are dieting, it's more than likely that you are making drastic changes to the way that you eat, in hopes of losing a large amount of weight in a short period of time. Compare this to making healthy lifestyle changes, slowly incorporating new and smarter ways of eating and fueling your body. These are the changes that made that tend to stick. So, instead of diet, I prefer to call it a lifestyle. Makes a lot of sense, right?

A little over two years ago, shortly after Mark and I got married, we started going to a CrossFit gym in Bloomington, Illinois, where we were living. This is where we were introduced to Paleo. I will admit, at first I was skeptical, and did a whole lot of judging. When lost those 45 pounds in college, I really cut back on starchy carbs and sugar so I didn't need to be convinced of that, but this whole fueling your body like a caveman would was something foreign and frankly scary to me. I heard a lot of the Crossfitters complaining about how boring eating Paleo was and how nothing they made tasted good. Boiled chicken and steamed broccoli every day? This is when I frowned. I am Italian. And as for me and my family? We are food people. Food is meant to be enjoyed, savored and enjoyed around a giant table with hours of conversation. However, being open minded and already in favor of a lot of the Paleo minded thinking, I decided it didn't sound so bad. 

The basic idea behind The Paleo Diet is to stick to eating anything that our Paleolithic ancestors would have had access to many moons ago. If they could kill it with a bow and arrow, fish it out of the sea, or pick it off of a bush, shrub, or tree, they ate it! Meat, fish, plants and nuts. This is the backbone of the Paleo Diet. I will not get into all of the scientific research and background because frankly, I'm not qualified. At the end of this post, I will add a list of recommended reading from my well- read other half, Mark, who has read several books on Paleo. There are also a few blogs that are my go-to for all things Paleo that I will add to the list as well. 

At first glance, the Paleo Diet may look like a complicated list of food rules, but the important thing to remember is you can only do what works best for you and for your family. Many of the Paleo blogs and books talk about an 80-85% rule. This means keeping 85% of your daily intake Paleo while leaving about 15% for a little wiggle room- this is what we try to stick to. For example, strict Paleo Dieters do not eat dairy or legumes. 

My thoughts on dairy...
I happen to love Greek yogurt for breakfast a few mornings a week and we also enjoy goat cheese and fresh mozzarella for salads. And Laughing Cow cheese wedges! I try to stick to one serving of dairy a day. A quick note about dairy- be careful of anything that is labeled as fat-free. Most of the time "fat-free" equals added sugar. Read your labels! I rarely, if ever, buy fat free dairy. While my family and I were in Italy in 2007, there were no fat-free foods in sight. That's good enough incentive for me!

and Legumes... 
are another item that are seen as kind of a no-no in Paleo eating. This is largely due to the fact that our bodies don't digest beans and peanuts easily. I don't think that hummus as a snack or black beans on fish taco lettuce wraps are the worst thing you can cheat with. I prefer almond butter to peanut butter but there is nothing like peanut butter on a banana!

The thing to remember is that this is not for everyone. I will always encourage everyone to eat whole foods and cut out processed junk, fake foods and artificial sweeteners from their life, but as far as going totally Paleo, it's not for everyone- even we make some exceptions around here! (ahem, dark chocolate, red wine, pumpkin beer) Remember the 85% rule. 

Instead of getting scientific and wordy, I thought it would be fun (and helpful) to highlight my Paleo Plate- what a day eating Paleo might look like. Mark can attest to everyone reading that we eat some very delicious meals. Sticking to healthy foods doesn't have to be boring. I'm fortunate in that I grew up in a house where good, healthy food was enjoyed around the dinner table every night, so I was exposed to fresh cooking from a young age. To some, it may seem impossible to cut our breads, pastas and grains, but I am here to tell you that it's not hard to eat like this! 

Since adopting a lot of the Paleo ways a few years ago, I can tell a huge difference in my energy level and I just feel better about what I'm putting into my body. The biggest difference I noticed was how clear my skin became! I have battled with my skin since I was a young teenager and for the first time in my life, I felt like my skin was truly healthy from the inside out, and it had nothing to do with what I was washing my face with at night! In fact, I stopped using medicated face washes and went back to a mild foaming cleanser. I also never feel like I am depriving myself of delicious food. We enjoy homemade pizza nights and build in "cheat meals" that we appreciate so much more now. Moderation, moderation, moderation!

All in all, incorporating Paleo eating into our everyday lives has been a rewarding challenge. I love coming up with new and healthy recipes so that we can still enjoy the same flavors but using cleaned up, healthier versions of what our tastebuds love! Soon, I'm hoping to archive all of my Paleo friendly recipes in one place

If you have any questions, please send them my way. I'm happy to share what I know and if I don't know, hopefully I can point you in the right direction of the appropriate resource. If you are thinking about incorporating Paleo eating into your life, here are some resources to get you started with a good knowledge base.

Mark's Paleo Must Reads:

Paleo Blogs:

Enjoy the weekend, everyone!


  1. NIna...this is a fabulous post!! I think it's a great introduction to Paleo. I honestly had no idea what any of it meant or how the diet worked, but now that you lay it out like seems doable!! I would really love to start trying this. I just need to get Eric on board too. Hahaha!

    Thanks for linking up with me today!!! Love ya!!!

  2. I had no idea you "do" Paleo!! Did we talk about this the night we met? I feel like I've forgotten if we did. I think you summed every thing up SO well!! I'm trying to keep 80-90% Paleo lately just as you said and I'm finding it much easier than being 100% Paleo all the time! We'll have to swap recipes :)

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