A little less grainy
So we’ve been trying this new thing in our house for about 5 weeks now, and since it’s Monday and who doesn’t like to read about bizarre diet attempts on a Monday, I’ll regale you fine people with the preliminary results.
Let me back up for a bit to April. I’d been feeling pretty rough despite not being actively pregnant or nursing very often, maybe only 3-5 times most days. (He has since weaned completely. Tiny, conflicted violins.)
But my body felt like I was running back-to-back marathons and I could.not.get. enough sleep to satisfy the deep, unrelenting exhaustion that claimed me most afternoons by 3 pm. I’d cut way back on alcohol, had stopped drinking coffee for an entire week (I know!), then reintroduced to my current level of a single shot of espresso with breakfast (do I need to rebrand, u think?), and still felt like k-crap.
I’d also been seeing a naturopath for the last couple months and she’d recommended some dietary changes that sounded truly terrible. But! She also hinted that she thought I might be a good candidate for trying to heal what she suspected was a “leaky gut” by cutting out grains and dairy. I was confused because I thought leaky gut was something… grosser. But hearing her explain that some of the symptoms can include depression and exhaustion and exacerbated hypothyroid symptoms had me all ears.
Since I’m not crazy enough to think that I could do another Whole 30 at this juncture in time, I forced her to tell me which was worse, in her estimation. In her own words: “if you’re standing at a party looking at a platter of cheese and crackers, pick the cheese.”
So dairy isn’t great, but in her opinion, grains are far worse for leaky guts and their lesser-known sidekicks, leaky brains.
(The reasoning? Serotonin levels are controlled by both the gut and the brain, and what irritates one will also impact the other.)
I’m not going to pretend I’ve done tons of research or have a nutrition degree, but in my own anecdotal experience, I’ve seen an incredible difference in my energy levels, quality of sleep and stability of mood over the past month.
Placebo? I dunno. But I will take it. 3x’s a day, chased with a tall glass of kombucha.
The first week without grains was tough. It felt like the beginning of a Whole 30, but with the consolation (and a large consolation, I’ll concur) of cheese and honey. After about a week though, we settled into a new rhythm of eating as a family, and it’s just kind of become normal.
(As an aside: grains are, for our intents and purposes here: wheat, corn, rice, oats, and those lesser-knowns like spelt, amaranth, rye, etc. And the kids still eat some oatmeal. But we’re working on it.)
And yes, we did it as a family. I knew it was going to be tougher with the kids, at least in terms of convenience and time spent in food prep, but I also wanted to not be preparing multiple meals for different people. So we tossed out the oatmeal, (which we’ve since reintroduced), packed away the mac n cheese to the food pantry, and finished up our last loaves of Ezekiel bread.
And it’s been totally fine.
I’ve made these insanely good chocolate chip cookies twice, and a few mornings each week we make paleo pancakes (eggs+bananas+vanilla+baking soda in the blender) which they happily gobble with butter and syrup and are none the wiser, and things have been really great in the stability of toddler moods department. We’re seeing happier, calmer kids and they are eating a TON of vegetables.
So are they happier and calmer because mommy feels better? Because they’re off grains? Because they’re eating 400x’s the amount of vegetables they were before? Because in cutting out grains we’ve ditched almost all the processed food we were eating before?
Happily, since this is neither an official nor a scientific study, it really doesn’t matter.
And because it is working so well for our little family, I figured I’d throw it up on the blog in case someone else could benefit from giving it a go.
The best result for the kidlet set has been for our oldest, who has had chronic tummy troubles since birth. We’ve done gluten free in the past, and we figured out he was lactose intolerant about a year ago, but this combo of low grains (he’s still eating oatmeal some days) and low dairy (he can tolerate aged cheese) has him feeling better than I can ever recall. And he is a lot happier and a lot easier to get along with.
Which is sad because, the poor guy, his tummy just hurt all the time. And going potty was never easy.
Every night the litany of complaint would start up again, and no matter how many times we’d been reassured by doctors that having a kid on a regular regimen of Miralax was normal, we still couldn’t shake the feeling that no, actually, it wasn’t.
So what does a normal day’s food look like? I’ll give you some multiple choice options for each meal, because the sheer lack of options was what really felt overwhelming to me in the beginning. But there are plenty of options, truly! It just takes a little mind shift.
Breakfast: paleo pancakes, scrambled eggs, apple with peanut butter, bacon or sausage, veggie omelette, gf oatmeal (kids only)
Lunch: turkey and lettuce wraps with mustard and mayo, salad with roast turkey, blue cheese, almonds, homemade vinaigrette, roasted sweet potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, grilled chicken with portobellos and onions, roasted asparagus, last night’s leftovers
Dinner: roasted veggies in avocado or olive oil, roasted salmon, curried shrimp and veggies in coconut milk, baked potatoes topped with homemake bolognese sauce, turkey and sweet potato crock pot chili, shredded Hawaiian crockpot chicken over roasted veggies, spaghetti squash with olive oil and parmesan, grilled burgers in lettuce wraps with roasted sweet potato rounds, oven chicken fajitas in lettuce wraps or on a bed of lettuce with tons of guac
Snacks: string cheese, almonds, dried fruit, cut up veggies with homemade guac, salsa and baby carrots, apples with peanut butter, potato chips, plantain chips, (<– the kids hate these, I tolerate them. Barely.) peanuts in shells (messy but beloved by kids), frozen berries, natural beef jerky, hummus, watermelon cubes
So there’s still a lot of options. It’s just a matter of thinking outside the bread box. And truly, the mental shift away from quesadillas and pb+j’s is daunting, I’ll admit it. But one unexpected bonus of this chosen way of eating is that our friends with more severe dietary restrictions and actual food allergies are now easier to entertain in our home, both because my repertoire in the kitchen is expanding, and also because little palates are developing tastes for a broader variety of foods.
So we can bring a bunch of veggies and guac to the park and everyone can actually eat them. (For the most part. I do have a little buddy with an avocado allergy, which is so sad. My heart is Mexican. And yeah, I do really, really miss tortilla chips.)
Now here’s the confessional portion of this obnoxiously-long program: this weekend I ate a cupcake at a party, and I drank a beer. Both were delicious.
And I felt like crap.
And I still feel like crap, truth be told. And yes, alcohol always tends to make me feel run down the next day, and sure, not a lot of sleep was had this past weekend (who knew priestly ordinations involved more partying than weddings?), but the effects of that little cupcake and that very delicious pint of Left Hand Milk Stout were undeniable. And as delicious as both were, neither were worth feeling this rough.
So I’m plunging back into paleo-ish meal planning with fresh resolve this week, grateful for the huge improvements we’ve seen in our family’s health, and happy that there are no grains in potato chips. Or in dark chocolate (check your labels.)
Oh, and fine, yeah, I’ve lost 6 lbs too. That part isn’t terrible, either 😉
I loved/hated this because I feel like God may be stalking me with diet changes for a while now. Granted, I am six months pregnant, but I’m exhausted most of the time, feel weak and weird most of the time, and have frequent tummy trouble. I don’t want to believe it, but I may need to do something like this and see if it helps. Thanks for sharing;) You feel like my dream next door neighbor/friend who makes me feel like if even you can do it, I can at least try it!;)
pregnancy is so hard to not eat pizza. That’s just it. But! I had one pretty paleo pregnancy (at least for 2/3s of it) and I felt so good for the middle of it, until month 8 hit and I gave up and went back to pizza. But high protein/veggie breakfasts are a huge help for the energy and to set the tone for a good food day.
Pizza is my pregnancy food. I throw up so much, I kind of give up on eating well way too soon.
I just had to say HEE to your ordination comment – when my husband was ordained I kept joking: “It’s like a wedding, with all the invites and parties and whatnot, but you don’t get to take a vacation when you’re done!!”
It definitely gets easier as time goes on! My husband & I have been eating this way for nearly 3 years now, and even though we cheat once in a while, we have seen so many benefits to cutting out gluten & dairy!
that is so good to hear! Can I ask what you guys do for family events/holidays? Just resign yourselves to being the weirdos?
I’ve been on a version of the Paleo diet for 16 months now and I’ve lost 40 pounds, have tons more energy and everything just changed in my life. I’ve been working out too, but the diet was major in changing things. I definitely recommend it.
congratulations, that is incredible! And it’s true, no matter how many times I’ve tried to convince myself otherwise, you really can’t outrun your fork…
Amen, Sista. We’ve been gluten free for about 2 years; HUGE difference in how I feel, and in my son’s behavior. We haven’t been completely grain free, but I definitely notice that I can’t have much corn (but, yes, tortilla chips are near and dear to my heart, as is popcorn), and I’m mostly dairy free (except for my half-and half for coffee), and occasional cheese. One tip, not so that you can “cheat,” but if you accidentally get “glutened” is activated charcoal pills. I’ve noticed if we eat out and I ordered GF but suspect it was not really GF, I take a couple of them after the meal and it REALLY mitigates the after effects. In fact, I carry a couple of them with me in my purse for just in case. Anyway, thanks for sharing. And, can I ask which naturopath you see? I am in Colorado Springs and I KNOW I have some more food issues to work out but I’m never sure how to go about finding a trust-worthy naturopath. Thanks!
We live in the Springs and have been to Halsa downtown so far for my son. Maybe check them out?
Dr. Juetersonke in the Springs is great! I see Dr. Kim Schmidt up in Ft. Collins, which might as well by Wyoming…
Thanks for the tip!
I’ve been doing a no grain / no sugar diet (which translates to low grain / low sugar, willpower dependent) the past few weeks in an effort to not have a miserable pregnancy and enormous baby this time (my smallest by over a pound was 8 11)…and as much as I’d thought I could eat anything, I’m starting to see a startling connection to my mood and energy and sleep patterns, and I suspect I’ll continue on eating this way well after the newest little (hopefully little!) one arrives in the scene this fall.
ugh I know, the willpower. Have you heard the distinction (I think Gretchen Rubin coined?) between “moderators vs. abstainers?” I’m for sure the latter. Give me total abstinence over portion control, any day, haha.
I need to teach you how to make cassava flour tortillas and tortilla chips! Oh and yucca spring rolls! I’ve been eating AIP for 5 months now and whenever I cheat I pay HARD. My thyroid throbs and I get hives. Crazy that this stuff affects us despite having eaten it my whole life. Cheering you on and here in case you need recipes!
Oh man, I’m all ears!! (I’m Mexican on the inside, so the tortilla chips and tacos are muuuuch more painful than cake, cookies, bread, etc.)
In our family, we had terrible tummy problems, mood swings, depression. It would hit various members of the family at various times, and I thought it was ‘just stress’. Then my middle son got really ill. We were at our wits end. After all, we ate well – no rubbish, all home cooked, lots of fruit and veg……
I was visiting my older daughter, and she was moving her baby onto solids. I reminisced about that stage when she was the baby, and we talked about her other siblings too. And then I had a eureka moment – Mike (the very ill son) had, as a baby, an extreme reaction to anything with soya in it (projectile vomit – 4 yards to hit the wall type of thing!!)
So we took soya out of our diet – but it was everywhere! It took some doing, but within a week he was much better, and now, 3 years later, he is fine unless he meets soya.
Why am I telling you all this? Initially, we had thought he was gluten intolerant since bread really upset him. When we twigged it might be soya, we read the labels. Shop bought bread is high in soya! Who would have guessed? It is also the main component of any generic vegetable oil, present in stock cubes, margarine, the ‘soft’ butters and of course any shop bought cakes, pastries and biscuits. Soy sauce was out, as were many other condiments. The end result is one healthy son – and the rest of the tribe no longer have the problems they had either. As a family, we are soya intolerant.
So if you feel that you may be gluten intolerant – it may actually be the soya that you are allergic to, not the grains. It was never meant to be human food, except in small quantities and after fermentation. It is actually a green manure!
Grains may be problematic for all sorts of reasons, including GMO, but that is easier to sort as long as the labeling is good.
Good luck with the new diet. I know how hard that can be.
(https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Maureen-McElroy) will tell you how I know…….
Such a great point! Soy is so ubiquitous, even in stuff where it isn’t listed, if it’s a blended vegetable oil, yep, there it is… Have you read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver?
Good luck! We’ve been grain free, dairy free, and low histamine, low starch, low sugar (even fruit) for a few months now. It’s truly a cross. Especially having to skip social functions because it’s too hard to explain to a 2 and 3 year old why they have to watch everyone eat the party food while they eat the same food they eat at home EVERY DAY. The hope is that after healing the guy the restrictions will lighten a lot. But in the meantime it’s rough. Good to know other people are going through similar experiences. And glad you’re seeing progress! Everyone struggling with this specific cross should start praying for each other!
Gonna give it a go with Rowen. He’s been in a daily probiotic gummy to help make #2-ing easier. Perhaps this would help? PB&J is one of his faves…what veggies do you have the most luck with for your littles? He doesn’t eat enough veggies, have to sub in Shakeokogy.
I totally think it does. And I’ll spread Pb+honey on thin apple slices or banana slices and tell them it’s sandwiches still. Someday they’ll catch on to me…
As for veggies they’ll eat almost anything roasted with olive or avocado oil and salt and pepper. We call cauliflower “popcorn” and it does kind of taste like it if you roast it right. Roast sweet potatoes, broccoli, asparagus and portobellos sautéed in butter or avocado oil are also big hits. They still don’t love salad, but they’ll eat raw veggies with hummus or ranch before dinner when they’re “starving”
Dairy caused my first son that same problem when he was starting whole milk per pediatrician suggestion at 1 yr. When clearly he wasn’t well (constipated and a sudden, huge, swollen tummy), I asked her why the whole milk regimen for our littles, despite an opposite warning to adults. She said they needed lots of fat for the brain. So I took him off dairy as we ate plenty of plant based fats daily- avocados, almonds, olive or coconut oil, etc. Instantly no more constipation or swollen belly. He’s now a brilliant 4 yr old who reads, writes, and counts to 260-something on car rides. So maybe try getting him off dairy. There are lots of healthy fats to choose from!
Ally | The Speckled Goat
I finally (finally) ‘fessed up to my limits last week, and did what I should have done when I was diagnosed with PCOS over two years ago.
I cut sugar.
Not completely (because coffee creamer is my life)- but I’m only drinking one cup (instead of 3 or 4). Also, one very small scoop of ice cream last week. But no bread, no cookies, no pizza, no chips, no fries, no buns, no chocolate. Sigh.
The goal is to have my protein intake match or exceed my sugar intake, with regular high protein snacks throughout the day to help regulate blood sugar.
Hard. But so necessary.
Keep on keeping on, girlfriend. I sympathize. We can do this!!
It’s insane to realize how much sugar you’re actually consuming, right? I was shocked, because I’m not a sweet tooth person at all. But it’s in ev.er.y.thing. Solidarity, sister!
Hit me with your fav high protein snacks.
We’re in the midst of another stupid Whole30 (can you tell I have a great attitude)? My husband and I are feeling really good, despite having an newborn in the house. The kids are doing a far less strict version but they’re behaving better and not having digestion issues. But I keep coming back to the thought….do I have to eat this way forever in order to feel good? Because I have to admit it’s a depressing thought. Wish I wasn’t such a wimp about — I know I’m lucky to have access to abundant, healthy food. But I still want pizza and chocolate, boohoo.
ugh, the Whole 30 sucks. It just does. But it’s also so good to feel so good. I’m hopeful because it seems like dairy isn’t a huge problem for me so long as I’m not drinking milk straight: butter and cheese seem fine in small amounts. Because life without butter is sad.
I have found after whole 30 that I can tolerate oatmeal it doesn’t make me feel bad in the same way other grains do and I feel a little more satisfied being able to include that. Jenny is right though, it feels so good to feel good.
Jenny, thanks for sharing about this adventure! I think it’s really cool that your whole family is taking part-the hesitance I’ve had towards these kinds of diets in the past is that it can be isolating, with one person eating completely different meals from everyone else in the family. So it’s really neat, I think, that you all are in it together!!! It is really cool, too, how thinking outside the box with menus can open up so many fantastic options. I made brownies the other day that called for black beans instead of flour, and oh my goodness, they are now some of my top favorite brownies out there 🙂
I hope that the grain-free thing gets easier-life without tortillas would be so hard! I commend you for doing that!
Solidarity!!! I cut sugar years ago and had a drastic drop in migraines. (Like 3/week to 3/year). Then argued with my naturopath for a while about gluten free (I thought it was annoying and trendy) before agreeing to try it. Well, I was able to cut the dose of my thyroid meds in half, got rid of my brain fog and actually started feeling like a functioning human again. And then I got pregnant, which I had been told would probably never happen! So now when people ask if it’s hard, I say”not nearly as hard as feeling like crap!” Our bodies react to what we put in them. This shouldn’t be so surprising! If we put in crap, we will feel like crap. Our food supply in general has been altered beyond recognition. It’s becoming harder to eat “clean” and nourishing food. But the better decisions I make, the better I feel. Now I feel like I’m really on the right path – and feel so good, I’ll never go back!
You mentioned homemade guac a few times, BUT have you seen/purchased the mini-cups of wholly guacamole at costco? On my last Whole30 in September they were a saving grace and we haven’t been without them since. Worth every cent (though I’d never buy them from anywhere else because they’re so expensive).
And the timing of this post is simply providential: I’ve been eating and using WAY more grains in the last few months than I used to and have gotten rather, um, puffy, and am SO TIRED ALL THE TIME. I’ve been thinking I needed to hop back on the Paleo bandwagon for my sanity and waistline. (And if I have to replace my wardrobe, then we’re not really saving any money by eating a lot of rice and oatmeal…)
We try to be paleo-ish because our daughter with SOJIA is super sensitive to sugar. It’s so tricky! But there has been a lot of progress in being able to find decent recipes online to make eating lots of veggies manageable. I’m starting to compile some of our favorite recipes. Once there are a few winners, it makes survival possible.
Is it bad that as I read this I am nodding along in agreement with everything you are saying. And all the comments, but in the back of my mind I’m thinking: I know this is what we need to be doing but I am so dang tired with three kids under 4 that adding one more lifestyle change to my plate (pun intended) makes me feel like running for the hills?? Maybe I can get it together someday…
I’m in the midst of no gluten and no dairy for the babe (seriously, baby, I love you, but seriously?), and I try to avoid soy for ye olde thyroid. I don’t necessarily feel any different as of yet, but I’m honestly not sure if I could do it if she hadn’t given me the “excuse”, and it’s so good for me to put more thought into what I put in my mouth.
Jenny! Great post! I loved reading everyone’s comments because they just reiterate that a lot of people do tend to feel better on gluten/grain free diets. But I am interested in revisiting the party/holiday/donuts after Mass thing that you alluded to in one comment response. Because I am on an AIP diet and the rest of my family is Paleo, and it is really really hard to socialize. It can feel so isolating. Any thoughts, anyone?
We bring our own food to potlucks, family get-togethers, donuts after mass–everything. Larabars are our go-to treat. We have had some problems with kids hanging out near the food table trying to sneak “real” cupcakes or chips, but overall it’s been pretty easy. I just need to make sure I bring plenty of fruit and veggies and meat and homemade treats or Larabars wherever we’re going. It’s a pain, but it lets us participate in life.
Allergies and sensitivities have become so common that we don’t really get much for dirty looks. Also, our friends and family have seen our daughter in intense pain from her arthritis, so they don’t try to poo-poo our attempts to control her pain as much as we can through diet.
Ok, so this may be its own post, but where do you shop? Obviously, a lot of these lovely ingredients can be found at Aldi, but some (plaintain chips and natural beef jerky?) haven’t made it there, yet. Gabriel’s pregnancy was the only one where I gained weight (love/hate relationship with progesterone) and I’m trying to get back to a healthier weight since losing him. So details, please!!!
I’ve done the Atkins diet a couple of times, which sounds very similar to your diet, and I was shocked to find I missed tortilla chips more than sugary sweets once I got over the initial carb-withdrawal. Have you tried making “cheese crisps” (melting small blocks of cheese in the microwave on parchment till they bubble and crisp up)? They make a delicious carrier for guac, and give you the crispy tortilla chip vibe. Of course, you can eat half a block of cheese in a sitting that way, so use with caution.
This post really resonated with me, as both my son and I have to follow a diet completely devoid of gluten, dairy, and some other difficult carbs. We both started out with a celiac diagnosis and when things started to worsen again over the years, further testing showed that we both had SIBO (an acronym for small intestine bacterial overgrowth), and we both had to treat the SIBO with a specific antibiotic regimen plus a low-FODMAP diet to maintain remission (I know many people with this condition follow something more akin to a paleo diet, but I’ve never had the courage to drop grains altogether. Hat’s off to you!) You also have to limit your sugar consumption. The diet feels like a cruel deprivation sometimes, but every time I am tempted to feel sorry for myself, I stop and remember just how horrible things were before the diagnosis. As for my son, he adjusted to the dietary changes very quickly, and without any complaints. He was just so glad to be able to go do things (hike, go play with friends, etc.) without the worry of plans being ruined by a sudden bout of illness. I guess kids are more resilient and less set in their ways than we adults are.
As for holidays, I never ask or expect anyone to cook a meal for us on this diet because A)the restrictions can’t easily be summed up or explained in just a few brief remarks, so they’re likely to make errors and B)I don’t want to make anybody else’s life more complicated or stress them out. I always bring food for myself and my son to my MIL’s, for example, and between what I bring and what she has in her cabinets & refrigerator, I can usually throw together a good meal. No one ever gets insulted by my doing this when they realize the alternative is a sick houseguest (or beloved grandson going hungry).
Hi Jenny! I’ve been working on being grain free too and I recently found this grain-free cereal recipe that I actually really like (and my kids do too!). Thought I’d share it with you in case you needed another breakfast option: http://www.ditchthecarbs.com/2015/03/06/grain-free-cinnamon-crunch/
I’m so impressed that you’re doing it with the whole family. I’m scared about ditching the quesadillas/pb sandwiches just like you said! Haha. Tiny domestic terrorists. Thanks for sharing your new way of eating!
My daughter was strictly paleo until recently. Also, a number of members of my extended family also do a paleo diet. Some are also vegan or vegetarian and some are gluten free. A few are diabetics. So, we have the whole mix. I will weigh in on this discussion from a perspective of observer.
My general comment about specialized diets is that it makes it really hard to enjoy one of the most beautiful parts of life: socializing through shared meals. It can get to the point of ridiculous sometimes trying to do something that used to be so simple. So, I think that has a social impact that people don’t realize. It can make you want to avoid shared meals altogether. Not a good thing.
On the nutrition side of things, there are very positive benefits to a Paleo style diet, but there are some negatives to pay attention to. Paleo can be very restrictive on calcium. If you are doing paleo with your children, be very careful on this, and as a woman of childbearing years, pay attention to that for yourself, too. Lack of carbs can also be a problem. You just cannot get enough of the carbs unless you are heavy on the meat, which has negative consequences. For kids or athletes, you need carbs. This is where my daughter was running into a problem as she is an avid athlete and just could not get enough food. Now she is pregnant with her first child and has totally changed her attitude towards eating. I think the obvious solution is to be doing a modified approach to Paleo, harnessing the benefits without giving up the nutritional value of many foods that you would normally eat.
Another problem with paleo is that it can be costly. For large families, that might not be a good thing, as you want to have adequate nutrition, especially for growing children. So to do a modified version is beneficial. In other words, look at the upside of paleo, like getting rid of all the junk/processed foods completely, and focus on simple meals that are made from fresh ingredients, including grain and dairy as part of a complete diet. Do everything in moderation, meaning don’t go heavy on the grains and dairy, but don’t feel you have to completely eliminate them. They are extremely nutritious and relatively inexpensive.
The sugar part is another area. Getting sugar out of the diet is great. But one thing I noticed particularly with my daughter was the excessive amount of “paleo desserts” that were featured in her diet. I think this came from that insatiable appetite problem of insufficient carbs. In any case, what is the point of eliminating sugar if you overcompensate in the dessert department of life with staples based from coconut and almonds. Instead, make desserts a lesser part of your diet. Like, maybe just once a week or less, paleo or otherwise. And limit sugars by eliminating useless stuff like sodas and other sugar-based beverages and foods.
The third thing I would like to point out is on a spiritual level. Think really hard about God as our Creator and what that means. Read Genesis and the account of creation and realize that all that God created for us to eat is GOOD. But it is only good for us when we exercise spiritual principles in how we consume those goods. Read also all the scriptural accounts related to the Eucharist. It is the BREAD OF LIFE for us. I think it is no small coincidence that bread was the chosen instrument of the Real Presence. Think about that before eliminating grains from your diet. Another dimension is solidarity with the poor in the world. Think carefully about what large numbers of people throughout the world are eating as a staple diet. Usually grains. Living in solidarity with people is an important part of our Christian life. Consuming huge amounts of meat to compensate for the elimination of grains and legumes seems to be problematic. It takes a lot more grain to feed a cow to produce beef than it does to feed your family grains for a nutritional benefit. There is also the whole realm of normal fasting that is part of our Catholic life. You should be abstaining from meat every Friday, and that means you can insert a vegetarian meal into your week on Friday. So, you can also insert a strict paleo day into your week to draw benefits without changing your whole diet. Moderate changes are as good or better than complete change to a diet that really has not yet been proven over time with studies. Also, you don’t want to be body-fixated. My daughter started to turn her paleo diet into a religion. If we practice our Catholic faith with the same ascetic approach as we do in a paleo diet, we’d be saints. Think about it! : )
I hope my thoughts are helpful. Another final point to consider is energy levels. Using caffeine in the morning or throughout the day to have energy and then having to wind down later on with alcohol says something to you about what your needs are for energy and relaxation.
My husband used to be impossible to be around in the morning a few years ago. He’d tank up on 2 big cups of coffee and was so wound up I didn’t like to be around him for a couple of hours. It made him more tense and snappy (and think about this when we have to be around our children all day long and they have a way of bringing out those very same qualities!). I convinced him to go half decaf/half regular then down to decaf then down to one cup. He reverted back to caffeine, but only one cup. If we get ourselves wound up on stimulants and combine that with being around our children all day, we do need to unwind at the end of the day and may find we need help with a glass of wine or something like that.
So, how do we feel if we just cut down caffeine, maybe in half, and insert more prayer or exercise into our day for winding down? I think it has the same effect and no calories. A nice cup of tea in the afternoon can be relaxing, too. Trader Joe’s has a nice Jasmine Green tea you might enjoy. Sitting down long enough to drink a cup of tea has a refreshing effect for your energy level. : )
I had to comment on your comment! Alot of what you said resonated with me. My brother in law owns a crossfit gym and he and his family eat Paleo and they promote it alot at their gym. But his motto is 100% Paleo, 80% of the time. Like you said, everything in moderation. At family events or holidays they eat what is offered. There is someone prominent in the crossfit community (whose name I Can’t remember at the moment) who has made a point of emphasizing “relationships first”…I.e. if you are so married to a certain diet or style of eating that is means you can’t spend time with friends etc. Then it’s probably okay for you to go have a slice of pizza with your buddies….or go out to dinner with your friends or whatever. I am all for a diet that makes you feel better physically, but I also think it’s important to remember all the other factors you mentioned that aren’t strictly food related.
Whoops.. I meant 80% paleo, 100% of the time. You get the idea haha
Jeanette, I like everything you said here. I have two things to ponder though, that unfortunately make your points less simple for some families. 1) food sensitivities: our kids at the moment (ages 4, 3, 1) all have an issue with wheat, dairy or both as well as a couple other foods. I don’t do well with frequent gluten consumption either. Occasional seems okay. 2) if you read about the evolution of wheat (book Wheat Belly has info), currently the U.S. Wheat plant’s dna is unrecognizable against that of God’s original design. So I do think bread was meant to be life-giving and symbolic and the center of our gathering meals. But man had damaged that for us. No wonder today’s American population has so many food sensitivies. Many of our foods have been modified in ways that they now harm the body. Even dairy (cow breastmilk made for baby cows) can be hard on the body. Maybe because cows were designed to eat grass but are mostly being fed gmo corn. It’s complicated. I’m all for God’s design. I believe in it, I trust it… But man has ruined so much of it. And now we are all struggling to find a balance to keep our families healthy in a world where God’s creation has been manhandled, putting $ at the forefront, rather than nutrition. But I wish I could live in the world you painted in your comment. It sounds lovely.
I can say that we don’t necessarily have “original” dna foods, but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily bad. Also, as people who believe that the fall of man from grace made for imperfect bodies have to accept that there will be some physical suffering in life and we will not feel perfect because we are not perfect. We can do our best to be healthy, though.
Some people simply cannot eat wheat, but a paleo diet throws out ALL grains, whether or not they are problematic. Some people attribute their dietary sensivitities to wheat use (and I’m not talking about celiac disease), but I think often the first trouble is with how the wheat is available and consumed in a highly processed food form. Once, for instance, my daughter used the example of eating a Drumstick ice cream as an example of a bad reaction to wheat and dairy. Okay, but I don’t think we are talking quality use of wheat or dairy in a Drumstick ice cream. If you eat junk, you might end up feeling like it. So, it seems like rather than go from a processed food diet to a strict paleo regimen, it makes much more sense to completely eliminate the tendency to use processed foods and other quick go-to meals like fast-food.
A strategy to work towards change is one way to go. Start off by eliminating processed foods, not eliminating food groups, but going back to simple meal preparation from quality ingredients (that is, best quality available in your location for the time of year) and work from there. It might be enough to make one feel better. Next, if you find you still don’t feel that great, it might be a particular quantity, like if you put a heaping pile of spaghetti on your plate and think the pasta isn’t digesting well, perhaps it is a quantity issue. A small portion of spaghetti might feel better, or maybe a bigger portion of vegetables helps balance things, as a sauce laden with such good fresh vegetables as shredded carrots, peppers, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, spinach, etc with the meat and chunky tomatoes over a small portion of pasta and a salad of mixed greens tossed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar some ground pepper on the side and no big piece of garlic bread. See, different meal, right? Problem is that people often overdo their use of grains rather than balance them with larger portions of vegetables and lean meats or other proteins.
Other factors affect how you feel physically, such as environmental allergens, stress from life events, lack of planning, lack of sleep, lack of sufficient physical exercise, etc. Food is not always the whole story, and may not be the cause at all. It just happens to be an easy thing to focus on and try to gain some control, when the other areas of life are harder to address. Different people are affected in different ways by different factors, and when we hear of someone else having success with a dietary change, we adopt that strategy rather than focus on the area of life that really needs attention. Sometimes it is hard to be honest with ourselves on where we are in need of change in our lives.
Some foods if eliminated are hard to re-introduce. For instance, if you were fine drinking cow’s milk and then eliminate it from your diet and try to re-introduce it, you may experience an intolerance because your body no longer has the enzyme to properly digest it. Acidophilous milk is worth a try if you have issues. My mom used that. My husband and I are milk drinkers, so we have never had a problem. My daughter was a milk drinker and didn’t develop a problem until she changed her dietary habits. It is definitely one of those foods that is very enzyme sensitive.
Antibiotics eliminate bacteria and so also affect your digestive process. That could sometimes explain family members experiencing issues. It is not the food, but the intestinal imbalances from the antibiotic medication. If you have digestive issues following use of antibiotics, you may just need to use probiotics to repopulate your intestines with the right balance of the bacteria that allows for proper digestion. Unsweetened yogurt with live cultures is helpful in restoring things, too, after taking antibiotics.
Paleo is often an attempt to eat the same foods using different ingredients in a kind of workaround rather than changing eating habits altogether. People still want to eat the same kinds of foods rather than adopt new tastes for simpler foods. Not all the changes in paleo are bad, but the elimination of whole food groups puts one in the position of not necessarily having all of the nutrients required. Everyone I know who went paleo always ends up acting like they are starving all the time, too, so they eat huge amounts of food. Initially you might lose weight, but apparently it can reverse and you will gain weight. People on a paleo diet are consuming a high fat diet to compensate for caloric loss, and the conclusion in studies is still that it will create a higher rate of heart disease. There are a lot of other consequences to consider, but I’m not going to go on at length on it. I think I’ve used up too much space already!
I get what you’re saying. We do eat primarily a whole food diet. I cook from scratch typically and avoid many processed foods aside from a couple things like Larabars and gf pasta. But I agree that junk is junk and you can’t identify a sensitivity based on a junk diet. I am able to tolerate some wheat in small amounts on a very occasional schedule. I gave up wheat pasta over a decade ago before gf was even a thing. I’m Italian but always felt yucky after eating pasta. So that was easy to give up. Crust on a quiche or something doesn’t bother me so I can chose to enjoy that from time to time. But with my kiddos I’m conservative. My kid that got hives from wheat… I don’t really dabble in dosing him. We just avoid it for now. His hives were experienced after eating my from scratch baked goods using organic non enriched wheat flour combined with other fresh ingredients. It was nothing like a drumstick. My other son gets tummy trouble if I put organic butter on peas. He’s that sensitive to butter alone. Anyway, I do think a well-rounded diet of whole foods with veggies as the star is the way to go. I’m not an advocate for paleo but I’m supportive of families that eat as needed to avoid hives and diarrhea with their toddlers. It’s true we won’t feel perfect but nutrient dense foods are the way to go in my opinion.
You brought up a good point about how sensitivities can change with age. My niece was on a GF diet during early childhood for intestinal issues, but then was allowed to eat wheat products again. But she actually has colitis. Her brother has Crohn’s disease. Her grandfather died of colon cancer. Her other 3 siblings have diabetes. Her mom has rheumatoid arthritis. These are all autoimmune-related diseases. Some intestinal issues are more related to autoimmune problems than caused by diet, although particular foods can aggravate those existing conditions.
Would you mind posting the recipe for the pancakes please? I’ve tried a few and they always turn out awful!!
Great job! That is really tough to follow through with. I love that you wrote some basic, simple ideas for each meal too. So helpful and concise
Interesting…my kids (and myself! and husband!) become cranky craving monsters if we do not eat whole grains along with our protein every day, at every meal!
Every meal/snack should include a protein, carb and (healthy) fat.
Remember–Jesus served His apostles a meal of fish AND bread! And of course there is the Holy Eucharist….
Grains are not bad! Excess sugar and junk food, and not enough exercise, is!
Jesus and the disciples had access to very different grains than we do, unfortunately. Modern commercial agriculture has rendered much of what we eat in America almost unrecognizable compared with the diet 2000 years ago in the middle east. I do know people who are so sensitive to gluten or truly celiac who cannot receive the Eucharist in the form of bread and have to take the Precious Blood alone, which is sad. I’m still receiving Our Lord in the host because I don’t have that issue, for which I’m grateful, but it’s defiantly real for some people.
Interestingly, when we lived in Italy we had far fewer problems with the wheat they use there. I’ve heard a lot of anecdotal accounts along the same lines.
I read about an American girl with celiac who said she can eat croissants in France with no problem. Definitely frustrating that our grains have been so tampered with.
P.s. Sorry Jeanette from 4 posts up…somehow I totally scrolled past your excellent comment before I posted mine! Yes to everything you wrote!
I have so much admiration for everyone who shows such self control by trying out these dietary changes. I tell myself I don’t try it because my husband wouldn’t ever get on board, but I reallllly realllllly like bread. But, I do really need to make a change, so thank you for giving me another push towards making taking the plunge 🙂 Oh, are beans out?
Jenny, Enjoyed the recent post. Thanks! Tim and I have been on the Dukan diet (low carb) to lose weight. I’m down 9 lbs with lots to go but it’s so restrictive, the last 2 weeks we’ve had one foot on the wagon and one foot off. Plus Tim lost his job. So, weakened will power and emotional eating for us both. Anyway… We liked plant based eating the most in the past as far as feeling good but now it’s protein overkill! Looking for better balance. I like what you’re doing. Any ideas on weaning a baby- well she’s a tiny 15 mo old, off of Simple Truth Toasted Oat cereal? She’s crazy for it. It’s organic oat “Cheerios” basically. We’re mainly gluten free in house house. I’d like a healthier option for her but she’s addicted. Not kidding. She loves peanut butter. Used to love apples but now throws them on the floor. What breakfast ideas do you have for her? I know your baby is a bit younger and might not be shoving solids in his face yet. Or maybe he is. He’s way bigger than my 15 lb princess. Also, it will be a struggle to get my boys back off Canyon Bakehouse gf bread. They love their sandwiches. And how do you fill up two growing boys with no grains? It’s hard, right? My boys are ravenous! Would love any ideas. Feel free to email me if it’s easier. Thanks!