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The Vegetarian’s Guide to Paleo and Primal Eating

Monday January 9, 2012 – Day 9
Breakfast: broccoli and Thai red curry chicken
Lunch: grilled chicken salad with mixed vegetables
Dinner: turnip, bacon, and diced chicken hash
Future baby chickens consumed: 0 (40 total)
Sweet potatoes consumed: (6 total)
Inhaler puffs: 0 (last puff 4 days ago)

Tuesday January 10, 2012 – Day 10
Breakfast: broccoli and Thai red curry chicken
Workout: squats 180×3, 205×3, 230×7, then hang power cleans 95x5x5
Post-Workout: sweet potatoes, broccoli and Thai red curry chicken
Snack: pumpkin seeds
Dinner: cashew/pepper pork stir-fry in coconut milk (from Surin Thai)
Future baby chickens consumed: 0 (40 total)
Sweet potatoes consumed: 2 (8 total)
Inhaler puffs: 0 (last puff 5 days ago)

Case Study #1: my mom. She’s in her early 60’s and in about average health for her age compared to the rest of the population. She is overweight (about 5’4”, 155 pounds) and has minimally high blood pressure, for which she takes one prescription medication. Her blood sugars are borderline and her cholesterol is normal. Her bone density is good, and she doesn’t drink or smoke. She rarely exercises because of chronic nerve damage from a hip injury in her 20’s, but does a lot of housework and walks around the mall or the temple (about 1-1.5 miles) 3 days a week.

Of course, I have tried to get her to eat healthier, but she’s a tried-and-true vegetarian who will never eat meat, despises eggs, and loves her sugar (in small amounts, except in her coffee). But she’s malleable (unlike Case Study #2). For a few months last year, I got her to cut out grains, eat mostly vegetables, and stick to higher-fat unprocessed dairy. She lost about 10 pounds (she *was* about 165 lbs) and complained about looking too thin. Sometimes you can’t win. But here’s a simple meal plan (like one I arranged for my mom) that incorporates no grains, no eggs, but a lot of healthy fats.

Breakfast options: fruit with cottage cheese, fruit with Greek yogurt
Coffees: sweetened with a tiny bit of honey, add heavy cream or half-and-half
Lunch: salads, squash soup or tomato soup with cheese
Snacks: almonds, high-fat cheese, coconut manna
Dinner: curried vegetables, Greek yogurt

This gives my mom all the calcium she needs (she eats a lot of leafy green veggies) and about 50g protein a day if she goes through a pint of Greek yogurt every other day.

Case Study #2: my sister. She’s in her late 20’s and a high-powered high-stress analyst at a busy financial firm. She has chronic sinus issues and severe migraines. She cabs it the one mile and back to work, but sometimes walks. She probably walks/runs 1-2 miles a day and does some ‘aerobic weight training’ once or twice a week with a personal trainer (who comes to her apartment!) Her goal is to lose about 10 lbs of her 115-120 pound frame (she’s about 5-foot even), and to reach this goal, she’s tried the vegetarian iteration of every diet from South Beach to The Zone to cabbage soup. She asked me about the HCG diet last week and I shook my head. I tried to get her to give up grains and start eating a more ‘primal’-style diet of eggs, high quality dairy, and veggies, but she’s a bit of a fat-o-phobe. Work in progress.

Case Study #3: the reluctant omnivore. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, and have thought about taking the plunge into a Paleo or Primal diet, like I did a couple years ago, here are three tips that worked for me to make it sustainable and not nauseating:

Start bland, meaning don’t eat meat that tastes a lot like meat. Ground beef still makes me want to hurl. Ditto for ham and most fish/shellfish. Despite the rumor to the contrary, not everybody likes the smell of sizzling bacon in a pan, especially not people who have been vegetarian or vegan their whole lives. It took me a few months on Paleo to get the stomach to try anything other than heavily seasoned or stewed chicken breast/thigh meat, which is really the perfect transition meat. In a coconut curry sauce or a stew, it’s tough to tell the difference from tofu. Then work your way up to chicken sausages, then bacon-flavored things (omelets, Cobb salads, turkey BLT’s), then maybe tuna, and you could probably stop there. I just cooked a pork chop for the first time a couple days ago. I may never cook beef or lamb or offal. Or, on the contrary…

Don’t cook it. You’d hate to cook meat incorrectly, get sick from it, and never go back to it again. And raw meat is slimy and bloody and occasionally nauseating. Buy a turkey breast sandwich (or lettuce wrap) with plenty of veggies and cheese, remove the bread, salt-and-pepper it up, and enjoy. Get a simple grilled chicken breast entree at a restaurant. Think of it as a fuel/protein source just like any other, something that will sustain your body and your muscles with high-quality nutrition. This is why you are making this change.

Avoid the bones. Also applicable to the above point. I’ve heard this from many a lifelong meat-eater, though it hasn’t been an issue for me. Whether it’s cooking ribs on a grill or eating wings, bones weird people out, and connect you more to the idea that you’re eating an actual once-living thing. For me, the first time I ate a chicken wing and ripped the meat from the bone with my teeth, I never felt more like a fucking man. But that’s not everybody’s experience.

If it’s a moral issue, buy the best meat and eggs you can, spend the money for quality, and just don’t eat that much meat. If you’re not a weightlifter or rabid athlete, you don’t need a gram of protein per pound per day, or even close to it. What’s more ethical? Beef from a well-treated grass-fed cow raised on a pasture, or milk from a poorly-nourished hormone-pumped cow on a factory farm without much room to move?

I hope these tips help someone who is considering a change from high-grain high-carb vegetarianism, in the hopes that it improves your overall health and mood and energy levels like it has mine. Next time: cholesterol and mood disorders. Also, we get crazy with mandolins. This,

not this:

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