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Last week I wrote a quick overview about the modern paleo lifestyle. I talked about which foods are in and out of the diet and why, and I went over a few lifestyle components such as sleep and fitness. Today I want to give you a glimpse into a typical day in a life of a real paleo diet, in the hope to dispel some myths about its practicality and accessibility.
Here we go, welcome to my typical paleo day:
7:30am - I wake up naturally every day. I feel refreshed and ready to take on the day, my cortisol levels are up where they should be in the morning. Of course, there are days when I feel tired and under slept and nine out of 10 times it’s because the booze monkey got me the night before or I was over-stimulated before going to bed.
One of the key elements of good health according to the paleo practitioners is getting an adequate amount - eight hours - of deep, uninterrupted, rejuvenating, delicious sleep. There are many things that can jeopardise your sleep besides crying babies, barking dogs and ambulances. Caffeine too late in the day will keep you awake for hours; drinking alcohol before bed might put you to sleep but it will also keep waking you up during the night resulting in broken sleep and dehydration; over-stimulation, such as looking at your laptop or iPhone screen right until you hit the pillow, will make it difficult to fall asleep; the latter will also happen if you don’t give your brain a proper wind down after a stressful day; light illuminating sources such as street lights, clocks or night lights will trick your brain into thinking it’s time; and last but not least eating a heavy meal late in the evening will also contribute to poor sleep.
8am - My typical breakfast is a mushroom and red capsicum omelette with a side of avocado, cherry tomatoes, sautéed spinach and some sauerkraut. On other days I make a mixed berry coconut milk smoothie or some vegetable fritters with smoked salmon. I take a fish oil supplement to get my daily dose of Omega-3 fatty acids.
9am - I get a macchiato on my way to work, or if I work form home I make a big pot of black coffee or tea. I feel clear headed and alert.
12:30-1pm – Protein rich breakfast keeps me going until lunch with no mid morning snacks. On most days it’s left overs from dinner or a massive mixed salad with grilled Moroccan chicken or tuna, avocado, goats cheese, and some berries or fruit. Today I get three different meat tacos with cheese, avocado and salsa in lettuce cups from a local Mexican joint. I get no post lunch crashes or tiredness.
3:30pm – If I am heading to the gym, I’ll have a snack an hour or so before I leave the office. Today it’s four slices of turkey, a handful of macadamia nuts and an apple.
5pm – It’s time to play. I head to my local gym and jump on a treadmill for 15 minutes of short sprints and recovery jogging. I follow that with a circuit of burpees, jumping lunges, weighted squats, push-ups, chin-ups, and lots of planks. On other days I might play tennis with friends or go for a run in the park. Many paleo practitioners are fans of a strength and conditioning program called CrossFit, which focuses on variety, high intensity and functional movement. Workouts are typically 20 minutes or less, plus warm-up, and demand focus and all-out physical exertion. The goal of the program is to improve fitness and general physical preparedness.
7:00pm – Tonight’s dinner is shepherd’s pie with sweet potato and cauliflower mash crust and a side of garden salad. While cooking, I pre-chop breakfast and lunch ingredients to save time the next day. I pour a glass of dry red wine and hit the couch for an episode or two of 'Boardwalk Empire'. Did I mention a square or two of 80 per cent Lindt dark chocolate?
9-10:30pm – A bubble bath and a book before bed. Time to get my eight hours of beauty sleep.
Of course, some days I have no access to my own kitchen or healthy food options. There are weekend getaways, birthday parties, long haul flights and many other occasions when I have to make the best from what’s available. I go to dinner parties but I never put pressure on friends to cater to my dietary needs, I just eat whatever is put in front of me. This might be different for those with serious food sensitivities.
I hear many people say that paleo is impractical and expensive. Yes, it certainly requires planning and organisation but it’s very accessible. As for the cost, I find that it’s only slightly more expensive than a pasta/rice/bread based diet and I am willing to invest the difference in my health.
I don’t count calories, have no post meal crashes, my energy levels are consistent throughout the day and I love the way my clothes fit. The last time I did a blood test I had a perfect cholesterol reading and wasn’t lacking any nutrients. Paleo doesn’t work for everyone but it does for me, and those who choose it as a lifestyle.
If you want to try paleo for a day, here is a sample meal plan.
Breakfast – 2 eggs fried sunny side up in coconut oil or ghee, ¼ avocado drizzled with lemon juice and sea salt, ½ cup of sautéed spinach in olive oil and lemon, a few cherry tomatoes. Long black coffee or tea, no milk or added sugar. ½ cup berries or 1 kiwifruit.
Lunch – A giant super salad with 2 cups mixed salad leaves, 100g smoked or tinned salmon, 1 cup chopped tomatoes, 1 cup pan fried or steamed cauliflower, ½ cup radishes or cucumber, olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing, a pinch of sea salt and pepper; a handful of macadamia nuts.
Dinner – Marinate 2 chicken breast strips in ½ teaspoon each paprika, cumin powder, coriander seeds powder, 1 teaspoon sea salt and some chilli flakes for 20 minutes. Pan fry in coconut oil with 1 cup sliced onion and some chopped garlic. Serve with freshly made guacamole, tomato and coriander salsa, grilled red peppers, lettuce, and some grated aged cheddar cheese and full fat sour cream if you include dairy like me. Serves 2-3.
Snacks to choose from if you get peckish: a handful of beef jerky, apple or celery with almond butter, ricotta cheese with tomato and basil or nuts and honey, mixed berries, a little dark chocolate.
LAST WEEK: An introduction to the Paleo lifestyle
More from Eat Drink Paleo: Ploughman's lunch Paleo-style
To read more about the Paleo diet or to get inspired to cook Paleo-friendly food, check out Irena’s website Eat Drink Paleo
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