If there's any fad diet that's the opposite of raw vegan, it's paleo, a diet tailored around the idea that our bodies have not evolved to properly digest grains, a product of the agricultural revolution so recent in our evolutionary history. In the interest of balance, for the next three weeks my goal is to eat only what a caveman would eat -- you know, things like cauliflower pizza and gluten-free banana pancakes. Things a cavemen could totally make if they had access to an oven and a health food store.
So, I was in Laguna on one of these warm winter days and decided to eat at Taco Loco on PCH.
"What would a paleolithic human eat pre-agricultural revolution?" I asked myself.
I spotted the obvious answer, a Mahi Mahi burger that came with a side of rice and chips, as well as a side of avocado salsa. Perfect. Cut the bun, the rice and the chips and you're in caveman territory.
Why no grains? Grains are a no-go during paleo because besides the idea that our bodies have not evolved genetically to properly consume them, they also contain very few nutrients per calorie. The same goes for legumes (beans, peanuts, and other things). The reason why are phytic acids. These phytates bind to minerals, prohibiting absorption. Buns, chips, and rice, therefore provide a lot of calories in carbs, but not that much actual nourishment.
Back to the mahi-mahi.
Once I ordered, the cashier asked, "Rice or chips?"
"Neither is fine, thank you."
"Oh, come on. You gotta pick one. The rice is pretty good."
I didn't expect that he would insist I order a side, or make a case for it. With three people in line behind me I didn't want to be the person arguing, Seriously, no rice, and I didn't want to be the person that explained my diet within earshot.
I decided the chips would be the easiest choice, since they could easily be transferred to my boyfriend's plate without contaminating my otherwise pristinely healthy dish.
"Chips then," I said. He laughed.
"Ok, the rice," I conceded.
As my boyfriend went to pick up our plates, I could hear the cashier say, "See doesn't the rice look good?!"
"Yeah, it looks delicious!"
"See, you gotta trust me. You trust her, you end up paying child support."
The message: don't trust people who don't eat carbs. But for the record the rice did look delicious, and I may or may not have let a little fall into my avocado salsa. It may or may not have tasted like heaven.
When I started eating Paleo, I thought that my biggest issues would be that I would eat too much animal protein because I wrongly presumed, like many, that Paleo is all about bacon, eggs and steak. It turns out that my biggest hurdle is trying not to be that person (you know that person, the one who makes a note card to hand to the server, as if their diet is a life-threatening allergy, and it's everyone's obligation to ensure that a taste of soy never touches the broccolini) at restaurants, and I've eaten as many fruits and vegetables as I did when I spent three weeks eating only raw foods. The difference is that I am not starving or moody.
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In the morning, I normally like to have toast with honey and butter with my coffee. Now, I have a date, followed by eggs and a side of vegetables, such as sauteed spinach and avocado. The other morning I discovered gluten-free banana pancakes that are made of eggs, banana and coconut flour that really satisfy that morning sweet tooth. Thank goodness for fire. For a snack, I have an almond, kale and banana smoothie. For lunch, a chicken salad, or a tuna salad. And for dinner, I usually have chicken with vegetables or on a bed of spinach.
The odd thing is that I don't get hungry. I thought it was a Paleo myth that once you stop eating carbs and processed foods, you simply stop craving them and better yet, that you don't get the munchies. But it's true, and now I'm one of these people that eat grapes, cashews and a couple of hard boiled eggs for breakfast, then forgets to eat lunch.
I started to realize that I must not be eating many calories, although I was consuming a glut of vegetables, with my fish or chicken. I started to record the food I was eating just for the heck of it. Normally, I have to try pretty hard to hit a weight loss goal, ringing in around 1,900 calories a week to lose half a pound. How's it been on paleo? I've shed 5 pounds in 7 days. OK, secrets out, I ate a lot of carbs before.