When transitioning from unhealthy eating patterns to a paleo-primal lifestyle, missing left-behind “comfort foods” is totally normal and completely expected.
At clinic, it’s super-common for Alchemist Eating clients to express how they’re missing this thing or that.
You know…potato chips (fried in cheap inflammatory oils like canola), pasta (sure to induce an unhealthy insulin dump), bread (again, prompting over-secretion of insulin…along with bloating, systemic inflammation, weight gain, brain fog, carb cravings and crash-and-burn energy levels), chocolate-chip cookies (did I mention I spent my 20s eating at least two ginormous ones every day for lunch?), Peeps (um, never been my thing, but they’re hangin in drugstores these days…signalling the imminent arrival of an unabashedly un-paleo Easter Bunny).
The list goes on—and we encourage it. Because food’s not just about food, and eating’s not just about eating.
What and how we eat is wrapped up in our social context, our history, our identity, our stories, our beliefs.
Making a big splash or shift here isn’t easy. Lots of things come up that may seem related to diet but go way deeper. Others come up that don’t seem related to food at all—though they in fact are.
Very, very often, changing eating patterns brings greater awareness to other patterns and parts of our lives and ourselves. It also changes more than what’s on our plate.
We expect this. We discuss it with our patients. And we’re prepared to work on it with you.
As one starting point, it’s really, really good to face our cravings. To feel what we feel. To, as one of my wise mentors put it, sit in our shit.
This absolutely applies when examining our cravings and eating patterns. And when missing something that we used to use in an effort to fill some hole (and, by “hole,” I mean more than just your mouth).
When working with clients, we encourage them to engage in gentle, mindful self-exploration—and do our best to guide them through this process.
Plus, another reason we urge people to bring up what they’re missing is so that—in more immediate, “practical” ways—we can offer ideas and options.
So that we can say: “Yeah. Totally get it. That’s a tough one—I miss that too. Here are some strategies and alternatives. Let’s give these a try.”
When doing this, we’re quite cautious in certain areas. We warn clients, for instance, about over-doing paleo baked goods and primal sweets (yes, even dark chocolate).
The reason is simple: going overboard on “approved” treats almost always stands in the way of where our clients want to go and what they want to achieve. Might technically be “primal,” but isn’t going to help with weight loss and body composition goals. Or with sugar addiction, blood sugar dysregulation and less-than-optimal cholesterol numbers—to name but a few examples.
That being said, the occasional paleo indulgence is fine. So is playing with paleo subs for Standard American Food (SAD) items you’re sorely missing.
The key is making it occasional.
And, at the same time, engaging in: 1. on-going self-exploration of cravings and eating patterns, and 2. continuous efforts to eat plenty of healthy veggies, animal proteins, fats and oils.
That’s the only way cravings, tastes and root patterns are going to change.
And, in most cases, it’s the only way to get you where you want to go.
Thankfully, not all paleo-primal comfort foods warrant such scrutiny. Some are just plain good for you. This week’s line-up features a few of our faves…plus one sensible indulgence we’ve been missing.
Sorry—still working on paleo Peeps.
But, in the meanwhile, hope this offers some primal comfort:
Paleo oatmeal – We don’t really eat “breakfast” per se (more like an early lunch). But we found this recipe when compiling a list of alternatives for clients missing their morning oatmeal. There are loads of paleo oatmeal options out there, but we like this one because it’s made of squash rather than nut flours (which tend to be very cloying in large quantities). Oh, and it was created by someone who loved oatmeal before going paleo. If you want a nut/seed version (along with the down-low on regular oatmeal’s “cons”), also check this post here.
“Spaghetti” and meatballs – Specifically, we’re making spaghetti squash topped with a simple tomato sauce containing just tomatoes, basil, extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, pepper and salt…plus meatballs made from 100% grass-fed beef.
Chicken “noodle” soup – Since the above dish features spaghetti squash, we’ll be using zucchini noodles here, following this simple recipe from Elana’s Pantry. We’ll also be adding chunks of oven-roasted chicken breasts plus sautéed onion, garlic, ginger and cracked pepper.
Loaded burgers – We’ll be having bison burgers with minced garlic worked into the ground meat before cooking, served atop lettuce with sliced red onion, heirloom tomatoes and dill pickles. But, if you want to get creative, burger options are endless. For fancier versions, we often turn to the “Burgers, Balls & Bangers” section of Well Fed 2, by Melissa Joulwan.
Cumin carrot fries – These go great with loaded burgers—we use the recipe from the first Well Fed cookbook.
Paleo chocolate-chip cookies – Ahh, that promised indulgence. This is an unusual treat for us—we honestly do minimize paleo baked goods. But, hey, what’s a comfort-food cook-up without homemade chocolate-chip cookies? We chose these Giant Vanilla Bean Chocolate Chunk Cookies from PaleOMG because we felt like avoiding “dense” nut flours (which aren’t bad, in moderation, but tend to stick to the ribs). Picking just one PaleOMG recipe to try wasn’t easy…as you might guess from the extensive “cookie archive” here.
(Giant Vanilla Bean Chocolate Chunk Cookies, PaleOMG.com)
And, of course, our usual stand-bys:
Lots of veggies (raw or sautéed in coconut oil);
Oven-roasted, coconut-oil-coated beets, carrots, mushrooms and garlic;
Walnuts and macadamias;
Berries and apples;
Coconut manna (our new favorite coconut product)
So…a week of good, clean comfort food awaits. Hope you find something tasty in there!
What are you missing? Got any favorite paleo-primal alternatives to share? Please post them in the comments!