Can You Be Vegetarian AND Paleo? YES!
4 Minute Read: Paleo, primal, plant-based, vegetarian, real food, healthy eating, intuitive eating.
While leading a recent workshop, I mentioned that these days I'm mostly vegetarian. What? You thought I was paleo-primal? I am! Thing is...
Vegetarians can be paleo-primal too.
At its root, “paleo” just means eating real, whole food. This includes veggies, fruit, animal proteins, healthy fats, nuts and seeds. (And you don't need to eat all those to be paleo.)
“Primal” adds the option of high-quality dairy for those who do okay with it. (I do, with certain kinds in minimal amounts.)
For many people, animal proteins are an important part of a healthy, nutrient-dense diet. Having spent 10 years as a vegetarian (sometimes vegan), I can say with certainty that I need at least some animal protein to truly thrive in body and mind. The vast majority of my clients do too.
That said, there's no one best diet for everyone, and it’s totally possible to leave out (or greatly limit) meat and fish while still eating paleo-primal.
For those who omit eggs, meat and fish but do fine with dairy, primal may be preferable to strict paleo because of the addition of dairy protein (in the form of ghee, grass-fed butter, hard raw cheese, and full-fat yoghurt, for instance).
And some people following an otherwise paleo-primal diet add limited quantities of rice, quinoa and/or lentils. Among these, white rice is generally easiest on digestion. (Just to be clear, these foods are not strictly paleo-primal, and for people struggling with excess body weight, blood sugar issues, or "damp" conditions, adding them can make things worse.)
Yet, it bears repeating: There is no one best diet for all people (or even one person for all times).
optimal eating is individual, responsive and relational.
A paleo-primal diet (even if not vegetarian) can be plant strong. Mine sure is!
And...it's always changing.
With shifts in surrounds, lifestyle and age, I adjust my eating pattern to best fit my current cravings and needs. I've also been making a concerted effort to minimize all plastic/paper/etc. waste (no more cauliflower wrapped in plastic >sigh<).
For me, at present, this means eating this way:
Bulletproof coffee or matcha for breakfast (keeping it super-simple and just adding coconut oil these days)
Tons of local, fresh, organic veggies with each lunch and dinner (making up the bulk of my bowls; some raw...most sautéed, steamed or roasted)
Tons of avocados (going to turn into one, at this rate)
A piece of organic, in-season fruit spread out over 2–3 days (Once local blueberries are back in season, they'll become a staple – often sautéed in coconut oil!)
A few walnuts, almonds or cashews (less than 10, usually with lunch)
Dozens upon dozens of local, pasture-raised eggs (usually omelette style, lately mixed with collagen powder)
A small square of raw, hard cheese with dinner
Tons of high-quality fats and oils (coconut oil, local grass-fed butter and extra-virgin olive oil, primarily)
Fish every 1–2 weeks (sometimes canned, sometimes fresh, always wild)
Bun-less, grass-fed burgers once a month or so (often less, occasionally more)
Small amounts of special "condiments" that change from time-to-time (spirulina, tahini, maca powder, hemp hearts and such – These are special splurges, and I alternate between them rather than buy All The Things.)
Extra-dark chocolate or some other treat (usually paleo, sometimes not) as Friday and Saturday dessert
Again, this is what works for me, right now. Compared to a year ago, some aspects have changed.
I used to need more meat, more regularly.
I used to eat dessert nightly, rather than waiting for weekends.
I used to buy way more veggies or other items wrapped in plastic or other packaging (LaraBars, for instance...and "super foods").
Some aspects have held steady:
Your optimal way of eating might look different.
As a Chinese Medicine doctor and Primal Health Coach, I take many factors into account when helping clients craft their best diet, including:
Season and time of month
State of health and wellness
Individual goals and preferences
That said, whatever your "eating identity" and wherever you fall on the "eating spectrum," adding more veggies is usually a good idea!
Indeed, Chinese Medicine counsels that the hotter months are a perfect time for plant-strong meals.
To close, three questions:
What's your "eating identity"?
Has it changed?
What sorts of veggies are on your plate these days?
Please share in the comments!