Last night, I went to the grocery store with the intent to buy healthy and organic foods. The items I bought were in line with the famed “Paleo Diet”, which is designed to mimic the natural “hunter-gatherer” diet that our Paleolithic (read: Stone Age) ancestors ate such as fish, fruits and vegetables, and nuts. This diet forbids foods such as dairy, sugar, starchy carbs like potatoes, and anything artificially processed, fortified, or enriched.
Paleo followers believe that the human body hasn’t had enough time to adapt to the processed foods added to our diet over the last couple of centuries. Our ancient ancestors evolved over thousands of years to eat the foods they found growing or could hunt in their environment prior to the advent of farming. The idea is that by consuming only what we’ve evolved to eat and avoiding contaminants, we’ll be less susceptible to health problems like obesity and heart disease.
The Grocery List
I kept things basic:
- Chicken Breasts
- Turkey Burgers
Nuts and seeds also figure heavily into the paleo system. I didn’t grab any this time, but things like almonds, cashews and sunflower seeds are great sources of protein, healthy fats, and dietary fiber.
One complaint many people have about paleo is that it’s significantly more expensive than other diets, but as you can see above, it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg! I picked up more than enough food to make several days’ worth of healthy, calorically dense meals with plenty of room left in my budget.
The Meal Plan
I woke up at 6:15 AM and started my day off with some fresh-squeezed lemon juice and warm water. Doing so immediately after waking up and prior to eating can have several benefits, especially from immunity boosters like citric acid, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, bioflavonoids, pectin, and limonene. I drank it down right before going on a 30-minute bike ride to get my blood flowing.
For breakfast, I cooked up two whole eggs and washed it down with plain water. This is an extremely easy and fast way to get plenty of protein before starting the workday. Doesn’t get much simpler than that!
For lunch, I cooked up a turkey burger then cut it up and put it in a salad made of spinach, kale, and blueberries. I simply threw it together instead of worrying about working from a recipe, but it turned out great! If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous you can try out this seasoning mix for your turkey burger as well. Turkey I another great source of lean protein, and spinach and kale are both fantastic sources of iron and other vitamins.
Instead of packing a traditional snack I decided to drink some plain, unsweetened green tea. Drinking green tea can boost your energy and provides an added antioxidant boost, especially when combined with the spinach and kale I had for lunch.
For dinner, I grilled up some chicken breasts with garlic and lemon and tossed together another batch of my spinach and kale salad. Grilled chicken is a staple of many clean eating methods and cooking it with the garlic and lemon adds some great flavor to liven things up. This salad is also easy to pair with other proteins, such as the salmon I picked up.
Was My Plan Effective?
In a word, absolutely!
Getting out of bed early allowed me to start the day on my terms without feeling rushed and made it significantly easier to stick to my plans and avoid the “quick and easy” (and overly processed) options I might have resorted to otherwise.
My simple eggs-and-water breakfast helped me kickstart my metabolism with a hearty serving of highly-bioavailable protein, which also keeps me satiated longer thanks to protein’s status as the most filling class of macronutrients. Not to mention the added benefits I discussed earlier from the warm lemon water I drank as soon as I rolled out of bed.
The turkey burger salad I had for lunch kept me on the right track with another excellent source of protein, combined with healthy veggies and berries that supply essential vitamins and antioxidants. All I had to do for dinner was to swap out the protein to keep things interesting and I was all set.
Throughout my day I noticed a marked increase in my level of energy and alertness. It was easier for me to stay focused at work and I didn’t fall victim to the typical early afternoon “crash” that happens to most folks. Overall, I’d say my experiment was a remarkable success!
In the upcoming weeks, I’ll be working towards further improving my diet by removing more of the processed foods that I tend to eat. I’m a firm believer that taking small, incremental steps each day is the best way to significantly improve your health over the long term. I’ll give you an update on my progress in a few weeks, but in the meantime let me know if you have any suggestions for me!
What are some other strategies you use to stay healthy and energized throughout the day? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to check out these other articles to help you stay at the top of your healthy eating habits!