This is the most common question people ask when they find out that my diet doesn’t include sugar, alcohol, processed foods, bread, cereal, pasta, legumes (including peanuts), refined oils and most dairy products. To those who are unfamiliar with the Paleo diet, these restrictions sound daunting. But I prefer to think of my diet in terms of all the great things I can eat, like grass-fed meats, wild-caught fish, free-range eggs, dozens of different fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, delicious tropical and nut oils, grass-fed creamery butter (not strictly Paleo, but generally considered acceptable)… and even the occasional indulgence of unpasteurized honey or 85% dark chocolate.
Of course, this all sounds good in theory, but when it comes down to the practical implementation, many people find themselves lost. They’re not sure how to approach breakfast without cereal, bagels and muffins, lunch without sandwiches, or dinner without a side of rice. But I can assure you, it is not difficult at all; it just takes a little bit of advance planning and an open mind.
Since becoming pregnant, I have added a small amount of dairy to my diet, mostly in the form of unsweetened, organic, full-fat Greek yoghurt, both for the probiotic and calcium content, and as an easy way to compensate for some of the calories lost from reduced protein consumption (see my post, “Pregnancy and the Paleo Diet” for more information on pregnancy and protein). Strictly speaking, this addition is not Paleo-compliant, but in this case, I believe the benefits outweigh the potential drawbacks, and unsweetened yoghurt is far from indulgent or addictive.
I am presently eating roughly the same number of calories as I was pre-pregnancy, but my macro-nutrient breakdown is a little bit different now, as I am consuming a greater proportion of my calories from carbohydrate sources (mostly fruit) and a smaller proportion of my calories from protein. I would say that my fat intake has remained more or less the same. Although it is recommended that women in their second and third trimesters take in approximately 300 additional calories per day, I have found that I am simply not hungry for the extra food, probably in large part because my caloric output is not as great as it was pre-pregnancy (i.e. I am not exercising with quite as much frequency or intensity). This may change as the pregnancy progresses.
With that, here is a sample of a typical day’s worth of food:
4 free-range eggs fried in 1 tsp of grass-fed butter
1 1/2 cups fruit (e.g. bananas, berries, apples) in 1 cup yoghurt with 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 sliced pepper
1/4 cup almonds
1 avocado blended with 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder and 1 tbsp honey (“chocolate pudding”)
1/2 to 2/3 lb of roast
1 cup steamed mixed vegetables with 1 tsp butter, salt and pepper
Large salad with mixed greens, sliced veggies, nuts and homemade dressing
Sliced apple with 2 tbsp almond butter
The main differences between my current diet and my pre-pregnancy diet are:
1. My morning eggs were previously accompanied by either a vegetable or a small amount of fruit, plus a half an avocado, rather than the yoghurt/fruit bowl;
2. I would usually have some more protein-intensive snacks throughout the day (e.g. small amounts of leftover meat, or canned tuna mixed with avocado); and
3. I would eat a greater quantity of meat for dinner — sometimes close to 1 lb!
You may have noticed that I only eat two meals per day, with snacks as needed. From a logistical standpoint, I find it easier to divide my food this way, as I only have to worry about preparing two meals instead of three, and also don’t have to plan lunches or pack a whole lot of food when I leave the house for the day. If I eat a large, heavy breakfast with plenty of protein and fat, I can basically last until the evening evening without having another meal. This is most easily accomplished when my meals consist of foods that are very low on the glycemic index (meats, fats, vegetables), but thus far it has continued to work, even with the addition of the yoghurt and fruit in the morning.