Welcome new readers! A little background: I am an adult-onset, type 1 diabetic, who has found healing through a Paleo diet. I began my diet change journey by reading about the link of gluten to autoimmune diseases, further refined my diet to include more vegetables, then found dairy was irritating my gut too, so I went full-blown Paleo.
I’m starting to get the question from my in-person friends who read my blog…How do you eat like that everyday? How do you keep up? How do you have time to cook? I could never spend that much time in the kitchen, how do you do it?
I’ve been pondering how I actually do make this happen day in and day out. First of all, it is a lifestyle change. This is not something I intend to drop in a month or two. I’m in this for the long haul, so I am constantly working and refining my daily routine, shopping, and kitchen skills so I continue to get better and eating Paleo becomes easier.
Below are 10 Practical Solutions to Diet Change that I’ve learned over the last year to make my Paleo meal preparation easier and less time-consuming. I’ve learned (not necessarily mastered, mind you!) these over a year or more. If you can’t begin to imagine yourself doing this, take your time. One step at a time, and you will get there!
Prep Breakfast the Night Before
Chop the veggies, take the meat out of the freezer (Cook it too if you have time!), shred/grind/mince, whatever you need to do in the morning that would be time consuming, do it the night before. I chop each item, then put in individual containers in the fridge. In the morning, mise en place is done, just turn on your stove/oven and cook!
I’ve created some really yummy hashes for my Autoimmune Protocol. Hashes reheat so well. You can even cook them completely the night before, and simply reheat in the microwave or stovetop in the morning. Breakfast will be ready in less than 5 minutes!
Plan for Leftovers
This is a huge time and energy saver no matter your diet. I recommend it heartily no matter how you are menu planning. You need a break when you are cooking from scratch. Leftovers are the easiest way to get a break, stay on track with your diet, put a quick meal on the table, and save money by not eating out. Win, win, win, and win!
Embrace leftovers! Plan on having extra when you cook! It will relieve you of the stress of cooking a new meal every day!
Get the Family on Board
If mommy/daddy’s on a special diet, then we’re all on a special diet.
That’s a saying, right? The Paleo diet is an optimal diet for anyone: kids or adults, infant or elderly, pregnant or beer belly. 🙂 If one needs the diet (or just wants the health benefits!) then the whole family should adopt the diet.
This will ease temptations to cheat if there are no processed foods or wheat products in the house.
Solidarity – we can use all the support we can get, right?
Ask for Help from Your Family
If one adult in the family is slaving away in the kitchen day in and day out with no help, bitterness is not far away (and neither is quitting!). It’s a large task that needs hands-on support from the whole family. So beyond just “we all eat the same food” from above, we all need to help prepare the food. Here are a few examples of what I mean:
- Ask your spouse to make one recipe while you make another. Dinner will be ready twice as fast (a good solution if you both work outside the home!).
- Have your child to stir the pot while you add ingredients.
- Ask your child to throw away the scraps from chopping vegetables.
- Ask your spouse to grill the main meat course while you prepare the sides inside.
- Ask your child/spouse to chop the vegetables while you start cooking.
Try New Foods
Nightshades are out during the Autoimmune Protocol. Nightshades are tomatoes and peppers. This restriction can feel very limiting and daunting at the beginning. Opening your mind to trying new foods, will greatly expand the palate of your meals and your enjoyment of them.
For example, take the soup pictured above. It is not tomato-based. Want to know where that red color comes from? Beets! Beets have been on my “Do Not Like” list since I was 6. After trying this recipe, I’ve decided I need to give beets another chance. This soup was flat out delicious!
A Paleo diet is heavy on the vegetables so to deepen your satisfaction with your meals and snacks, try a new vegetable each week! I bet you will be surprised how much you like vegetables!
Eat a Variety
You need variety in your diet (Paleo or otherwise) for both nutrition and palate. I heard a tidbit on the Broken Brain documentary that said,
You eat 21 meals in a week. Aim for 21 different vegetables.
I thought this was an interesting idea, so I counted up the vegetables I ate during Week 1 of the Autoimmune Protocol. I ate 14 different vegetables, listed below. Not bad! I think I could get more variety in my diet in the coming weeks.
- Sweet Potato
- Butternut Squash
- acorn squash
Ready for the shocker: The delicious beet soup above that all of my family went back for seconds of, had 12 different vegetables in it! 12! That’s almost the same variety in my entire Autoimmune Protocol Week 1 menu plan! Think of all the nutrients in those vegetables too! So much better than eating a slice of bread or mac and cheese!
Learn Basic Knife Skills
Fact: You will have to chop a lot of vegetables for a Paleo diet.
You might as well learn how to do it right. Properly chopping a vegetable is not only quicker, but it uses less energy. Get on YouTube and search for how to cut a particular vegetable. There IS a proper way to chop an onion, to julienne carrots, to mince garlic (How to peel garlic! America’s Test Kitchen is a wealth of information. Trust them for all things kitchen! I’m getting sidetracked…), etc.
There is a best way to cut everything. Learn it and it will make your cooking easier and faster!
Invest in a Good Knife
Once you learn to chop/mince/dice properly, you’ll need a good knife that keeps its edge. There are lots of good ones out there, but you really don’t need to spend a fortune, especially for a home cook. This one is my favorite. It’s not very expensive, $24 right now, and it can be resharpened, which is key.
So while we’re on a roll in the knife category…
Learn How to Sharpen Your Knife(ves)
You can learn this by watching YouTube videos and purchasing a couple of whetstones. We have a course and a fine grit (for both smooth blades and serrated), and they have paid for themselves many times over. You can find someone local to you to sharpen your knives, but learning the skill will be so much cheaper and you’ll be able to sharpen them on your schedule. You won’t have to be without your favorite knife for a week!
Another perk? You’ve learned a useful skill! You know how to sharpen a knife!
And now for the last solution, but certainly not the least…
Try Again, Don’t Give Up
I’m reminded of a line from a poem my dad used to quote over and over to me growing up:
If at first you don’t succeed, try , try again.
Changing what you eat is hard. Learning how to prepare new vegetables and meat is difficult. Cooking from scratch is time-consuming. I want to tell you it is worth it. Your health is worth it. Your family’s health is worth it. Keep at it. Try again tomorrow.
The more vegetables you chop, the faster you will be.
The more vegetables you roast, the better you will become at identifying when it’s done.
The more recipes you cook, the better you will be at “throwing” something together at the last minute.
You will get better. You will get more efficient. Paleo will get easier. Keep trying!
What aspect of a Paleo diet change (or any diet change!) is the most daunting for you? Does spending time in the kitchen freak you out? Does eating food you suspect might not be yummy (or worse yet slimy/mushy!) give you the shivers? What is your sticking point for you? Share in the comments below!