A friend e-mailed and asked for a week’s menu. I thought you all would be interested in my response.
Before I list the menu, some things to keep in mind:
- I eat very simply and don’t put a ton of time or creativity into my meals. Frankly, there’s other things I’d rather be doing than cooking. That said, I do enjoy cooking. It’s easy, a way to be creative and to actually produce something at the end of the day, and top it off with being able to immediately enjoy the fruits of your labor. All that said, don’t take what you see below as what you or others who want to do primal must do. I simply stick to the basics. Below I’ve listed some great resources on the web for primal recipes.
- Remember that you’re basically shooting for Proteins, Fats, and Carbs, for your macro-nutrients, keeping others (like sugar) to a minimum. Thinking about that, or what I need at a particular time (i.e. right after a work out) helps me figure out what I should eat.
- Try to be picky about the foods you eat. Eating a steak will do you little good if that cow didn’t eat well when it was alive. Grass fed/vegetarian fed is best for things like chicken, eggs, and cows. This applies to vegetables in that you will try to purchase what is in season. The folks at Whole9 have put together a great pdf showing what’s in season when. Stick that on your fridge and reference it as you put together grocery lists.
- Food preparation ahead of time is a must. Why? Because there will be inopportune times when hunger strikes. Perhaps midmorning or perhaps you worked late and you’re “starving” or right after a workout, etc. And those are the times when you will be most tempted to go with what’s easy, opening up the pantry to see what box of industrial, processed food you can chow on. So, you must have (real) food always ready. For me, this tends to look like a bag of almonds or macadamia nuts always under my desk. I also always have veggies ready to go in the fridge and it doesn’t take me longer than a minute to make a quick salad if I want to sit down for a few minutes (I usually stand and work all day, so sitting down for a salad usually means a break in my focus). And I always have meat of some sort ready to go. Right now I have a few pieces of pork in the other room I’ve been grazing on all morning. Do what you need to do to prepare. That may mean taking what feels like extra or too much food to work, or a primal snack with you on a day out on the town.
- I encourage you to plan your meals ahead of time by at least a couple days. Doing so every week is helpful for me. I’ll sit down and decide what I’m going to have on Saturday afternoons and that helps me take stock of what I have and what I need to shop for more groceries. I use weekly menu planner.
In no particular order through the seven days I toss: almonds, bacon, and macadamia. On days after more intense workouts for me (M, W, F, S) I list chocolate milk with avocado. I just toss a half to whole avocado in the blender with chocolate milk and protein powder. Dump it in a canteen and drink it in the gym locker room. It’s delicious and great for post workout protein and fat. While milk has some great growth properties it’s not for everyone though. I use whole, and when I can use unpasteurized.
Breakfast every day:
This consists of 3 large scrambled eggs, cooked in coconut oil. I season the eggs and may toss in chopped onion and green pepper. Depends on what I have on hand. If I have one, I usually will eat a banana as well. Morning is usually when I will take my supplements (D, Magnesium). On non-workout days I may eat half an avocado with the eggs.
I eat early in the day and workout so by 10 am I am usually pretty hungry again and have a hobbit style second breakfast. I treat myself to a smoothie of some sort. Use a high quality whole fat yogurt (brown cow, stoneyfield farms, etc. Of course, I’d prefer nonpastuerized but where am I supposed to get that?…) as your base and just go from there. Pineapple, mangos, berries, coconut flakes, coconut milk, avocado are all great ideas for additions. This usually lasts me til noon.
- Chicken Strips – I buy breasts, cut them into strips, and cook them in oil with various herbs and spices. I’m fairly generous with the oil. This keeps them from drying up, which I think is why I grew up hating chicken, it was always so dry and chewy.
- Salad – I always use kale, spinach, and romaine and then just go from there with whatever is on hand. Be sure to avoid using standard dressings and croutons. Those are not primal or real food! Lately I’ve been using an olive oil that is seasoned with chili peppers. It’s fantastic, gives the salad moistness and a definite kick. I’ll toss on carrots and peppers, and walnuts as I feel like it or depending on what’s on hand.
- Pork chops – Same deal here. I bought some pork chops and cooked them in some herbs and oil.
- Some nights are straight vegetarian. This is usually just to make sure I’m getting enough vegetables. It’s usually difficult to eat too many vegetables and they’re just packed full of nutrients so it’s hard to go wrong just having salad for a meal or snack. Lately I’ve been working on a couple different vegetable stir fry recipes. I buy a pack of frozen mixed veggies that’s family pack and end up eating the whole thing for a meal. Other nights may be a salad…or two, depending on how hungry I am.
- Beef. The easiest (and cheapest) option for me is to just get some ground beef (85% or less lean, get that saturated fat in your diet!), and brown it with other things in there (onions, peppers, garlic). Maybe toss in some spices for good measure. A pound makes about a meal’s worth for me. I usually make two pounds at a time and save at least a pound of it for later.
- Side dish and post workout: Sweet potato. I usually make a couple at once then cut them in half when they’re done and save them in the fridge. I imagine most people like to eat these hot but I’m perfectly fine pulling one out of the fridge and cutting it up and eating it cold. These are a great source of carbs, so may be a good option to put in your lunch pail. I think I’ve had a half a sweet potato every day this week.
Indulgences. I rarely have dessert food and do so now mostly just to be polite or if I truly do have a craving. If you’re going to eat sweets, keep it primal: dark chocolate, minimally processed ice cream (Haagen Daz is great), or fruit, etc.
I hope this is helpful. Again, it’s relatively simple. Not a ton of variation and it’s cheap. There are many recipes out there that are more colorful, and complicated. Your metabolism and workout routine will determine how hungry you are. Don’t be worried if you’re eating a ton or if you’re not hungry for much. Just follow the signals your body is giving you and give it real food.
Some other great resources I recommend:
- The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet
– Robb has a 30 day meal plan in the back of the book with some recipes. If you’re a more analytical person you’ll enjoy learning why certain foods are recommended and others are to be avoided.
- Chuck Grimmett likes to post recipes – I haven’t tried any myself exactly as written but they look great and I’ve taken some ideas and they work well!
- Everyday Paleo – big stash of recipes.
- Nom Nom Paleo – She posts delicious looking recipes all the time.
- The Paleo plan – You can sign up to have a weekly/monthly menu made up for you and be given the grocery lists! It does cost something but may be worth a shot. I haven’t done so yet but may try within the next year.
- The Whole9 – more recipes…
- The Cothes make the girl – recipes in every category you can think of.
- The Foodee – check it out, TONS of recipes and they post stuff in an easy to organize format of breakfast, lunch, dinner.
- The Paleo recipe book – Another paid product here but it looks pretty solid. You get quite a bit for the price.
I hope you find the above information a good resource and helpful. Let me know any questions or comments you have. How do you traditionally plan your meals. Is there any typical day for you?