I’ve had a couple of questions come down the grapevine recently, each concerning a subject most near and dear to my heart: what do I eat? What are my meal plans, and what do I buy when I waltz into the grocery store?
They’re fair questions. In my earliest days of Paleo, I remember clicking around for hours in the hunt for similar answers. I wanted to know exactly what I should be eating, and I wanted sample meals by the dozen so I had a framework to reference whenever I made the magic happen in my kitchen.
My response — after a year of Paleo-style eating — follows. It’s pretty clever, I think. Ready for this?
“Uh. I don’t know. Meat and vegetables, mainly.”
That’s the truth of it, ambiguous (and useless!) though it may seem. I don’t have meal plans. I don’t have a strict grocery list, either, nor any real semblance of structure when it comes to what’s on my plate. My journeys to the local market, in the words of one charming friend, resemble the “flight of a drunken fly,” which I’ve decided probably isn’t an affectionate assessment of my attention span.
That said, I can understand the desire for structure. In the interest of meeting in the middle, then, here’s a simple glimpse of what I eat — and, for kicks, what I typically grab at the grocery store.
What I Buy
Honestly? Whatever’s cheap.
A carton or two of eggs, a big bag of spinach, and a variety of fruits and vegetables, typically whatever is in season and discounted at my local store. I’m not overly concerned with eating X food every day or anything needlessly picky like that, so I’ll typically just grab whatever catches my eye — two big oranges the other day, as an example, or big Granny Smith apples that had been discounted to about forty cents each (ah, California!).
I’m purchasing for one, of course, which makes this a bit easier, but the core rule of thumb doesn’t change: buy meat, fruit, and vegetables. Try and purchase food that isn’t processed when possible, but just keep an eye on the ingredients label whenever you have to pluck a can off the shelf.
And What I Eat
You know what I discovered the other day?
Ground beef and sauerkraut is an amazing mix. I wish I could claim that some sixth sense for flavors lead me to combine them, but my dinner a few nights back took on a decidedly experimental tone: I browned the beef in a pan, saw my jar of sauerkraut nearby, and decided to toss in a few forkfuls. I then covered the pan with a lid, let the whole mix steam, and was blown away by the result — a beef dish which required absolutely no seasoning due to the slight tang of the added cabbage.
It’s one of my favorite meals, now, and something that I’ve shoved off on everyone I can (always with great results, mind!).
Why bring this up? This is what — and how — I eat.
I’ve long since given up on hitting daily requirements for protein, fat, or carbs. I watched the latter macronutrient like a hawk in my early days, but my meals now have taken on a far simpler spin: whatever I feel like eating, often just once or twice per day.
I’ll start my morning with coffee, which typically suppresses my appetite so that I can extend my fast well through lunch. Dinner, as an example, will be whatever catches my eye. Here are some sample meals I’ve made recently:
Eggs, Potatoes, Awesome: Fry a few sweet potatoes (chopped, diced, etc.) in coconut oil. Add eggs when they’re just about done, stir it all together, and go to town. You can be forgiven for sprinkling cinnamon over the final product.
Big Ass Salad: Grab a big bowl, throw in assorted greens, and add carrots, mushrooms, sweet bell peppers, etc. I’ll normally toss in a can of tuna or half a can of wild-caught salmon, drizzle the mix with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette, and finish off the salad with a variety of seasonings and the juice of half a lemon. Mix, eat, enjoy.
Here’s a picture of one such salad:
Mexican-style Chicken: Grab a few chicken breasts and slice them thin. In a pan, toss in a few tablespoons of butter (Kerrygold works well) and a big bunch of diced cilantro, stirring the mix until the cilantro has properly infused. Throw in the chicken, add red pepper and cumin and whatever seasonings you prefer, and then throw the results on top of another salad. Drizzle on some salsa of your choosing and enjoy.
All of these were simple, flavorful dishes, often cobbled together with whatever I had in my fridge. I ate them before workouts, after workouts, and frankly at whichever hour of the day I found myself hungry, eschewing the conventional times for lunch and dinner for whenever I actually felt hungry instead.
See where this is going?
Keeping It Simple
There’s no need for complexity.
There’s no need to count, no need to measure, and no need to weigh.
If you enjoy fruit, eat it. I ate three bananas the other day. That’ll make my fervent low-carb friends cringe, but I’m happy to report that I didn’t suddenly balloon up and gain weight — quite the opposite, in fact, judging by my designated Vanity Time each day when I preen in front of the mirror. Don’t stress, likewise, about having starchy foods (potatoes, white rice, etc.) on days that you don’t workout, and don’t obsess over including protein in every single dish.
I think you’ll be surprised at what you get when you do: easy, effortless eating, and an abundance of the nutrients we need without any accompanying stress.
You’ll have to experiment, of course, to see what your body prefers. But when you do? Pardon my optimism, but I think you’ll discover what I have — a continuous ‘leaning out,’ the combination of a much-relaxed approach to my diet and a firm belief in the benefits of skipping some meals.
Give yourself time, in any case. We’ve been brainwashed in so many ways to believe that strong, vibrant health is the result of intense planning — number-crunching, calorie-watching, and all sorts of number-obsessed behaviors that have become somehow necessary to maintain our health.
Let’s keep it simple instead. Give yourself time to get there, but start now by embracing a numberless existence based around whole, natural foods, and the ability to enjoy food for what it is — something to be celebrated, not stressed about.
Keep it simple, folks. Your body can figure it out.