I’ve summarized this before, but never written a detailed post about how I eat mostly Paleo, most of the time. I thought that might be helpful for you to see what #foodfreedom looks like for me.
In regards to what I DO eat, I try to make sure every meal includes one serving of protein, plenty of healthy fat, and if possible, at least three different kinds of vegetables. Those are the primary players. Other things may be added for flavor and texture. (I’ve written about this in more detail here: my 5-star formula.)
As far as what I don’t eat, I have different guidelines for eating at home and eating out.
Eating at home:
– I use no sugar or artificial sweeteners. If a dish really needs a little something sweet, I use as little maple syrup or honey as possible. Or sometimes apple juice, bananas, or orange juice concentrate.
– Once in a great while, I will use a dusting of wheat flour for pan-fried things. Other than that, no wheat. No bread, pasta, or cereal. Once upon a time, I couldn’t imagine living without those things. I really don’t miss them, most of the time.
– I very rarely drink alcoholic drinks, and I don’t miss them. If a sauce needs a little wine, I’m okay with that.
– When the dish needs it, I use butter. Full-fat coconut milk is usually an okay sub for heavy cream. When it’s not, I’ll use cream. I no longer want milk. (I used to LOVE milk!) Cheese may be used as an occasional condiment, not as a major ingredient.
– I don’t mind living without legumes. If I liked them and if they agreed with me, I would eat them. I do keep frozen peas in the freezer; they get occasional use in a stir-fry or soup.
Eating out or as a guest in someone’s home:
Because I eat at home most of the time, I feel okay about being a little more relaxed when I eat out. If I traveled a lot and had to eat out constantly, I might having tighter rules. But here’s how I roll…
– I try to be as gracious and inconspicuous as possible about my food choices. (Note: most restuarants are trying very hard to be accommodating about food choices these days. Don’t be afraid to make reasonable, polite requests.)
– When the choice is mine, I try to choose the lowest-sugar salad dressing possible. Most vinaigrettes and any onion or poppyseed dressing is chock-full of sugar. (If dairy is more of a problem for you than sugar, you’ll want to look for dairy-free dressings. No Caesar, blue cheese, or ranch.) I ask for no croutons, no tortilla strips. If cheese isn’t essential to the salad, I ask for no cheese. If it is, I ask for “light on the cheese.”
– I’m aware of which condiments are likely to be sugary (I’m looking at you, BBQ sauce), and avoid those as much as possible. But I don’t worry about the small amount of sugar that might sneak in here and there.
– If the bread (alone or in a sandwich) is very, very good, I will enjoy one serving. If it’s merely okay, I’ll pass.
– If the tacos taste okay without the tortilla (some do!), I’ll just eat the insides, with a fork. If they need the tortilla, I’ll eat the tortilla.
– Same approach to dairy products as at home, but it’s harder to avoid cheese in restaurants than at home. (We Americans love cheese on everything!)
– I try to make the best choices available from the menu options, and not sweat the small stuff. I don’t ask whether the entree was sauteed in canola oil, or included soy sauce in the seasonings.
– Dessert is only for special occasions or special restaurants. If the dessert is something I REALLLLY love — a 9 or 10 on my scale — I may enjoy a small or reasonable serving. If after a bite or two, I find it disappointing, I leave the rest. If the only desserts available are things that I just feel lukewarm about, I’ll pass. Two days of reawakened sugar cravings are not worth it to me. Rather than making life boring, this makes dessert more special!
This is how I eat about 350 days out of the year. (I bend the rules a bit for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and special occasions like graduations and weddings. But not much, because I don’t like how I feel afterwards.) I find it really, really easy to live with. I never feel deprived because, A: I get to enjoy a lot of delicious food, and B: I choose not to think of it as being deprived.
No one is making these choices for me: I’ve made them for myself. I truly believe that eating well is a form of self-respect — and a way of loving others well. Your loved ones want you to live a long, happy, healthy life with them, and some of that is in your control.
Your guidelines don’t have to look exactly like mine, but if you keep working on getting more veggies and other real foods into your diet, working toward a balance of carbs and protein (or less carbs than protein), and incorporating healthy fats, you’ll eventually work out what works for you.
Want to shorten the learning curve? You might like this ebook: Real Food for Real Life – what to eat and how to make it easy.