Eating healthy and eating to heal don’t have to take a long time, don’t have to require a lot of cooking, batch cooking and a million dishes every day of your life. If you want to get fancy, then by all means get fancy and mess up the kitchen for a delicious meal! But when you are just beginning or having a flair, you may not have the time or energy to cook, clean, and create gorgeous meals three times a day. This lack of energy, both mental and physical can make getting in 8 to 14 cups of fruits and vegetables very difficult, not to mention the bone broth, organ mean, self-care and real life tasks like being a mother and wife and worker and.. and… you get it.
Today I was in the doctor’s office and heard a voice say she wants to eat a clean, Paleo diet but gets burned out on the foods and then is also too sick and tired to cook. I immediately connected with this person as there are times where I also am just unwilling or unable to eat perfectly for these and a few more excuses. I am too tired, I don’t feel good, I don’t want to eat right, I just wanna sit down and eat “X” all day, if i have to eat another vegetable then I just won’t eat…. Whatever the reason, I am here to help. I consider myself a puzzle solver and since I am unable to cheat due to severe reactions, I have had to get creative in coming up with solutions to the same excuses that we all run into while on this crazy journey to health. In response to the newbies and the frustrated who have not figured it out just yet, I wanted to give you the “cliff notes” on how to make it work even when you don’t want to (or can’t) do the work. Just a note of caution: If you are strict AIP, then I warn you that I break some rules ( like no dried fruit and limited fruits are rules I break), so proceed at your own caution. Read all ingredients and do not take advice if it breaks your protocol. I am not legalistic and can be a little “loosey goosey” with some things. And so here we go.
First let’s set some ground rules because in the following paragraphs I am going to give some options that let you break some rules in particular instances.
First, never ever ever eat gluten, dairy or processed foods if you have health concerns.
In fact, do not eat any forbidden foods. Eating them just means having to start over. Find a “legal” substitute. If you have reintroduced dairy successfully then you can ignore that part but do not reintroduce it unless you really think it is necessary for your body. Dairy is notoriously inflammatory, triggers neuro-inflammation and is full of chemicals and hormones but some people do okay on raw and organic dairy. But if you have autoimmune disease, mood issues, neurological issues, gut issues, or inflammation then no gluten ever. Same with processed foods. If your health is less than stellar then these things are harmful and if your health is great then you probably aren’t reading this. If this first rule means the foods can’t be in the house, then get them out of the house. None of your kids should be eating them anyway and if your husband “needs” a stash then let him have a cabinet where small amounts are kept but they are out of your temptation zone. Out of site, out of mind. I realize this isn’t always an option in some families for the sake of peace, but if it is then do it. At least get as close as you can get to getting the temptation away from you.
Second rule: Never eat ingredients that are off-limits.
If you are AIP then these include things like eggs, seeds, nuts, grains, nightshades, dairy, legumes etc. If you have reintroduced a food successfully and it has gone well then it is taken off the forbidden list. If you are Wahl’s then it means no gluten and no dairy and that some things are merely limited to servings per week. If you are Paleo then this means no grains, legumes or dairy. You made a commitment to yourself and your health so just don’t do it. Eating crappy food just screams “I like crackers better than I like myself and my health”. Read all ingredients to make sure that my recommendations are compliant with your protocol. Ingredients change and people make mistakes. After you heal then you can always go back and experiment with foods to see which can be added back and which just are not conducive to a healthy life for your body. After you are healed, then you can play with the whole 90/10 thing that healthy people talk about in their conversations about “balance”.
Third rule: Don’t break rules that make you feel bad physically.
For me, I can eat unlimited fruit as long as it is not all that I eat. I had to do some experimenting to figure out what was best for my body. In my meal plan I include fruits because they are great for those of us with adrenal fatigue and provide a lot of nutrition. I have also learned ways to balance my blood sugar by either eating a potassium source or a protein source with my fruit. Feel free to experiment with this down the road if adding fruits throughout the day is impractical for you at this time. Instead, sub them with berries which are low in sugar or a vegetable or fat bomb if that works better for you. However, I do find that eating fruit for desserts and snacks cuts down on cravings for me considerably and keeps me from feeling deprived but perhaps fat bombs or a starch will do the same for you.
Eggs (or other protein) and Fruit. Eggs can be made on boil set to a time while you sit on a couch and be ready to eat with some cut up fruit in just minutes. you can also poach an egg in the microwave by cracking an egg on a plate and covering it with a piece of ham and microwave it for about a minute. (microwave is not recommended but if it is between that and a bowl of Cheerios, please microwave) The ham slice holds in the steam and helps it to cook evenly. It doesn’t work without the piece of ham on top of the egg. Have some berries, an apple, bananas or any fruit you like and as much fruit as you like with your eggs. Some will need more fruit and less egg while others will be the opposite. Eat the proportions that are best for your body. For a compliant ham, try Applegate Farms cooked ham slices which are made with only salt.
Other protein options for breakfast: Compliant ham, nut and seed butters or substitutes (like tigernut or coconut butter) with an apple or banana. Some people eat leftovers but you can also eat things like gelatin, collagen (mixed into some tea or a smoothie) or bone broth. The gelatin can also be made into gummy bears or a juice based gelatin dish.
Breakfast Salads: For those that aren’t shy and are looking for a way to get greens in there are 3 options: smoothie, hash or breakfast salad. If you are burnt out on smoothies and don’t like to cook, I suggest experimenting with some breakfast salads. I like mine topped with fruit and with a side of nut butter or nuts on top of it. I also like green leaf with cantaloupe and basil. Experiment with different toppings including breakfast meats, fruits and things like omelets, if you eat eggs. Otherwise top with things like ham and pineapple. Or banana and berries. A lot of times I just view a breakfast salad as a deconstructed smoothie.
Fruits: Fruits get a bad wrap in the Paleo world. They can make us with hypoglycemia feel a bit “wonky” and can also be a danger zone for someone with type 2 diabetes or even adrenal fatigue. But balancing fruit with either a potassium source (think coconut water or sweet potato) and a sodium source (think celery, spinach or other green) or balanced by a protein, and they can be a part of a balanced Paleo diet. According to Dr. Barry Sears, as long as you stay in the ballpark of 4 grams of carbohydrates for every 3 grams of protein then you have enough protein to balance the fruit. According to Anthony Williams, a piece of fruit can be balanced by a glass of coconut water and 2 sticks of celery and will be very beneficial to someone with adrenal fatigue or other sugar handling issues in their healing. There are so many variations of fruits that you should never be bored with options. Vary your fruits to keep it exciting. If you are really craving one particular fruit then there is a reason for that! Eat it until you are satisfied. Don’t be scared to eat multiple fruits at a sitting as in a fruit plate or fruit salad. Fruits are easy to digest and packed with nutrients and the natural sugars help heal the adrenals and prevent cravings later in the day.
Smoothies: You know it had to make an appearance. It is important to vary your recipes to keep it exciting. try adding things like nut butters, oils, different milks, varying the fruits, adding weird vegetables like celery and parsley or cilantro. Change up your fruits regularly. Try frozen fruits or fresh to see which you like the best. For protein options you also have collagen or a raw egg. Not feeling the veggies? Then do a fruit only smoothie. Pair it with a couple slices of ham or some left over fish or an egg or some healthy fats to make it more filling and satisfying.
Hash: This requires cooking but can be cooked ahead and then reheated. There are several recipes for breakfast
hash. I like doing apple, bacon and cabbage. My husband likes potato ( you can use a white sweet potato), ham, leeks and cabbage. I’ve done bacon, crab, squash, leeks, and peppers. Add a cup of greens and they practically disappear into a good hash. This is something you can batch cook and reheat through the week if you have energy to do that one morning. They can also be frozen in batches to make this easier. Otherwise I’d skip a hash because it means cooking. But on a good day, it is so worth the trouble.
Juicing: There are days when I just have a detoxing juice for breakfast. One of my favorites is Apple and Beet juice. This purifies the liver and the blood and is a great way to get some nutrition while detoxing the body, even if only for a few hours that day. I also suggest Cucumber and Lemon, or Fennel and Apple and Cucumber. There are a million recipes and no reason to get bored. This is especially a good breakfast for someone who doesn’t have a big appetite in the morning. I start every day with a fresh glass of celery juice for the nutrients and gut health benefits. I do this in addition to breakfast even if breakfast is another juice. Downside: the juicer has to be cleaned which could take like… a whole five minutes.
Bulletproof Tea or Coffee: Whether you like Coffee, Herbal Coffee, Tea or Herbal Tea, Bulletproofing you coffee is a great way to start the morning. If you are unfamiliar with this idea it simply means brewing your favorite hot drink and then putting it in the blender with either coconut oil or grass-fed and organic butter. The fat melts and becomes emulsified with the drink and creates a latte-like creamy drink that is full of healthy fats. You can also add some protein like gelatin or collagen. I’ve tried this with a variety of herbal teas and I encourage you to try some unexpected ones this way. I particularly liked my licorice tea bulletproofed. Weird, huh? Again, this is a great idea for someone who is not hungry in the morning or if you are ketogenic or enjoying the benefits of intermittent fasting.
Sweet Potato or Winter squash: This can be a leftover one or you can pop it in the microwave or toaster oven and then dress it like it is a pancake. I put maple syrup (Only use real maple syrup and never ever use pancake syrup), a handful of pecans or walnuts, some cinnamon and other spices if desired. Go easy on the syrup and be generous with the cinnamon! Cinnamon actually fools your mouth into thinking there is more sugar in your dish, and helps regulate blood sugar.
Salad: There are so many ways to reinvent the salad but I am going to give you a formula to get this done the easiest way. Start with the basic salad and then experiment to see which things you like on salads that make it super yummy for me. The Basic “recipe” is 1.greens (vary your greens so that you don’t get bored and for their different nutrient benefits),2. a crunchy sulphurous veggie (my favorite is cabbage shreds but I also like broccoli) and a fruit
or starchy vegetable.3. Add a fruit. I like to add cantaloupe to the side, or pineapple or berries or a peach or anything that is in season. You can have it on the side, as a dessert or on top of the salad. 4. Top it with a meat of your choice. Vary your meats. For a no cook option I use Applegate farms deli meats: either ham, turkey, chicken, or roast beef. You can also use some leftovers if you have them laying around. 5. Add some extra. You can add a handful of nuts or seeds for extra crunch and fats or a half of an avocado if you do not eat seeds. Add some fresh herbs to make it exciting (vary them so that it is a new salad each time) and you are done. With the fruit, I don’t need a dressing but if you need to have something just squeeze some fruit juice and some healthy oil onto the salad. But if your ingredients are good, then you won’t need much dressing if you need any at all.
Sandwiches: Yes that is right. Using Paleo Wraps, which are AIP friendly also, you can make a wrap filled with veggies and some deli meat or some leftover chicken. Add a side of fruit and you are done. This can also be done with Nori sheets (a type of seaweed used in sushi) but it takes some practice to make these where they taste good with the distinctive taste of the nori: my recipe is turkey, bacon, avocado with cabbage and romaine. I tried ham and tomato, separately and I can tell you that this did NOT taste good with the nori. I will just save that for a Paleo wrap. There is Paleo bread that you can buy but it does contain citric acid which I am unsure if that particular brand uses citrus or corn/yeast to make their citric acid. Most brands use corn/yeast so I avoid it. On an energetic day, there are some great Paleo bread recipes out there that you can make, slice and freeze to thaw out and use as needed. Regardless of your sandwich choice, take any leftover lettuce and cabbage and eat it on the side with some fruit for a small side salad.
Leftovers: reheated or on top of a bed greens.
Quick Soup: There are a lot of ways to get homemade soup as quick as you can heat it up: Add a jar of compliant pureed tomatoes to an equal amount of bone broth (bought or homemade) and heat for a quick tomato soup. If you are AIP, then add canned pumpkin or even pureed carrots (check the baby food aisle for a compliant type). Another option is to take canned, pre-cooked vegetables or to cook fresh veggies in the broth and then blend with a hand stick blender. You can also take leftover or already cooked veggies and puree them in the blender before adding. So if you steam some root veggies or other soup friendly vegetables, make extra and puree them the next day to make a soup with your broth. When using canned vegetables, always check the ingredients to make sure there are no additives. Canned is not preferred but if it is the best you can do then I’m super excited that you got your vegetables in! We can always work on quality later down the road. Once you make your soup you can top it with fresh or sautéed onions ,some cabbage, leeks, sautéed greens, chopped garlic or other toppings like fresh herbs, leftover bacon crumbles (get creative!) and add some protein like shrimp, oysters, chicken, boiled egg, nuts and seeds, etc. You can easily turn this into vegetable soup by adding a variety of veggies and some thyme and sea salt. This will also freeze and reheat and can also be made in the crock pot. Some of my favorite soups are vegetable beef, chili made with beef heart, pumpkin and chicken with rosemary, carrot ginger, spaghetti sauce soup, chicken cooked in spaghetti sauce (they call this Chicken cacciatore when you add vegetables), White Sweet Potato Soup or Chicken and Sage. All of these can be made in the crock pot. Experiment making them with and without some added coconut milk (use at the end as it sometimes breaks down with long cooking times).
The crock pot is your friend if you do not like to cook or you can put things in a roasting pan and set a timer on the oven. One option is to cook a dish relatively plainly and then season it on the table so that if you use it for multiple meals, you can change the seasoning.
Soups– use your bone broth and add things like pureed tomatoes, pumpkin, carrots, cauliflower, sweet potato (white sweet potatoes are nice in this) as a base and then add a variety of vegetables and various proteins.
Change the base vegetable, the protein and the vegetables weekly to keep things fresh. Experiment with seasonings. If you don’t have bone broth on hand then either make some in the crock pot or buy some pre-made. I like the EPIC brand bone broth because it is good quality and just like home-made. It is sold in the refrigerator section of supermarkets like Whole Foods or Sprouts.
Roasted Chicken– You can boil this with Sage and serve with cauli-rice (trader joe’s sells it pre-riced and frozen) or just with salad or root veges. This is also very good cooked in a soup base such as tomato, as mentioned above. Another idea is to cook it with peppers and tomatoes and some home-made fajita seasoning (not AIP).
Roast Beef– add your beef broth for some au jus and some root veges for some yummy sides. Asparagus is good with this as is broccoli or brussel sprouts. You can change the seasoning by adding some grated fresh ginger and some coconut aminos or cook it with some oranges and onions. Change it up!
Pulled Pork Roast– experiment with different flavors. We have done an orange and cayenne roast and also a lime chipotle. We also did a pineapple and jerk seasoning one and they were all very tasty. If you are AIP, try doing it with just limes or just oranges and dress with some cilantro.
1.Cook for more meals than one. a Roast beef can turn into a lunch. pulled pork can be served with some quick slaw for dinner and then turn into taco salads the next night or added to soup the next. Roasted Chicken can be served with salad one night and then in a quick 4 minute stir-fry the next night or in a breakfast hash the next morning.
2. Remake your favorite meals. If you like spaghetti, then make spaghetti sauce and eat it like soup with some extra veggies. If you want mexican, then grab some plantain chips and make nachos with guacamole and veggies and leftover pulled pork. If you want wings one night, have some wings and serve with some salad and some fruit.
3. Eat Fruit for dessert and during snack time. This is something you can reduce later if you choose to do so. But at the beginning it can really help with compliance. You may choose to keep doing this if you have adrenal fatigue. I encourage you to experiment down the road to see what makes you feel the best. I adopted this habit after reading Medical Medium by Anthony Williams and it helped my energy levels considerably. I have hypoglycemia and just use the aforementioned tips to balance my blood sugar. As your adrenal fatigue improves, it is likely that your ability to handle fruits will also improve. Start slow if you are unsure about this tip.
4. Stick to simple ingredients and use condiments or toppings to personalize the flavor
5. use vegetables that cook quickly or buy them already prepped and chopped. If you have a good day then you can chop and prep ahead to save time and money.
6. Cook the same foods in different ways. I usually put my berries in my smoo0thie or eat them fresh. But when it got cold I started making them into a compote by simply heating them with some water or coconut oil. I added a little vanilla and some coconut cream to make it extra special and it took almost no time and even less effort.
A seasoned Paleo person will tell you that riced cauliflower is completely different from mashed cauliflower: try the same foods cooked in a different way, cooked in water or oil, steamed or baked, boiled or raw, etc. Season them a different way. I eat a lot of cabbage but i think of it as different if I make a slaw or cook it then when I put it raw on my salad.
(Fyi: affiliate links below)
Coconut water. Find one with no other ingredients.
Larabars (not AIP).
Nuts (not AIP)
Vegetable chips (This link is to a brand that is not AIP but there are other brands that are, mostly in bulk bins. Try stores like Sprouts or Fresh Market)
Dried fruit- just look for some that have no added sugar or preservatives
Raw Cacao Nibs (use carob for aip, but it won’t contain the magnesium in cacao) with banana slices and honey and nuts and raisins. Make this into a sundae! These have no other ingredients and no added sugar so if you eat seeds, this is an excellent source of magnesium and a treat that is allowed frequently.
Fun tip: make your own trail mix with cacao nibs, nuts or seeds and some dried fruit. (Not AIP) For an AIP version, use some chopped beef jerky or other dried meat and some dried fruit like apples.
My Favorite Paleo Pre-packaged foods:
Inca Brand plantain chips . I’ve gotten glutened by other brands so I stick to these.
Applegate Farms deli meats, hot dogs and bacon. Most have only salt added but the company is very forthcoming about telling you exactly what are in their spices. Read packages to make sure it fits your protocol.
Lara Bars (not aip)
PaleoRX bars (not aip). Delicious but chewy like toffee. They come in several Flavors.
Baby Food pouches– read ingredients but they are great when traveling and an easy way to get some extra fruits and vegetables in your meals.
Nuts (not AIP)
Apple Chips, Banana chips, Coconut Chips. They are all delicious and nutritious.
Fresh Fruit. Just in case I haven’t mentioned this (lol), one of the things I like about fruit is it is convenient, requires no preparation and travels well.
Compliant coconut ice cream – yes it exists. It is still a junk food though. This treat is not recommended frequently. My favorite is Luna and Larry’s but So Delicious brand will also work but has less coconut fat. This still contains sugar so this is for a rebellion day only. Eating too much sugar will make you feel badly so limit this and other treats to about once a month and keep the serving size small.
Hail Merry Tarts and Macaroon’s. (the tarts are not AIP but I believe the macaroons are compliant. Read bag to confirm) A delicious rebellion. These do have a lot of sugar though, so take it easy on them. Split them with someone to keep you from overdoing it or don’t buy more than you plan on eating at one sitting. Balance it with some real food and only buy them when you need to rebel. Do not eat these everyday.
Good Health Brand Potato Chips (not AIP). These are the only ones that haven’t glutened me, including ones that were certified gluten free. And they come in flavors! I like the Sea Salt and Black Pepper. I do not know if their other flavors are free of various ingredients. Read package carefully. This is still junk food and is for an occasional treat only.
Jackson’s Honest Sweet Potato Chips. I haven’t had these personally but they come highly recommended.
Terra Vegetable Chips. (Not AIP due to the oil in which they are cooked. They are cooked in cottonseed and it is not the best quality oil so if you can find another brand that uses a better oil, then choose those!) These are a great crunch while still packing a few nutrients and they come in several varieties.
Tips on staying compliant:
- Vary your foods so you get a variety of nutrients. Experiment with your levels of starches and carbs to see what makes you feel the best. I would start with more until you get the hang of things and then experiment with reducing if you wish.
- If you have a day where you would rather starve then have another vegetable, then take a break. This DOES NOT MEAN that you eat gluten and non compliant foods. This may mean that you eat too much fruit or just broth or do a juice fast or have too much protein or something along these lines. It may mean that dinner is some compliant chips, some juice and a banana with almond butter but it never means a pizza and a coke. Confession: Today I ate apples, bananas, nuts and compliant potato chips and will have wings and veggies for dinner. I haven’t had a vegetable all day except my celery juice and all I want is a few things. Everything else feels like forced feeding. There have been days where I ate compliant coconut ice cream for dinner. Yep! That happened. Am I proud? No but I am not sorry either. But you know what? I never ate anything on the forbidden list. Was it healthy? Nope. But unlike the foods on the forbidden lists, it was something I could undo with a day of good eating. It was a cheat that kept me from having to start all the way over and from feeling deprived. For more ideas on how to “cheat legally” read my article on making the 90/10 method work for you and your health by clicking here.
- When you are tempted, tell yourself you can have it when you can get home and make your own version. There are paleo wraps, bread, muffins, cakes, nachos, pizza, stromboli and much much more if you just can make it home to find the recipe. If you are too lazy to cook it, then you don’t want it that badly. If you are too sick to cook it, then you need healthy food a lot more than you need pizza. (hard truth, huh? *sigh..*)
- Never go anywhere without food. I always travel with an apple, some nuts, a banana, a Lara Bar, or some Baby Food with me if I am going to be out and about. This will keep me from getting so hungry that I am desperate. If I think it won’t be enough, this small snack gets me through until I can get to a grocery store to pick up some more sturdy snack options.
- Join a support group. There are WONDERFUL groups of people. On Facebook there are multiple Wahl’s support groups, AIP support groups and Paleo support groups. There are groups and there are pages from people like me. (my Facebook page is My Crazy Journey and has my logo to identify it among other pages who apparently are also on a crazy journey) Use the search bar at the top of your Facebook page and pick a few. Spend time observing, asking questions, getting ideas and recipes and enjoy the support! You will learn a lot and never stop learning this way.
- Read a book about what you are trying to do. Whether your author is Sarah Ballantyne, Susan Blum, Amy Myers, Terry Wahls, Anthony Williams or any of the many others that are out there with some expert help, reading more can not only empower you with knowledge but keep you focused and motivated towards healing. It will also give you different perspectives on ways and tools to heal. For example, I choose Paleo but Wahl’s is my “home base” for my structure, but with AIP influences and tools and tweaks that I learned from Anthony Williams.
- When you start to feel good again, then eating off plan will make you feel bad again. Make a committment to 30 days of the plan and if you do not feel better, then contact a health coach to help you trouble shoot. Cheating will only delay you feeling good and prolong feeling badly. Ask yourself? Do I want bagels or do I want to be well? If bagels are screaming at you, then deconstruct the craving (you may need help doing this). Do you need more carbs for energy? Are you just detoxing? Do you need something that food contains? Do you want something crunchy? Do you want something salty or sweet? Do you just need to feel bad? Is the craving mental or physical? Is it emotional? Get to the root of it and respond to that. This may take time but it is worth the effort. There is always a reason you want a particular food. Sometimes it means you need to eat it and sometimes it means you need something else instead. Sometimes it means you need to take a hot bath and watch a funny movie or see a friend for some social time and a hug.
I hope these help as they are just a quick overview. If you have any specific questions, please comment below and I will either answer them or write an article that focuses on that specific aspect. Do you need a meal plan focused on budget? Do you need a meal plan that is strict AIP? Do you need a meal plan that is Wahl’s level 3? Do you want ideas you can run with or do you want to be told exactly what to eat and what to buy? Do you crave crazy things and not know why you keep eating off plan? Comment below with your email address and name for answers or requests. If you like this type of content, then sign up to follow my blog for recipes, articles and more. And thank you for joining me on My Crazy Journey!
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