I am just coming up to my six month paleoversary. Truly, I cannot believe the improvement to my health or my family’s health in this short time! Nor can I believe just how much I have learned about nutrition, physiology, and biochemistry! To think I used to view egg yolks as full of unhealthy saturated fats and egg whites as a healthy protein source! Now I throw out those unhealthy egg whites full of gut irritating lysozyme, but eat the nutritious yolks! Given how this diet has revolutionized my health, it’s a little embarrassing to admit that I am just now completing the purge of my pantry and freezer. Have you tackled this yet?
Many advocates of paleolithic nutrition recommend purging your pantry right from the start. The idea is to go through your fridge, freezer and cupboards and throw out every food that contains neolithic ingredients, especially gluten. If you don’t have these foods in your house, you won’t be tempted to eat them. What exactly should you throw out? Start with everything that contains gluten. Even your most decadent cheat meals should avoid gluten. Check out online lists of gluten containing foods because it can be hidden in some very surprising places. Next, throw out everything that contains modern vegetable oils. Lastly, tackle the rest of the grains, legumes and dairy products. If you want to keep a little rice, black beans, popcorn, goat cheese, peanut butter or chocolate in the house for the occasional treat, I think that’s okay. It really depends on who you are, what your goals are, how close to achieving those goals you are, what health challenges you face, and whether or not you can be disciplined knowing those foods are in your house. Some people handle cheats by not having any neolithic foods in their house and only eating cheat meals out of the house. Figure out what’s best for you and your family. Certainly, if you are trying to follow a paleo diet but giving in to neolithic foods far too often, I would recommend getting them out of your house now!
Why didn’t I purge sooner? I find that most people are hesitant to throw out food (especially what they think of as convenience foods and comfort foods) when they first start eating a paleo diet. They want to see if it works first. I was the same way. When I first started eating a paleolithic diet, I was trying it out just on myself. I didn’t want to start throwing stuff out (well, giving it away mostly) until I was sure that I wasn’t going to eat it (or feed it to my family). I didn’t start aggressively converting my family to a paleolithic diet until a couple of months ago (now, my kids are gluten-free and my husband is eating lacto-paleo). Also, I didn’t have an issue with temptation. Sure, put a bowl of dark chocolate-covered macadamias in front of me and I’ll polish that off in no time, but I felt so good so soon after starting a paleo diet that crackers or cookies just weren’t enticing at all. So, now that I’m sure that a gluten-containing food will never again be allowed to cross my lips (and hopefully my family’s too), it’s time to clear out everything.
What do you do with all that food? I hate the idea of throwing out food (maybe my mom drilled the whole starving children in Africa thing a little too hard into my brain while I was growing up), even if I don’t consider gluten to be a food (I have really come to consider it a poison instead). I gave everything that was unopened to a local charity that helps feed people in need. Foods in my freezer and open foods in my pantry went to friends who aren’t ready to switch to a paleolithic diet yet (I am not in the business of converting people, just in providing information to those who are looking for it). A few things went into my compost bin. The girls and I took a whole pile of crackers and bread to the park to feed the geese. I also stopped buying gluten-containing foods long before I was ready to truly purge my pantry, which helped in the sense that there wasn’t as much to get rid of as there would have been if I’d tackled this job a few months earlier.
What do you replace these foods with? Losing convenience foods is one of the big challenges of eating a paleolithic diet. I recommend committing an afternoon on the weekend (or other convenient day) and cooking for your freezer (I try and always have frozen soups, stews, roasted chicken meat, and paleo pasta sauce in my freezer for quick meals during the week). I also try and freeze one meal’s worth of leftovers every time I make a big meal during the week. Freezing paleo muffins, paleo bread and/or paleo cookies may be really helpful for your family. I also keep a good stock of frozen vegetables, freeze-dried fruit, coconut products, nuts and seeds. For stocking your pantry, check out my post Important Pantry Items for the Paleo Baker.
If you are just starting a paleo diet and you aren’t ready to purge your pantry yet, that’s okay. But I can tell you from personal experience that when you are ready, it’s a truly liberating thing to do.