Being a caveman is no easy task, especially when you grew up with home-baked goods as a daily expectation. I used to think that being Paleo, or restricting your diet in any way, meant that you shouldn’t even bother with re-creating what you are trying to cut out. For example, veggie burgers. Why bother if you know that it will never be quite the same as that juicy charcoal-grilled hamburger patty?
But since starting my Green-Eating Challenge, my mind has ever-so-slightly shifted to accepting these craving-induced mocks of the original.
I still think that if you are trying to change your diet for the better, whether that means cutting out sweets, meats or grains, it is an opportunity to expand your horizons. Try out something new! Push your limits! And switch out some of those old recipe go-tos for healthier alternatives.
For Paleo however, restrictions are to the extreme. And despite the potentially energy-boosting effects of a caveman diet, sometimes you have to find an outlet to satisfy your more domestic cravings. To help you out with this transition (because the struggle is real…), here are 7 must-have ingredients for domesticated caveman survival.
1. Seeds and nuts (sunflower, pumpkin, almonds)
Because chips and peanuts and (my favorite) roasted chickpeas are off the snacking list, you need to have something to munch on. For this, thank god, we have nuts and seeds. Mix in some dried fruit and make your own trail mix, or simply enjoy on their own, nuts and seeds are a Paleo must!
2. Spaghetti squash
Pasta of any kind is a big Paleo no-no, but sometimes you need a quick, no-fuss meal. Spaghetti squash is a 15-minute dinner revelation that provides some satisfaction for those grain-filled desires. Add stewed tomatoes and ground beef and you have a fulfilling meal right before your very eyes (and mouth).
3. Almond butter
Even Paleos need something to indulge in, and for me, this has been almond butter. With regular peanut butter out of the picture this is a perfect (and in my opinion, slightly sweeter) alternative to eating sugar-filled cookies and treats. It can be a bit more expensive, but it’s worth every penny. And because of the higher price tag, it makes you stop and think a couple seconds longer before grabbing that spoon…
Eating a meat-heavy diet can be daunting on your wallet. Eggs provide a cheaper protein supplement, and add some variety in your meals. Whether you use them for an easy addition to salads, or a handy hard-boiled egg for on-the-go, make sure to put eggs on your weekly grocery list.
Without a doubt, bananas have been my Paleo savior. Always a quick breakfast option, they can be used to balance out a smoothie, or provide a destination for almond butter (instead of a spoon). It’s also one of the cheaper fruits out there, which is always a plus for a college budget.
6. Olive and coconut oil
Oils are an essential part of a caveman diet, but can be tricky as soy products are forbidden. I recommend keeping both a low and high heat-tolerant oil on hand for when you need a base for home-made salad dressing (olive oil), or a little something extra to fight annoying pan-residues when baking, roasting or pan-frying (coconut oil). Plus, a little oil can go a long way in adding flavor to any meal.
Need I say more?
Hopefully these items help ease your transition to becoming a caveman. If there is anything I missed that you think should be on this list, feel free to share in the comments below! Good luck Paleo champs, I believe in you.