Our guest writer for this month’s feature is Abe Wagner. Abe is a mixed martial artist, former cast member of season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter, a guest blogger for TUF and Mark’s Daily Apple, and a huge proponent of the Paleo lifestyle.
“Paleo” has become something of a buzzword among the health minded individuals of Omaha, on both sides of the debate. Proponents love to tell you about chronic illnesses that eased up or vanished, while opponents fear the high cholesterol and fat intake. Primal evangelists cite studies correlating low fat, high grain diets and basically everything that’s wrong with the human body. I’ve done my homework and feel comfortable having this discussion with anyone who wants to, but this article isn’t about the science of the diet. It’s about troubleshooting your food intake.
Honestly, all of the information can be very overwhelming. It’s been about 5 years since my conversion and I’ve boiled down some of the information and found ways to dine out without bumming everyone out. Let’s face it, the only thing worse than having a gut ache from your dinner is sitting with the guy having a half hour conversation with the server before he orders. No, I don’t have an allergy to gluten. Yes, I really need to know what’s in the sauce. No, margarine is not ok.
How Paleo Can You Go?
My first stop at the grocery store is always the meat counter. Today, they’re sampling gyro meat. It’s a great night to grill, so I ask to see the ingredients which should say something like: ground lamb, ground beef, seasonings. The fourth ingredient: flour. This is where the first level of carnivores will stop and take a bite. For me, it will lead to a 4 day gut ache and flare up of eczema by morning.
I politely decline and continue my search.
It never fails. I’m always drawn to the “Gluten Free” section of the grocery store. Gluten is in just about everything you want to eat, from the obvious (pasta) to the wtf? (soy sauce and some brands of ice cream)
I turn the box of gluten free crackers over to read the label. Rice flour, soybean oil, and sugar are the first three ingredients. This is where the second level of paleo diners, often referred to as “primal” would toss it into their cart. For some, rice and high levels of sugar don’t greatly affect them. For me, my joints will ache for days until my body has rid itself of inflammation. It never fails. I always walk out of the gluten free section empty handed.
As the checker rings up my purchases, she asks what I’m celebrating. I see her point- 40 pounds of ground beef and something close to 12 pounds of steak. A few chuck roasts. The 30 pounds of bacon throws her slightly, but she tries not to judge. Red peppers, cauliflower, and a brick of Mozzarella. I fall somewhere between the 2nd and 3rd levels of paleo. The third level is home to the hard core- no dairy, grain, legumes, or soy. All organic, non gmo, hormone free and grass fed. No extra sugar, fruit in season and moderation, nothing processed. EVER.
In short, if historians haven’t found it drawn on the inside of a cave, it won’t be on the inside of a paleo shopping cart. Truthfully, staying out of the aisles is just about the only way to stay compliant. Stick to the perimeter of the store- meat, produce, sometimes dairy. Daddy’s Neighborhood Market and Tomato Tomato both have excellent selections of grass fed organic meat to choose from.
Cut Out The Middle Man
The truth is that I’m a fat kid at heart. Every time I walk into a grocery store, it’s a battle between me and the bright red orange displays of Doritos. I find it easiest to avoid a standard market all together if at all possible. Every spring, I join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) to keep myself stocked on locally grown organic produce, hormone free eggs, and grass fed meat. Dealing directly with the farmer ensures that my money goes right back into the farm. If you are what you eat, you are what you eat eats. If I don’t want it in me, I don’t want it in my food. I joined Pawnee Pride’s CSA 4 years ago. The beef is grass fed and ethically raised. Paul, the farmer behind Pawnee Pride, will even offer to tour you around his facility. He’s a guy you can really trust with your food.
Caving In, Dining Out
It's not always reasonable to enjoy your life and completely avoid dining out. It’s also not worth your time to dine out if you’re ordering a spinach salad with no dressing and glaring across your table at your friends, who seem to really be enjoying those hot wings fried in soy bean oil.
Paleo is not new. To be fair, it’s been around for about 2.5 million years- but the eating habits of our ancestors have had quite the renaissance in the last decade. This being the case, several dining establishments have incorporated it into their menu.
Kitchen Table in the Old Market is known for their farm-to-fork philosophy, but they’re also known for their commitment to the vegetarian community. Co-Owner Jessica is vegetarian herself and knew how it felt to be limited in your options when sitting down at a restaurant, so she expanded the menu to include many paleo-friendly dishes. The meals are delicious, and knowing that the food was all locally sourced keeps me a frequent diner.
1415 farnam street
If you are familiar with churrascaria, or Brazilian Steakhouse dining, stop reading now and just head to Rodizio Grill in Lincoln. If you’re not familiar, it goes something like this: You sit down and ask for the ‘full Rodizio’. You will then head to the most extensive salad bar you have ever seen. Exotic curry salads and marinated olives with buffalo mozzarella- this alone could satisfy a hungry cave kid. When you return to your seat, you will have been given a token that looks like an hourglass, but will be red on one side and green on the other. Flipping your token to green summons a parade of gauchos- waiters with skewers of meat. Beef tri-tip, spicy chicken, pork tenderloin, and filets are carved onto your plate one at a time. Hearty white fish and marinated chicken hearts slide off of skewers until you have had enough and finally flip your token to red.
737 P St Lincoln
In early March, Kansas City-based Evolve Paleo opened in West Omaha. Evolve delivers paleo meals right to your door! They offer an incredible variety, so it’s just about impossible to get bored with your food. You place your orders weekly, but if you forget or need a pick-me-up, you can stop into their store front on 180th and Q to grab a premade lunch or some trail mix.
Having these options doesn’t mean you can just sit and dine with reckless abandon, but that’s not the point. Paleo is about mindfulness, and knowing your food and how it fuels you. That said, it’s a rare caveman comfort to be able to relax a little as my dining options continue to grow.