What's a caveman's favorite sandwich? Club, of course!
All kidding aside, according to Karen Stoychoff Inman, an advocate of the paleo lifestyle, our cavemen ancestors actually had the right idea.
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"Choosing to eat a paleo diet is a lifestyle choice," said Karen, fitness trainer for the Elite Athletic Development Center, which she owns with her husband. The goal, she says, "is to eat fresh, natural foods such as grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, dark leafy vegetables, healthy fats and nuts and seeds."
Paleo eaters avoid what Karen calls the higher calorie, nutritional weaklings; foods, like dairy, legumes, grains and sugar, that don't carry their own weight, so to speak, and can lead to digestive problems.
Paleo eaters focus on eating foods that would have been eaten before the agricultural revolution, before the words "food" and "processing" were used together. For many people, thinking outside the box (or can) might be intimating, but Karen has been eating this way for more than two years and believes that the health benefits far outweigh any feelings of depravation.
"We are the only species of animal that drinks the milk of another species. When we do drink it, our body produces four times the amount of insulin it needs." Inman says this leads to a cycle of insulin peaks and valleys that hampers the body's metabolism. Sticking to a paleo regimen, she assures, will help you feel better, sleep better and lower inflammation.
Karen didn't always eat this way. Coming from a Greek family she was raised on a typical Mediterranean diet.
"All the women in my family were great cooks. My grandmother made phyllo dough in the dining room. She would roll out huge sheets of it and use a big stick as a rolling pin." Karen's parents owned a restaurant so she grew up there, first folding the napkins then finally working in the kitchen cleaning shrimp.
"Cooking has always appealed to me. I love to be in the kitchen. I have to force myself to follow a recipe at first, and then I play around with it." One of Karen's favorite things to do is to take a traditional recipe, like her slow-cooked brisket, and give it a paleo twist.
"I have a household of four non-paleo eaters at home; I need to cook foods that are palette pleasers. I love it when I turn a meal paleo and they don't realize it. That's a payoff!"
If the paleo lifestyle sounds like something you might try, Karen has several suggestions. First, focus on what you should add to your diet, not what to eliminate. Stock up on dark leafy vegetables and find sources for grass-fed meat.
"Build your plate around the most nutritious piece of the meal. The more healthy foods you add to your plate will bump off the less healthy choices."
Next, rethink breakfast.
"Western breakfasts are very grain based. Write a new definition of breakfast," suggests Karen.
Karen encourages people try the Paleo 30-Day Challenge through Elite Athletic Development Center, eliteathletic.com.
"We figure that you can do anything for 30 days," Karen says. "Many people try it and end up sticking with it as a lifestyle choice because they feel so much better."
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