Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Working Through Cravings

Why is there such comfort in high-carb and sugary foods? Why do so many people have a hard time taking them out of their diet? Is it lack of willpower? Or is there more to it?

Foods can actually have strong neurological influences on our mind and body. Evidence suggests that some of the addictive properties of drugs are also present in some foods and the mechanisms for drug addiction are the same for food addiction. Theories are that the “feel good” signals in our brains can “override normal self-control mechanisms,” leading to overeating and addiction. Over time, you require more of the substance to get the same “high.” Hormonal imbalances may also effect our addictions and cravings. Having low levels of leptin or leptin resistance may be partially responsible for the infamous “sweet tooth.”

The more “junk” you are used to eating, the longer it may take to develop new habits and overcome the cravings that deter you from overall health. Both behavioral and biochemical changes need to take place and this requires time. For those with a pronounced “sweet tooth” or deeper addiction, even a one-day interruption from a paleo or primal way of eating can be a slippery slope. If it happens, the key is not letting yourself slide down the hill. Stick with it and persevere!

Whether you have a true food addiction or are struggling with minor cravings, while working through a ‘Paleo’ challenge for example ;-), here are a few strategies that can help you over the hump.

Tips for Overcoming Cravings:

• When you notice an approaching lust for a chocolate-chip cookie, pull out your “Why You Want to Make a Change” list, and/or your goals and READ THEM OUT LOUD!

• Exercise!! This helps release similar “feel good” hormones and compounds that addictive foods can.

• Tune in and appreciate the foods you are eating more.

• Make a list of things you love to do (that make you feel good), aside from food. When temptations, boredom or emotions strike, turn towards something on your list rather than a pack of Oreos. Examples may include: going for a walk, listening to your favorite music, taking a hot shower, playing tag with your kids, stretching, doing 10 push-ups, or calling a friend.

• Add berries to your meal for a touch of sweetness.

• Use spices such as cinnamon (which can also help stabilize blood sugar) and nutmeg that have a slight sweetness.

• Add lemon or lime juice to your foods.

• Drink more water.

• Have a cup of herbal tea.

• Reduce caffeine.

• Get more sleep.

• Reduce your stress levels.

• Use deep breathing exercises.

• Find a support system.

What are some other techniques you use in your moment of weakness?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Eating 'Paleo' While Eating Out

It's always best to eat at home and cook for yourself when you are adopting a 'primal' way of eating. You have great control over what ingredients you use and how your food is prepared. However, the reality of life is that many of us have to eat out every now and then whether we are traveling, at a lunch meeting or gathering with friends. It can be intimidating to eat 'primal' while at a restaurant. But, with a few strategies you can still make some pretty decent choices.

Here are a few tips to avoid being the freak who never goes out to eat!

1. Check the menu before you go. 
Most restaurants now have their menus available online. Familiarize yourself with it and have a plan ahead of time.

2. Control what you can and let go of what you can't. 
Maybe you have no choice when it comes to what type of oil a particular establishment cooks with; let it go.

3. Ask for a gluten-free menu. 
More restaurants are catering to those with gluten allergies and will often offer multiple dishes or a menu for those people. Let your server know that you have certain "allergies" and it would be appreciated if they could work with you. Gluten doesn't just hide in bread, pasta, or other grains. It's often hiding in sauces, soups, and dips as well. Just the other night, my husband and I went out for a date night and ordered some great quality meat and veggies, however, it came with a light gravy of sorts that we are guessing contained gluten. We both paid the price.

4. Send the breadbasket away so you aren't tempted to munch on it while waiting for your meal.

5. Be proactive! 
Don't be afraid to ask questions about how foods are prepared or what ingredients make up a particular dish. 

6. Make substitutions. 
Ask for extra veggies instead of rice, pasta, bread or potatoes. Ask for extra meat.

7. Eat at places where you can typically make paleo-friendly choices. 

It's usually possible to create a dish with lettuce, meat, pico de gallo and guacamole.

Chipotle salad with extra chicken, extra pico and extra guacamole!

The other day my husband order fajitas WITHOUT tortillas, rice, beans or sour cream. He said, "I would love a big plate of chicken, peppers and onions, pico, guac, and greens." This is what he got - delicious!

Coconut curries can be a great go-to. Ask for your curry over steamed veggies, such as broccoli, instead of rice.

Thai chicken curry served with a side of steamed broccoli. I chopped the broccoli and added it right in.

Steak house: 
When choosing a cut of meat it's helpful to know where the meat is coming from. If it's conventionally raised, feed-lot, you want to choose lean cuts (tenderloin, sirloin, top or bottom round, etc.). If you have a spot that sources grass-fed beef you can comfortably choose fattier cuts knowing you have a good source of omega-3s and CLA. Most steak houses will offer vegetables a la carte. A great option as long as you avoid creamed dishes or those with "gravies" (these often include dairy and gluten/flour). Sometimes you even have the option for a baked sweet potato.

At your typical American style restaurant it's often easy to opt for a big salad topped with meat and various vegetables. Ask to "hold" any toppings that don't fit within your eating goals (croutons, cheese, candied fruit, etc.) and ask for olive oil and vinegar on the side instead of pre-mixed dressings (most salad dressings are made with oils that are not recommended for a 'paleo' lifestyle. You may also opt for a burger over salad in place of a bun and a side of steamed or sauteed veggies in place of fries. Some restaurants do offer "sweet potato fries," but take note that restaurant fries are often coated in flour before being dipped in less than ideal oils. If you have or suspect a gluten sensitivity, it's important to be aware of this.
A burger with sautéed mushrooms and guacamole, served over lettuce with a salad on the side.

I tailored this salad to make it paleo-friendly! You may feel high-maintainance in the midst of ordering, but it's worth it to get what helps you feel good.

Olive oil and vinegar on the side!

Chinese cuisine can be challenging (at least here in the US) because they tend to use a lot of vegetable oils, sugar in their sauces, as well as soy and gluten. It can be possible to get plain meet (steamed chicken, shrimp or beef) and steamed veggies. 

8. When possible, support restaurants that use local ingredients and quality foods!! 
There are more spots that serve grass-fed and finished beef and produce from local organic farms. Demand will encourage more of these offerings! 

9. Try using some of the new smart phone apps geared towards paleo cuisine on the go: 
PaleoGoGo is one.

If anyone has any techniques they use while eating out paleo-style, please share below!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentine's Day, Paleo Style

Valentine's Day is tomorrow! 

You either love it or you hate it. Unfortunately, at least in my mind, it has become very commercialized (as have many Holidays). We are heavily influenced by the media and encouraged to celebrate Valentine's Day with lots of chocolate and treats wrapped in shiny paper, expensive dinners out on the town, and more than our share of wine or champagne. 

But, what does Valentine's really mean to you? For me it is about appreciating and spending time with those closest to you. And, what better way to do that than think of activities you love to do with your significant other or your family and friends?! A focus on enjoying the moment, rather than a focus on the food, can be more meaningful on one hand and help keep you on track with your health goals on the other!

So, when you are feeling sorry for yourself for not being able to indulge in processed treats and excessive drinking because you are in the midst of a 'paleo' challenge, or because this is the lifestyle you have adopted for better health, turn that frown upside down and celebrate in other ways. 

• Enjoy a favorite activity together
• Cook dinner together at home! 
• Satisfy your "sweet tooth" with paleo-friendly options (delicious nonetheless) 

Here are a few treats to consider:
• Coconut whipped cream with fresh berries and sliced almonds. Click here for a coconut cream how-to!
Paleo Truffles (posted earlier in the week right here on Primal Peak)
• Baked Pears (eliminate the honey - they will still be just as good!)

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Paleo "Flu"

If you are new to 'paleo' and feeling less than your best, please read on! Those of you on day-6 of your 'paleo' challenge may be wondering why you feel worse instead of better. This is a quick write-up from months past to further explain.

I'm not going to lie, quick elimination of the high carbohydrate and processed foods that many of us have relied on for years can lead to a 2 - 3 week period of feeling:
• Hungry
• Lethargic
• Headachy
• GI distressed
• Stuffy-headed
• And simply, less than your best!
This is sometimes referred to as the "Paleo Flu".

For those of you in the midst of your 'paleo challenges'...
Sticking with 'paleo' for a full 30 days (or more) gives your body the chance to adjust (making the switch from carb-burner to fat-burner) and transition to feeling:
• Satisfied longer
• Craving free
• Energized throughout the day
• Well-rested (better sleep)
• Bloat-free
• Clear breathing and clear thinking

If you are feeling this..., it could be because...:
• Tired and sluggish - Your body no longer has the level of quick carbs it's used to using for energy. Within a few weeks, most people make the shift to utilizing fat (dietary and body stores) for fuel and feel far more energetic than before.
• Hungry - Your body is "craving" sugars. Don't give in! Turn to paleo-friendly options and make sure there are enough healthy fats in your meals to help diminish your cravings.
• Constipated - There's been a quick decrease in fiber from grain elimination. Increase your vegetables and include some nuts and seeds to increase fiber with paleo eating.
• Nauseous or really full - You may be adjusting to higher fat consumption. Try increasing your fats more slowly within the first month. Some people find lipase enzymes to be helpful.
• Diarrhea - Adjusting to a higher fat consumption. Again, try increasing fats more slowly.

The second week on 'paleo' can be the toughest in regard to cravings and wanting to give-in to your old ways! Continue to put in the extra effort to make delicious, whole-food meals, stay hydrated and make notes in your journal about how you are feeling. Find outlets other than food - things you love to do: get some fresh air, focus on your family and friends and remember why you want to make changes in your life. Stick with it and the pay-off will be worth it!

Anyone have a dose of the 'paleo flu'? Share your comments below:

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Paleo Truffles!

Paleo Truffles! (no sugar added)
Shannon Doleac, MS, CSCS, CF-L1

Looking for a Valentine's Day treat without the sugar? This may be your answer!


  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup coconut butter
  • 1/3 cup almond butter
  • 1/4 cup 100% raw cacao
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla 
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut


  1. If your coconut oil and coconut butter are solid, warm them slightly to liquify.
  2. Combine all ingredients (EXCEPT shredded coconut) in a small freezer safe bowl until well mixed.
  3. Place your bowl in the freezer for 5 to 7 minutes to allow the mixture to thicken and set.
  4. Form ~ 3/4 inch diameter balls with your hands.
  5. Roll truffles in shredded coconut, place on a plate and keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

Makes ~ 12 truffles

My Plate 2-10-13

Day 5 of the 'Paleo' Challenge! 
Here are a few pics of "my plates" today.

• Banana Paleo Pancakes
• Chicken sausage over salad
• Topped with avocado and salsa
• Cup of tea

I thought today was going to be more of a hodge podge of food for lunch, but I started pulling stuff out of the fridge and pantry - did a little slicing, dicing, rolling and plating, and voila! Awesome make your own salads!! Delish!
• Organic mixed salad greens and spinach
• Sliced peppers, cucumbers, avocado
• Applegate Farms ham and organic salami
• Nuts and seeds
• Olive oil and balsamic vinegar

It doesn't have to take a whole lot of time to put together a fantastic meal!

• Local, pastured, grilled bone-in pork chops 
• Topped with cooked apples, raisins, unsweetened dried apricots, cinnamon and coconut oil
• Sautéed beet greens, baby kale, red peppers and garlic (cooked in coconut oil, seasoned with sea salt and pepper)
• Mashed cauliflower (cooked with homemade beef bone broth, garlic and pepper)