It is 2019, and lifestyle choices abound. We have more flexibility, options, and control over our diets than ever before. The popular Paleo Diet, based on the so-called “Primal Blueprint,” is therefore not the bastion of hardcore meat-eaters that it once was. Vegans and vegetarians, who comprise the other end of the food ethos and dietary spectrum, can borrow a (salad) leaf, so to speak, from the paleo playbook.
Here are a few ways in which vegans and vegetarians can go Paleo:
- Choose your fats wisely:
Fats are a pillar of a paleo diet, but paleo is no excuse to fill up on bacon! Vegetarians who consume dairy can add moderate amounts of ghee to their diet. Both vegans and vegetarians can consume cold-pressed oils of olive, sunflower, coconut which are rich in omega-3, retain their original nutrients and are free of the chemicals found in processed canola, vegetable or safflower oils. Add flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, walnuts, and almonds to your salads. Nut butter such as natural or home-made peanut butter is a great source of good fat.
Bypass easy (and processed, unhealthy) carbs like sliced white bread or pasta. Incorporate more sprouts in your diet or look for “heritage grains”– minimally modified grains. Quinoa is a popular vegan favorite, but we recommend you look locally for low-gluten grains like ragi, buckwheat, jowar, bajra, etc.
- Eat real plants and plant-based protein:
Select plants based on their high protein content. While chickpea and soybean-based items like hummus and tofu are obvious favorites, you can get a lot of protein power from leafy greens like spinach or kale. Peas, too are rich in protein. There is the added convenience of pea-protein powder to add to your post-workout recovery shakes, or, as a thickener to curries and gravies for dishes that have peas as an ingredient. Dairy-eating vegetarians can have paneer or whey protein. Power up for workouts with energy-boosting fruits like the ubiquitous banana.
- Go back to your roots:
Like, literally. Roots are a good source of complex carbohydrates. Instead of potato chips, try baked taro or cassava chips. Baked sweet potato or yam seasoned with low-sodium salt can be delicious, filling and yield slow-release, sustained energy throughout the day.
- Get creative:
Switch your spaghetti noodles for “Zoodles” or zucchini noodles. A raging favorite among healthy eaters in the West, Zoodles are pasta minus the gluten and calorie load. Zoodle-making appliances are available nowadays; you can try your hand at it if you are feeling adventurous!
- Lastly, consider being “Flexitarian”:
Flexitarians rely mostly on a plant-based diet with some concessions: Like fish oil tablets, occasional seafood, soy or almond milk instead of regular milk, etc. Another popular variation is Lacto-ovo-pescatarian, wherein you occasionally consume dairy, eggs, and fish.