So we take some inspiration from a lifestyle blog run by a guy called Mark Sissons. Mark has come up with what he calls the Primal Blueprint, a set of “Rules of Living” for our ancestors, which he reckons apply just as much today because our bodies are essentially the same as they were 10,000 years ago. There is a huge amount of information on his blog but the basic “rules” are: eat animals, insects and plants; move around at a slow pace; lift heavy things; run really fast every now and then; get sleep; get sun; play; try to avoid trauma; avoid poisonous things (more of which later!) and use your mind. And that’s the height of it. Mark explains it really well in the post above and also provides a Primal Blueprint 101 page where he links to all the basic information.
Now the pictures at the top of Mark’s blog change regularly but often show him in the sunshine with a surfboard ready to catch a wave or running along a Californian beach or doing pullups barechested on some class of a beam of wood in a mountain somewhere. As I may have mentioned, we don’t live in California and there are precious few tanned American lifestyle gurus pounding out the miles down at Dollymount. So we are obviously coming at this from a different place. But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible for us to do. It just requires a bit of thought, a bit of translating and a bit of situating of the core concepts in our own environment.
In terms of diet, we started slowly, making small changes as we went along. Primal eating means having lots of good quality meat, fish, eggs, fats, vegetables, nuts and seeds, as well as some fruit. On the no side, it means avoiding grains like, say, wheat, rice and oats, steering clear of sugar as much as possible and really cutting out highly processed foods which are full of ingredients that you can’t control. Now we’re not clean clean Primal by any means. I still use a spoon of flour to thicken up a curry or a gravy. I use stock cubes for flavouring. Our vegetables are rarely organic and our meat is mostly bought in the supermarket. There is a recipe in the Primal cookbook for bison chilli which has, I can assure you, not been made in our house (CaveHusband actually made it with minced beef from Lidl and it was lovely). There is another recipe involving some kind of offal which I did experiment with and then had to eat because CaveHusband was so disgusted by it and I didn’t want to let the side down but jesus, it was tough. But even given those caveats, we’re doing quite well I think. Our meals and sauces are all made from the basic ingredients so we know what goes in. We’ve found alternatives to pasta and rice and potatoes (will write about that in another post) and have a range of quick snacks to draw on that are Primal or at least semi-primal (very dark chocolate is a daily treat).
I like the idea of sharing some of the tips we’ve picked up along the way through this blog: the grain alternatives, the snacks, where you can get the components of the primal diet at not too much cost, and other little bits for anyone who’s interested. It took a bit of a leap of faith on our parts to trust that we could make this work in cold, rainy, spud-obsessed Ireland and it’d be nice to pass on the experience to anyone else contemplating it.
I should say that we don’t have the two boys grain-free. They mostly eat the same dinners as us so are eating Primal in that way but CaveBoy is a pasta and pizza fiend so I let him have each of those once a week, with a sauce I make myself to control the amount of sugar. And he’s a mad man for cakes and biscuits and is not convinced by my efforts using nut flours so I try not to deprive him completely there. As for CaveBaby, he’s much more adventurous but he loves an auld spud and I want to make sure he gets the calories he needs so we don’t go too strict on it. I’m also not entirely sure if I want him to have no exposure to gluten at all as there are some suggestions that being exposed to gluten while still breastfeeding might protect him against coeliac disease. I don’t know enough about the science to take risks with his future health so am hedging my bets by allowing gluten but minimising where possible. We have gluten-free pasta and pizza bases in the house that I use sometimes – they’re not primal as they’re made from rice or corn but they help to keep the overall gluten level that the boys have down.
And that’s it for now! Will be back soon with CaveMammy’s Guide to Primal Substitutes (subtitled The Unsung Wonders of Cauliflower).