The Vegetarian Paleo Diet: Is there a such thing?!
There is a lot of buzz going around about the Paleo Diet.
Paleo diets focus on lean proteins coupled with a ‘low and slow’ carb intake… and many are seeing rapid weight loss from this caveman approach to eating. This makes Paleo dieting attractive to many, but can it work if you’re a vegetarian? Sure, a paleolithic vegetarian may sound ridiculously oxymoronic, but the majority of the diet in this age was plant-based. The idea behind Paleo dieting is to only includes food that would have been available in the Paleolithic period, or what we might consider the ‘caveman cuisine’.
First, let’s look at what is allowed and what is excluded on the Paleo Diet:
Yes: Fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts and seeds, and good oils (i.e. olive, macadamia, coconut and flaxseed).
No: Cereals, grains, legumes, dairy, beans, rice, soy refined sugar, potatoes, salt, processed foods, and refined vegetable oils such as canola.
How does a vegetarian go about eating and surviving with a Paleo diet? First, you have to remember that the nature of any diet plan comes with sacrifices and a sprinkle of struggle (much like gathering food as a caveman). However, being a vegetarian is not a diet as much as it is a lifestyle choice. If you are beginning to look a little soft around the edges, it might be time for you to consider going paleolithic. If you’re interested in trying out a Paleo-vegetarian diet, here are two options.
The Strict Version:
Sure, it may seem like you’re seriously limiting your lifestyle. However, paleo-vegetarian is surprisingly easy. A pleasant side effect is that this minimalistic behavior will help simplifying decision-making.
If you are an ovo-vegetarian, you’ll find the change easier. You can continue to eat your beloved eggs. Eggs will help fill out your salad and breakfast meals, and they are obviously a good source of protein. There are other protein sources you can have that are just as high. One serving of sunflower seeds has 8 grams, a single serving of tahini has 8.1 grams and almonds are at 7.4 grams per serving.
The 85:15 Paleo version:
Dr. Lorain Cordain is seen as the father of the Paleo Diet and he proposes that eating 85% strict will give you 100% of the benefits of the diet. Paleo followers allow themselves about 15% or three cheat meals per week. However, remember there is a massive difference between a cheat meal and a ‘cardio-stopping’ cheat meal. Think Pasta versus Tofu or white bread versus beans and legumes. Consider including with your “cheat” dinners something like non-gmo tofu, tempeh or seitan.
Things to Consider:
As a vegetarian Paleo, you need to look deeper at your nutrition and particularly at your protein sources. While grains are strictly forbidden, consider pseudo grains such as amaranth, buckwheat, chia and quinoa. While many see them as grains because of the way they are used in modern cooking, they are indeed plants and are great nutrient rich foods.
Remember that the average person should get about 10-35% of their daily calories from protein sources. This usually equates to about 60 grams for women and about 70 grams for men. The equation for daily protein is 0.9 grams of protein per kg of weight. Take your weight and divide it by 2.2 . Then multiply that number by .9 and you’ll have the amount of protein grams you need a day. For example, a person who weighs 180 lbs should consume 73 grams of protein per day. If you exercise at least 3 times a week, you can raise that intake by 20-30%.
A vegetarian version of the Paleo diet is certainly possible and (with some added discipline) it can be sustainable. If you’re interested in it and follow it properly, you will reap the rewards. Just be aware of your body. With all diets, you should check with your doctor or nutritionist to evaluate any special nutritional needs or medical conditions such as diabetes and anemia that may be affected by a diet such as the Vegetarian Paleo Diet.