For the past three days I’ve lived like a cavewoman. Or at least I’ve eaten like one.
The Paleolithic diet, or “Caveman” diet has been gaining huge momentum. Backed by Crossfit and Dr. Oz., the premise of “Paleo” is to eat as our ancestors did before the Agricultural Revolution circa 15,000 years ago. This means focusing on fruit, vegetables, lean meats, and seafood while cutting out dairy, grains, refined sugars and processed foods.
That’s right—no bread, milk, pasta, or beloved ice cream. The diet calls for an increase in protein, Omega-3 fats, potassium, vitamins and minerals while decreasing carbohydrate and salt intake. The claimed benefits range from weight loss to disease reduction and simply better overall health. But how challenging is it to eat Paleo at school? To find out, I ate strictly Paleo on my campus meal plan for three days. I charted my experience.
10:45AM – I spring out of bed, radiating confidence, ready to tackle the day. (Okay, I woke up at 10 and laid in bed for almost an hour… It was Monday!) I eat breakfast in my dorm, so I reach for my usual Greek yogurt… nope. Can’t eat dairy. Apples and peanut butter? Peanuts are a legume and are thus banned. Even the healthiest option in my breakfast arsenal, Kashi cereal and skim milk, is off limits. I grab an apple on my way out the door and try not to think about the jar of Skippy on my counter.
1:00PM – Walking through Market Central past today’s special: fettuccini Alfredo with chicken. I stay strong though my stomach growls in protest. As it turns out, Market isn’t the most Paleo-friendly eatery. Who would’ve thought? I opt for a salad with cherry tomatoes, red onion, carrots, spinach leaves, and some turkey lunchmeat for protein. My only option for dressing is olive oil, and I silently curse Paul Newman for not being born in the Stone Age.
4:00PM – On the way home from my class in Lawrence my stomach is a gaping abyss. I make a pit stop at the Oakland Bakery, hoping it will have something to sustain me. Despite its organic and gluten-free section, the only things I can find within Paleo boundaries are fresh fruit, organic trail mix, and dried apricots. Trail mix it is. I rip open the bag of walnuts, almonds, raisins, dried cranberries and what appear to be pumpkin seeds, and promptly swallow the entire thing. I have never felt so nourished in my life. Thank you, Paleo gods, for granting me this healthy-yet-weirdly-satisfying gift.
5:15PM – Needless to say, I got a pretty strange look from the woman behind the deli counter in the Cathedral Café when I asked her for plain lunchmeat. Plan A was a salad or grilled chicken; of course, the grill was closed and all of the pre-made salads included cheese, croutons, or both. My two options: plain deli meat and calamari salad from the sushi section. I eat both, and go to class feeling still hungry and excessively carnivorous.
8:45PM – After my two-and-a-half hour workshop all I want is a cozy cup of hot chocolate and extra-cheesy pizza. This is torture. I eat a banana and pretend I don’t feel completely stripped of my free will.
10:15AM – Another banana for breakfast. Variety is definitely becoming an issue. The things I would do for a homemade waffle and Maple syrup are immeasurable. I now know why Fred Flintstone was so irritable all the time.
Noon – One of the better Paleo meals I’ve had on campus thus far! I order the Sizzling Spinach Chicken Salad from Nicola’s Garden in the Schenley Café. It comes with grilled chicken, hard-boiled egg, bacon, tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions over a bed of spinach leaves. Just hold the croutons, swap the honey mustard dressing for olive oil, and you’re good to go. I’m pleased to say I feel satisfied for the first time since this diet started. Maybe I’m getting the hang of this…
6:30PM – …Nope, definitely not. I see the pasta bar at the Perch and almost break my diet immediately. Luckily I count to ten, take a few deep breaths, and grab some grilled chicken, turkey lunchmeat (again), and steamed veggies. Why exactly did I volunteer for this?
10:30AM – I almost wake up early enough to eat breakfast at Market… but are the eggs even real? Why does the bacon taste like cardboard? Maybe I’d better stick with an apple.
Noon – For my third Paleo lunch I have the pasta station in Market—hold the pasta. I throw veggies together, ask for both chicken and meatballs, top it with marinara sauce, and have fresh fruit for dessert. Surprisingly satisfying. Though I still wish I were allowed to indulge in a grilled cheese. Carb addiction is real.
6:00PM – Feeling creative, I decide to go to the Union for dinner and build my own salad. After being told by one of the workers that I’m not allowed to have steak unless I ordered the steak salad (What?). I go with chicken, bacon and some raw veggies as per usual. I may never eat a vegetable again after this. Only six more hours…
Midnight – After three days, 20+ Google searches of “is [blank] Paleo,” and several instances of almost throwing in the towel, I officially completed my Paleo stint. While it was quite the challenge and I am glad I gave it a shot, I can say with confidence that I will never again completely eliminate grains or dairy. Realistically speaking, it’s just too hard to eat like a caveman strictly on campus. With limited options, most of which are carbohydrate and sugar based, my advice is to strive for a healthy, well-balanced diet without forcing yourself to adhere to intense restrictions. However, for those Paleo die-hards out there: I salute you.
Needless to say, Fuel and Fuddle’s Gobbler pizza is top priority on tomorrow’s to-do list.
Photo credit to the author and Google Images.