Basically, no grains, legumes (including peanuts... sadly), gluten, beans (including soy), corn, meat, seafood, animal products (eggs/honey), most alcohol, soft drinks, and processed foods. And I'm in college.
Fortunately, ditching alcohol wasn't an issue for me. I'm also allergic to dairy, so that took care of that. I'll admit though, I pitched this idea BEFORE I remembered that the paleo diet doesn't include peanut butter. But I'm always up for a challenge, so I decided, hey, why not give it a shot?
Some things I was definitely looking for in this experiment: Is a paleo vegan diet doable for a busy college student? How will this diet affect me physically and mentally?
Breakfast was a banana and five dates with Nuttzo Power Fuel nut butter (cashews, almonds, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, and chia seeds all blended together). I was so happy to have this nut butter on hand already, but the jar was almost empty, so I knew I had to do some shopping for the next day.
At lunch, I was wandering around the dining hall like a lost puppy. I had to google search if lentils were paleo (they aren't) and settled on a salad made with zucchini, grape tomatoes, mixed greens, and caramelized onions and mushrooms from the burger bar, with watermelon on the side. To add protein, I got some pecan pieces from the yogurt station. Gotta do what you gotta do.
After running around everywhere trying to find almond butter (found it!) and getting more dates, I went to dinner. I made basically the same salad that I had for lunch, but no zucchini this time. By the end of this, I'll probably be known as the girl with the random bowl of pecans.
At this point, I was doubtful, but still committed. I did find out that cacao nibs are paleo though, and they're vegan, so yay chocolate!
Breakfast was a banana and dates with almond butter. It was so good I couldn't even complain.
After seeing how hard it was to find options in the dining hall, day two kind of scared me when lunch time came around. I had another salad, but I got to jazz it up because they had seaweed salad and I am a seaweed salad addict. I also added some chopped up mango; thanks yogurt bar!
I got a little hungry between lunch and dinner, so I had some tiger nuts. Super good, if you've never had them, and they happen to be vegan AND paleo. Thank God. My options were limited when it came to snacks, and... anything else really.
There weren't any special veggies at dinner except for some kale, so I had to fully rely on the salad bar this time. I was not looking forward to a million more salads over the next few days, but the dining hall menu for the next day promised some good veggies, so some of my faith was restored.
After a workout with my friend Sarah, we went to the dining hall for some fruit. As much as I loved bananas and dates, it was nice for a change.
Lunch was amazing because the dining hall had my favorite thing ever: roasted carrots and parsnips. I don't know why or how they're so good, but they are. They also had some sautéed zucchini. Again, pecans were my only option for protein. The pecans and I were really getting to know each other at this point.
Dinner was disappointing, not because it tasted bad, but because the menu promised roasted sweet potatoes, and I LOVE sweet potatoes so much it's a borderline addiction. There were no sweet potatoes, but there were white potatoes. Some don't consider white potatoes paleo, but others do; I went with the latter group, because I was disappointed, hungry, and tired of salad.
I felt like I was having one of those relationships with pecans where one partner wants the relationship to work too much and the other doesn't want it at all. I haven't decided which of those I am at this point.
Sundays are probably the hardest days for eating during a regular week, so I couldn't imagine how I'd manage to stick to the diet and find food at the same time.
I went on a hike with Sarah, so breakfast was on-the-go. We had fruit and Larabars; fortunately, the cashew cookie flavor is paleo AND vegan because its only two ingredients are dates and cashews. Yay!
I forgot to take a picture of lunch. All I remember was that there was butternut squash... lots of butternut squash.
On Sundays, the dining hall I go to every day closes for dinner. So, everyone on the east side of campus either has to eat downtown, or go to the west side and eat at the other big dining hall. I was cold and tired, so naturally, I wanted to do neither of those things.
And then something glorious happened: I remembered that chia pudding, with the right ingredients, is paleo vegan. I've never been happier to have almond milk in my fridge. And, me being me, the almond butter on top was a necessity.
*SpongeBob Announcer Voice* Day Five
It's got to the point where all I really wanted was the freedom to eat hummus and a warm breakfast (toast with peanut butter and banana? Oatmeal? Pleaaassse). Just more fruit and almond butter for me, though.
As if the paleo vegan gods sensed I was struggling, the dining hall had roasted cauliflower. Thank you, gods.
At dinner they had my favorite little baby baked potatoes, so I made a salad with them and had some cantaloupe on the side.
Day (I Can't Believe I've Gone This Many Days Without Peanut Butter) Six
Breakfast consisted of fruit and almond butter. Shocking. It was a good thing that only one more paleo vegan breakfast had to be made after this, because I ran out of dates again. Oops.
Lunch was very good to me. There was a baked potato bar, which meant sweet potatoes (take notes, day three). They also had a lot of steamed veggies, and of course, pecans for protein.
At dinner I ate quickly to get to a meeting, so I didn't take a picture. I had a salad with spinach, tomatoes, vegan potato salad, pecans (wow), mushrooms, onions, and lettuce, with a side of grapes. I actually really enjoyed it, but I wished I had more time to digest it before running off.
Day Seven *Insert All of the Celebration Emojis Here*
Do I even need to say what breakfast was? I've never been happier to have been able to say, "I'm going to have peanut butter on toast for breakfast tomorrow morning."
At lunch, there was the Mediterranean bar, which made me pretty sad since I could always go for a falafel. They are vegan, but not paleo, so no falafel for me. But I got plenty of the toppings meant for the falafel, which was pretty great. I couldn't have hummus, like usual, but baba ghanoush is vegan and paleo (since it's made with eggplant, not chickpeas), so I had that instead. Still good.
There was also grilled zucchini, steamed asparagus, steamed Brussels sprouts, and the usual onions and mushrooms I always get. Can you tell I like onions? And vegetables in general? That's definitely why I made it this far in the diet.
It didn't hit me that this was my last paleo vegan meal until about an hour after I ate it, and then I got really happy. They had roasted red potatoes, mushrooms and pearl onions, steamed veggies, and Brussels sprouts. And, of course, my trusty pecans to top it all off.
I think it's kind of funny looking at all my pictures because they're just huge mounds of vegetables. I found myself relying on fruit a lot in between meals (the fruit stash in my room is now depleted, so I'll be sneaking bananas from the dining hall the next few days) because my meals would fill me up only for a little while. But I'm a firm believer that you can never have too much fruit.
The main problem was the lack of protein. I'm sure it's easier to be paleo vegan when you have a kitchen and full control over your meals, but I don't. I rely on the limited options of the dining hall, which is why I had pecans and almond butter every day as my protein source.
There were some positive side effects from the diet. My skin cleared up a bit. I'm not sure if this is because of the lack of gluten or from the over abundance of vegetables, but either way, I'm definitely going to experiment with gluten-free recipes. I also had less bloating (sorry if that's TMI but it's true) which could either be from not eating beans and grains, or from not eating a whole lot of food in general.
Overall, I think the diet could better suit someone who isn't in college and doesn't have limited options when it comes to meals and snacks. It did force me to get really creative with making my meals, but like most diets, focusing constantly on what you can and can't eat is stressful.
While it's interesting to see if certain foods or food groups are working better for you than others, I'd advise to eliminate one food at a time if you're doing it in college, making sure that you get all your vitamins and nutrients from other foods. Otherwise, just focus on eating a healthy, well-rounded diet.
Special shout-out to my friend Sarah who I mentioned in this post. Thanks for keeping me sane through this week, and surprising me with my favorite chocolate when I was done!