Change is one of the few things in life we can be certain of and yet it’s one that we struggle with the most. One has to be mentally and sometimes physically prepared for change. And when change is a choice it requires a level of commitment.
We all know the saying that it takes 21 or 28 or maybe 30 days to break a habit. But if you’ve followed a certain way of eating for the past 20 / 30 /40 or maybe 60 years it is going to take more than just a couple of weeks to break those bad eating habits or to alter course completely.
Often people ask me how we went about changing from the ‘traditional’ diet to the paleo lifestyle and whether we’re still sticking to it. At first I thought (and told them) that we went the drastic all-or-nothing way – but memory is fickle and now that I’ve spent some time evaluating the run up to our ‘drastic’ change I’ve noticed some key points.
Our desire to change was sparked by a couple of serious health issues in our family and a desire to once and for all shed the extra weight we carried. This set my husband off on a literature study that only a PhD student could appreciate and only after having immersed himself in this new found knowledge did he suggest this change of events.
I was the hesitant one, the one that needed to be converted and I would only agree to following a gluten-free diet. I was not yet ready to bid farewell to my muesli and oats and gluten-free pasta. During this initial weaning phase I did my bit of reading (only one book – thanks to my husband who narrowed it down for me) and became convinced of the merits of the paleo diet.
We then took the next step and banned refined sugar from our kitchen. No more sugar in coffee or tea or a teaspoon added to the Bolognese. About a week later the BIG kitchen cupboard clear-out followed. Any canned goods that contained MSG, soy, starch (potato, rice, maize), colourants and flavourants or any other unfamiliar ingredient went to the soup kitchen. We were left with canned chopped tomatoes and coconut milk. We stopped buying processed meats other than salamis (after we’ve scrutinised the label) and whole muscle cold cuts. Suddenly I had loads of empty plastic containers that used to contain the cereals, flours, legumes and beans.
We continued to consume dairy, though in smaller quantities and as I’ve mentioned in an earlier post we choose the lesser of the evils when it comes to deciding on which yoghurt to buy for our 5 year old.
Many people can’t stomach the idea of increasing the fat portion of their diet and the thought of cooking (and even eating) the chicken with the skin on is enough to send them running for cover. We never had this experience as we have always enjoyed our meat with a bit of fat on. We love cooking with olive oil and we never shied away from eating egg yolk. But I can understand that for some people this will be a challenge and to suddenly start cooking with coconut milk or even to leave the skin on the chicken will upset a few tummies.
So my advice would be to take a gradual approach. Become convinced of the merits of the paleo diet; wean yourself off the bad habits and don’t become disheartened if you cannot stick to it 100% faithfully. It’s a lifestyle not a religion. And use the resources available on the web.
It’s not always an easy journey, but it is so worth it!
I’m going to share with you this recipe for chocolate date balls. These tasty treats served as a great reward in the initial 30 days and they are still a great go-to for a quick dessert or tea time treat.
Chocolate date balls
1 cup raw almonds
15 pitted dates, soaked for 30 minutes in enough hot water to cover them
3½ Tbsp. cocoa powder (Dutch processed is excellent)
4 Tbsp. desiccated coconut plus more to roll the balls in.
½ t salt
1 t vanilla extract (if you’re using extract that is mixed with invert sugar. If not add just a drop)
Chop the almonds in a blender or food processor. Some coarse pieces will add nice texture. Remove from the blender and put aside. Now add the softened dates to the blender or food processor and pulse till smooth. (This 2 step process seems a bit cumbersome but I prefer the finished texture if done this way).
Now add the almonds back to the blender along with the other ingredients. Pulse to combine. You should be able to form balls by rolling the dough in your hands. If the ingredients won’t stick add a little bit of water. Don’t worry if the balls are slightly too sticky. That’s why we roll them in more desiccated coconut.
Store in the fridge and enjoy!