Catastrophe!

During an upgrade of my hosting platform I’ve managed to delete a significant number of the images associated with my previous posts. I’m in the process of restoring these from backup but this is likely to take a few days. Sorry about that!

Marks and Spencer – Chicken Breast

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Looking a whole lot like the meal I posted from Waitrose, the Marks and Spencer chicken breast, avocado, and salad combo is also a good paleo / primal option as there are a lot of ‘Marks and Sparks’ in London. The 2 chicken breasts are £2, and the salad is part of their 2 for £4 deal which can combined with some fruit (berries are included in this).

As you can probably tell from the trend of my food related posts, I tend to eat a lot of chicken for lunch. While I’d love to be able to eat more steak, salmon, omelettes and so forth, the reality is that chicken seems to be the most readily available protein which is ready to eat and served in sufficient quantities to serve my daily protein requirements. Salmon for example, is usually served in such small portions (and large cost) that it’s not worth it. I eat a lot of steak, and salmon for dinner but these have not yet featured on this blog. I thought I might clarify this just in case people were worried; if we are indeed what we eat then I’ll be expecting to sprout some chicken wings any day now.

Back in New Zealand

I’m back in New Zealand for the best part of 6 weeks and will be returning to London on the 14th of March. While I still intend to do a little posting here, there obviously will be less of a London slant for the time being.

While in this transition (I’ve actually quit my job and moved out of my flat) I have experienced my first lapse with the diet after I hit the original 3 week target that I’d committed to. The improvement in my general well being in this time was more than proof enough that I will return to the diet and stick with it long term. I felt during this rather stressful time that I wasn’t able to dedicate enough time to it and my food choices suffered. I shouldn’t make excuses as it’s not difficult to follow, but I am human and it’s been nice to see some stark differences in the way I feel after reintroducing sugars and grains back into my diet.

I had Inguinal Hernia repair surgery in June and during this healing process I’d experience an amount of pain in the region where the surgery took place. Since I started doing Paleo / Primal I’d noticed this pain completely disappear - The reduction in inflammation is often attributed as a benefit of this diet so this could be related to this. After eating a bit of rubbish food this almost immediately reoccured. I’d also experienced a bunch of headaches, although this may have been stress related.

I’m staying with friends in Auckland and will be heading further north to my hometown next week where I plan to pick up from where I left off. The fishing is great there so I intend to eat a lot of fish, and less chicken (which is a staple of mine). It will be great to have such a readily able source of protein and omega 3 with a known, sustainable source. We’re also in the height of summer so it’ll be nice to not to have to supplement my diet with Vitamin D3, something I felt necessary in the UK due to my desk job and very limited opportunities to see much direct sunlight.

Dark Chocolate

To my delight, I discovered this week that dark chocolate is an approved snack on a primal diet. I’ve never been a big fan of dark chocolate, although there had never really been a great reason to eat it over dairy milk (which was far tastier as I was concerned). With far less sugar (and therefore carbohydrates) and a host of advertised benefits (including disease fighting antioxidants!) it makes a perfect dessert for someone on a primal, low carbohydrate diet. I’ve always had a sweet tooth and I find a couple of pieces will happily suppress that after a meal.

I’ve been eating a few pieces a week for the last 2 weeks and already think it tastes fantastic. I tend to keep this as a try to only eat it on days I know I’m well under my calorie targets (Generally my Squash or Gym days).

I have tried the following two bars and think the Green and Black is better, a bit smoother. I shouldn’t need to tell you where to find this stuff as it’s available in basically every corner shop, supermarket, or convenience store I’ve been in in London.

Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate 85% Dark
Lindt Excellence 90% Dark Supreme Chocolate

4 pieces will have the following nutritional value.

Nandos Half Chicken

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There’s not too much to say about Nandos that people don’t know already – it’s a fast food styled restaurant which sells surprisingly good, portuguese styled, peri peri chicken. The franchise restaurants are found everywhere in London, and indeed in the rest of the country. Proof I’m still getting the hang of this new diet, I’ve since found that peas are a legume and shouldn’t really be eaten on a Paleo diet. A few google searches seem to suggest that some people make peas an exception to this legume rule, but I don’t think I’ll get them in future. Nando’s also sell corn on the cob so I think this would be a better option. There is dairy in the mayonnaise which makes up part of the coleslaw. They also sell salads.

The sauces do contain quite a bit of sugar so you may wish to be frugal here.

For £9.95 you get a meal which weights in roughly like the following:

First Week of Paleo / Primal – My Observations

Part of the reason I decided to take up the Primal / Paleo diet ‘challenge’ was to see whether it would drastically change the way I feel. I thought I’d just jot a few observations about my first week on the diet and how it’s going so far. It’s worth noting that I have also started going to the gym regularly this week and some of the benefits I attribute here might actually be from the increased exercise rather than just the new eating habits.

1) Increased Energy in the afternoons

One of the most profound observations after a week of doing Paleo has been that I don’t have afternoon slumps anymore. Frequently I would eat a carbohydrate dense meal for lunch, usually consisting of bread, and have a big lull at around about 2-3pm where I could barely keep my eyes open at work. This would adversely affect my productivity as this tiredness would be so consuming that I couldn’t concentrate properly. On this diet I feel fine through the afternoon and don’t have the highs and lows that I used to experience. The protein and fat dense meals do not cause the same insulin responses a sugary or carbohydrate laden meal would so blood sugar levels are more consistent throughout the day,

2) Not so hungry

Protein has a higher satiety factor than carbohydrates and this is part of the reason why I don’t have periods through out the day when I am ravenously hungry. No longer do I need to go straight for the cupboard when I get home from work, I eat dinner because it’s dinner time and not because I’m about to eat my arm off. The diet, without blood sugar spikes, reduces hunger. I feel more in control of when I eat.

3) I’ve had craving for bread/pizza/beer

I still have cravings for the old way I used to eat. I’ve smelt and looked at Pizza, Sandwiches, and pint glasses with an amount of envy at times. It comes and goes and I’m always happier for turning them down, however I think this will take a little while to pass. They say carbohydrates are addictive and I guess this longing would be comparable to someone giving up something they are addicted to – caffeine, tobacco etc. More strangely I’ve even had cravings for things I don’t even usually eat. I think this is more about knowing I can’t eat it, than actually wanting it – some sort of test for myself. Why do I keep wanting a McDonald’s Milkshake!?

4) Motivation

Making such a big commitment to improving the way I eat has caused motivation in other areas of my life as well. I’m now compelled to go to the gym several times a week to compliment the new eating habits. Where as pigging out used to demotivate me from going to the gym, I get a double dose of ‘feel good’ when I both eat well and hit the gym during a day. The endorphin high after a heavy work out and a satisfying meal of protein is a fantastic feeling.

I’ve always felt pretty washed out in the mornings, like I’m just as tired when I wake from a nights sleep as when I went to bed. The Paleo diet is frequently advertised to improve quality of sleep so I’m still waiting for a marked improvement here. Given the improvements in the above areas I’m looking for other benefits to follow as my body gets used to this new routine.

Whitecross Street – Chicken tikka and paneer box

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Walking up Whitecross Street from the South end, one of the first stalls you will come to sells great Indian food. For £6.50 you can get a tinfoil box filled with chicken tikka, paneer (a type of cheese), a little curry sauce and a lamb kofta on the top. They will also throw in some salad for you but I tend to go strictly with the meat and combine it with some vegetables when I get back to the office. I eat some dairy so aren’t too fussed about the paneer, but some may wish to stay just with the chicken. I’ll have to admit that it does taste better than it looks!

There are loads of other Paleo / Primal food options at the Whitecross Street if Indian isn’t what you fancy. I’ll go back soon and will post other goodies I’ve found.

Waitrose Rotisserie Chicken and Fresh Vegetables

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There is a fairly large Waitrose situated close to Whitecross St (EC1Y), a street more well known for it’s lovely street food. Ignoring the fragrant smell of the first stall, an Indian spot which makes a damn good paneer curry, I sometimes head into this supermarket to grab lunch. I frequently go for the deli area where you can find a hot, half rotisserie chicken. Combine this with an avocado and a pack of cherry tomatoes or some vegetables of your choice and you end up with a delicious meal for around £5.50. The chicken is £3.45, and the tomatoes and avocado are £2 each, although you can use those for a few days to spread the cost. The flavoured chicken is particularly good but the plain ones are marginally cheaper. Nutritionally you get a lot of protein from the chicken and a good dose of healthy fats from the avocado.

Obviously the supermarket stocks all the regular fare so salads, and any of the precooked meats are good options. Additionally Hard-boiled Eggs, Cooked Mackerel, Beef Jerky / Biltong, Canned Salmon / Tuna, and Nuts & Berries are all other possibilities.

I had the above meal today and followed it up with some cherries, a great sweet food with a low glycemic index so you don’t get the insulin spike caused by some fruit. I’ve really noticed a big difference eating a meal like this compared to my previous carbohydrate dense meals (ie rice) with the way I feel in the afternoons. I no longer get that sleepy lull at my desk at about 2pm where I can barely keep my eyes open and then that ravenous hunger by about 6pm. Protein is said to be far more satiating which is why you will feel fuller for longer after a meal of this sort.

For reference the meal contains roughly the following nutritional information:

Butcher Review – Porterford Butchers

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The queues outside this central London butcher are testament to the popularity and quality of food sold here. Porterford Butchers have an assortment of cooked and uncooked meats at very reasonable prices. I’d personally recommend the Chinese BBQ ribs, the cumberland sausages, and peri peri chicken breasts. It’s pretty good value and a combination of the above will generally range between £5-6. The sausages and bacon rolls are fantastic too, but it’s obviously not something I can eat anymore.

In addition to the meaty treats I’ve recommended there are a whole host of other options to choose from, not all of which are Paleo / Primal friendly – lamb, roasted potato, black pudding, bacon rashers, chicken skewers, boerewors (south african sausage – lean mince). Shame on me that I have not yet asked about the contents of their sausages. Most sausages tend to be 95-97% pork at most, which means there are often starchy fillers, high in carbohydrates and low in nutritional value. This alone would generally rule out sausages from a strict paleo diet but it’s your call. The vast majority of the cooked foods are lean meats with nothing added, the chicken and lamb are safe options in this respect.

I’ve been going to this place for a few years now and it’s (unfortunately) a lot more popular than it used to be – expect to wait 5-10 minutes if you show up at lunchtime. I feel like I’m doing the wrong thing by even mentioning this little coveted gem of mine, it’s mentioned popularity is just about my biggest and only complaint about the place. Oh, and also that terrible 5 minute walk/run back to work with my cherished little silver lined bag of meat.

The address is 72 Watling St, EC4M 9EB and the google page is here. The butchers there clearly seem to enjoy their work as they’re often joking around and create a bit of a humorous shopping experience at times. Thank me later.

Paleo Equipment – Electronic Scales

Every healthy eater that is interested in macro-nutrients should have an electronic scale in order to measure food quantities. While nutritional information is often included on packets it’s not that easy to guess the weight of a handful of nuts, a bunch of berries, or a few chicken breasts.

I personally have a target of 80 grams of carbohydrates a day and find it reassuring to know how close to this I am buy entering everything I eat on a website like My Fitness Pal with the quantities measures on an electronic scale. I have a small one on my desk at work, and while It does attract an amount of goodhearted ridicule from my colleagues I’d rather this than the alternative – not knowing. The second benefit is that every time I weigh food I’m making a conscious decision to eat; there’s more of a process than simply gobbling the stuff. The scales are available by searching ebay for “Electronic Scales” and are inexpensive, with the cheapest being available for less than £5.

I suspect that I’ll get to the point eventually where I can simply glance at a lump of food and guess it’s weight with a marginal amount of error, until this day I’ll stay with the scales!

Mark has some good information on calculating your own macro-nutrient requirements. As with most of these things, there is no hard and fast rule however it’ll give you a good benchmark to work with.