Feeding people with different diets, especially extreme opposites like vegetarian and paleo diets, can be a challenge. But it's not impossible!
In our home, I’m a vegetarian and my husband follows the paleo diet. We each have our reasons, but long story short, we gave the other person’s diet a chance, but ultimately chose to stick with our respective diets. And while it may seem impossible to make this work, let me assure it is totally possible.
But first, some definitions.
What is the Paleo Diet?
According to the Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, PhD of Paleo Mom, the paleo diet means eating “a nutrient-dense whole foods diet based on eating a variety of quality meats, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds.”
What you can enjoy while following the paleo diet: vegetables, fruits, meats, seafood, and healthy fats. What you should avoid: dairy, processed foods and sugars, legumes, starches, and alcohol.
My husband follows an even stricter version of the Paleo Diet called the Autoimmune Protocol, so he also does not eat nuts, seeds, or grains of any kind.
Eating vegetarian is a little more straight-forward, but there are some distinctions. All vegetarians and vegans avoid eating animals and the by-products made from animal slaughter. Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat dairy and eggs, while vegans do not. Some vegetarians also avoid eggs or dairy as well. I am a lacto-ovo vegetarian.
Blending the Two Diets
The key to making to making a vegetarian and the paleo diet work together is planning. From shopping lists to menus, we plan ahead for all of our meals. While that may seem daunting to those who like to be spontaneous, I must say that I find our way to be less stressful and guarantees we eat good quality food.
I had to readjust my expectations as far as leftovers were concerned when we started this journey. I used to hate leftovers, but with meal prepping and batch cooking we both end up eating the same meals over the week.
Read on for more tips on how to satisfy both vegetarians and those following the paleo diet.
- In our house, we choose to focus on what we can eat instead of dwelling on what we don’t eat. We focus on the commonalities found in our respective diets. It seems like such a simple thing, but your approach to food really sets the tone for meals.
- By far the most important suggestion I can offer is to commit to batch cooking. Batch cooking is simply making meals ahead of time. In our home, we usually devote one afternoon to making as many of the meals we can for the week ahead. We often freeze meals to make our version of “TV dinners.”
- Every week I prepare weekly menus and shopping lists. I make a point of planning meals with elements that both of us can eat. For example, braised collard greens or roasted winter squash as sides, or making zucchini “noodles” for two different versions of “lasagna.”
- We have some quick go-to meals that we can throw together on the fly--if our planning fell apart that week. Salads, omelets, or frittatas work really well for us. We can add our individual proteins, like wild salmon for him, and chickpeas for me.
- If you are considering how to make this work in your household, you might try looking up Paleo Vegetarian. Ultimately that route didn’t work for us, but it might be a solution for your family.
- Prep ahead where possible. I wash my greens, chop up my mirepoix, and hard boil eggs for lunches ahead of time.
- One thing I have learned is to make two versions of the same dish. For example, I make a vegetarian and a paleo diet version of butternut squash soup at the same time. I use chicken stock and coconut milk in one and vegetable stock and almond milk in the other. Pretty much everything else is the same though.
- While we do go to the grocery store for some things, we mostly shop at the farmers market. We emphasize eating whole foods and grocery stores are full of nutritionally-devoid processed foods.
- Use a slow cooker. While many vegetarian meals can be cooked in no time, cooking meat can add cooking time to your day. Putting a whole chicken in the slow cooker in the morning makes it possible to still throw dinner together quickly.
- Finally, soups or stews are your friend. As I mentioned earlier, it’s easier to make two different versions of the same meal, as opposed to making two completely different meals. In addition, soups and stews can be started in the crock pot in the morning, meaning that at least one person is covered for the evening meal and you can choose a quick meal for the other.
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