From Vegetarian to Paleo?

January 5, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-01-05 at 8.52.34 AMPhoto via Bon Appetit’s Food Lover’s Cleanse 

Friends, it’s time I got honest with you about a secret I’ve been keeping for the last month or so. As the title of this post suggests, the way I’ve been eating and how my diet and evolved has changed quite a bit over the last month. After eating vegetarian for over 3 years, I’ve been dabbling in the world of paleo-style eating, meaning my new diet is heavy on the veggies (no change there), meat (big change there!), fruit and nuts.

I hesitate to say that I’ve really been eating truly “paleo” since that’s not entirely accurate. It’s probably the reason I’ve always hated labels when it comes to eating styles, because I think what works for each individual person rarely fits into a very neatly defined category or diet structure. If you are one of those people, count yourself lucky that you don’t need to explain your eating style and can very neatly tie it up into a single phrase or term.

As a bit of background, ever since my miscarriage I’ve been reading a lot about nutrition and what we put into our bodies. In no way am I saying that I think the way I was eating caused my miscarriage, but I felt a pull to re-evaluate what I eat and why I eat it. In the wake of my miscarriage, I had a serious almost primal desire to eat eggs, eggs eggs! And chicken! And I even found myself craving a sandwich with turkey deli meat. Strange coming from someone who hates eggs, has never craved chicken in my 3+ years of being vegetarian and really never loved deli meat even when I wasn’t veg.

Since I’ve always focused on eating a balanced, well-rounded vegetarian diet with seafood mixed in now and again, the cravings really took me by surprise. But, as my mom once said, if you’re craving something it must mean that your body is telling you something, that something is lacking in one way or another. (Side note: I don’t think that saying applies to, say, chocolate cake, ice cream or brownies.) My mom is so wise like that. She has always been a huge supporter of “listening to your body.”

So, I set off on my new “experiment” if you will with a few general guidelines:
1. Give paleo-style eating a try and use it as a rough guideline going forward. However, breakfast was my one non-negotiable. Since I am pretty attached to my morning bowl of oat bran with nut butter (either peanut butter or almond butter) I wasn’t going to part ways with that aspect of eating any time soon. However, since starting this new way of eating, I have found that eating eggs with a slice of bacon tastes way better with a cup of black coffee than oatmeal, oat bran or anything sweet ever could. Who knew?
2. Focus as much as possible on quality meats, organic and free-range poultry and sustainably caught fish. I love canned tuna but have been shelling out the extra $$ for pole-caught tuna with a low mercury content. I was never a steak eater, so I don’t see myself eating a bunch of red meat anytime soon, but that’s not to say that I won’t ever eat red meat, just in moderation.
3. Avoid eating grains, breads, pastas, legumes and all sweets/baked goods as much as possible. I’ve been making exceptions here and there to this rule. I’m still eating hummus and peanut butter because of the ease and convenience, but mostly I’ve been getting my carbs from foods like sweet potatoes, the occasional banana and squash. I’m not going to lie, right now I’m dreaming about a crusty whole grain roll with butter the way I used to dream about chocolate cake.
4. Eat plenty of healthy fats. I’ve been eating a lot of healthy fats in the form of almonds, walnuts, avocados and olive oil. These have really helped me feel super satisfied at mealtimes and when having a snack.

So far, I’ve been feeling really great! I’m amazed at how full I feel after meals and I find I’m staying full longer than in the past. I’m not sure where this will take me, but I’ll keep you posted along the way.

Has anyone else made a big shift in eating styles? I would love to hear your thoughts or experiences! 

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  • Reply Lauren at Keep It Sweet January 5, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    I’m actually really curious to see how you feel in the next few weeks or so. I seriously agree about not liking to label diets, though. Usually I gear towards a more vegetarian diet, but lately have been eating more meat. I initially felt “guilty” about that but then realized it was silly because I hadn’t been getting enough protein anyway. Keep us updated, I’m glad you are doing something that currently works for you!

    • Reply MadisonMayberry January 6, 2014 at 10:12 pm

      I’ll keep you updated, Lauren. So far I’m just amazed at how satisfied I feel after every meal, but since I already love veggies so much, I make sure to eat a ton of them at mealtime, too. We’ll see where it goes! 🙂

  • Reply Kristin January 5, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    I love this post. I’ve always gravitated toward vegetarian fare, only really cooking meat because of my husband. However, sometimes I really crave chicken, or a steak salad. Last night, ironically, we just watched Vegucated, which was horribly depressing and made me think I NEEDED to rethink food, for many reasons. Needless to say, I’m conflicted. However, I think eating meat 2 or 3 times a week is a good compromise at this point. I don’t know that I could give up my coffee creamer, pizza (cheese), and the occasional ice cream. Everything else is negotiable 🙂
    I’m excited to see what else you have to say about it!

    • Reply MadisonMayberry January 6, 2014 at 10:09 pm

      I’ve never heard of Vegucated! Thanks for the tip, I’ll have to check it out. I feel like it can be so difficult to sift through all the information about diet out there, since there is SO much conflicting research. Like you said, I think having balance and compromise is really the best way of eating long term. I’ll keep you posted!

  • Reply Jessica January 5, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    I, too, have made the switch from vegetarian to paleo! I’ve struggled with digestive issues for years and have spent so much time trying to figure out the culprit, trying vegetarian, gluten-free, lactose-free diets, and I have never felt better than I have on paleo. I’m severely lactose intolerant so giving up dairy wasn’t an issue, and legumes were fine but never craved, but giving up grains has been the most difficult. But then I remember all the good paleo has done for me, and nothing tastes as good as healthy feels. Best of luck!

    • Reply MadisonMayberry January 6, 2014 at 10:08 pm

      Jessica, it’s so great to hear there are others who have made the crazy big shift! I thought some people might look at my like I was crazy for going from one end of the spectrum to the other. What a great thing to keep in mind, about how good you feel vs. how something tastes. I’ll have to keep that in mind next time I’m craving bread. 🙂

  • Reply Heather Disarro January 5, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    I’ve never been comfortable with diet labels for the very reasons you mentioned above, but I’ve found myself moving more toward a paleo-esque form of eating as well. Diabetes runs in my family on both sides, and I had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant with Wes, so my reasoning is to significantly lessen the amount of simple carbs in my diet. I LOVE dairy thought (hello cheese + yogurt!) so I definitely still eat that, but in much more moderation and a lot less often. And while I’ve always eaten meat/poultry/fish, I’m definitely working on the portion control with that and filling the space with more veggies.

    I can’t wait to hear how it goes for you – we definitely feel better and less bloated, and are losing weight in a healthy way. I’m always up for good recipes though!

    • Reply MadisonMayberry January 6, 2014 at 10:05 pm

      Hey, I’m with you in the loving dairy boat. Right now I’ve cut out yogurt, but I can’t say that will be a forever change since Greek yogurt is a favorite of mine. I’ve heard a lot about the benefit paleo-style eating can have for diabetes (which also runs in my family) so I figure it can’t hurt, right? Excited to hear more about your experiences, too!

  • Reply greensnchocolate January 5, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    I love this insight, Madison. Eating what your body is telling you it’s craving is a great way to listen to your body and give it what it needs. I’ve been focusing on whole foods and steering away from the grains as well, with the occasional piece of bread here and there, but overall feeling great as well. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your paleo-ish journey! xoxo

    • Reply MadisonMayberry January 6, 2014 at 10:04 pm

      I love that you’re eating similarly! I can’t wait to hear your experiences and how you feel as time goes on. We need to compare notes sometime. 🙂

  • Reply Urban Wife January 6, 2014 at 1:25 am

    I agree with how diet labels can be rather restricting and not really explain how one eats. Mostly, we eat a paleo diet with the one exception being pizza and my husband’s 2% cows milk habit. I’m looking forward to reading more about how this way of eating works for you and hoping for some recipes as well. 🙂

    • Reply MadisonMayberry January 6, 2014 at 10:03 pm

      Aren’t labels the worst? Glad I’m not alone in thinking this way. And I totally know what you mean about pizza. There is no way I’m giving it up long term. Maybe for a while right now, but I love it too much to cut it out entirely. 🙂

  • Reply Katie Den Ouden January 6, 2014 at 6:16 am

    Love this post and I can absolutely resonate with you. I’m actually a certified health coach and several years ago I was eating more vegetarian because I thought it was healthier. Over time, I started to listen to my body more and I thrive much more on a paleo-ish diet. My hormones, digestion, mood, and sleep are better. I believe in bio-individuality and getting in turn with your body, but I find more and more people thriving on this style of eating. Can’t wait to hear how you feel and thankful for your courage to speak up! xo

    • Reply MadisonMayberry January 6, 2014 at 10:02 pm

      Thanks for sharing your health coach perspective, Katie! Like you said, I’ve been feeling really great eating this way so I hope that continues. And one of the reasons I really wanted to change my eating style was because I hope it has a positive hormonal impact. I’ll keep you updated!

  • Reply Megan January 6, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    Wow, what a HUGE change! I’m so sorry about your miscarriage 🙁 It’s very interesting that it prompted those changes in your diet. I have been a vegetarian for six years and I don’t think I could ever eat meat again. I have never liked the taste (my mom tells me I even hated it as a baby!) and I’ve never craved it. I do like the idea behind paleo (obviously minus the meat, for me personally) and I do stick to mostly raw, organic foods. I do have my vices, though; I love cheese! Hope this new eating style works well for you 🙂

    xo Megan, Lush to Blush

    • Reply MadisonMayberry January 6, 2014 at 10:01 pm

      Thanks so much for sharing, Megan! I love hearing other people’s perspectives on food and diet, and I totally get what you mean about being grossed out about meat. I’m still a bit in that same boat, so I have to pick what I eat carefully, and sometimes I still can’t make it through a whole entree that contains meat. I guess some of my veg ways will always stay with me!

  • Reply John Craft January 7, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    Thank you! Also checkout http://www.paleo99diet.com

  • Reply Amanda January 7, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    Hey Madison! Love the blog post. I’ve started to transition to Paleo as well after working with my acupuncturist. I never realized what a trigger dairy and wheat were for me until I cut them out! I follow this great blog, http://www.ourfifthhouse,com and she and her family went paleo and she posts some great recipes as well. Thought you might enjoy reading it!

  • Reply Christina January 8, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    I love your post, especially since I’ve found myself confronted with a shift in my diet as well. I have been a vegetarian for the past 10 years, but a few months ago I started to crave fish and meat again. I am also a huge supporter of the idea that you should listen to your body beacause it knows best what it needs. A body’s needs change over the years, I guess. I do eat fish now but am still hesitant to try meat again, mostly because I’d feel like a “bad” person if I did. Pretty ridiculous, I know. I hope your knew eating habits will work for you!

  • Reply Katie January 9, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    I definitely support eating what makes you feel better. I craved eggs while I was pregnant too. You might be interested in a book called Nourishing Traditions…I just read some snippets and was interested in what they recommended to eat while pregnant (in some cultures women would eat 10 eggs a day if they could afford them). They also had good tips and recipes for feeding babies. I like the idea of “clean” or paleo eating. It startled me when my brother in law said it wasn’t Biblical though. God gave us grain, legumes to eat. However, I will say that wheat has been grown and processed differently then hundreds of years ago and the gluten content is way higher. I try to soak my beans before I eat them to make them more digestible. I’ve never really had fish before (mental aversion) but I really want to try and like it! Ha.

  • Reply Sara January 10, 2014 at 9:44 pm

    Hey Madison! Have you read “It Starts With Food?” It talks about this type of diet, and has some really interesting information.

    • Reply Madison Mayberry January 12, 2014 at 12:20 am

      Hi Sara! I have but I haven’t picked up a copy. Perhaps something to download on my Kindle next? I’m looking for a new book to read. Thanks for the recommendation!

  • Reply Heldine January 18, 2014 at 1:01 am

    I don’t fall into one specific food diet either. If anyone asks, I usually say vegetarian/pescetarian just to make it easier. I focus on eating organic veggies and a little bit of free-range meat. I love sushi. I try to eat sweets in moderation, but I have a crazy sweet tooth. 😛 I like making paleo and vegan dishes, and I love getting juices (but I’ve never gone or plan to go on a juice cleanse).

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