The Gather section deals with how to “forage” in the modern world. Most people can’t just go out and gather nuts, berries, and seeds like Cavemen used to do. We’ve got grocery stores, farmer markets, restaurants, and online businesses to meet our food supply needs. I’m going to keep things short and simple. There are two types of gathering that you must master in order to be successful at this whole Paleo diet thing.
1. Gather ingredients for everyday meals/snacking
When it comes to meat and produce, there are varying levels of nutrient density and cleanliness depending on where the food comes from and how it is processed. This order more or less goes like this from top to bottom:
A. Harvest or Hunt it yourself.
B. Straight from a farmer, either at the farm or at a farmers market
C. From the supermarket, but only grass-fed/wild caught/free pastured/organic etc.
D. From the supermarket with no regard to origin or quality
Each one has it advantages and disadvantages. There are three factors that you will have to prioritize when considering where to get your food: price, convenience, and health value. Options A and B are obviously the healthiest options, but not always the most convenient. Growing your own garden and hunting your own meat can be very economical, but at the expense of time and effort. Option C offers good health value and convenience, but can be expensive. Option D usually offers the best price, but the worst nutrition. All I can recommend is that you get the best food you can with what you have to work with. Since I cover Hunting and Harvesting in their own sections, I’m going to focus on options C and D, since that is where the majority of people get their food from anyways.
2. Learn how to order meals when at restaurants.
Americans love to eat out! Statistics have even shown that more people eat out on a regular basis than prepare meals at home these days. My wife and I enjoy eating out as well, usually one or two times a week. When we first started the Paleo diet, we had to go through a learning curve on how to order at restaurants, something you too will encounter if you haven’t already. Don’t worry, this uncertainty will pass as your confidence increases. The first rule of thumb is to avoid fast food restaurants if you can. I realize sometimes you just can’t, and I’ll cover what to do in cases like this below. But let’s just say you’ve managed to find your way to a decent looking restaurant. There is a good chance this place will be serving something with bread , potatoes, rice, or beans, either as part of the entree or as a side. Tell your waiter that you are diabetic, gluten intolerant, or both, and ask what options they have. Normally they can recommend a dish with a nice protein and cooked veggies, or they will let you know that you can substitute veggies for french fries or a baked potato. Voila! Sometimes, you get a waiter that is not very knowledgeable and it takes a bit more work. In this case, ask questions like “can you use lettuce wraps instead of buns” or “can I get fruit instead of hashbrowns or steamed veggies instead of fries.” You know what is Paleo and what is not, so stick to your guns and don’t be afraid to ask questions or even invent your own dishes.
FYI, that little “I’m diabetic or gluten intolerant” trick works wonders. You can use it anywhere and avoid having to explain that you’re a Paleo diehard and don’t want to eat crap. People are more sympathetic when you use those terms.
you might consider saying you have a peanut or soy allergy if you suspect they might use these oils for cooking.
What about fast food places? You have three options here.
1. Fast! Remember, intermittent fasting is a useful tool in your Paleo diet arsenal. If you are stuck someplace where you can only find fast food, consider this as an option
2. Make it a cheat meal. Remember also, that you have the flexibility of the 80/20 rule. If you really want that hamburger or slice of pizza, go for it!
3. Get creative, or go the ‘salad’ option. Most fast food restaurants are responding to government and public pressure to offer “healthy” options. You can get salads with grilled chicken at McDonald’s or forgo the footlong bun at Subway to make it a salad. You’re likely to consume a lot of sodium from packaged dressing or the meat, but it’s a heck of a lot better than a big mac.