Have you always had food preferences that leaned towards paleo? Or had food preferences that you later find out were good for you?
I remember 15 years ago seeing an article about paleo and thinking "wow, that looks like how I want to eat!" Being a teenager, though, I didn't have enough control over food choices to get things like elk and venison, which seemed an important staple of the diet from the article I read at the time (if only I had known better!). I've never really cared much for bread or pasta, and found that if I ate too much wheat stuff, and not enough veggies, I'd get irritable/angry. And pasta would sit in my tummy like a brick, blegh. For a while I went vegetarian because I thought that would be a way to get more veggies in my diet, but of course that didn't work out as expected: I just got more bread. :(
So the paleo way of eating really just gives me the freedom to eat how I'd really like to (my current elimination diet notwithstanding).
My husband, on the other hand, has always loved bread and cheese. He switched over to lacto-paleo to be supportive of me, and he has been really happy with it. I'm surprised that there wasn't more resistance, given how much he loved bread. So his food preferences didn't really direct him to a healthful diet. (Though I should add, he grew up on fresh veggies from his mom's garden, plus plenty of animal protein and fat, so his body had a healthy foundation.)
Do you think people who grow up without a good foundation of nutrition have more of a craving for meat and veggies? What was your own experience: is the paleo way of eating how you've been wanting to eat all along, or was it a shift from your previous food preferences? Can we know what is healthy to eat just by listening to our bodies?
My parents tried to make me crave meat and veggies, but for the most part I didn't like them (the healthy meals, not my parents!), and to this day if I'm visiting they won't give me any boned meat or skin from the chicken because I made such a fuss. I enjoyed bread and would eat 'sandwiches' which consisted of little else, and big plates of pasta. But then my mum made bread when we were younger, and I never quite enjoyed the store-bought stuff as much. And I gained a gradual appreciation for the variety of experience vegetables offered. I don't suppose I ever thought how I was eating was good for me, my health simply wasn't an issue and I didn't connect my over well-being with my diet - well except for needing to feed the addictions.
Oddly perhaps, I was never sold on the evils of saturated fat. I bought whole fat milk, if I was going to consume milk then that's what I was going to do, I wasn't going to pretend by drinking a similar whitish liquid. And I couldn't see milk as a bad thing (and for me I don't think it is). And I always thought meat and eggs were good things (not that I liked them that much).
So it was only after having gone down the wrong path, taken control and found myself at paleo that I know realise how much of it relates to what we were fed as children. Simple, whole home-cooked food. Organ meats etc. But we didn't have the mental framework to resist the seduction of sugar.
I think there's going to be people who never grow out of their parents ways of eating, people who rebel against their parents or the orthodoxy. But there's a whole range of 'diets' available to people. People generally come to paleo from a more considered viewpoint, and while I think we can know a lot from what our bodies tell us, it's extraordinarily difficult to undo the conditioning we get when we are younger. Let's not forget that we gain much as a species from collective knowledge and conventional wisdom. That's why it's so tragic when it goes astray.
For me, that last question in your final paragraph is an important one. Sadly, I have to answer "no," at least as far my body is concerned. I grew up eating fairly healthy food, at least compared to the SAD. My mom cooked, and although she became a low-fat, whole-grain kind of person at some point, I always had meat and veggies for dinner. But I loved -- loved -- pasta and bread, and mashed potatoes and rice, and if I'd had my way, all I would have eaten was starch.
I've heard anecdotally that kids on the autism spectrum, and those with other neurological disorders, seem to be more attached to macaroni-and-cheese type foods than other kids. Which is sad, since ketogenic diets look promising as an intervention in neuro-disorders. I'm not on the spectrum, but I had seizures as a child, and the anecdotal observation holds true in my case.
So I think in an environment where unhealthy food is available and considered "normal" to eat, we can't listen to our bodies to know what's good, if by "listen" you mean "trust your cravings." I do listen to my body in the sense that I've seen my health improve miraculously by eating the way I do, but if I paid attention to cravings, I'd be indulging in unhealthy addictions.
I totally get what you mean. 6 years ago I already had fantasies about juicy steaks. I liked the taste of broccoli, carrots, ... But my mother always prepared the same veggies. When I first heard about paleo I immediately though "this is the kind of food I've always wanted to eat".
That's what makes it so easy for me to continue preparing meals, day after day : I love the food, so I'm prepared to work for it.
This is such an excellent question! I have thought about this over the years. I was raised in an environment where people did a lot of hunting and fishing, so I'm comfortable with that. I was introduced to vegetarianism as a teenager and that was the perfect act of rebellion. I would be the healthy one! Fast forward many years and several eating styles later (the Zone, raw foods, slow carb), Paleo was like a breath of fresh air! Eating meat and vegetables makes so much sense. Eating FAT makes sense. I find it very easy to reach for Paleo foods. It has taken time, but now I'm listening to my body and getting some great feedback! I also have a newfound respect for the hunting and fishing practices I saw growing up.
My natural inclination is towards dairy products like cheese and ice cream. Not a big step from there to Mac n cheese. My love for seafood of all kinds developed later, more learned than instinctive, maybe slow to develop because of a childhood hatred of bad tuna sandwiches and fish sticks. I always wanted a steak but there were none around.
Great question! I've always loved meat and vegetables - even as a kid when I'd cook up pots and pots of veggies smothered in butter with lamb chops and gravy - My mum always encouraged this too, so maybe she was a little more intuned to Paleo than I was!
I grew up eating a standard 1950's suburban American diet - Wonder Bread and all. I didn't really CRAVE bread until I got older and discovered how wonderful it could really be when made well. Sometimes I still sigh over a loaf of real French sourdough with olives and sun-dried tomatoes at the green market on Saturdays before I move on.
I WAS however a serious sugar junkie - would eat brown sugar straight off a spoon and loved candy and cookies and cake.
But, I was also a serious little carnivore right from the get-go and I think I have always instinctively known that I just FEEL better when I eat a goodly portion of meat - especially red meat. Of course I flirted with vegetarianism in college - it was the 70's after all - but I think that may have lasted a whole week before I ran screaming for a burger.
As for the second part of your question though - veggies - I am still in the "I eat 'em 'cause I know I probably should" camp and don't know that I will ever choose them first over a good hunka steak.
I've always been very fond of dairy products and sugary foods, I really liked meat as well but it was also somewhat repulsive for some reason. Vegetables never appealed to me unless they were drowned in fatty sauces.
I generally think we should trust our cravings, I was pretty damn healthy through out my childhood till my teen years when I started eating lots of burgers and junk. My diet has somewhat come full circle and I eat very close to what I craved as a child, my brother jokes that this is the way he has always wanted to eat since he can remeber.
I had been vegetarian since I was a kid, since my dad was and I wanted his approval. It wasn't hard, since I never much liked meat anyway. I still don't crave it, but I have noticed that I feel so much better since I've been eating lots of salmon and beef so perhaps I'll learn to crave it.