Following the Caveman Part I: The Meat Problem

Jun 26, 2009 by

Royalty free caveman

Though I lost five pounds in my first six days on the Caveman Diet, I don’t think the unintentional weight loss resulted from cutting out the bad stuff alone. I think it was equally due to not eating enough good stuff.  I felt better than usual, but leaner and hungrier.

I recently discovered the Caveman Diet, aka the Paleolithic Diet, or the Stone Age Diet, or the hunter-gatherer diet.  The more I’ve looked into it, the more convinced I’ve become that it’s the optimal way of eating for humans, for life, the way our bodies were designed to be nourished.  The anti-fad diet, it’s the original human diet, as the name indicates. It also appears to be the solution to our modern ills: obesity, high blood pressure, cancer, you name it. Even overcrowded, crooked teeth appear to be a symptom of the typical American diet.

This Caveman Diet (hereafter called CD) consists of mainly of vegetables, fruits and lean critter flesh, and some eggs and nuts.  Excluded are all forms of grains (bread, pasta), potatoes, legumes (beans, lentils, peanuts) and dairy products. Processed food, sugar and salt are also out.

It’s all well and good to find the perfect theory. It’s another thing to practice it, as we all know.

Slabs o’ Meat, Mounds o’ Veggies

I’ve found that the CD requires fruit and vegetables in a bit bigger quantities than I’ve been used to, to replace the starchy foods, beans and dairy we were eating.  Also? You need hefty amounts of meat on the CD.

Most Americans apparently are eating a lot of meat, as the earliest humans did. Conventional wisdom today is that we are eating too much meat, but the real problem seems to be the particular meats we modern folk are eating.

Americans are overdosing on fatty, grain-fattened, antibiotic- engorged meat. They’re filling up on processed, salty meats like ham, bacon, hotdogs, sausage and bologna.  Early humans discovered that salting meat was one way to preserve it.  We like the flavor, too. But to survive on the CD, I need to beef up on the kind of meat cavemen ate:  naturally fed, plain and primal.

Eat Your Meat!

It may help to know that for the past several years, our family’s been basically going along with my 18-year-old son’s food choices. Since he went mostly vegetarian, we eat fish and seafood, along with wild venison or other meat that he’s 100 percent sure has been well treated and properly fed. So our diet’s been slim on meat.

We’ve always eaten lots of vegetables, but also lots of legumes of all sorts, including tofu, and some whole grain rice and pasta, and potatoes.  Now that my son’s left home—only temporarily: he’s working in another part of the state now but is going to be home again for a whole week at the end of the summer before he leaves for college five hours away! (sniff)—our options are more open.

Meat Industry: Ignorance is Bliss

But I have my own issues with meat. The more I learn about the meat industry, the narrower my options become. I’m also planning to watch food guru Michael Pollan’s new documentary, Food, Inc., as soon as possible, knowing it’s likely to become even more difficult to get enough acceptable meat at reasonable prices once I discover more to object to.

I’ve only recently started hearing about how pork is produced in some of the most disgusting and objectionable conditions in the industry.  At my husband’s request, I bought and fixed our last delicious, lean pork tenderloin last week, after Pollan had said that no one would eat pork if they witnessed where it came from.

I used to eat chicken once in awhile as long as some claims were made as to it being free range, preferably organic.  I never eat conventional chicken since watching a documentary about factory chicken farms. But now even superior chicken is out.  I haven’t been able to bring myself to eat (or buy) chicken since I grew attached to and then saw die one of our three backyard egg-laying hens this winter.

I love turkey, though. Not only is it cheaper than chicken, it’s also the highest protein, lowest fat meat you can eat. I’ve made two different turkey meatloaves lately that were winners.  Next time, I’ll make a double recipe.  I have never heard anything about turkey farming practices and hope Food, Inc. reveals nothing incriminating about it.

Stock photo cow

Grass–Fed Cow is a Healthy Cow

As for beef, cows should eat grass for many reasons, not grain, which is the industry standard. So we recently found local, grass-fed beef at the new Saturday farmers market at the Pearl Brewery here in San Antonio.

The raiser slaughters two cows a month, and brings half a cow, frozen in small cuts, each market day.  I battle with another buyer over the two tongues per month that reach the market.  When we missed the first one we thought she had saved for us, she gave us a free pound of hamburger (worth $6), which turned out to be possibly the best I’ve ever tasted.

The tongue, baked slowly with some onion and wine, was sumptuous, if a little meager.

We also got some liver. Beef liver is a great source of good fats.  It’s good for you, just like you always heard. We ate it medium rare, cooked briefly and gently with onions and red wine, after a recipe from The Paleo Diet. It was nothing like the overcooked, tough, dry slab I still remember being ordered to eat once as a kindergartner at the babysitter’s house.  At $4 a pound—enough to feed the four of us, though again, not abundantly—it’s a clear winner.

Then there were the beef sweet breads we tried.  I got a small package (under one pound) of this undefined bovine gland, well known in France as a delicacy, for just $4. The recipe I followed required several hours of soaking and pressing.  The sauce was truly a marvel and the four or five bites of meat that we each got were extraordinary, tender, savory.

In my big freezer, I have a 2.54-pound shoulder roast for which I paid $15.24. I expect to fare sumptuously the day I fix that.

Finally Satisfaction

“I don’t want more meat,” my daughter said one night. “I miss my legumes. I want something Asian with soy sauce.”  I gave in and fixed some Tofu Szechuan and even made brown rice. We filled up.

Last night we each ate half a pound of that grass-fed hamburger (no bun, of course) with a little whole grain mustard, with about six ounces of frozen spinach mixed with the last of the Swiss chard from the garden.  These generous portions tasted great. We were so well satisfied we didn’t have room for any soup made from our garden tomatoes.

I’ve gained my weight all back.

As I’ve experienced in the past, any radical change in diet takes some time to adjust to. It takes some time to figure out what you can eat and what works.

Coming up: What I’ve learned about eating like a caveman:

The verdict on fish

How to righteously get around the “no bread” rule

The truth on eggs:  how many, what kind?

Which nuts are best?

For more on grass-fed beef

For more on the horrors of the pork industry

For more on the movie Food, Inc.

© French Kids Don’t Get Fat / Anna Migeon / 26 June 2009 / All rights reserved