Shef's Kitchen

Food and Cooking Stories from an Indian-American girl nicknamed Shef

The Impossible Meal Plan Challenge: Meeting the Needs of a Paleo Diet and a Vegetarian Diet November 21, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — shefskitchen @ 1:43 pm

I shopped differently yesterday.

I perused the produce, looking for the bright green “LOCAL” signs. There were few, compared to the “CONVENTIONAL” AND “ORGANIC” produce labels.

But before I purchased any produce, I grabbed a veggie chorizo/egg breakfast taco and a cup of coffee and sat at the window counter to begin the rewarding and enjoyable task of planning my week’s meals.

Roasted Carrots with Roasted Garlic and Thyme

Pen in hand, I scribbled the days of the week, using my Ical as a guide to remember which nights hubby would be home for dinner and which I would be and which both of us would be. Sounds crazier than it is, I promise.

Usually, however, when I shop, I have a list in hand with my meal plan for the week already written. I sometimes attempt to get the locally grown produce and typically give up, thinking there’s no way I can consistently do so because of the following reasons:

  1. I want to constantly expose the children to new vegetables. Though they are good produce-eaters, they often prefer fruit over veggies.  It’s seemingly hard to get daily fruits in when there isn’t much in season but apples and pears….or so I thought before these last 2 weeks.
  2. I want to increase the amount of produce we eat, which means I would need more variety than any one given Texas season bestows upon us.
  3. Mostly, I want to preserve nutritional daily goals “allowances” of what I believe to be a balanced diet. I use the guidelines of the Sustainable Food Center’s “Happy Plate” concept, or the new and improved USDA food pyramid (though the former is better IMHO).  See this fascinating discussion about this and food politics, an increasing interest of mine, right here and here.

However, I’m going to embrace a few dietary challenges this month with our family, mostly brought on by hubby’s new Paleo diet**see below. And remember, I have one vegetarian child too. The rest of us are pretty much omnivores, though I consider myself a flexitarian. And since we are making these changes, I’ve also decided to make a stronger attempt to shop for locally grown produce. Hence, the above grocery shopping process occurred.

So this is our plan for about a month:

  • we will attempt to shop for produce from local farms mostly
  • we will further attempt to shop for only seasonal produce (obviously these 2 points go hand in hand)
  • if not seasonal, we will definitely stay 100% organic
  • all meats/poultry/eggs/seafood will come from sustainably raised sources and local when available
  • we will accommodate a Paleo diet**-see below, the opposite of a vegetarian diet, while accommodating the vegetarian diet simultaneously ( the one thing they have in common is the abundance of vegetables).
  • we will do all this all the while continuing to cook the ethnic foods that we like, especially Indian food, which means straying away from “typical” Indian curries.

OMG. How am I going to do this?

Who ever heard of grain-free Indian food? (I’m holding off on Indian food this week. Going to try next week.)

So I am embracing this as a challenge. And challenges are fun for Type A people like myself.

**I’m new to Paleo, and still learning about it. But its essence is that it follows a “caveman” diet philosophy: a hunter-gatherer diet. It’s heavy on protein and meat/seafood, very heavy on produce, dairy-free, grain-free (not only GLUTEN free!), and legume-free. As you can see, this makes my life very very hard since now for a month, since I have to accommodate 2 major opposing diets: vegetarian (a child, at that), and a Paleo-follower.  

This is what I planned for this week, and walking through the grocery store I struggled to avoid picking up “easy” conventionally grown produce like out of season bell peppers and out of season berries.  For snacking and lunchboxes, I purchased persimmons, apples, pears, grapefruit, and oranges: all local YAY!  The three things I purchased that were not local and not in season were bananas, avocados, broccoli, and pre-washed spinach.

  • Monday (by the way we all follow Meatless Monday by request of my 6 year old):  bean and cheese enchiladas/ zucchini and spinach enchiladas. Mr. Paleo had enchilada filling only with 2 fried eggs on top. So he had his protein and veggies that were grain-free. All produce and eggs and corn tortillas were local, but the spinach was not. I couldn’t find local greens except mustard greens, which I didn’t want to put in an enchilada!
  • Tuesday: fish en papillote, with julienned vegetables, roasted butternut squash, eggplant something, and quinoa pilaf. I added the quinoa so that the vegetarian gets her complete protein.
  • Wednesday: easy day. Mr. Paleo is not gonna be home for dinner. Kids and I can have something easy like veggie chili (though no locally grown bellpeppers) and a side of roasted okra.
  • Thursday: okra and shrimp (Gulf shrimp but previously frozen) gumbo. This night I’ll have to make something separate for the kids, even though I’m usually against it, in addition to the gumbo since they probably won’t eat enough of it (or any). So either leftovers or pasta with jarred marinara and a side of veggies.
  • Friday: Just the kids and I again, so maybe we’ll order pizza and a salad. Naan pizza would be perfect, but I’ll need to go to the store for the naan and paneer.  I make them eat spinach pizza when we order pizza and make a salad as well. We eat enough “regular” pizza out at birthday parties, etc…

Grilled Broccoli with Aleppo Pepper

I think I’ll report back next week and let you all know how we did on this meal plan. I’m doubtful that we’ll stick to it and sure that I’ll need to re-supply with additional produce during the week.  I’ll put out a shorter post every week (I hope) this month with every meal plan for that week. I find this to be a very interesting and challenging process and others in my shoes may benefit from this atypical meal plan. See you next week!
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18 Responses to “The Impossible Meal Plan Challenge: Meeting the Needs of a Paleo Diet and a Vegetarian Diet”

  1. Love the challenge, Shefaly!

  2. Mohit Goyal Says:

    Great post! I’m interested to hear how it works out after a few more weeks, but I commend your efforts! :) and i love the pics!

  3. Jennifer Says:

    Thanks for a great post! Our household also has different tastes and dietary restrictions so I can relate. On another note, I highly recommend Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable,Miracle” if you haven’t read it. It is a novelist’s food memoir of the year her family decided to move to their family farm in west virginia and eat only what they could produce of find locally.

    • shefskitchen Says:

      Funny you say that Jennifer–it’s been on my bookshelf, passed to friends, sat in my car for 2 years. And I still haven’t read it. Our food book club always voted for something else but that was always on the list. I still do want to read it. There are many blogs out there who do these challenges like mine and some even do it for an entire YEAR! A woman here in Austin ate only from farmers markets for a year here. I forget her blog but if I remember I’ll come back to post it. Thanks for reading Jennifer!

  4. nilong Says:

    you keep out doing urself

  5. Valentina Says:

    Wow — that is a challenge! My 7 yr old and husband are GF and my husband is also a vegetarian, which seems totally easy compared to what’s on your plate (no pun intended ;-)) — the carrots are absolutely gorgeous! And I love the red background on your site! :-)

  6. [...] week I posted about my family’s Impossible Meal Plan Challenge.  A compromise, if you will, between a Paleo diet and a vegetarian diet. And intermixed is a sudden [...]

  7. sheilasingh Says:

    Great post, Shef! I am curious where you are getting most of your locally grown produce & meats? Where do you prefer to go?

    • shefskitchen Says:

      Thanks Sheila! I’m obviously way behind on finishing the series on the Paleo challenge. We did do it in December but I just couldn’t get to writing about it. I now strictly go to Wheatsville Co-op for the last 2-3 months. I’m able to find everything I need there other than a huge variety of portable kids’ snacks. I also go to the farmer’s market whenever I can, but Wheatsville stocks a lot of produce from Johnson’s Family Backyard Garden. Meats I prefer to get at Wheatsville as well. Or the farmers market. The third choice for meats is WHole Foods Market.

  8. [...] You must be thinking that I failed on my mission to attempt this challenge described in a post back in late November (gasp!). [...]

  9. [...] paleo coconut flour muffins strawberries and blackberries/cranberries and set aside to dry. – Cut strawberries in quarter or halves – Slice walnuts in halves – Mix arugula strawberries blackberries/cranberries [...]

  10. Clearly that’s a problem with our society and the paleo in a box generally. With our bodies fully adjusted to the Paleo In A Box I have no doubts we would be full and satisfied at every meal! Paleo diet is also known as the Paleolithic diet is a way to customize your free meals and enjoy meals that you wanted just the most.

  11. Weight Loss Says:

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