Ciarra from Popular Paleo is a triple threat: she’s equal parts Paleo blogger, mom of two young children and dedicated CrossFitter. Don’t let her credentials fool you though. She’s got a heart of gold and a well balanced approach to eating Paleo that, in my mind, makes her one of the leading up-and-coming voices in Paleo today. Oh, and did I mention how simple yet delicious her recipes are? Because they are!
What first brought you to eating Paleo? How did you find out about it? What are the biggest changes you’ve noticed since you’ve adopted the Paleo lifestyle?
I first came across Paleo from CrossFitting friends, but after reading through Dr. Loren Cordain’s The Paleo Diet, I scoffed at the idea and set the book on a shelf. I honestly thought that it was such a ridiculous way of eating and that it would be impossible to maintain – the irony of which is not lost on me.
A year or so later I was still feeling crummy and having a tough time losing weight, despite arduous cardio and weight training workouts four days a week. I also took up distance running and didn’t see the usual weight loss results I had expected. One night I was commiserating with a friend on how hard it is to lose weight with a hypothyroid when she shared with me a book that had helped her. I read it and found Paleo was listed as one of the top 5 ideal diets for folks with thyroid issues. I pulled Dr. Cordain’s book back off the shelf, ordered several more books on the subject and did Mark Sisson’s 21 Day Total Body Transformation. The rest is history!
You’re a busy mom…what are your 3 best tips for families and parents who want to commit to a healthier way of eating?
This is probably my favorite thing to talk to people about mainly because I feed a non-Paleo husband, a fairly open-minded 9 year old daughter and a picky eating 3 year old son. I make one meal for all of us, and I keep my plate Paleo. It’s not always easy to watch everyone else munch on tortilla chips when I make Mexican food (my weakness!), but I’ve been there, done that and they can keep the t-shirt – mine fit so much better nowadays anyway!
Here are three quick tips on how I stick to my guns.
1) Build recipes around one protein. It’s very easy to start with a protein, add a few complimentary vegetables and then build up from there with various condiments and non-Paleo additions to make the fam happy. I make one meal, keep my plate clean and let the others do whatever they feel like. My kids often eat veggies with ranch dressing, but I bet my kids eat more vegetables (willingly!) than most children in general. I can handle that. (PS: I’ve noticed that as my 9 year old has gotten older she doesn’t feel the need to add sauces to veggies as much… she’s learned to appreciate them and is making the choice to drop the processed food on her own. Makes mama proud!)
2) Have snacks. Lots and lots of snacks. I probably spend more time prepping hard-boiled and Scotch Eggs, kale chips, veggie slices, trail mixes, frittatas and pre-made meat for quick protein than I do actually preparing meals. I usually don’t realize I’m hungry until I’m starving, so having lots of easy access foods to choose from helps a ton. Also, like so many other busy moms, I’m usually multi-tasking my meals with three or four other activities…typing up this interview included. [Steph’s note: I can barely manage myself sometimes. Hats off the moms and dads who do this for their families. Serious kudos!] Instead of having some processed “snack” item, I’ll heat up a Scotch egg and eat it with half an avocado with hot sauce. Hits the spot.
3) Get a crock pot. Use the crock pot. Love the crock pot.
You’re also a CrossFitter and understand the importance of proper fueling for athletic activity. What do you think is the most misunderstood concept when it comes to Paleo and athletes?
Carbohydrates. Hands-down carbs are the most misunderstood element in Paleo. Somewhere along the lines… *cough… Atkins… cough* we got the idea that all carbs were our enemy. And while there is certainly sound science regarding ketosis and gluconeogenesis, carbohydrates sourced from vegetables, fruit and safe starches are essential in order to maintain optimum health – especially if you’re exerting yourself regularly.
Even if your goal for adopting the Paleo lifestyle is for weight loss where foods with higher glycemic loads are discouraged, I can personally vouch for the need for some carbohydrates. In fact, I have found that eating a serving of potatoes (sweet, baby red, fingerling, etc.) or white rice a couple times a week actually helped me lose weight. I was very fatigued during the times I completely abstained. I couldn’t get through life let alone a workout. But that could just be how my body works…and that really is the key. Determine what is ideal for your body, for where you are at this current time and eat accordingly. No excuses; be honest with yourself.
What’s your favorite recipe from your arsenal of yummy Paleo eats?
I love Italian food and I tend to favor throwing together Paleo recipes that are along those lines. With that in mind, my favorite recipe has to be the Saltimbocca. I believe in simple, approachable food that creates big flavor and saltimbocca does just that. It was my go-to dish when I would try to make something impressive prior to going Paleo and it’s definitely a favorite still.
If you could be any animal in the world, what would you be and why?
This question is tough because I really love being a human. Seriously. I don’t want to be an animal! haha! But for fun I decided to do one of those online tests to see what kind of animal I would be. According to the “What Animal Am I” website, apparently I’m a cheetah–efficient, orderly, adaptive and focused. I’d say this were true…unless you are talking about my bedroom closet. I don’t think that thing will ever be completely organized.