It's official: paleo was the most searched for health term on Google in 2013, and, thus, paleo is no longer weird. Well, maybe its still a little weird, but at least people don't look at me like I'm crazy when I order a bunless burger anymore. As a matter of fact, I meet a lot of people who want to try going paleo, but they're held back by aspects of the paleo lifestyle that seem beyond the pale to the average New York office worker.
First of all, here's a short definition of what I mean by paleo lifestyle and nutrition:
- Nutrition: no wheat, rice, corn, quinoa. No soy. Limit sugar. Limit carbohydrate intake to at most 75-100g / day. No oils other than avocado, coconut, and olive. Limit dairy except for butter and ghee as much as possible.
- Lifestyle: get plenty of uninterrupted sleep, go barefoot or wear minimalist footwear
In theory, all these principles are manageable. But when you work in an office in New York, there are more than a few difficulties. Even as somebody who's been Paleo since before moving to New York, I often struggle to avoid sugary cocktails, crappy delivery food, and dollar pizza spots. In that vein, here are my answers for the 5 most common excuses I've heard for why people can't go paleo in New York.
"I want to wear minimalist shoes, but as great as Vibram FiveFingers are for the gym, I look ridiculous when I wear them with slacks and a shirt."
While they're not going to be mistaken for Prada or Crockett & Jones in terms of high fashion, VivoBarefoot has a few pairs of shoes that are pretty business casual friendly. Black RA Leathers and Gobis are somewhat oddly shaped but can pass for an inexpensive pair of Derbies. The RA Leathers are my go-to pair of shoes for an average day at the office. The Jay also looks pretty indistinguishable from a standard loafer. And for days when its well below freezing and the ground is covered in snow, like today, the Synth Hiker does a pretty good job keeping your feet dry and not being too gaudy. (Side note: I also hiked a snowy mountain in Tromso, Norway in a pair of Synth Hikers, they can take a pretty serious beating)
"Wait a minute, what am I supposed to order off of Seamless if I can't order a sandwich or cheap chinese food?"
I'm not gonna lie, if you're looking for high quality paleo-friendly food in New York, the pickings are pretty slim on Seamless. The standard approach is "order a salad". Some places also have salads that are pretty boss. The key is to get one with a bunch of meat or fish, if not other things. From the right places, you can basically consider it an order of meat with some veggies on the side instead of "just a salad."
Alternatives depend on your area, you've got some good options in midtown, but if you work around Soho or Chinatown you're pretty much SOL. Here are a few ideas that I've utilized effectively:
- Sashimi lunch specials
- Know the 3 roll lunch specials that every sushi place has? Order that, but ask for hand rolls with no rice. Not every place will accommodate you, so you need to experiment and figure out which sushi places work. Trust me, the simple deliciousness of salmon and avocado wrapped in nori without the extra rice is well worth the effort.
- Bareburger. The simultaneously best and most underrated burger in New York, and they serve grass-fed beef, in addition to amazing lamb, elk, and wild boar burgers. When you're craving a truly exceptional burger, skip the Shake Shack (not that any self-respecting New Yorker would get caught in that tourist trap) and get Bareburger delivered, you'll be much healthier and much happier for it.
- Dig Inn is another Midtown favorite of mine. While their beef is not grass-finished, at least their beef is partially grass fed and their salmon is wild, which is more than I can say for 99% of the places I've seen on Seamless.
"If I can't drink beer, mimosas, bellinis, gin and tonics, or rum and cokes, what can I actually drink at a bar?"
Short answer: prefer straight liquor or something very close, but a nice dry red wine works reasonably well too. If you're a guy, this'll give you an excuse to learn to appreciate good single malt scotch like a real man. But if you really want your alcohol watered down, plain soda water with lemon or lime is a decent substitute for Sprite or whatever your sparkling sugar bomb of choice is.
If you're at a cocktail bar, a Martini, Manhattan, Rob Roy, Vesper, or other combination of liquor, vermouth, and/or bitters works pretty well as a substitute for sugar-laden cocktails. For example, PJ Clarke's is a favorite cocktail bar among tourists and Met Opera attendees, and their Perfect Manhattan is a reasonably good low-sugar cocktail.
If you must go for boozy brunch, skip the orange juice and go for straight bubbly. Sparkling wine is not exactly the healthiest thing in the world, but the real offender in a mimosa is the orange juice. A glass of Korbel Brut only has about 10g carbohydrate, but a glass of orange juice has about 30g of pure sugar and contributes nothing to the social relaxation effects of alcohol. Cider's also a good alternative: a 12oz bottle of Magner's Hard Cider has no gluten, has only 10g of carbohydrate, and tastes damn good to boot.
"If I can't drink cappucinos, lattes, macchiatos, or any of Starbucks' other sugar bombs, how do I get my caffeine fix in the morning?"
A surprising number of people don't like their coffee black for some reason. Well, with bulletproof coffee, there's no excuse. Its sweet, its fatty, its extremely good for you, and it's freakin' delicious. You even end up saving money on every cup because even if you go with the bulletproof coffee k-cups (which I do), they're still a solid 50 cents cheaper than a tall medium roast from Starbucks. Add to that not having to stand in line with a bunch of people who are very cross from sleep-deprivation and you have a net win.
"What do you actually do at the gym if not spend hour after hour on a treadmill?"
The short answer, courtesy of Mark's Daily Apple, is "sprint and lift heavy things". Last year I worked primarily on improving my bench press 1 rep max and my 1 set max for pullups, which I'll write a blog post about some other time. This year, I'm working on finally achieving my childhood dream of being able to dunk. My usual trip to the gym nowadays involves a light warmup with some stretching, jogging, and pushups, and then 2-4 exercises, usually involving bench press, pullups, squats, or kettlebell swings. Once a week I throw a sprint in there, either on my apartment building's dog walk or at the gym on a stationary bike.
Hopefully now you have a better idea of how to rock a paleo lifestyle in NYC. I think you'll find that it's like riding a bike: after a little bit of practice it becomes second nature.