5 Critical Steps To Eating Paleo In An Emergency


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Eating paleo successfully is about planning and being prepared but last week, we got ‘the call.’

You know, the one you get when you push aside petty arguments and focus with a laser-like intensity. The one that causes you to drop everything you’d planned and move. Fast.

Our son was halfway through a six-day backpacking trip. He was 9,000 feet up a mountain and planning to hike Half-Dome in Yosemite National Park.

But he’d begun throwing up. His face was bright red and swollen, he couldn’t walk a few feet without resting. Aching all over and with a constant headache, he was exhausted but he couldn’t sleep.


He was 2 ½ miles above the nearest trailhead and 8 miles from that day’s campsite but he couldn’t move much further. Moreover, he was a liability to his group of 11 other kids and three adults. The decision was made to bring him down.

And so while my husband and I cancelled meetings and bundled into our car, a guide helped him down the trail. It took them four hours; our boy was punk. Lucky he wasn’t alive during Paleolithic times, huh?


We drove five hours to meet them researching hantavirus, the mice-borne disease that recently killed 3 Yosemite visitors, on the way. As we got close, we saw our son curled up asleep on the ground, his backpack serving as a pillow. We placed him on the backseat, covered him with a blanket and let him sleep the seven-hour journey home.

Before we’d left, as we gathered the things we felt vital  – water, iPhone and money for me, a Kindle and his laptop for my husband – my mind did briefly consider food. We knew we had a 12-hour round trip ahead of us with a sick boy in the back.

But I couldn’t get my head around the idea of food at the time; I figured I’d just fast. But later after we’d got home and our boy was safely tucked up in bed, the immediate crisis over, I realized this wasn’t the smartest approach.

Poor choices

It was understandable in the circumstances but not taking food with us meant we were prey to making poor food choices on our journey, faced as we were with plenty of temptation and the need to take safety and stretch breaks from the incessant driving.

So I mapped out a paleo food plan for those times when you don’t have the time to, um, plan. When you have a ‘grab and go’ situation and are distracted, or for when you need to get out and about at short notice.

1. Sweep your pantry

When you’re in this kind of situation, you need to have portable food that won’t go bad. Few paleo foods are like that and these days my pantry shelves are pretty much empty of food.

But you can keep in a few items for just this kind of situation and store them. You can even have them ready to go in an emergency pack with napkins, cutlery and wipes if you’re so inclined.

A rootle around my pantry turned up suitable items such as tins of salmon and tuna, packets of jerky, store-bought Lara Bars, coconut shreds and brown bags to put them in.

Nuts, dried fruit, and commercially-packaged paleo foods like Tanka Bars or Evolve Foods Primal line are also options.

2. Sweep your fridge

This is harder because the items need to be kept cold but if you keep a child’s insulated lunch bag on top of your freezer, a frozen gel pack in the freezer next to the fridge, you can do it. Those hard boiled eggs you always keep in the fridge for a snack will work along with cheese sticks or Mini Babybels if you’re primal, fresh fruit, carrots and cherry tomatoes are other ideas.

3. Grab some water

Water is essential. And even in these rush situations, it is worth taking a minute to fill up a water bottle or have bottles of water ready to go.

4. Be smart on the road

Gas stations aren’t plentiful with paleo options but jerky and nuts are usually available and we were able to find some raw almonds that would do in a pinch.

A word about caffeine: One of the challenges of driving so long at a moment’s notice was the necessity to stay awake. We were driving in heavy traffic on freeways, then in no traffic but on windy, small roads for many, many miles. Caffeine options became a priority.

Coffee and tea from gas stations is obviously an option but a terrible one in my opinion, so I chose a decidedly non-paleo option but used it judiciously. Every time I yawned and only when I did, I took a sip of Diet Coke. That seemed to be enough for me for me to stay alert. It wasn’t perfectly paleo (actually it wasn’t at all paleo) but it was acceptable in the adverse circumstances. I ended up drinking only around 3oz that way.

5. Fast, or fast food

Fasting is a great option if you’re body is used to it, if the length of time and time of day you’re doing it are doable and not too much is required of you.

However, for us, three-quarters of our round-trip in we needed to take a break and get some real food. We’d been on the road for 9 hours with barely a stretch and were bored out of our brains. What were we going to eat? It was non-paleo food danger time!

A survey of our territory caused us to decide on a burger. You can, of course, go to any burger place and throw away the bun but we chose to go to In-N-Out Burger. You can ask for a burger ‘protein-style’ off their ‘Secret Menu’ and they’ll give it to you with all the trimmings but without the bun. Only cost a couple of bucks and it filled a hole in a fair paleo fashion although I can’t say we’ll be going again soon.

Panda Express or Chipotle are other options, as long as you choose wisely, of course.

In conclusion

We finally got home at midnight, put our sleepy, filthy, slightly delirious boy to bed and wound down a little – I checked on him twice during the night and was completely exhausted from the stress the next day but such is the life of a mother. After 14 hours of sleep, his swelling had gone down and although rather weak, he was able to greet his schoolmates on their return a couple of days later. High altitudes would appear not to be his thing. He returned to school on Monday as normal. 🙂

The urgency of our situation caused my normally creative, practical brain to desert me so look around your home now for supplies you can use and keep this list handy. Here’s the summary to ‘grab ‘n’ go’ paleo food:


  • Child’s lunch bag (keep one on top of fridge)
  • Frozen gel pack (keep in kitchen freezer)
  • Kitchen roll
  • Plastic cutlery
  • Packet of wipes or hand sanitizer


Fridge and pantry for paleo emergency food such as –


  • Water

What do you think should go in a paleo emergency preparedness kit? Do you have one in your home? Tell us in the comments!

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Written by 

Alison Golden writes on the topic of paleo over at Paleo/NonPaleo. She aims to share ideas, inspire and motivate readers by teaching them how to live paleo in a non-paleo world. She is also the author of the bestselling book, The Modern, No-Nonsense Guide to Paleo, a unique tool that gives the reader hundreds of strategies to navigate the learning process to successful paleo living.

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