For slightly over a month now, we have been following the so-called “Paleo Diet”. On the whole it has been very successful, so I thought I’d jot down some notes on the subject. Therefore, here’s a quick introduction to what it is, together with a few recipes and ideas we’ve had that have made our lives easier.
What is the Paleo Diet? In a nutshell, it’s an approach to selecting food for health. The idea is that our bodies are really well equipped to deal with some foods but not others. So we’ve been eating foods like meat, fruit and some vegetables for millions of years and can cope with them fine, but it has only been about 10,000 years (or around 250 generations) since we started eating the kinds of food resulting from farming – wheat-type crops and dairy. In this relatively short timescale, we just haven’t evolved all the mechanisms required to fully process some of the contents of those foods. So basically, the diet is heavy on all sorts of meat/fish and loads of healthy vegetables, nuts, seeds and so on, but skipping grain- and dairy-based foods and legumes (as well as some of the nasty, industrially-produced food that’s around these days).
We are still getting to grips with it, drawing our first “slug” of information from a good book called The Paleo Answer by Loren Cordain, Ph.D. There are also a load of other websites full of useful material, such as Mark’s Daily Apple, and I also mustn’t forget to mention all the support, help and advice from people on Twitter! The hashtag #paleo is a good one to start with, and the photos and comments from Lisa Luxford and her blog played a large role in getting the whole thing off the ground for me too.
Our motivation for trying this out was general health and well-being rather than weight loss, although as it happens we are achieving both of these goals. You will no doubt find lots of people talking about the positive benefits of this diet. For me, at this point, the most surprising effect has been that my mind has felt a good deal clearer, as if a cloud has been lifted from my head.
Anyway, enough of this! I have a few suggestions and ideas we’ve learned over this time, which I thought I would jot down. They are:
- The paleo two-ingredient pancake, first spotted from Lisa mentioned above. Simple as anything: as a breakfast, I mash 2 or 3 smallish bananas and mix in 3 eggs. NB bananas that have gone much more black than the kids would eat seem fine in this recipe. Also, a good result doesn’t seem to be very dependent on precise amounts (thank goodness). The quantities mentioned here makes two decent pancakes for our breakfast. A bit of butter in a pan, on a medium heat: cook them slower than normal pancakes, and make sure they are properly setting before attempting a “flip” or it will end in tears! They take 3-4 minutes each. Tastes fantastic with almond butter (Mrs H’s preference) or maple syrup (mine)
- Roasted vegetables. If there’s nothing decent to snack off, it is next to impossible not to end up eating the “wrong” food. To avoid this, I try to roast a tray of vegetables, then put them in the fridge to graze from. It takes about 10 minutes to prepare and heat up the oven, then bung ’em in, wait an hour and eat them for dinner, putting plenty of left-overs in the fridge. A few lumps of sweet potato, parsnip or whatever makes a world of difference in the middle of the afternoon when getting peckish! I use whatever I can find, including those things at the back that are looking a bit like they might go off if you don’t have them soon. Particular favourites are sweet potatoes, parsnips, onions, peppers, squash and carrots, but anything goes if it’s paleo. I chop them up roughly, add a bit of coconut oil (which we got from Holland and Barrett) and roast them in a tray at about 180-200C. After 30 mins I shake them up and turn over etc. Mmmm!
- Dark chocolate with fruit and nut. We seem to be allowed dark chocolate, and dried fruit and nuts are also fine, so this seems legit so long as you don’t have too much! Again, really easy: melt 300-400g of dark chocolate, preferably high cocoa content. I do this by putting a sieve over a pan of boiling water, and sitting a bowl in it. Then cut/grate the chocolate and keep stirring. Once it’s mostly liquid it seems fine – a few lumps don’t matter. While that’s happening, roast some almonds and macadamia nuts (in a tray, under a grill for a few mins) and get some dried fruit. My last shot used these nuts, plus raisins and dried cranberries, since these happened to be available in Waitrose when I was shopping! I had probably 300g of fruit/nuts with 350g chocolate for the attempt in the photo – quite fruit/nut heavy, but worked well for me. Anyway – melt the chocolate, then mix in the nuts and fruit, and pour into a tray with greaseproof paper. Cool in the fridge, cut into chunks and try not to eat too quickly!
- Shopping tip: have some cooked chicken chunks in the fridge. Again, a snacking essential…
That’s all for now, folks. If you have any recipes or ideas you would like to share, I would love to hear them!