IN THE BEGINNING.... When I was sixteen I was diagnosed with terminal ileitis. Basically, I had an inflamed gut which was aggravated by many environmental factors including the food I ate (namely grains and diary), the drinks I drank (lactose). the level of stress and how much I slept at night. I found that if I maintained a coeliac diet my symptoms of severe stomach pains, bloatedness, backache and headaches stopped.
Over the next twelve years I wavered between a gluten free to a eat-whatever-you-want-diet. My symptoms came and went depending on my diet.
What I also discovered over this time, was that my mental health stability wavered in line with my diet too. When I ate grains and diary, my mental health mirrored the symptoms of someone with depression. I would feel flat, sad and unmotivated. I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t want to leave the house. I felt miserable.
When I ate gluten and lactose free diets, I felt like I could achieve anything. I moved more because I wasn’t battling a bloated stomach or heaviness associated with so much milk and bread. But I also felt really guilty for doing this; cutting out complete food groups and their associated macro nutrients was not recommended by many leading health organisations.
During this time, I completed my Honours in Psychology. Part of my research was to investigate low carb verse high fat diets. My original argument was to dispute diets such as low GI and paleo. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to find many peer-reviewed articles found low carb diets improved the symptoms of conditions, such as type II diabetes and hypertension, although I believe the jury is still out on the long term effects of many diets.
In 2014, my symptoms once again flared up due to a change of lifestyle and a goal to run 30kms. So we (hubby and I) decided to take the trial the paleo way.
I stopped my intake of diary and grains completely and physically felt amazing. Not only did I feel fresh and vibrant every morning, but when I exercised, I was able to achieve distances and speeds that had previously been unattainable to me. Then came the everyday practical improvements. For the first time in my life, I was able to wear a pair of stockings to work and not be rolling around in pain when I got home because they dug into my bloated stomach!
Today, I am stronger, fitter, healthier, and I haven’t had one stomach ache or bloat since.
I wish I had done this years ago!!
Due to feeling so good, we have recently been trialing a ‘paleo-lite’ lifestyle for many months to see where our limitations are.
I currently maintain a ‘paleo-lite’ lifestyle where I’ve reduced grains and dairy (I might have a grain based biscuit, or milk in an quiche, and I eat grain fed meats, for example). I still feel amazing with this level of grain/lactose intake, but I wouldn’t increase anymore.
WHAT IS A PALEO LIFESTYLE?
Well the basics are that you eat the same foods that our ‘caveman’ ancestors did. So this excludes any foods that were introduced around the 1800’s in the industrialisation. This includes corn, grains (wheat, for example), legumes and dairy. The basis for this movement is that our ancestors didn’t suffer the same chronic conditions that are in epidemic proportions today, such as obesity. They also didn’t suffer associated conditions such as diabetes and heart conditions. The paleo lifestyle promotes natural and organic foods such as grass fed meats, fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts.
When you think about it…. it just makes sense!
One of the leaders of the paleo lifestyle is Chef Pete Evans. On his show, the Paleo Way, he talks about how cows were introduced to grain foods for the sole purpose of putting on weight. Is it any wonder then that humans have had the same response to eating grains? (If you want to know more about the Paleo Way, you can find the series at The Paleo Way– I strongly recommend you watch it. The episodes are short but very informative).
Now, if you’ve been reading any news articles about paleo the last few years, you would have heard many myths about the paleo lifestyle such as, it’s too hard, it’s ‘dangerous’, nothing tastes nice, it’s expensive.
While I don’t completely disagree with all of these myths, let me set the record straight once and for all (well according to my experience anyway) about the Paleo lifestyle.
- It can be quick and easy – the key is to have all the ingredients that you need in your pantry, which like everything requires a lot of organising each week. You really do need to be organised. Be proactive, don’t make your lunch for your work day in the morning, make it the night before.
- It is good for you – the whole concept of paleo is to eat as the cavemen do. There is an argument that cutting out whole food groups is bad for you, however, there is a growing online movement led by Chef Pete Evans and Trainer Luke challenging people’s perceptions and the traditional food pyramid. This movement suggests cutting out grains and diary is very good for us and can result in a reduction of many chronic health conditions.
- It is delicious – without a doubt it is delicious. There are some recipes that are pretty ordinary, like some paleo breads, but there are hundreds of delicious recipes.
- It is initially expensive, but not in the long term – if you want to go hard core paleo, I found it was expensive. All those nuts, seeds and random oils you need to buy. But, to be honest, I wasn’t doing it right- I was still trying to maintain a cereal-type breakfast by eating a nut-based granola, instead of treating breakfast as any other meal in my day. So I started eating frittata for breakfast instead of a highly expensive nut based granola five days a week. I also found if I stick to what I call Paleo Lite (cut out breads, rice, pastas and dairy, for example) then it didn’t increase my grocery bill – obviously this depends on what your lifestyle is to begin with.
There are many additional benefits of eating Paleo that are not often discussed.
- It introduces you to new ingredients and recipes – I was never a big cauliflower fan but now I eat it pan fried as rice, or raw as a base for tabbouleh. I have been introduced to the spice, Sumac, and use Cumin in many sauces. I have a new appreciation for the flavour that honey, lemon and herbs bring to otherwise very basic meals. I have never liked dates, until I had them in raw chocolate balls. I will never be the same again – this recipe is delicious!! I am not joking!
- It challenges the mainstream – what you thought you knew about nutrition, evolution and a balanced diet is wrong! Okay, that’s a little extreme, but the paleo philosophy challenges what you thought you knew about what is good for your body. I now rarely eat grains because they make me feel flat, bloated and depressed. In fact, when I rarely eat traditional breakfast meals, instead I treat breakfast the same as any other meal.
- It improves your mental health – like I said before, living a paleo lifestyle makes you feel mentally stronger. This, I suspect, may be particularly evident for people who are intolerant to grains and lactose. I am also sleeping better and simply moving more which all contribute to a healthy mind.
- It makes you think creatively about what you eat – is your favourite meal spag bol? No problem, paleo spag bol involves using zucchini noodles instead of traditional pasta. Love a good fried rice? No problem, have you tried cauliflower as you main ingredient?
Now let’s have a look at what recipes we’ve been trailing. I’ve included both the recipes I do and don’t like so you can have an idea, at least, of what is out there.
RECIPE TESTING AND TRIALS
Eggs with asparagus, avocado and spinach
Own recipe: three poached eggs, three asparagus sticks pan fried with a little olive oil, spinach chucked in the same pan as asparagus but cooked for less than a minute, and mashed up avo.
Eggs with veggies
Own recipe: two full eggs, one egg white (fried, omlette, scramble or poach), 1 cup veggies
Paleo Granola (recipe from Paleo Cupboard)
LUNCHES and DINNERS
Paleo Zucchini Slice
Own recipe: Grate 2x zucchini and 1/2 sweet potato, add half a white onion, add 1 crushed garlic bulb, add five eggs, stir in 1 cop coconut flour. Cook in oven on 180 degrees for 25-30mins. (this makes a good breakfast meal too)
Paleo Summer Salad
Own recipe: baby spinach, mango, avocado, pear, pine nuts, currants or muscatels, caramalised balsamic oil
Cauliflower Tabbouleh (aka Tabouli) Recipe from Chef Pete Evans Paleo Way Series
I added two additional ingredients – pan fried chicken and avocado.
Vietnamese Chicken – Recipe from Chef Pete Evans
Lightly Spiced Raw Carrot Salad – Recipe from Chef Pete Evans (recipe here)
Thai Salmon Fish Cakes – as part of the 4HB – see recipe here (we cook this every week, it’s so easy and delicious) ps: it has beans so not technically paleo
Mum’s rissoles with a Paleo twist
I have been making these non-paleo rissoles for years. But with a few alterations, this recipe can easily be modified for a Paleo lifestyle.
Mum’s recipe: Grate a heap of veggies (carrot, zucchini, sweet potato), add chopped onion and garlic, add a mixture of herbs (basil, corriander and mint or thyme and rosemary). Add 500grams of mince. Add 1/2 to 1 cup of almond meal. Add gluten free soy sauce and any other paleo sauces. Mix well and roll into patties. Add coconut oil to a hot pan. Roll patties in coconut flour and cook in pan until cooked through.
Veggie Stirfry with Cauliflower Rice (Recipe for rice at Paleo Grubs)
Own recipe: Broccoli, mushies, carrot, pumpkin (any veggies you want really) stir fried in a sesame oil, fish sauce and soy sauce. Or stirfry in a coconut oil for an aromatic flavour. Serve with cauliflower rice
If you haven’t made cauliflower rice, you must! I simply put a few heads and storks of the vegetable in the food processor. Give it a whizz until it is the consistency of rice. If I’m lazy I will serve it as it is, otherwise I will chuck some onion and garlic in a pan and saute it for a few minutes. Get onto it!!
SNACKS and DESSERTS
Paleo Bread (recipe from Paleo Grubs)
Not a favourite of mine I’ll be honest
Kale Chips (recipe at Paleo Grubs)
Not sure if I’m a converted Kale Chip fan, but worth a try. I find Kale is expensive too.
Chocolate Mousse (Recipe from Chef Pete Evans)
I really have saved the best for last!! Chocolate Paleo Balls – omg these are devine (recipe at Paleo Grubs)
The Paleo balls photographed in the bottom image were rolled in desiccated coconut to shake things up a bit! We LOVE this recipe. It truly is amaze-balls!
MUST HAVE* PALEO PANTRY ITEMS:
For those who take me literally, you don’t to HAVE TO HAVE these items, but they have been really helpful in organising my pantry as they are basic ingredients for a lot of my paleo recipes.
- Gluten free soy sauce
- Fish sauce
- Coconut flour
- Coconut oil (or olive oil)
- Medjool dates (a good base for recipes that requires a sugar replacement)
- Cocao (a chocolate replacement if you don’t want to use cocoa)
- Many seeds and nuts
- Can of organic tomatoes
- Lots of herbs and spices (particularly cumin)
- Lots of fruit and veggies in pantry (cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, avocados, spinach (or kale), tomatoes, zucchinis cucumber, asparagus etc.)
- Lots of herbs
- Free range organic eggs (in the fridge obviously) – I usually buy two dozen each week!
- Grass fed, free-range meats
I found that these are the basics for paleo. I have tried cocao, however, I am comfortable using cocoa even though it is not ‘technically’ not paleo. But the decision is up to you whether you want to go hard-core paleo or paleo-lite.
TYPICAL PALEO DAY
If you’ve scrolled down this far, good for you!! I have decided to include what my typical day looks like on a paleo lifestyle. Surprise!!:
- Black coffee
- Poached eggs with asparagus and/or avocado (see image above)
- Glass of water
- Pepita seeds and almonds
- Cut up carrot
- glass of water
- Left over chicken curry/stirfry with cauliflower rice (see image above) or
- Zucchini slice (as image above)
- Still drinking more water
- Vegetables with grilled meat, or
- Salad (see image above) with grilled meat, or
- Sirfry/curry with cauliflower rice, or
- Rissoles/slamon patties with steamed veggies/or salad (see image above)
- More water
- We don’t usually eat a lot of dessert but if we have some raw chocolate balls in the fridge we might have some of them but they’re so nice, we usually eat them in one sitting.
- Or we will have a bowl of fruit.
Is there a paleo recipe you want me to test run? Comment below and I’ll give it a go!!
Do you own or utilise a great paleo resources? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll add it to my resource list.
If you want more healthy choices recipes (paleo and non-paleo), check out Healthy Choices Mummy for great suggestions and health tips.