Friday, November 4, 2011

Eating on Paleo

A common question I get from people is 'if I give up grains, legumes and dairy, what do the heck do I eat?'  After being Paleo for about 3 months now I can tell you the answer is a lot easier now than it was before I started. The problem is that we fall into a bit of a food rut and when you end up taking out most of what you currently eat, the remainder seems kinda small.

To address this issue a bit and help out anybody considering making the switch, I'm going to try and do two things. First is that I can going to start a list of some of my favorite recipes over here. Some of them will be ones I have found online and others I have found in books that I have bought. Where possible I'll link to the online versions, and maybe I'll try to post the recipes for the rest (after I secure the authors consent of course).  My second task is going to try and write a short series on the types of foods I eat on a Paleo diet, especially breakfast and lunch as these tend to be a bit harder for people to brainstorm once you lose the ability to use a loaf of bread for everything.

Given that breakfast tends to be the hardest nut to crack, I'll dedicate the rest of this post to my breakfast routine.

So first up for breakfast, and I do not think anybody will be shocked with this, is eggs! Most mornings I usually start off with a couple of eggs. Sometimes I fry them, sometimes I scramble them, and lots of times I make them into an omelet. I might toss in some onions and peppers, sometimes I'll add spinach, salsa, or avocado as well (not normally at the same time :D) or a variety of other veggies.  If you are worried about your heart health with all these eggs (higher cholesterol) then you may want to read some current research. Not only is cholesterol an important nutrient in the body but low levels of it may actually be bad for you. I've jotted down a few links that I'm compiled over time and included them at the bottom. You can pretty much do a pub med (or google scholar) search on cardiovascular disease and cholesterol (or saturated fat) and find a tonne of research that contradicts modern 'Conventional Wisdom'

Along with my eggs I'll usually have some sort of meat. Sometimes this is a traditional 'breakfast meat' like bacon (various types and not all from pigs!), ham, or sausage (beef, boar, or pork) but I also like to mix it up and use chicken or salmon, especially in an omelet.

There are plenty of other Paleo-friendly egg dishes that don't look like eggs :D. Some of my favorites are Oat-Free Oatmeal and Paleo Pancakes. Both of these recipes are from and are actually included in a free cookbook you can get if you sign up for his newsletter. If you google 'Paleo Pancakes' you will likely find a few thousand different interpretations. One note of caution is that most use almond butter, which can be pretty high on omega-6 polyunsaturated fat (a pro-inflammatory fat) as well as pretty calorie dense. I tend to use nut butters and nut flours (common in trying to replicate baked goods that are Paleo friendly) sparingly and as a treat.  Along the same line, there are numerous biscuits made with almond or coconut flour. One of the better ones is this coconut biscuit recipe. I like it because coconut has a better fat profile (mostly saturated fat, which if you again read the modern research, is not the primary cause of heart disease and is only really a large issue if your body is in an overfed state and producing its own saturated fat b/c of too much glucose via carbohydrate) than nut flours.

Another often forgotten breakfast food is the smoothie! If you are scratching your head wondering how to make a smoothie without milk or yogurt then you are in luck because there are a couple options here. My preferred option is to use coconut MILK. I capitalize this because if you look in the milk aisle for coconut milk (even in natural food section) you actually find coconut BEVERAGE. These are not even remotely close and if you read the ingredient list on the beverage you'll notice a lot of additive chemicals. If you venture into the international aisle or the natural food section of the store you will probably find coconut milk in a can. Now, there are a couple decisions to make at this point with respect to coconut milk. First, if you buy it in a can then you either have to deal with BPA or guar gum. Most canned goods have BPA in the lining and coconut milk is no different. I think the only canned coconut milk I can find with no BPA is from the Superstore natural food aisle and I believe it is called 'Natures Forest' or something like that. However it does have guar gum in it, which is derived from legumes, so it can be problematic if you are on an initial elimination Paleo diet. I have found 1 non-guar coconut milk in Fredericton at Scoop N Save but they are currently out of the full fat option, leaving only light coconut milk (more on this later). They also have a coconut cream in the fridge section which you can turn into coconut milk with a bit of work. You can also make your own coconut milk from fresh coconuts or from non-sweetened non-chemical shredded coconut. Aura foods has a nice shredded coconut but I have not tried to make milk out of it yet. Googling 'How To Make Coconut Milk' will supply enough of a how-to.

Back to the smoothie. So what I generally do is put a couple of handfuls (not fist full) of frozen fruit in a blender. I love using my 'Magic Bullet' b/c its convenient when you are making these for kids and everybody wants something different. My most common combination is half a banana (not frozen) and a small handful of frozen cherries or mixed berries (current fave is antioxidant blend from costco). Add in some coconut milk at this point. If you are using full-fat I generally keep this to 1/4 can. Coconut milk is pretty fatty and some people find it sends them straight to the bathroom in large quantities. If you are using the light version I usually just cover the berries. After that you simply blend it up and drink it. If you do not have enough liquid then you can add in a bit more milk or water or even some almond milk. I usually try and pair my smoothie with a good piece of protein to keep me satiated through the morning.

I also tend to add in a bit of whey protein especially about an hour before I go to the gym. This just gives me a bit of protein and carbs to fill my glyogen stores (the energy used by muscles during intense exercise). Whey isn't technically Paleo since it is a dairy protein but I do not find it bothers me so I keep it in.  If you do not like coconut milk you can also try almond milk, although this comes with the same omega-6 warning that nut flours do.

Another good breakfast side is stir-fried sweet potato hash. If you are just starting out and using Paleo to lose weight, or if you have a metabolic condition, then maybe this one isn't for you. However if you are otherwise pretty health (or if this meal is an hour or two prior to a pretty intense gym session) then a bit of sweet potato (or an occasional regular potato) is a great sidekick to some diced ham or chicken or whatever else. I generally use a tablespoon or so of coconut oil (found in solid form usually in natural food aisle) so that the potatoes crisp up.

My last bit of breakfast advice would be to stop trying to make breakfast into some special meal. I often 'eat supper' for breakfast, or lunch for that matter. There is no reason why you couldn't sit down and have a steak and salad for breakfast, or a chicken curry for that matter. I like to try and shoot for 3 six-ounce portions of wild-caught fish per week and that usually means fish for breakfast a day or two. So the next time you are tired of eggs and want to change it up a bit, try some leftovers or even cooking a nice big 'supper' meal for breakfast. I guess this goes 'ditto' for snacking, which is another common question people ask. If you are hungry, then eat another small meal instead of 'snacking'. Some people on Paleo snack on nuts and/or jerky. I think either in excessive amounts can be problematic so you are better off using them sparingly (like in emergencies when you can't manage to make a small meal).

Cholesterol Studies

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