Paleo: first impressions + some recipes
Today marks the start of my first full week of paleo! I’ve been eating in a paleo-ish manner since Jan 2., but have given myself a little bit of leeway during the transition phase…namely dinner at Libretto on Friday night. My switch over to a paleo diet is something I’ve been getting a lot of questions about since I first revealed my intentions, so I put together a little Q&A about my challenge:
What can you eat?
This is definitely the thing people are most curious about. At its most basic, paleo involves cutting out grains, dairy and refined sugar along with anything processed. Oh, and no booze. Can’t pronounce it? Don’t eat it.
My favourite new way to make eggs, c/o A Cup of Jo + Smitten Kitchen! Takes 5 minutes, max.
How’s it going so far?
The biggest change has been giving up my morning double-tall, lactose-free, dense-foam skinny caramel macchiato from Starbucks. Yes, my baristas have noticed. Yes, they are sad for me (but also supportive). I’ve moved on to black coffee and espresso, usually with a bit of sugar or coconut oil. I’ve lost three pounds so far and have added a handy widget to my sidebar to both keep you posted and keep myself accountable. I’m using MyFitnessPal to track my progress, which is great since I’m very numbers and results-driven.
Something that’s been a huge help so far is having people around me on-board with my challenge.
At work, my fellow strategist Trevor is gluten-free (GF) by necessity and has been very helpful with finding good paleo options at the restaurants and grocery stores around our office. He also comes by a few times a day to check up and see if I’ve had enough protein. Love having sweet & knowledgeable coworkers!
Online, I’ve had a ton of people come out of the woodwork as paleo-followers. I’ve gotten a ton of recipe suggestions and moral support from Toronto fitness model + guru Robyn Baldwin and have found some great blogs like Multiply Delicious. I’ve been pinning my favourite recipes to my Paleo Challenge board on Pinterest, so make sure to check it out!
At home, I’m lucky that my boyfriend along with my parents are very supportive of my switch. My mom’s ensuring my dinners are paleo and has even offered to help with breakfasts on the days that I can’t bear another egg muffin. Mike’s support will be instrumental in keeping me on track as well, since he’s usually the one I go out for meals with.
Show me some recipes!
Ok, ok. This has been the most requested thing so far – recipes! Packing paleo breakfasts, lunches and snacks is definitely the toughest part. Here are some examples of things I’ve loved so far + think you will, too.
Breakfast: paleo muffins
These are the easiest things ever. I budget for 1 egg per two muffins and top it off with egg whites. I end up eating two ‘muffins’ throughout the morning to stay full, so I feel less guilty about the amount of eggs I’m consuming each week if I do it this way.
You’ll need: eggs, egg whites (from a carton is cool), seasoning (salt, pepper, spices), mix-ins (veggies or meats – your choice)
- In a bowl, whisk together your eggs and egg whites and season. I add a little bit of black pepper.
- Preheat your oven to 350
- Prep your mix-ins: you can really put anything you want into these muffins. I’ve done simply bacon (fry until crisp + chop it up) and also veggies (think kale, zucchini, tomatoes, garlic + shallots). Make sure you pre-cook your mix-ins.
- Grease muffin tins with coconut oil. Drop equal amounts of mix-ins into each cup. Pour equal amounts of egg into each muffin cup, filling about 3/4 of the way. Top with some cheese (not very paleo, but tastes great).
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the centre is set. Muffins will puff up in the oven, but will likely deflate once they’re out. Cool on a cooling rack in the pan, running a knife around the edges after 10 minutes to loosen.
These should last a few days in the fridge – use your best judgement. Keep them in an airtight container. You can eat them hot or cold, but I prefer mine after 45 seconds in the microwave.
Lunch: Kale Salad with apples, tomatoes + bacon
It’s easy to go a little bacon-happy when you’re following a paleo diet, but I’m not about to begrudge you (or myself) for it. This kale salad is far more delicious than I could have imagined and tastes great topped with some chicken. This is one of those ‘as much or as little as you want’ recipes, (irritating, I know) so toss in however much you think would be tasty. I used two apples and two heads of kale and had salad for a few days.
You’ll need: kale (I prefer curly Lanciato), granny smith apples, natural bacon, cherry tomatoes, avocado. Dressing: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt + pepper.
- Prep your ingredients: wash, dry and shred kale. Wash + grate apples (I used a mandoline) and set aside. Fry bacon until crisp, drain + crumble. Wash your tomatoes! I usually bring the avocado with me to work and chop up half just before eating – it tends to brown if done in advance and will not keep well chopped in the fridge.
- Whisk together oil + vinegar to taste. You’ll want a few tablespoons of dressing.
- Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Add emulsified dressing + “massage” into ingredients (being careful not to crush the tomatoes). That’s it!
Kale salad is one of the only salads that actually tastes better as it sits – it won’t get soggy and it will sop up the flavours of the dressing beautifully. It’s so easy to mix & match different mix-ins, so let me know what your perfect kale salad mix is!
Snacks are my favourite. They’re necessary for keeping your energy up during the day and to keep you from getting grumpy. The best snacks also keep you from feeling deprived. Seriously – my life has changed since making these paleo crackers.
These will help squash your carb craving and are also chock-full of nutrients thanks to the almond meal used to make them. They don’t take long so it’s an instant gratification kind of thing. Recipe adapted from this one over at Multiply Delicious.
- 2 cups almond flour
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoon favrite herbs of choice (Mrs. Dash seasoning + organic chilli powder)
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 egg white
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon coconut oil (melted)
- High-quality balsamic vinegar for glazing (optional), parchment paper + a pizza cutter
- Pre-heat oven to 350
- Whisk together dry ingredients in one bowl and wet ingredients except for balsamic vinegar in another.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing together until all ingredients are damp and dough comes together
- Between two sheets of parchment paper, roll out the dough to 1/8″ thickness. Make it as thin and as even as possible! Remove the top sheet of parchment and place on a baking sheet.
- Using the pizza cutter, cut into as-even-as-possible squares.
- Bake for 10 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the crackers inside until golden, about 10 minutes. If you want to add a balsamic glaze, pull them out after 5 minutes and brush lightly with balsamic (or drizzle gently over top), then pop them back into the oven until crisp.
Keep the pizza cutter handy, since you’ll probably have to use it to help separate the crackers once they’re out of the oven. These will keep in an airtight container for a few days, not that they’ll last that long. These help satisfy my desire for carbs, since they’re crunchy and taste carb-y, but they are almonds. Don’t expect miracles – they still taste like them
Other favourite snacks:
- Guacamole (serve with crackers or veggies)
- Sliced green apple with almond butter (sweetened with a touch of honey)
- Fruit salad (dressed with lemon)
- Baby cucumbers
I’m hoping to make some chocolate-avocado pudding soon, so I’ll let you know how that goes.
Overall, I’m enjoying this switch to paleo. I’m not missing the carbs that much, but I’m sure that finding chewy, delicious substitutes in the weeks ahead will be paramount to my success. In the coming weeks, I’m going to try to reduce the amount of fruit I’m having and increase my lean protein. Have any favourite recipes? Please share them below!
You will love these resources:
An infographic primer on paleo: http://greatist.com/health/the-ultimate-guide-to-eating-paleo-022012/
Paleo recipes website: http://www.health-bent.com/
I cut out dairy last year, and now I will be cutting out all soy. I cut out booze 6 weeks ago and I don't plan on returning it into my diet. Cheese is the hardest thing for me to let go of - it's comforting and filling and delicious, but it also comes with a price. But, I love not feeling guilty about using olive oil and butter when I'm cooking.
I also love making chili - have you heard of any paleo chili recipes? I might just replace the beans with sweet potato...
Oh I should probably mention - I became much more serious about this type of diet after getting my 23andme genetic results back. My risk for Type 1 Diabetes is 2x the average for people of similar genotype. I think I am scared straight!
@terakristen Dairy and I have never really been friends, so this is a step in the right direction for me! Thanks for the infographic! In return, here's a pale chili recipe. http://www.multiplydelicious.com/thefood/2012/12/paleo-veggie-beef-chili/ I haven't tried it yet, but I'm loving the look of all of her food (and the comments are telling). Sweet potatoes look like the answer!
I'm too anxious to do a 23andme - I'd almost rather not know. It's great that your results have inspired you to make a change, though!
Ah, no booze. No can do. Also, no dairy?! Cheese and beer are two of my favourite things! This is one diet that will probably never work for me...
But seriously good job, it looks like you are doing well! I especially love those breakfast muffins!
@happyorhungry It is definitely the sad diet in those respects. I plan to have moderate amounts of both (cheat days!), bearing in mind my terribly sad intolerances to cheese.
Great post Steph! You definitely have more willpower than I do. All the best luck with the upcoming weeks!
@KellyChow Honestly - I have zero willpower. That's why I made paleo crackers! ;) Thanks for the good vibes, Kel!
Other online resources you could consider are the forums on MyFitnessPal (I see you're using MFP, love that site, and the app is great, especially for restaurants) and the /r/loseit subreddit (which has links to a bunch of other subreddits, including at least one paleo subreddit).
Best of luck!
@juddrnaut Thanks for the tips, Amanda! I loooove MyFitnessPal - even when I don't use it to log calories, having something handy to track weight + measurements is so useful. I'll definitely check out the forums and Reddit. Would you believe I pretty much never go on Reddit? Shocking, I know. xo