Sunday, January 31, 2010

How To Cook Paleo

Following the paleo diet can seem daunting at first. Finding out that many foods you have come accustom to eating don't have a place on the paleo diet can be upsetting, and a lot of the time can also become confusing; especially when those foods make up the bulk of your meals.

A lot of people who decide to follow a paleo diet have often become so caught up with eating grains that the elimination of that food group alone puts them into a complete loss for what they can still eat. However, turning a diet of cereal for breakfast, sandwich for lunch and a rice or pasta dish at dinner into paleo friendly meals becomes extremely easy after a short period of time, and the health benefits that come with a paleo diet outweigh the few weeks of re-learning meals to cook up in the kitchen.

Most of the meals I made when first deciding to follow a paleo diet where basic and plain; chicken with veggies, tuna salad and fish with boiled veggies. Those meals may sound kind of bland but they weren't, they where tasty, healthy and they quickly began to get me comfortable with eating foods which make up the paleo diet.

After a while I began to experiment with altering recipes I ate on a regular basis when following a non-paleo diet, by making them paleo. A lot of the time the end result was fantastic, some times not so much but that only made me aware that not every meal can be turned into something paleo friendly!

Let;s begin with breakfast, which for the majority of the population is the un-healthiest meal they chose to consume during the whole day. Every meal should be nutritious, containing vitamins and minerals, protein and good fats; it is these ingredients that will help kick start the body after a long over-night fast and then continuously throughout the day. Un-fortunately most adults and children will start there day with nutrient dead toast with a spread of jam or peanut butter, or a bowl of nutrient dead sugar laden cereal.

One of the easiest and nutritious food sources to consume at breakfast is eggs; eggs contain protein and good fats and go well with veggies on the side. Probably the only downfall for cooking eggs is the 6minutes it takes to boil them, if you're in a rush then putting two slices of toast in the toaster and returning to it 1min later is more time-efficient than waiting around for water to boil. Here's a tip for young players: boil the eggs the night before, if you don't like cold boiled eggs make an omelet with veggies and in the mornings cut a slice and heat it up for 1min in the microwave (same time frame as the toast, but much healthier and tastier!).

Another easy paleo option for breakfast which may not suit everyone is left over dinner. I've never had a problem with eating meat for breakfast, but I know many people just can't stomach chilli or chicken curry first thing in the morning. If you can though, it's another quick and easy paleo meal.

By the way, check out the Paleo Cookbooks for lots of paleo friendly breakfast ideas.

Let's move onto lunch; probably the most popular lunch meal would be a sandwich, two slices of bread holding together some chicken and salad. Sounds healthy right? Un-fortunately bread isn't part of the paleo diet, and for good reasons. Bread is nutritionally dead, yes it contains fiber but so does broccoli, and broccoli contains thousands of nutrients along with it, bread contains anti-nutrients which inhibit nutrient absorption, not to mention containing gluten and lectins which cause inflammation, damage microvilli within the large intestine and consist of sugars which feed bad bacteria.

The ingredients contained within those two slices of bread making up the sandwich however are generally quite healthy; chicken, turkey or tuna with salad, all paleo friendly ingredients. It's easy enough to place those ingredients in a tub and take them to work with you. If you feel a salad alone won't fill you up enough, make sure you have a good amount of protein because protein increases satiety, maybe add some nuts such as walnuts, or add some boiled veggies like broccoli and cauliflower which are 'heavier' in the stomach compared to lettuce. You can also try substituting the bread for capsicum halves or paleo friendly flaxseed foccacia bread. The Paleo Cookbooks provide a fantastic range of paleo friendly sandwich recipes and ideas.

Make sure not to restrict your lunch to just salads though, the last thing you want to do is get bored with the meals you are consuming and there are so many paleo friendly meals you can be eating which provide variety and good taste.

Dinner times where definitely where I experimented the most when putting together paleo friendly recipes and I now am able to cook a delicious meal every night. There really are so many tasty meals you can put together on a paleo diet; meat, veggies, nuts and seeds can be the ingredients which make up some of the tastiest meals you have ever consumed. Trust me!

Cooking meals that don't consist of pasta, rice or dairy really don't have to be bland. Make use of herbs and spices when making sauces or flavoring meat, and play around with making different side salads which will offer a huge variety in taste and nutrition.

When it comes to substituting, here are a few ideas to try:

  • For thickening sauces such as gravy; combine some arrowroot in a cup with some water until dissolved, then add to the sauce and stir consistently on a low-medium heat.
  • When cooking a cake that doesn't require lots of flour; substitute the flour with almond meal, or other ground nuts.
  • When making a curry; add veggies to the curry mixture or place the curry mixture onto a side of veggies instead of serving with rice.
  • Substitute table sugar with pure honey, agave nectar, maple syrup or stevia. (Note: Most honey is combined with sugar syrup and the amount added generally doesn't need to be displayed on the ingredients list if under the FDA/TGA guidelines. Try and get a honey which is really thick and crystallized (when cold), and avoid the really runny honey which contains added sugar syrup.)
  • Make friends with coconut milk; coconut milk can be used for substituting small amounts of milk in recipes, for curry sauces, soups and for desserts such as custards and pies.
For More Information on  The Paleo Cookbooks and Lifestyle - Visit Our Website Here

The Nutrition Of Our Hunter Gatherer Ancestors

Recipes for the Paleo Diet
In recent months, we’ve brought you a couple of Nikki Young’s recipes: Fish And Vegetable Curry and Mince Kebabs with Satay Sauce. Today, we have a short interview with the author of The Paleo Cookbooks, along with another awesome recipe.

What is your health and fitness philosophy? What made you adopt a Paleo lifestyle?

I came across CrossFit, Ross Enamait and Zach Evan Esh sometime back in 2005 and really enjoyed their style of training and believed in the methods and concepts and have since incorporated that training style into my own programs. I have trained with isometric exercises before, but in further educating myself began to lean towards the effectiveness and benefits of functional movements and the health & weight loss benefits associated with high intensity training.

Incorporating this method of training didn’t go down to well with some of the other personal trainers in gyms I worked in. On one occasion, I was yelled at for about 10 minutes because I expressed my views about putting clients on a smith machine to do squats – that same trainer didn’t even say hi to me for the rest of my time working there. Haha!

I have always had an interest in nutrition, even more so now that I have educated myself on the importance of nutrition for good health. I first heard of the Paleo Diet when jumping on the CrossFit forums and I began following it almost straight away.

When you began cleaning up your eating, did you notice immediate performance improvements?

When I started following a paleo diet I also changed up my training, so I noticed the benefits of both the nutrition and the exercise simultaneously. Definitely during the first few months I felt fantastic, my energy had increased and I could feel my fitness improving dramatically. I put a lot of those improvements down to the way I was eating, as I never felt those kinds of improvements in my energy and training when previously following a fairly un-healthy diet and training hard.

Tell us a bit about your background…sports you play/played, how long you’ve been training, the various training programs you’ve used, etc

I’ve always enjoyed training and participating in sports. From a young age I was really good at swimming and had a keen interest in trying out every sport I could. In primary school I loved tennis and trained often, I won a few tournaments and began training with more advanced players but my interest sparked for soccer when I started high-school, so I joined a local club with a few friends. Around a year later I was selected to play State soccer.

I really enjoy mountain bike riding and ride regularly. My interest in conditioning and general fitness training came when I began researching more into the fitness industry and came across CrossFit and the trainers mentioned above. My fitness program changes depending on how I’m feeling and what I feel like doing, currently I’m training with Kettlebells and mountain bike riding – but next week I may just want to run, do max lifts or follow some CrossFit WOD’s.

How did you come to be a “Paleo Chef”? Have you always enjoyed cooking?

I have always enjoyed cooking, my parents and grandparents taught me how to cook at a young age and I thank them for that. I probably started cooking Paleo meals when my Mum found out she was allergic to many non-Paleo foods, including gluten (cutting out most grains) and dairy. I have always had an interest in nutrition and when I first came across the Paleo diet I could immediately see how it would support a healthy lifestyle. I then began to focus on cooking meals which where 100% Paleo friendly and altering meals to only contain Paleo ingredients – which didn’t always work out.

When educating my clients on the Paleo diet they would always say something like “but what can I eat if I can’t eat grains??”. So I started to put recipes together for my clients to help them with ideas – these recipes plus a bunch more have formed into the Paleo Cookbooks.

I’m a firm believer that eating right 90% of the time and enjoying yourself with some smart indulgences the other 10% of the time is the best way to put together a healthy life that still allows some leeway. How do you feel about this and what are your indulgences?

Most definitely. I feel if you tell yourself you “can’t” have something you will want it even more. So if you start following a paleo diet and tell yourself you will never again have a chocolate biscuit then you will probably crave them more then you ever have before. Sometimes cheating can make you realise how good you really feel when eating healthy, especially if you over-induldge.

My favorite non-paleo meal would definitely be a vegetarian laksa followed by chocolate. When you think about it, 10% of your diet doesn’t equate to that many cheat meals. If eating three meals a day with 10% leniency, then only around two-three meals out of twenty one will be cheat meals.

I’m going to put you on the spot here…how would you rank order the non-Paleo foods in terms of best to worst?

Anything that is highly processed and contains little to no nutritional value will jump straight to the top of the list as the worst foods: sweets, chips, desserts, breads, pasta and most supermarket milk that isn’t raw and is highly processed.

Canned vegetables are often not thought of as paleo due to the added preservatives, added sodium and the loss of nutritional intensity. I would put these around the middle of the rank for ‘non-paleo’ foods. If rinsed well they are better than not eating any vegetables at all. I would also put foods such as nut bars, or fruit and nut mixes which are around 70/30(ish) paleo /non-paleo ingredients around the middle of the rank. Nut bars for instance will contain lots of nuts but will also contain sugar and other ingredients to help bind and add additional flavor.

Probably at the bottom of the rank and the most acceptable would be foods which are controversial as being a paleo food or not. Sweet potato for instance isn’t 100% paleo due to needing to be cooked to be edible, however they still contain nutritional value even if the GI is quite high. Bacon is meat, yet will hold a lot of added sodium so is avoided by many ’strict’ paleo dieters. Goat’s cheese and goat’s milk is generally not as highly processed as other dairy sources, but I believe dairy can be beneficial to good health if the produce is from a healthy animal and not highly processed.

I would also mention the fermentation of non-paleo ingredients. Probiotics which are formed through the fermentation of some form of grain or soy will hold a lot of beneficial nutrition while the negative nutritional attributes are significantly reduced.

You’re short on time and need to get in a quick, but healthy meal. What’s your fall-back plan?

I would usually get some nuts. Just because they can be found almost anywhere. My first option would be some fruit but if that’s not available I will buy some nuts / nut bar and drink lots of water. I try not to put myself into a situation where I don’t have food on hand or access to something when it’s meal time.

What did you have for breakfast today?

I will pretty much always have 3 eggs for breakfast, supplemented with two JP+ vegetable capsules and three fish oil/CLO capsules. To break things up, I will sometimes have left over dinner for breakfast, which is usually something like chicken or mince patties with vegetables.

What’s your favorite recipe?

Hard question… I have a lot of favorite recipes, my main ones though would probably be: eggs with salt, fried dry, no oil (that’s not really a recipe… I think I just love eggs), chicken curries, bolognese (mince) and red cabbage salad.

And finally, do you have any quick tips for people wanting to lose weight or adopting a Paleo-style diet?

Probably the two most important factors when dedicating yourself to following a diet / exercise program is mental strength and education.

Following the paleo diet isn’t the hardest nutritional program you will ever follow, but if your mental determination to succeed drops then you will find yourself ‘cheating’ with bad foods early on as soon as you get a craving or fall into an emotional state. Even if it is one meal, it can ultimately make it harder to continue with the diet, especially if you feel you can’t even stick to it for a week.

Depending on your diet prior to deciding to go paleo, the first few weeks can be the toughest. If you can fight through the sugar cravings and plan your meals every day then you are going to do really well. After the first few weeks you will feel fantastic and eating high-sugar, low nutritional foods will make you feel horrible.
When it comes to education, the more you know about good nutrition, exercise and living a healthy lifestyle the easier it will be to achieve and maintain. Mainly because you actually know what you are doing and you can do it right.

I recommend reading books and articles recommended from a reputable person/source initially; only because there are thousands of books on nutrition out there which recommend eating a very un-healthy diet, i.e. the fruit diet. The worst thing you can do is educate yourself on eating a diet which is un-healthy and believing it because you don’t know any better.

There are so many good books out there which really make you think about how you are living your life. I would recommend anyone wanting to achieve optimal health to read the book ‘Never be Sick Again’ by Raymond Francis and Kester Cotton and also talking with people you trust in the industry to pass on some solid reading recommendations.

Interview can be found at

Barbecue Secrets - Beat The Competition

I just finished a good book on cooking competition quality barbecue entitled "Competition BBQ Secrets". It's one of the few books around that give you ALL the details on how to slow smoke ribs, chicken, butts, and brisket. Important information like times and temperatures are not left to chance. Included also are chapters on fire management, wood selection, rubs, brines, marinades, sauces, turkey, and much more! I highly recommend that you add this book to your barbecue library. Many Grand Champions, Reserve Grand Champions, and Backyard Kings have been created by reading this valuable instruction manual.