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.