Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Paleo Recipe Roundup and Thoughts on Eating Paleo

The Paleo lifestyle.
Some people think it's the newest "diet" fad. Some people don't even know what it means. Some people have never heard of it. Some people take it too far (sorry!). Some people do it for legitimate health reasons. Some people just want to give it a try. If I'm honest, I'm not entirely sure what category I fall into. My husband and I have been eating about 80 % paleo when at home and closer to 50% paleo when out since April of 2012. We haven't had bread, pasta, or rice in our house for well over a year. We threw out our toaster and I haven't missed it for a second. I am by no means am a perfect paleo eater. And I am fine with that. But I do want to explain why I chose to eat the way I do and why this blog tows the line between being paleo and being not paleo.

{Braised Paprika Chicken - so yummy you don't even needs a side dish}

But first, what does paleo mean? I'm not going to be able to explain it perfectly, so don't fault me. There are plenty of blogs that have great definitions of being paleo, and I encourage you to do a Google search if you desire more than my basic definition of what eating paleo means to ME. Also, here is a link to a wonderful pdf from Practical Paleo that breaks down the basics of eating paleo. Basically it means not eating processed foods, all grains - yes that includes, oatmeal, whole wheat, quinoa, brown rice, etc., legumes (like beans, lentils, etc.), refined sugar, processed snack food, drinks, etc., processed oils like vegetable and canola, and in the truest definition also dairy.

{Pulled Pork with Homemade No Sugar Added BBQ Sauce - worth the effort and you won't want to use a bottle of BBQ again.}

Here is what eating paleo means to ME. At it's core, it means avoiding processed foods. That includes breads, rice, cereals, sugar, and (sadly) pasta. I've always been wary of processed foods, so this part of being paleo was a logical step in my quest to eating healthier. For Adam, this meant giving up his longstanding ritual of a turkey sandwich for lunch every, single work day, and going through about 4 boxes of crackers a week. For me, I started discovering that things I ate regularly and thought were healthy, or at least fine for me, like jarred tomato sauce and salad dressings, were actually packed full of ingredients that I don't want in my body. Transitioning to eating paleo has been easy and hard. If that makes sense. I already didn't drink soda, or any drink with added sugar. I've never been a huge fan of sweets, and neither has Adam so our house almost never has any dessert or sweet items in it. I don't consume any fake sugar, except for an occasional small amount of stevia. I'm not a big snacker, so giving up things like crackers and chips wasn't hard for me. A little bit harder for Adam. Here is what has been hard - discovering items like enchilada sauce, salad dressings, jarred tomato sauce, and other convenient cooking ingredient type items are just not that good for you or at the very least have sneaky ingredients in them. Even boxed chicken broth! Which I still use on the regular (sorry).

{Brown Butter Pork Chops with Apples and Onions - yep, there is butter in this. See below.}

Here is where we stray from the strict definition of paleo, and apparently fall more into the "primal" definition. We have not cut out dairy and I don't intend to.We have definitely cut down on dairy. It's hard to have a grilled cheese or a cheese quesadilla when you don't eat bread or tortillas. I now use butter from grass-fed cows (Kerrygold), and try to buy raw cheddar cheese (I find it a Trader Joe's). I still eat plain greek yogurt on occasion and really enjoy Parmesan cheese. Adam feels that he "doesn't really need cheese" (weirdo) so dairy is not a sticking point for him. For some reason ever since I've lived on my own I've never kept milk in the house, so I generally use store bought almond milk or coconut milk. The next step is to make my own. But I'm not quite there yet. Oh, also we drink beer still, lots of beer. Sorry I'm not sorry.

{Balsamic and Beer Braised Short Ribs with Parnsip Puree}

When it comes to what we do eat, well, first let me say I'm not perfect, and this is a progression. Every month I get deeper and deeper into integrating healthier ingredients into our household.  We try to eat healthy meats. That means, grass-fed beef, and sometimes I don't buy grass-fed beef, but I would say 80% of the beef we consume is grass-fed. I recently began buying organic chicken, but if I'm honest most of the time I just buy regular chicken.  We eat a good amount of nitrate free bacon. Bacon is still bacon, but we love it. We cut out deli meats, which are packed with nitrates. We eat fresh veggies, sometimes organic, a little bit of fruit, Adam eats lots of almonds, I eat some. I don't sweat it when I eat some rice if I'm out for sushi. And I still use corn tortillas on occasion to make enchiladas (which are my favorite food). I also don't criticize myself too much if I eat legumes, like beans, chickpeas, or lentils. Which I actually never eat lentils and have no desire to, but I do still enjoy an occasional side of beans or chickpeas on my salad. We still eat potatoes, regular white potatoes, which are a grey area for most paleo peeps. We do eat a lot more sweet potatoes than white potatoes though. Like I said, butter from grass-fed cows, some cheeses, healthy fats like coconut oil, avocados, and olive oil. Adam still eats a lot of bars, like luna protein bars, but I've got to give him something.

{Paleo Bean Free Chili}

This may surprise some of you, but eating paleo has made meal planning easier. And, best of all, we feel a lot better. Eliminated gluten and heavy non nutrient dense foods like wheat and other grains has made a big difference in our over all well being and some stomach issues I was experiencing. I also find I'm not on the merry-go round of being super full and then starving only a few hours later only to stuff myself again and fall back into the cycle. Often we just throw some chicken and a vegetable on the grill and call it a day. We love taco meat made from grass-fed beef and we don't even miss the taco shells. I make a great paleo taco shepherd's pie topped with mashed sweet potatoes, I've been meaning to post that on the blog! Breakfast is normally eggs and bacon or eggs and chicken sausage. Lunch is hard because my work caters food everyday and I'm a sucker for free food.

{Paleo Espresso Mini Muffins with Chocolate Ganache}

I guess my goal isn't to be perfectly paleo. Sorry, I still heat up olive oil, which is apparently a no-no. But my goal is to eat foods, real foods, foods that DON'T have ingredients that I can't pronounce, and to eat what makes me feel good and what makes me feel healthy and vibrant. Without restricting myself to the point where I can't keep it up. :)

Wow! I really didn't mean for this post to be so long! But if you are new to paleo and I've intrigued you to try it out, give any of the above recipes a try! Also if you aren't paleo and just enjoy good food, give any of the above recipes a try! Seriously guys, the point of this blog is that you don't have to be paleo to love it! Good food is good food.

{Grain and Dairy Free Cauliflower Crust Pizza}

And feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions, I will do my best to answer them. Just remember everyone has their own individual needs to fit their bodies and their lifestyles.

Love, Luck, and Happiness! 
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