Sunday, July 21, 2013

Notes from the Lab - The Paleo Diet

Week One of my Paleo Diet has come and gone. It wasn't easy, particularly when I had a lunch meeting where I found myself staring pathetically at my friend's sliders and fries while I had a salad - hold the dressing.

I may have gotten a little teary.

What is the Paleo Diet, you ask? It is a diet that says you can eat like you're living in the Stone Age, when our ancestors migrated, following the herds, and gathered what they could from the wilderness. Back in the day when we were a notch lower on the food chain and getting together around the fire at night to nosh on a brontosaurus haunch and chat with the clan mates was a PAR-TAY.

I'm realizing that it's going to be rather difficult to do this diet well if one does not cook or own a grill. However, I did recently purchase a slow cooker in which to pot roast the hell outta some brontosaurus haunch. (Is "pot roast" a verb? Well it is now, bitches.)

Basically the idea is that you don't eat any processed foods. Sorry, folks. No Twinkies in the early Stone Age, though if we were to unearth some ancient Twinkies they would probably still taste good. No flour, no sugar, no dairy (though dairy is a point of contention in the Paleo community, depending on who you talk to). You're also encouraged to steer away from other inflammatory foods - potatoes, legumes, other nightshades, etc. - particularly if you are making a diet change to help arthritic or digestive issues.

And you're expected to drink water, and only water. For the continued health and well-being of those around me, I'm still drinking one cup of black coffee in the morning.

You can go to the extreme with this whole idea. Some people only eat meat they actually hunt and kill themselves and grow in a pesticide-free garden or wild-gather, but unless I want to limit myself to diet of grasshoppers and grass that's out.

How is this different from Atkin's and other protein-heavy diets? Paleo isn't about eating one or two food groups exclusively and it isn't about weight loss, though that is often a side effect. Paleo encourages a variety of foods, many, many veg, fruits and nuts as well as protein. It also discourages pre-packaged, un-natural foods in which most of the original nutrients have been stripped and then chemically added in and flavored.

I've purchased several cookbooks so far. Well-Fed, Everyday Paleo Family Cookbook, Practical Palo and, most recently, Primal Cravings. The last, Primal Cravings is brand new. I haven't cooked from it yet, but the deserts look scrumptious.

Well-Fed is beautifully designed. The Pad Thai recipe was very, very tasty, as was the Faux Rice. But the other recipes I've attempted ranged from "meh" to downright "blech". The Bora Bora Fireballs were overly complicated and surprisingly bland, and the Jicama Home Fries were downright gross.

Everyday Paleo has some tasty, simple recipes, but the photographs look like they came out of a 1970 Betty Crocker cookbook and are a major turn off.

The one I've used most so far and has the most extensive introductory to the program (50% of the book) was Practical Paleo. I've tweaked most of the recipes I've made just to suit my own individual tastes, but all of them have been very good. I really liked the blueberry muffins, pumpkin cranberry muffins, the Spaghetti Squash Bolognaise, and the Salmon Patties.

There are also a couple of go-to sites to check out for tasty recipes: Pinterest, Nom Nom Paleo, and OMGPaleo.


  1. Since I joined Weight Watchers I've been thinking a lot about why I eat the foods I do, and paying more attention to the effect they have on me. I have noticed that a lot of the times after I eat food that isn't considered "good" for me, I'm exhausted! Food coma to the extreme! So, now I try to think more about what I'm doing and trying to eat the foods that will give me energy rather than take it away!
    And I am always up for a good Pad Thai recipe!!!

  2. Jicama Home Fries? I can't even type that without a mild chortle. But I would PAY YOU to prepare Spaghetti Squash Bolognaise for me!