Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Proudly Paleo

During the last week of July we totally changed how and what we eat. For those of you who've seen it on Facebook, the "diet" is referred to as the Paleolithic Diet, or just Paleo. We've removed all refined sugars, starches,grains and simple carbs from our diet and our home, as well as dairy and any artificial sweetners. We've said good bye to pasta, bread, cereal, rice, legumes (including peanuts) and potatoes. We're eating everything FRESH - lean meats & fish, produce and good for you fats (such as olive oil, coconut oil, avocados and nuts).

In a month's time we've lost weight without trying, we feel better, have more energy and a whole host of other good things - including, for the most part, sleeping better. We also joined a gym a week ago. And, I don't even want to talk about the muscles that I'd forgotten I had, which were tortured for 30 minutes yesterday evening and have become progressively more sore as the day wore on today.

I thought I'd share some of the questions I have been asked since I started eating this way:

"where do you get your carbs?" I get complex carbs from fresh veggies and leafy greens
"how do you deal with not eating bread, pasta or dairy?" surprisingly well
"how do you handle cravings?" Well... I haven't really had any
"are you hungry all the time?" Nope, not at all. In fact, I'm often feeling full longer than I did before eating this way.
"all that fat can't be good for you." Referring to eating lots of nuts, avocados, bacon (oh yes bacon), olive and coconut oil. Well, since everything else I eat has very little fat, I actually NEED to consume GOOD fats regularly - these not only help me feel full, but they're good for me!
"what about ice cream? (or bread, or insert whatever food you think you can't live without here)" I really thought I'd crave these things - they were such a huge part of my life before "going Paleo" that I was certain I would cry at night when I thought of ice cream or brownies or a loaf of fresh hot french bread. Yet, I have not shed a tear, not even once. I have not longed for anything that I thought I would.

To give you an idea of what a typical day's food looks like for me - here's what I ate today:

Breakfast - egg fritatta with onion, bacon and broccoli with a large spoonful of left over sausage gravy from Sunday's brunch. Lots of water
Lunch - turkey lunch meat, cole slaw and grapes
Snack - 4 Medjool dates filled with sunflower nut butter
Dinner - salmon cakes, broccoli and bacon
Dessert - brownies and coconut vanilla ice cream

In my experience, the very best part of eating this way is that you eat till you're full - there's no calorie counting, no portion size control, nothing that you'd typically associate with dieting. Definitely NO starving!! All in all, I have a really hard time viewing it as a "diet." It's just my life now.

The item people have been most interested in are the brownies. They look and smell nearly 100% like a traditional, from the box or from scratch brownie. They baked up somewhat firm but chewy around the edge, and the center rose during baking and then fell back down after resting a few minutes. The center was VERY gooey, I cooked them only 30 minutes, the recipe's minimum cooking time, because my whole family likes them barely cooked in the center. I think in the future I'd cook them the full 35 minutes. The brownie recipe can be found here, and uses NO sugar or flour. It calls for walnuts, but you could sub ANY nut (almond, pecan, cashew, macadamia etc). It uses honey (raw) for sweetener and bittersweet chocolate and cocoa powder for the amazing chocolate flavor.

The brownies are heavy, dense and definitely stick to your teeth, particularly if you get one of the edge pieces - just how I like them (I'm not a fan of cake type brownies). The flavor is extremely chocolatey, but not sweet - like eating a very bittersweet chocolate bar. But, it's not so sweet that you cringe. If you wanted a more mild flavor, you could use 70% cacao instead of the bittersweet. I'm also contemplating macadamia nuts in place of walnuts.

How do they compare to traditional brownies? Well, they're NOT the same. I think the mistake a lot of people make when doing things like this is that they expect to find a substitute that is identical to what they're used to. In this case I went in NOT thinking of traditional brownies, but rather viewing this as a NEW kind of dessert - asking myself several things - do I like the flavor, the texture, the after taste etc. Most importantly, would I eat it again? To all of these questions I can most certainly say YES!! but not soon.

One of the things Paleo does to you is quell your cravings for sweets. Typically a date or two or some fruit is all it takes for me to NOT want anything remotely sweet for a while.

At any rate, the brownies were, in my opinion (and my mom's - who LOVES brownies) a success and we will definitely make them again... just as soon as we're recovered from this batch. I'll leave you with pictures of the four things we ate tonight and an open invitation to ask any questions you have regarding Paleo.

Salmon Cakes: canned Alaskan wild salmon, eggs, red onion, ginger and dill (s&p to taste)

Brussels Sprouts and Bacon: brussels sprouts, thick cut bacon, white onion, garlic and a chicken broth reduction (these are the brussels sprouts that convinced my mom to eat them - the last time she had them was before I was born and they were "awful"). If you think you don't like these little gems, you owe it to try  them this way.

Brownies: no flour, no sugar, recipe here:

Coconut Vanilla ice cream: no cream, no sugar, recipe here - notice the brown color? It looks like coffee flavored ice cream due to the vanilla extract and honey. (On the recipe page they used NO honey and vanilla bean instead of extract). I was thinking mmmm some espresso powder would make this amazing!!

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