Thursday, 21 March 2013

6 Challenges Of Eating Paleo In A Non Paleo World!

We have all been there. The confused glances of disbelief at our food choices, the sheer inability to comprehend the use of fats as a nutritious aspect of our diet, the shock at our choice of grain free living without a coeliac diagnosis. But we choose to trust in our dietary choices, because we come armed with our own research, MODERN, updated information and not merely the pharmaceutical sponsored nutritional teachings your Doctor probably received.

If you are new to Paleo or are merely considering starting on this interesting and worthwhile dietary adventure here is a list of the 6 of the most challenging arguments faced by us modern cave people on a daily basis and how to deal with them.

Challenge No 1. The Low Fat Mentality
I encounter this argument so often. In fact it is probably the biggest challenge faced when trying to convince others of the merits of Paleo. People have been so brain washed by the low fat industry that it is near on impossible to convince them otherwise. This industry has a lot to answer for. Low in fat but high in refined carbs and quite frankly full of chemical taste replacers, the lower fat era has clearly not worked! How many people do we all know that have done the low fat diet, starving themselves between carb filled meals, all followed up with the obligatory low fat yogurt desserts? Their results were always slow and short lived and always resulted in gain in weight once normal eating resumed.

Challenge Solution: Include fat in every meal. Simples. And before you get all outraged and feel the need to tell me "saturated fat equals heart disease". It doesn't. In fact neither does cholesterol! The main causes of heart disease are inflammation and presence of fibrinogen ( a blood clotting agent) as well as arteriosclerosis (plague).
Good fats or essential fatty acids (EFAs) are necessary to replace all those shit grains you are now excluding as part of a Paleo plan. They come in the form of Omega 3 fatty acids and Omega 6 fatty acids, both of which are essential (because they cannot be made by the body) but with Omega 3 being the least inflammatory of the two. On a simple level they are needed to fill you up, provide a mode of energy storage, help you absorb your fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K), form a part of cell membranes and play a role in the creation of prostaglandins (hormone like substances involved in inflammation prevention).

Good sources of EFAs - oily fish like salmon, herring, anchovies and mackerel, flaxseed, avocados, nuts, butter, coconut oil and olive oil (but not for cooking over 180C).

Cut Out: Refined Vegetable Oils, hydrogenated fats like spreads.

So don't exclude the good fats. Fats do not make you fat. Promise.

Challenge No 2: Comparisons to Atkins, Low Carb Confusion.

Many people who hear about our way of eating automatically assume it is some sort low carb crash diet. Knowing very little about diet plans outside of the normal low fat approach they liken it to Atkins and write you off as a dieting obsessed nut. (This does happen, I promise this is only slightly dramatised!)

Challenge Solution: Paleo is not based on Low carb and it is NOT the same as Atkins. Paleo gets its carbohydrate sources from fruit and vegetables rather than from the refined carbohydrates favoured by most. Vegetables in particular provide adequate carbohydrates as well as fibre and nutrients not present in refined breads, pastas etc. They are also unprocessed and in their natural form.

Atkins on the otherhand discourages the consumption of any vegetables and encourages large quantities of meat with no emphasis on quality. Paleo encourages the use of good quality, grass fed meats from known sources. There is no comparison between these schools of thought.

Paleo is not Low Carb. It is just real food with nothing refined or processed. It is not excluding a full food group because it is based on the original diet consumed by our ancestors. How can that be wrong?!

Challenge No 3: Eating Out

This one really is a challenge for everyone. New to Paleo or old hands, the issue of eating out and finding something suitable to eat is one faced by us all. Ireland in particular is not as accommodating as those in other countries. The US for example is well known for the ease at which customers demand their dietary requirements be met. And dead right they are too. But we are not quite there in Ireland yet. Things are improving, but most dishes are covered in sauces, and pasta dishes are still a firm favourite. And of course that is all before we even consider the oils that were used to cook our foods in! For those travelling for work it can be difficult, particularly because the food produced at meetings is usually pure shit.

Challenge Solution: It is no wonder that many people on Paleo choose to eat at home. I find I prefer to eat my own food most of the time. I know what is in it and I feel less bad effects from eating my own fresh produce. However eating out is also a social necessity and is something which we all do from time to time, and should enjoy doing. People often write to me and ask what I choose when I eat out. There are a number of ways I try to limit the effects of eating out. Choosing a plain protein like a steak and requesting it be cooked in butter and topped with garlic or herb butter  is one easy way to get around the main course (and who doesn't love a good steak!?) Failing this another protein such as salmon with veggies or a nice meat and salad is another good choice. Most good restaurants will also provide some sort of fruit salad as a dessert option with some fresh cream on the side (f you choose to have dairy). You just have to ask. We Irish may not be used to causing a fuss but consumer demand leads the market and requesting for these things today will lead to more options being available to others in the future.

Challenge No 4: Fail To Prepare, Prepare To Fail. 

One area a lot of Paleo Newbies fall down on is preparation. Failing to prepare for the week ahead sets you up for increased chance of reaching for the first thing you see at lunch time, even if that happens to be pasta carbonara. Your grumbling tummy over- rides your once steely determination and you decide you will order a meat ball sub and start again tomorrow. Your work colleague had a crap morning and has decided she is having the trio of desserts instead of lunch because she wont have time for dinner later and she deserves a treat and her argument sounds good so you join her.

Solution: Preparation is the key to success in many ways but it is even more so in succeeding with Paleo. Many use the weekend as a time to stock up on food for the week, using their free time to make broth, fry up some proteins, chop up some veggies and store them in Tupperware ready to be used for the week ahead. This is a great idea and allows for access to easy meals during the week when time is short. My preparation usually includes making chicken broth and making soup from that for weeks lunches. I prefer to cook my main meals from scratch fresh each day but this is because I have time in the evening and value fresh cooking. Takeaways do not feature in our list of meal options and should not feature in yours either. Your family deserve real food and so do you.

Concentrate on real, unprocessed foods. Do not complicate things at first. Choose easy options of protein = veg + fats and the rest will follow.

Challenge No 5: The Non Compliant Spouse/Family 

Many of you may be lucky enough to have your spouse and/or family on board with the Paleo diet. You all go shopping to the farmers market together on a Saturday afternoon and you and your partner enjoy pillow talk involving WOD and how to make next weeks dinner party paleo friendly. If so I am officially jealous! Others including myself have still to completely convince our other halves of the merits of Paleo and bread is still a part of our shopping list (even if I don't personally eat it!) For many like myself the desire to eat unprocessed and real foods instead of traditional favourites can cause arguments, but these disagreements can be limited.

Solution: You may not convince your other half of the merits of eating a full Paleo diet but you can make small changes over time which can benefit everyone. Convince everyone that processed food is not happening anymore. Everyone can agree that these foods are bad. Increase home cooked meals, cook food from scratch, limit sandwich consumption and include other tasty foods which are still Paleo friendly. Include children in cooking - they are more inclined to eat the food if they help make it. Agree that some baking can happen but they will be Paleo friendly and they can take them or leave them. Do not buy crap food and they can't eat them! (Screw them if they whinge, treats have become too plentiful anyway).

I think the need to cook two separate meals should be limited where ever possible. Sure the Non Paleos (NP) may not want to give up their white potatoes, but you can still insist on cooking them simple homemade meals from scratch with the only difference being the inclusion of white potatoes for the NPs and sweet potatoes for you. Spag Bol a firm favourite? Cook it yourself from scratch - Paleo friendly but still delicious, sub out the pasta for you and include courgette "pasta" instead. Everyone happy. Simples.

It doesn't have to be difficult. I found that when I was looked at funny for mentioning "Paleo" and "Caveman" I looked at it from a different angle and just told my fiance we were eating healthier. (It probably is easier given that I am studying Nutrition and he already thinks I am crazy for healthy eating *shrug). You never know, some day they might surprise you and eventually become the next Robb Wolfe!

Challenge No 6: Becoming Obsessed With The Facts! 
So I realise this may seem like a contradiction to what I have said in the past - to research and then research some more. What I actually saying here is that sometimes we take on so much information that it can all seem pretty overwhelming! I have been guilty of this in the past, obsessing over every detail - should I have had butter on the pan there? Was the heat to hot for olive oil? Should I include some nuts with that snack or have I already had too many today? Is almond milk paleo? It can all seem like a lot of information with a tendency to not eat anything rather than eat something wrong or not Paleo enough.

Solution: STOP! 
Take a breather and think about why you are doing this.You are doing this to be a healthier you. You are trying to change the way you look at food and are attempting to eat a real food diet, ridding yourself of toxic processed foods. Do you need to become a modern day Grok overnight? No. And you wont. The transition to this new lifestyle should be slow and gradual, with small changes happening over time. Everyone can improve but no one will go from eating Pizza one day to out and out Paleo the next.

Don't let all the information overwhelm you. Look at the basics, protein + veggies + fat for each meal, take it one meal at a time and believe that you can do it. Because you can.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Recipe: Coconut Chocolate Muffins

As promised, here is the recipe for these beautiful muffins.

This was the first time I had tried coconut flour and I was looking forward to having a change from almond flour. I am over the grainy consistency it often leaves.

I was apprehensive about trying it as I had heard it can be difficult to substitute the coconut flour for others due to it's high absorbency tendencies.

I played around with some recipes and came up with this.

They turned out nice and moist and get better with age.

I am officially a coconut flour convert!

28g/1/4 cup coconut flour
30g/1/4 cup cocoa powder
114g/1/3 cup of honey
1/4 tsp baking powder
60g/1/4 cup coconut oil or butter
4 eggs

Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl.
Add eggs, honey and oil/butter and incorporate well.
Divide between 8 large muffin papers and bake for 20 - 25 mins at 180C or until a skewer comes out clean.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Coconut and flaxseed crackers with smoked mackerel pate

Happy Mothers Day to all you mothers out there! I have had a lovely start to my day so far, relaxing lie in, breakfast in bed and roast leg of lamb dinner being cooked for me! I will make the most of it!

Life has been a little crazy lately.As I posted on my Facebook page I had my semester one exam yesterday (I am studying Naturopathic Nutrition) and have been busy preparing for that. I was in need of a little R and R!

Yesterday was a long day with a 6am start and by the evening I wasn't in the mood for cooking too much so I decided to use up a smoked mackerel I had in the fridge and make a pate. I fancied something tasty to dip other than veggies so I decided upon trying some crackers.

Here is the result!

1/4 cup of coconut flour
1/8 cup of flaxseed (ground)
1/8 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup hot water
Pinch salt
Pinch of pepper
1/4 tsp mixed italian herbs

Smoked Mackerel Pate:
1 x smoked mackerel, filleted.
Tbsp homemade mayonnaise
Lemon juice to taste
Salt/pepper to taste
2 tsp dried dill
smoked paprika to garnish

Preheat oven to 190C

Mix dry and coconut oil ingredients in a bowl.

Add water a little at a time allowing oil to melt into mixture. Use a fork to mix and break up any lumps.
Continue to add water until dough comes together.

Place on a baking sheet and flatten with your hand until as thin as possible. Cut into desired shapes.
Place in oven for approx 20 minutes or until light brown and crisp.

Makes about 20 crackers.

To make mackerel pate:
Flake fish into a bowl removing bones as you do so.
Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
Garnish with the smoked paprika.

Serve with crackers for a light lunch or snack.