Potatoes rejoin the paleo fold

potato_sml

The latest news in the paleo world is that white potatoes are now permitted under The Whole30. (The Whole30 is basically a 30 day introduction to paleo in the form of an elimination diet, and represents a type of strict paleo which excludes, among other things, all dairy, sweeteners, paleo treats and paleo-ised versions of junk food.)

For the white potato to be welcomed back into the Whole30 fold represents an official stamp of approval (well, as official as you can get in the paleosphere) for the beloved spud, which many primal followers were eating anyway, and is confirmation that the nutrient-dense tuber can be a healthy part of your diet (provided you are not intolerant of nightshades). The proviso is that white potatoes in the form of chips/fries or deep-fried are not permitted under the Whole30.

One food which is unlikely to ever make it on the Whole30-approved list is pasta. Many paleo recipe writers extol the delights of a vegetable known as ‘spaghetti squash’ which is reputed to be as, or more, delicious than the real thing (if you can believe it). Unfortunately this mystical vegetable is rarely seen in Australia so I’ve yet to try it. I suspect that it is as similar to real spaghetti as cauliflower rice is to real rice. However, I have tried another paleo substitute for pasta which is quite delightful and very similar to the real thing: sweet potato noodles or regular potato noodles. They are made with either sweet potato starch or potato starch, and are therefore suitable for those eating gluten-free. Available from asian grocers, they may also be labelled ‘sweet potato vermicelli’. On account of their high carbohydrate count, potato noodles would make a good post-workout or Carb Nite meal. They have a neutral taste rather like real pasta, and cook up nicely al dente.

potato vermicelli

The method for cooking potato noodles is similar to that of regular pasta. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Add some salt to the water, add the noodles and turn the heat down to a simmer. The amount of time you need to simmer the noodles will vary according to their thickness, but I have found somewhere between 7-9 minutes works a treat.

We enjoy these noodles with a number of accoutrements, including chinese BBQ pork, preserved vegetables, sesame seeds, seaweed, scallions, paleo XO sauce & a drizzle of soy sauce. I have also tried using sweet potato noodles in Italian recipes such as carbonara and it worked very well. Since going paleo, I have fallen out of the habit of eating high carb meals regularly but it is good to have an option for when the pasta craving strikes.

Get down and squat

child-squat

Several months ago I began integrating mobility practice into my life, and one thing that I started with is doing the “Asian squat”. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out this hilarious video (duration: 5 minutes). Basically it’s an arse-to-grass full squat with heels firmly on the ground.

Contrary to what some believe, the asian squat is not particular to asians, nor are asians the only race who can do them. In fact, squatting is the human’s natural rest (and defecation) position and it comes naturally to kids. I have observed many times how easily my little nephews plonk down into a squat when they want to examine something on the ground, but western adults lose the flexibility to squat properly because they do so much sitting in chairs and on western toilets (yep, another example of how chairs have ruined us). Wearing shoes with raised heels has also impaired our ankle flexibility, making it difficult to squat without raising our heels.

Fortunately it is something which we can fix with a little practice. So now when I’m waiting to cross the road, down I go into squat. Ditto with waiting for a train, bus, doctor’s waiting room, whatever. I feel a little weird, especially when there are perfectly good chairs going vacant, but hey, who’s watching anyway. How about this for a challenge: when I am watching Masterchef, I have to go into a squat every time a contestant says the word “gutted” and can’t get up until someone says the words “plate up”. Until my ankles become flexible enough to allow my body weight to shift backwards, it is a bit of a pain and definitely not a position I could sustain for a long period of time at the moment, but is a technique which could well come handy in the right time, right place, off the beaten track.

Related Links

How to Squat Properly – Mark’s Daily Apple
Ido Portal’s 30 min/day Squat Challenge
Easystool Win-win, practice your squats while taking a dump. Quickly transforms your western toilet into a squat loo.

What I Eat

IMG_0108_749x471

I find the topic of what people eat quite fascinating. One of the first parts of the Sun Herald I turn to is the column in the Sunday Life magazine where a judgemental nutritionist critiques the daily intake of a random celebrity or businessperson. Although I rarely agree with 100% of what she says, I like her emphasis on eating veggies and it is interesting to keep up with what mainstream dietary advice is circulating.

I recently came across this very captivating book, What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Alusio published in 2010. It features 80 people from around the world, a variety of ages, occupations, social classes and religions, photographed together with what they ate on an ordinary day together with a riveting chapter on each person about their story, the conditions of their daily life, detailed listing of what they ate that day and why they eat what they do, and their fears, worries, hopes and dreams. The book is sorted in order of calorie intake, from 800 calories/day of a female Maasai herder who doesn’t get much to eat on account of the drought affecting their cattle herd, through to the 31 yr old mum and binge-eater living in North London who eats 12,300 calories/day.

This book affected me a great deal. The Maasai herder is photographed with a wide smile despite the lack of food, although there is a look of desperation in her eyes which divulges her dire circumstances. In other photos, other members of the tribe look happy in spite of things, a testament to the human spirit which can manage to find joy even in the most trying of existences. The cyclic nature of their life (from drought and famine to rains and plenty) makes me so grateful that I live in a place where my food supply is secure. How fortunate are we not to have to worry each day about where our next meal will come from, and how we should never take for granted that we can eat whatever we want, whenever we want.

The other story in the book which affected me a lot was the American Candidate for Obesity Surgery, who eats 1600 calories in an attempt to lose weight so that he can qualify for bariatric surgery. At the time of writing the book, he weighed 468 pounds; 100 pounds over the limit to safely undergo surgery. The sad part was that weight-loss diet which he was recommended to eat was full of refined and processed carbs and included wholegrain bagels, granola bars, Nabisco 100 calorie packs, and things sounding totally alien to me such as “nondairy cheese substitute, American cheese flavoured” and “whole wheat blend, yolk-free pasta”. Basically taking the most nutritious bit (yolks) out of pasta and leaving the bad stuff. My heart went out to this gentleman and all those like him who are getting wrong advice and being set up for failure after failure.

If you are curious about what people eat and how they live, I’d highly recommend you check out What I Eat. It inspired me to document my own food intake from a typical day, which appears below.

IMG_2660_749x545

The Paleo/Primal Cook and Blogger

Age: 37 • Height: 5’2 • Weight: 47kg (104 pounds)

One Day’s Food

In April, non-workout day

BREAKFAST  Green smoothie (spinach, chia seeds, cucumber, Granny Smith apple, kiwi fruit, pear, avocado) 340ml • 1 boiled egg • Broccoli, 3 florets • Paleo Chilli (beef, heart, liver, celery, carrot, onion), 170g • full fat sour cream, 1 Tbsp
LUNCH  Lamb Chop, ½ (leftover from previous night’s dinner) • Pork bone broth, 1 bowl • Asian greens (choy sum), 1.5 cups
DINNER  Spinach and Lamb Curry, 0.7xpacket • white rice, 1 cup • Roast Cauliflower, Pumpkin and Spinach Bake
SNACKS  Lindt 85% chocolate, 1 square • Green & Black 85% chocolate, 1 square • macadamia nuts, 12g • Brazil nuts, 12g • Mayvers Crunchy Peanut Butter, 8g • tap water (quantity not ascertained, not shown in photograph)

Calories

1,660

Macronutrient Breakdown

Carbs 122g • Protein 104g • Fat 88g

Related Links

Transitioning to Paleo

IMG 2311

So you’ve heard about this paleo diet and want to give it a try, or perhaps a colleague at work has gone Paleo and is looking trim, or you’ve done the calorie-counting thing and are sick of losing and gaining the same 5 or 10 kilos and am ready to try something new and sustainable, like going paleo! Where to begin? You could take baby steps, or could plunge right in. Most people find it easier to make a gradual change, I know I did. Undoing decades of misinformation and ingrained beliefs about what is and isn’t supposed to be good for you can be stressful, so take it easy and try to enjoy the challenge.

Here are some painless steps towards transitioning to a paleo diet:

  • Switch from margarine to butter.
  • Instead of cooking with vegetable and seed oils, use coconut oil or ghee. I like Spiral Organic Coconut Oil from Woolworths as it doesn’t have strong coconut flavour. I have tried other coconut oils which make everything I cook taste of coconut, which gets old pretty quickly.
    coco oil
  • Instead of store-bought salad dressings which contain unhealthy vegetable oils, make your own dressings with extra virgin olive oil, macadamia oil, avocado oil, and balsamic or wine vinegar.
  • Eat eggs for breakfast every day. Boiled, fried, scrambled, whatever. Boiled eggs make a great snack on the go. They’ll fill you up, provide protein and don’t omit the yolk! It is one of the most nutrient dense foods you can get.
  • Give up soft drinks (including diet drinks) and juice. Drink water or green tea instead.
  • Introduce more non-starchy vegetables into your meals. I like broccoli or spinach for breakfast.


Next step is going paleo one meal at a time. Breakfast is usually the hardest because most of the breakfast foods available at the supermarket contain grain and sugar. But it is easier if you stop thinking of breakfast as a time where you need to eat “breakfast foods”, and think of it as any other meal.

breakfast collage
The hardest thing to give up for most people is wheat, which is ubiquitous. When I mention I don’t eat wheat, people often ask “well, what do you eat then?” I say “meat, vegetables, fish, nuts, fruit.” Most people can’t contemplate a life without bread, but those who have given it up and feel terrific can’t contemplate a life with it.

You will need to be prepared and have paleo alternatives at the ready. I prefer not to give up something without knowing what I will eat in its place otherwise I am susceptible to making poor choices. At 1pm on a weekday, in a food court, when your stomach is grumbling and you have all of 30 minutes to locate, capture and digest your prey and walk back across the plains to rejoin your tribe is not the moment to decide that you are going to go paleo. Because there will be bread, wraps, pies, pasta, and pastry everywhere you look and it is going to get stressful.

On the other hand, if you are the type of person who doesn’t like to do things by halves, or are dealing with digestive or auto-immune issues and want to plunge head-first into strict paleo, check out the Whole 30 program. It is basically an elimination diet with a list of foods to eliminate for 30 days – no dairy, grains, sugar/sweeteners or soy. The Whole 30 is stricter than what most paleo-eaters follow on a day to day basis, but if you suspect you may have any undiagnosed food intolerances or IBS, the Whole30 can help you find out what foods are causing you grief. It also helps you to acclimatise to the spirit of paleo and to overcome sugar addictions by going cold turkey.

Check out our Whole30 compliant meals here.

Variety on the Paleo Diet: Nose to tail and things in between

IMG_2763_749x471

Personally I found that since going paleo, the amount of variety in my diet has drastically increased. Pre-paleo, I was under the illusion that I was eating a variety of foods because wheat can be processed in so many different ways, but it turns out that on a typical day I could have been eating wheat in one form or another at every meal.

When one goes paleo, one is encouraged to seek out new forms of protein and vegetables to keep from getting bored. It does take a bit of effort and a sense of adventure to commit to a new vegetable, but I say feel the fear and do it anyway.

Foods I ate rarely (or never tried) until going paleo:

  1. Leaf amaranth (a leafy vegie similar to spinach)
  2. Cabbage
  3. Cauliflower
  4. Liver (lamb, calf, chicken and duck)
  5. Roasted pig’s head
  6. Black pudding/morcilla
  7. Berries
  8. Grapefruit
  9. Pig trotter
  10. Brussel Sprouts

A criticism often made against paleo is that it is expensive. Like any diet, it can be expensive but it doesn’t have to be. You can eat grass-fed eye fillet every day, or you could enjoy grass-fed mince, at a fraction of the cost. My favourite local chinese BBQ joint sells roast pig’s head for $2 per half a head. It has a bunch of crackling and head meat plus the bones make a delicious bone broth.

For vegetables, I get my asian greens from asian grocers where they go for 70 cents to a dollar per bunch. In addition to the usual suspects, you will see greens that you’ve never eaten before and don’t even know the names of. Wombok is another asian leafy vegetable, a great option as it lasts for ages in the fridge (unlike the other asian greens which go limp after a couple of days) with a nice sweet, mild flavour. This is my go-to recipe for asian greens which we will have at least 3 times a week.

IMG_2761_749

Easy and Quick Stir-Fried Asian Greens

1/2 tablespoon coconut oil
1 bunch choy sum or bok choy, washed to remove all grit and cut into manageable pieces (halves or thirds) and well drained
2 thin slices of ginger
1 clove garlic, smashed with the back of a knife
salt
Shao Hsing Chinese cooking wine or dry sherry, a wee splash (can be omitted if you are doing the Whole30)

Heat coconut oil in a wok. When oil starts smoking, add the ginger and garlic immediately followed by the choy sum or bok choy. Stir frequently to prevent the greens at the base from burning, add the wine and a little salt and cook until wilted (around 2-3 minutes). I like to cook it so that it retains a bit of crunch left in the stems.

Shao Hsing wine contains wheat so if you are gluten-intolerant, either skip the alcohol or use dry sherry.

What foods do you enjoy now, that you never ate before?

Why I Eat Paleo

beach_749px

Welcome to Go Paleo’s inaugural blog post! This is a forum for exchanging ideas with you all about what it’s like eating paleo in a non-paleo world, sharing recipes, thoughts and discoveries about food and fitness.

I thought I’d kick things off by writing about the reasons why I started eating Paleo, which eventually led to my career change. My pre-Paleo life was centred around wheat and sugar. As a cake decorator, my job was to transform wheat, sugar, eggs and butter into elaborately iced creations, making chocolate fudge layer cakes iced with ganache and fondant icing topped with sugar figurines and lifelike flowers constructed petal by petal from sugarpaste. I was pretty good at it, I won prizes for my cakes and breads and taught classes. You can see some of my sweet creations here. Life without sugar was unimaginable.

But as I got further into my 30s, I could no longer rely on the metabolism of my youth, and found my pants getting steadily tighter. My husband (for it was happening to him too) and I referred to it as “the Thickening”. Others may refer to this phenomenon as “middle age spread”. And it was happening despite our generally active and healthy lifestyle (or so I thought at the time). Our diet was the standard “healthy” Western diet mixed with a good amount of Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian and Italian food. Though we ate virtually no processed foods nor drank soft drinks, we did eat brown rice, noodles, white pasta and bread (sourdough, artisan, wholegrain) regularly and ate takeaway quite often.

I got sick of not liking what I saw in the mirror, and I was outgrowing my clothes. Shopping bores the hell out of me, and I dreaded the prospect of having to buy a whole new set of clothes. Then I remembered the adage, “Abs are made in the kitchen.” Mainstream media pushes the idea that you just need to exercise more, so it took me a long time to be convinced that abs are indeed made in the kitchen. I didn’t want to believe it before. I had wanted to believe that I could eat whatever I wanted, do a bit of exercise and all would be ok. Except that it wasn’t working. I liked to think that I lived in order to eat, and saw food as a source of pleasure and an end in itself. However, in order to regain my health and get lean and strong in the process, I had to reverse my whole philosophy and instead, eat to live. That is, to view food as nourishment and fuel.

So I learnt that abs are made in the kitchen, and that diet counts for 80% and exercise for 20%. This was a revelation to me. I changed my way of eating, trying various approaches (a dark period of my life which I shall refer to as the “Egg White Omelette Days”) before happening upon paleo nutrition. It made so much sense to me, and explained how modern humans have got it so wrong. I realised why we are in the midst of an obesity epidemic, and why metabolic syndrome and auto immune diseases are so prevalent. Animals in the wild stay lean and healthy without counting calories simply by eating their optimum diet (the foods they evolved to eat) and moving like wild animals (run only when you have to escape from a predator or hunt for food). You will never see obese animals in the wild, yet we and our pets grow fat on a diet of grain, sugar and inactivity.

So what changes have I noticed since going paleo? On the physical front, I have no trouble maintaining my goal body composition without starving myself or counting calories, I can fit into all my old clothes again, the acne on my back which I’ve had ever since puberty has disappeared, I no longer get canker sores or pimples, dry skin patches on my face have mostly disappeared, plus great things in the digestive health area which fall into the TMI category. Mentally, I no longer think about food all the time which is very liberating, have lots of energy, don’t feel the need to eat every couple of hours and don’t crave sugar anymore.

I must confess, I’m not a fan of the term “paleo diet” – it’s simply about eating real food. When people who haven’t heard of paleo ask me what it is, I end up mumbling something about cavemen and what grandmothers eat, without feeling like I’ve done a great job describing what paleo really is. But if you’ve found your way here, you probably know what paleo is, and already want to eat paleo.

If you are new to the paleo journey, welcome! It’s going to be an interesting ride, and you might want to check out some of the resources here. Also, The Primal Shift podcast, episodes 1 and 2 are especially helpful if you are beginning to dip your toes into this paleo thing.