Paleo, eh? Would a caveman eat that? Cavemen didn't have cashew butter! Did you hunt that steak yourself?
I've been asked about cavemen a lot. A common reaction to the "paleo diet" is that people become extraordinarily literal about the paleolithic era and their diet. I get it - it's the name of the ''diet", but I can't stand behind the caveman dogma. I do stand behind a style of eating that makes me feel good, focuses on whole nutrient-dense foods, avoids processed food with unrecognizabe ingredients, promotes well-raised protein sources and organic agriculture and doesn't involve huge sacrifices of flavour. I view the paleo diet as a frame-work for healthy eating that allows people to discover what works for their body.
If you're looking for a paleo perfectionist, that's not me. It never will be. I love food. I once cried when I ate the perfect calzone at cooking school in Italy. I refuse to give up the shared experiences of food and wholeheartedly enjoy the best foods my amazing, multicultural city of Toronto offers. My personal rule is if I truly crave pizza, it will be the best damn pizza in the city (in moderation!).
If you are interested in learning more about the paleo style of eating with a balanced approach, the gals over at the Balanced Bites podcast are a great source of real-food information and they aren't paleo-robots.
The Balanced Bites website has some helpful .pdf's if you are starting a paleo style of eating, or need a reminder:
- Guide to Paleo Foods
- Stocking a Paleo Pantry
- Guide to Cooking Fats
- Guide to Sweeteners
- Guide to Dense Forms of Paleo Carbs
- Guide to Gluten
My take on the paleo style of eating is as follows - I'm not a doctor, I'm not a nutritionist, I'm a formally trained cook who happens to like healthy whole foods.
- Organic/local fruits + veggies - I eat lots of them and always buy organic when available and when financially feasible, following the EWG Clean/Dirty 15 makes it more manageable. We subscribe to a CSA from a nearby farm so we have great quality fruits and veggies.
- Dairy - I try to limit dairy, but find local goat + sheep dairy don't bother me. I buy grassfed cows milk/cheese/yogurt for my family.
- Protein - We eat a fair amount of animal based protein. We buy our meat in bulk and most of it comes from a wonderful farm. We buy our fish and seafood from a local vendor who sources sustainable fish and seafood mainly from British Columbia.
- Nuts - Nuts (in the form of larabars) are a common quick on-the-go snack in my life. I try to eat raw nuts and I eat peanuts occasionally because they are delicious, particularly in butter form!
- Grains - I limit grains on a regular basis. Rice, rice flour, rice noodles and oats are delicious, I eat them occasionally. I love gluten free treats from time-to-time and have been known to eat the occasional pizza/scone/donut when the urge takes-over.
- Pseudo-grains - Amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa seem like part of the grain-family but actually aren't. They are gluten-free and as far as I'm concerned the argument that they aren't necessarily bad but not as nutritiously optimal just isn't good enough for me. So, if I liked these things enough, I would eat them (but I don't!).
- Beans - As with the pseudo-grains, beans are deemed not optimally nutritious which isn't good enough for me to outright avoid beans all the time.
- Corn - I love corn tortillas, I love tacos. Popcorn is too tasty to avoid all the time. When I get fresh corn from our CSA, I will eat it.
- Sweeteners - In moderation, I'm all for maple syrup (#3 dark for life!), coconut sugar, date sugar, maple sugar, and even a little raw sugar if I'm feeling crazy.