At the prime old of age of 22 it did come as a shock to find out that my cholesterol levels are booming off the richter scale. When I smugly strolled into my health check-up, with two marathons behind me and what I would class as a good general level of fitness, I wasn’t expecting to be told to change my diet and cut back on the amount of sugary processed foods that I eat. Now, I would like to think of myself as a healthy person. I exercise regularly, I don’t drink alcohol or fizzy drinks, I love my salads and greens and generally try to be ‘good’ when it comes to food choices. BUT…I have three downfalls: CAKE, CHOCOLATE and BISCUITS. I LOVE them… in any combination! My problem is (or was) that I would replace meals with mega slabs of cake and yes my other meals would be ‘healthy’ but my whole daily intake of nutrients and vitamins was miniscule. So, I decided to drastically change my lifestyle (I don’t do things by half!) in order to clean up my insides.
I have always been intrigued by the different diets that people follow and quite frankly there is so much contradictory information out there that it is hard to decipher whats right. One minute eggs are bad, next salt is all over the news – Atkins, cabbage soup, 5-2 and many other fads flock the papers. Yet, everything in moderation is surely the best option!? The only problem with me is that I don’t know how to moderate and I really needed a lifestyle change.
So I came across the Paleo lifestyle. Paleo? What’s Paleo? The Paleo diet is often dubbed the ‘caveman’ diet since it brings things back to basics. Modern day diets are full of processed sugary foods rich in trans fats which are the root causes of many chronic diseases. The Paleo diet encourages you to avoid all processed foods and focus on consuming more protein, minerals, vitamins and healthy fats. So what is and isn’t allowed then? The Paleo diet is gluten, dairy, grain and refined sugar free. In more understandable terms this means (prepare for the freakout) no cake, biscuits, bread, pasta, rice, oats, potatoes, milk, yogurt, butter and just anything processed. So what is OK to eat? All fruits, vegetables, lean meats (grass fed), seafood, nuts and healthy fats.
So, I know what you are thinking how on earth was I going to manage this!? Well, believe it or not, it hasn’t been as hard as I thought it was going to be and there are so many alternatives out there that are also very delicious. But, how does this affect my baking? Well, it actually forces me (as if I need an excuse!?) to bake more, since I can’t just buy goodies since everything shop-bought is pumped with gluten, dairy and refined added sugar.
So what have I been eating? Breakfast was a big challenge since toast, porridge, and cereal are all out the question. Paleo banana bread has been my saviour, packed with bananas, healthy fats, nuts and omega 3 it will keep you pumped with energy throughout the morning. You can even throw in some raw cocoa nibs for a bit of a chocolatey taste. Pancakes have also been on the menu, topped with maple syrup and pecans for an extra sweet flavour.
Smoothies have also been a big winner – blend up bananas, almond milk, flax seeds and a bit of maple syrup for a sweet morning winner.
For a leaner breakfast eggs, eggs and more eggs are your way forward – poached with spinach and grilled tomatoes is scrummy (and yes you can have bacon as well if you like yippee!). A few weeks ago Josh and I went to the Good Life Eatery in London, notorious for gluten free and dairy free options and they did a lovely vegetable frittata.
Lunches and dinners are by far the easiest meals, pick your meat or fish and choose your complementary vegetables or salad and BOOM bob’s your uncle:
On the snack side I have made all sorts: sweet potato brownies, pecan pie squares, mince pies, chocolate shortbread… all gluten, dairy, grain and refined sugar free!
Now there have of course been times when it hasn’t been easy to follow and at the end of the day life is there to be enjoyed. I have had great fun experimenting with different recipes and food groups and I will continue to do so. This is a lifestyle I would like to adopt long term BUT there are always going to be times when you need that buttery slab of cake, that creamy bowl of ice cream, that crumbly morning pastry and that big bar of chocolate by the fire:
So give some paleo recipes a go… Make healthy choices, drink tea and eat cake!
Happy paleo prepping!
P.s. all my paleo recipes are to come but for now I will leave you with Sweet Potato Brownies, an adapted Deliciously Ella recipe:
For the brownies…
500g of sweet potatoes (about 2 medium)
6 tablespoons of pure maple syrup
200g of ground almonds (or almond flour)
2 tablespoons of melted coconut oil
6 tablespoons of raw cacao powder
For the icing:
2 tablespoons of coconut oil
2 tablespoons of almond butter
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
2 tablespoons of cacao powder
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C (fan), peel the sweet potatoes, cut them into chunks and boil them for about twenty minutes, until they become really soft.
- Once they are perfectly soft strain out the water and add them to a food processor with the pitted dates.
- Put the remaining ingredients into a bowl, before mixing in the sweet potato date combination. Stir well.
- Place into a lined baking dish and cook for about fifty minutes, until you can pierce the brownie with a fork and bring it out dry. Remove the tray and allow it to cool for about ten minutes.
- While the brownies are cooking make the icing by simply melting all the ingredients together and stirring well, then place in the freezer for 15 minutes and then the fridge for 15 to firm up a bit.
- Remove the brownies from the tray and leave to cool completely before icing otherwise your icing will melt! Spread the icing on top, cut into squares, dig in and enjoy!