What’s Your Paleo STYLE?

Steak

By Jenn Bruer

The other day a good friend of mine asked, “can we go Paleo and still be vegetarians”? I nearly laughed out-loud because it seemed like a funny oxymoron to me since meat is such a big part of the Paleo diet. I try to never push my beliefs onto others. But here was an opportunity to give some advise.

I suggested to go “Paleo without meat”! Not truly Paleo of course, but that’s okay! Paleo is not supposed to be a box that we need to squeeze into. Frankly, it’s way more about getting OUT of the box we’ve been in! Paleo should be thought of as more of an arrow, an arrow that says “go this way”….the way toward health. Health is fluid and not a straight-forward math equation.

If you want to be more “Paleo” you have to find your own personal “Paleo Style” and it can evolve as you make changes. Let me tell you about MY Paleo Style…

Although I don’t fit into a “box” of health rules, I’ve been on the Paleo/Primal path since Sept 2011. I almost never eat grains; if I do it’s only because it’s a very special occasion and my MIL has violently forced me (okay she doesn’t resort to violence but how can I say “no” to my MIL!). Yes, on occasion I have my mother-in-law’s plum pudding and other traditional gluten-filled treats. When I “cheat” with grains, I am careful to take extra probiotics in the days to follow as I know my gut will have to adjust, and I will also lower my carbohydrate intake for a few days to give my pancreas a rest. This is not something everyone has to do but I personally have signs of insulin resistance (as MANY people do and have NO idea). Signs of insulin resistance can sometimes be, but are not limited to: excessive tummy fat, fatty liver, skin tags, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome PCOS, obesity, adult acne, appearance of dark patches on the skin or “hyper-pigmentation”, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, constant hunger and sugar cravings, etc.

I eat less dairy. I omit cream from my coffee and replace it with coconut milk but I do have a piece of cheese a couple times per week. To be fully Paleo, I should give up dairy all-together and maybe one day I will, to further heal my body and reduce inflammation even more. But for now I choose to include dairy because I tend to go the “low-carb route” and cheese is a good low-carb alternative.

I never eat at fast-food restaurants (don’t get me started).

I try to always remain on the low-carb side of things and focus my diet mainly on low-starch vegetables, good quality fats, and meats. Again this is because of my sugar “issues”. Anyone suffering with excess weight likely has “sugar issues”.

I limit my coffee to one per day, especially since caffeine can be taxing on my adrenals. Ideally, I’d like to have NO coffee and if I get there, great; if not, that’s okay too, because that’s my Paleo Style.

If you haven’t noticed yet, my Paleo Style is pretty down-to-earth because, as a mom feeding a large family, I need to be mindful of my stress levels; stress is a very BAD thing for health. I don’t scream or run with fear from food, I just try to look at every meal as an opportunity to feed my body with building blocks that prevent disease and heal damage from a previous Diet Coke addiction and other crazy things. I never buy or cook with vegetable oil, but if I go out for Wings with my friends, the wings will likely be deep fried in canola oil. But I stay calm about it and eat extra green veggies in the days to follow to detox that Franken-food out of my body.

Anyone attempting to go 100% Paleo will likely fail and then go back to eating 100% SAD (standard american diet), and that’s WAY worse than going “Paleo without meat”!


Flourless Chocolate Chip Cookies

cookies

By Jenn Bruer

Ingredients
1/4 cup bacon fat or butter (I always have a jar of fat saved from bacon)
1/4 cup coconut sugar
2 tbsp honey
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup almond flour
2 tbsp coconut flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and line cookie sheet with parchment
  2. Combine your wet ingredients and mix until smooth
  3. In a separate bowl whisk your dry ingredients (but not the chips)
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well
  5. Fold in the chocolate chips by hand
  6. Place heaping teaspoon balls of dough on a cookie sheet (below is a picture of the tool I use to make all of my cookies uniform shape and size)
  7. Gently flatten with a fork
  8. Bake for 9-12 minutes, until slightly golden on the edges

This recipe is also yummy with bacon bits added! meatballer


Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate

By Jenn Bruer

Ingredientshot choc
1 can coconut milk (look for guar gum free if you can find it)
2 cups almond milk
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
2 tbps cocoa powder
1/4 to 1/3 cup coconut sugar (depending on your sugar threshold and how dark your chocolate is!)
Optional toppings: a few slivers of grated dark chocolate, organic saigon cinnamon, sprinkle of cocoa powder

Directions

  1. Place all ingredients except the dark chocolate chips in a saucepan and heat for about 5 minutes whisking often
  2. Once the mixture is warmed through, add the dark chocolate chips and whisk softly until the chocolate is well combined
  3. Top with dark chocolate slivers, cinnamon, or cocoa powder

Grainless Flour Alternatives

flour

By Jenn Bruer 

When living grainlessly, there are a whole list of friendly flours, but first it’s important to note that these flours are calorie dense; they are however FAR less inflammatory and irritating to the gut than the usual grain flours. We need to be cautious even with grainless baked goods as they are often loaded with sugar. Although, having these goodies, especially around social events and special occasions, is important because it makes us feel less deprived. Limit these treats because of the sugar content, but know that you can control the ingredients AND the sugar 🙂

Almond flour- this is a favorite Paleo flour substitute and there are plenty of recipes to go around. I personally use “ground almonds”, sometimes known as   “almond meal”, because it’s cheaper than flour. The difference is that almond FLOUR is more finely milled. Ground almonds usually include the whole almond as apposed to removing the skin. Almond meal is good for things like breads and pancakes but a finely milled almond flour will give you better results in baked goods like cookies, pie shells etc. and adds a much nicer white colour to certain recipes. The general rule of thumb is to sub almond flour for wheat flour in a 1:1 ratio. Almond flour can sometimes be a little wet as it doesn’t absorb as much moisture as other flours so I always use a tsp of coconut flour to offset the moisture (because coconut is quite absorbent). When I make breads or loaves I always double bake them (like for example, I bake a loaf and then slice it and place it back in the over for an additional 10 minutes before serving, to dry it out a little more). Double baking is by no means necessary though.

Coconut flour- this has an amazing flavour but is very absorbent so it can be rather hard to work with and has a tendency for leaving foods crumbly and dry. I prefer to use this flour with another and not on it’s own. Coconut flour is high in fiber and has a nice coconut flavour. This is best used with a very wet recipe; great for shortbread type recipes! There is no safe exchange ratio when replacing coconut flour to wheat flour as it depends greatly on the moisture level.

Arrowroot flour-  this is mostly used as a starch and is great for thickening sauces.  Arrowroot powder can replace corn starch in recipes using a 1:1 ratio.

Tapioca flour- this starch comes from ground cassava and adds elasticity to baking and helps bind.

Plantain flour- this is ground dehydrated plantain. Let me know if you see this around, I’d love to try it.

Sunflower seed flour- for those allergic to nuts or just almonds, sunflower seed flour can be used the same as almond flour. When you use it in conjunction with baking soda, it has a reaction and turns green – safe to eat but a complete turnoff to me. Mind you, if I was allergic to nut flours, I’d consider it a viable option.

Hazelnut flour- this can also be used the same as almond flour.

Pumpkin seed flour- another seed alternative to almond flour.

Pureed green plantains- green plantains are very starchy, and can act as a great binder in baking.  There are plenty of plantain recipes out there from crackers to cookies; I have tried plantain crackers and they were terrific and crunchy!

Any nut can be made into a flour, adding an array of various flavours, textures and colours to foods.

Now go bake some gluten free yummies!


Healthy Fats

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

By Jenn Bruer

Many of us still falsely hold on to the misconception that fat has led us to the obesity epidemic. This is true when talking about the evil trans-fat and, of course, it’s close friend vegetable oil! But I want to tell you about some healthy fats.

NO I am not referring to margarine, people! Margarine touts it’s omega 3 content as being a “heart healthy” addition to your diet; omega 3 is great for heart health, yes, but margarine is often made from canola oil and in the extraction process canola oil needs to be heated at VERY high temperatures, sometimes in excess of 500 degrees! Yet omega 3 is a very unstable fat and oxidized easily under heat. That’s why, when you see fish oil in the stores, it is kept in a dark bottle and stored at room temp or cooler! Margarine should really be stating “a source of oxidized omega 3”. Can they really tout omega 3 if it’s been heated? Insane,I know!

I am cautious about “low-fat” food products, not only because my cells and brain NEED fat, but also because manufacturers often replace fat with sugar. These products can also contain more additives which are used to aid in the artificial removal of fats naturally found in foods. Low fat diets are usually high in simple carbs which means they are rapidly digested and lead to sugar highs and lows-bad news for the obesity epidemic. Sugar highs can lead to diabetes and heart disease over time. Low-fat, high carb diets can also lead to elevated cholesterol levels.

FAT is the new superstar! It aids in the absorption of vital minerals and fat soluble vitamins. Fat satiates and lowers the glycemic load of meals and snacks. Our brain, bones, organs, cells, and nervous system all depend on fat and cholesterol to work properly.

There are many doctors, medical professionals, writers, journalist, and other plain ole good people, like me, debunking the “low-fat myth”; you just need to look around and listen, folks.

Fat is good but still, don’t over-do it; fat is still high in calories and while the types of calories matter more than the sheer number of calories, we still need to be mindful of our caloric load (personally, I NEVER count calories, or anything for that matter, it’s just not realistic).

Okay, so hopefully by now you get that I don’t like sugar and I love fat 🙂 What fats do I eat? I am glad you asked! I use coconut oil, grass-fed butter, ghee, olive oil (but only raw-don’t cook with it), tallow (beef fat), lard (pork fat), palm oil is also a safe fat but I haven’t used it yet.

  • Coconut oil- (an oil extracted from coconuts, duh!) is heat stable and slow to oxidize, which means it’s safe for frying at high heat. Coconut oil has anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial properties (that’s why I don’t consume coconut products within 2 hours of my probiotics, just in-case it kills the good guys) Coconut oil is very good for you and can be used on the skin too. Make sure you get organic, virgin oil though to avoid toxins. Yes, Costco sells this too 🙂 Yay Costco!
  • Olive oil- cold pressed, organic olive oil (sold in a dark bottle please) is very healthy for you as it is a powerful anti-oxidant. DON’T cook with olive oil, just consume it raw. When olive oil is heated it changes the molecular structure to something not-so-healthy. If you choose to cook with it keep your heat as low as possible. Don’t over-do it though because too much omega 6 is not good for inflammation.
  • Lard, duck fat, and beef tallow (fat from beef) are all healthy fats and can be “rendered” -or saved for later. These fats add amazing flavour to meals like soups, stews, and stir fries. Don’t balk at it until you’ve tried it!!! Remember the gross feelings you get about fat need to be un-learned over time. It will take some time to go from demonizing fat, and being grossed out by it, to, hopefully, demonizing sugar and grains 🙂
  • Butter- yep butter! Make it grass fed if you can, and if you can’t don’t stress about it. If you can handle  dairy, butter is an awesome choice. Butter is rich in vitamins like A, D, E and K2!  It also contains minerals, fatty acids, and CLA. It helps keep joints from stiffening and helps keep calcium in your bones instead of in your tissues! CLA also has anti-cancer effects.
  • Ghee- a good choice for those who cannot tolerate dairy. Ghee is just a fancy word for butter with the milk solids removed. I like frying on high heat with ghee because it has a high smoke point, unlike butter which burns easily.

There are many other oils to speak of but these are the most main-stream healthful ones that I include in my diet. To be clear, I stay away from margarine, vegetable oils, and trans-fats!!! When I want to know if something contains trans-fats I look for the word “modified” that’s a good clue.

…now go add some butter to your steamed veggies would ya?!