Paleo- The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

So now that New Year’s Eve is over and the food has been eaten, the drinks imbibed, the sweets devoured…what’s next? Maybe you want to start a new diet, a new exercise regime or begin a lifetime of healthy eating? Where do you start? There has been a lot of discussion lately about the Paleo (Paleolithic) Diet. What is it and if I’m not a caveman then why should I follow their diet?

By following the Paleo Diet, people are returning to the diet we were genetically programmed to follow. Researchers believe that the Paleo Diet enlists the body’s own mechanisms to halt weight gain and the development of the chronic diseases of civilization. The core principles of the Paleo Diet is to not eat grains, beans, potatoes, gluten or soy. ┬áPeople following the Paleo Diet do not eat refined sugars, separated sugars or polyunsaturated vegetable oils. They eat lots of animal protein and animal fats.

The Paleo Diet advocates eating eggs, fruits (in moderation), vegetables, lean meats, seafood, nuts, seeds and healthy fats. Those following the Paleo Diet do not eat dairy, grains, processed food and sugars, legumes, starches, or alcohol. A lot of people at my Crossfit gym try to follow the Paleo Diet. My friend Ronnie from the gym had been a vegetarian for two years before trying the Paleo diet. She has been eating Paleo foods fairly strictly for about six months. I asked Ronnie what made her want to follow this diet as a way of life. She said that the owner and lead trainer at the gym encouraged her to try the Paleo diet and the principles of the diet made a lot of sense to her. Following the Paleo diet makes her feel “stronger.” According to Ronnie, the “biggest pain is shopping for, preparing food and bringing food everywhere.” However, as a result of eating Paleo foods, Ronnie feels that “the layer of fat” that she has had around her muscles, especially on her arms, for years and years, has finally started to disappear.” Congrats, Ronnie!

Be warned, cooking the foods permitted in the diet takes a great deal of planning and preparation. Food shopping usually requires you to go to Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods or another healthy food store. Your shopping list will look something like this: coconut milk, almond milk, coconut oil, almond meal/flour, liquid stevia, shredded coconut, sunflower butter and meats, meats, meats. Is it worth the effort? You be the judge.

I recently made these delicious Paleo Banana Pancakes with a hint of coconut. I added chopped pecans and shredded coconut to half of the batter.They are easy to make but some of my pancakes didn’t flip and fell part instead. Although not pretty, the scraps were still delicious.

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Banana Pancakes

Ingredients

1 ripe banana
2 eggs
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk (regular or lite)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup almond meal/almond flour
2 tablespoons water
5 drops liquid stevia extract (optional)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1/4 cup coconut flakes (optional)
1-2 tablespoons coconut oil for cooking

Peel the banana and put it in a medium size mixing bowl. Mash it with a fork- it can still have lumps in it. Add the eggs and coconut milk and whisk them up with the banana. Then whisk in the cinnamon, nutmeg and baking powder. Add the almond meal/almond flour and stir until it is all blended.

Let the batter sit for 5 minutes- it will thicken. While the batter thickens, heat a big, heavy skillet over medium- high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of water to the batter to thin it out a bit. If you want the batter sweeter, add the stevia drops. Stir in the walnuts and/or coconut flakes if desired.

Melt 1 tablespoon or so of coconut oil in the skillet and drop about 2 tablespoons of the batter onto the fry pan for each pancake- I used a small ice cream scooper. After the pancake turns brown, gently turn each one over with a spatula. Serve warm with maple syrup or honey.

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Since this is the first post of the New Year, I would be remiss if I did not mention a few suggestions to help you keep your New Year’s resolutions. According to Forbes magazine, more than 40 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, yet only 8 percent of those actually keep them. 1) Try choosing only one resolution to follow to ensure that you can stay on the right track; 2) Narrow in on a specific goal- goals that are too broad are harder to follow (losing weight in general vs. having no diet soda for 4 weeks); 3) Don’t let one roadblock divert your goal- just pick yourself up and start again (if you give in to temptation and drink that forbidden diet soda, just re-start your willpower); 4) If you tell a friend or family member about your goal, it can make you feel more accountable which will keep you motivated; 5) Positive reinforcement always helps. Reward yourself when you achieve certain goals. After lasting 4 weeks without drinking diet soda, treat yourself to a new gym shirt.

Good luck and have a healthy and happy New Year!

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