Given that none of us was actually HERE during the Paleolithic era, the Paleo diet involves considerable guesswork and conjecture. It also involves a lot of misconception, such as "Paleo means chomping on a large, charred-but-half-raw dinosaur bone and nothing else."
Is Paleo vegan or vegetarian even possible? Of course it is! And it most likely would have been the norm, in between large BBQ's when the exceptional women hunters of the tribe decided they all needed iron (given that women cycle together naturally) and decided a hunt was in order. Meals of starchy roots & tubers, fruits, berries, herbs, seeds, nuts and eggs would have been FAR MORE LIKELY and far more common given the abundance of an unspoiled natural world.
The aim of a paleo diet is to return to a way of eating that's more like what early humans ate. The diet's reasoning is that the human body is genetically mismatched to the modern diet that emerged with farming practices — an idea known as the discordance hypothesis. Farming changed what people ate and established dairy, grains and legumes as additional staples in the human diet. This relatively late and rapid change in diet, according to the hypothesis, outpaced the body's ability to adapt. This mismatch is believed to be a contributing factor to the prevalence of obesity, diabetes and heart disease today.
Foods to Avoid on the Paleo Diet:
- Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup: Soft drinks, fruit juices, table sugar, candy, pastries, ice cream and many others.
- Grains: Includes breads and pastas, wheat, spelt, rye, barley, etc.
- Legumes: Beans, lentils and many more.
- Dairy: Avoid most dairy, especially low-fat (some versions of paleo do include full-fat dairy like butter and cheese).
- Some vegetable oils: Soybean oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil, grapeseed oil, safflower oil and others.
- Trans fats: Found in margarine and various processed foods. Usually referred to as "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" oils.
- Artificial sweeteners: Aspartame, sucralose, cyclamates, saccharin, acesulfame potassium. Use natural sweeteners instead.
- Highly processed foods: Everything labeled "diet" or "low-fat" or that has many additives. Includes artificial meal replacements.
A simple guideline: If it looks like it was made in a factory, don't eat it.
Foods to Eat on the Paleo Diet
Base your diet on whole, unprocessed paleo foods:
- Meat: Beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, pork and others.
- Fish and seafood: Salmon, trout, haddock, shrimp, shellfish, etc. Choose wild-caught if you can.
- Eggs: Choose free-range, pastured or omega-3 enriched eggs.
- Vegetables: Broccoli, kale, peppers, onions, carrots, tomatoes, etc.
- Fruits: Apples, bananas, oranges, pears, avocados, strawberries, blueberries and more.
- Tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, etc.
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and more.
- Healthy fats and oils: Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil and others.
- Salt and spices: Sea salt, garlic, turmeric, rosemary, etc.
And so I pondered, wondered, thought and considered what was in season (given that Paleo means you are ALWAYS eating 100% in season) and decided to prepare a Roasted Sweet Potato, Beet & Rocket Salad with Boiled Eggs on the Side.
My salad ingredients were simple:
- Sweet potatoes
- One huge red onion
- One whole bulb of garlic
- A few radishes
- Cherry tomatoes
- Spring Onions
- Fresh Coriander (cilantro)
- Roasted green pumpkin seed kernels
- Mineral salt
- Dried oregano
- Fresh black pepper
Beets and sweet potatoes were scrubbed and cut into chunks, as was the large red onion. The garlic was peeled. Everything went into a bowl with a little salt, pepper and dried oregano and some cold pressed coconut oil, and then onto a baking tray.
25 mins on high in our little bench top toaster oven until the beets and potato were tender and the onions & garlic caramelized. Allow it to cool.
In a large bowl combine the roasted veggies with chopped radishes, halved cherry tomatoes, the chopped spring onions and the chopped coriander. Add a little more salt & pepper. Toss well.
I had meanwhile hard-boiled some yummy organic eggs bought from our local market - a fabulous source of protein, minerals and those elusive B group vitamins.
I created a little bed of fresh organic rocket, served the salad onto it, added the eggs on the side and garnished the salad with roasted green pumpkin kernels.
Partly because I'm European & love the flavour, partly because mustard is such a phenomenal health food contributing some really important nutrients (another post!), and partly because mustard grows locally in great abundance, I decided to finish the whole thing off with a little organic mustard on each egg.
So how was it?
Amazing flavours! The peppery rocket and the tangy mustard on the eggs were a nice balancing contrast for the slight sweetness in the salad. It was chewy, very filling and left us feeling not only incredibly well nourished, but pleased to have experimented and pushed both our taste and our cooking boundaries. The nutty addition of the pumpkin seeds was a nice textural 'thing' and something I must add far more often to salads.
As I was preparing this meal, I reflected that actually vegetarian Paleo is really just another name for wild-crafted and foraged food. What's on hand, in the moment, in the abundance of a garden or a forest. Earthy, flavourful and, with the addition of the eggs, an incredibly well-balanced meal from a nutritional viewpoint.
The little dinosaurs scampered back into the forest, unharmed and happy to be spared their horrible BBQ ending. And they all lived happily ever after.
This post is a response to @ecotrain's Question of the Week: EcoTrain QOTW Challenge November 20th-27th: Make Something Paleo to Eat!
You still have time!! Cook something awesome, add the post URL in the comments of the Challenge Post ^^ and enjoy supporting the others who have also contributed. Closing date for this QOTW is Wednesday 27th November.
The Tribe that cooks and eats together, stays together!