Have you heard about the Paleo Diet? It took awhile for me to be convinced that “eating like a caveman” was logical, sensible, necessary, or could in any way, provide a more positive outcome, than any other “trendy” diet. Well, I am here to say I was wrong! I’ve observed numerous friends, not only lose excess weight, but also be transformed into healthier, younger versions of themselves after only 2 or 3 months of changing their diet. Motivated by witnessing many of these transformations, I read many books, a lot of research, and hundreds of recipes. In early January I gave up grains, legumes, beans, sugar and dairy, in all forms. Was this easy? Hell no! Am I happy eating like this? You bet I am. (I will not go into detail why these specific items are “banned”, as there are numerous books, documents and research studies that go into detail available in bookstores, libraries and on-line.)
The interpretation of the Paleo diet I am sharing with you, is my own. First of all, this is not really what I would think of as a “caveman” diet. I am not grilling brontosaurus burgers and I’m not gnawing on tree roots. I am eating a pre-industrial revolution, pre-processed foods, non genetically modified, non-hydrogenated, non-sugar laden, non-messed up with hormones, pesticides or antibiotics diet of fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry fish, nuts and seeds. You are right; it is not easy. Most of my food is prepared from scratch, right on down to the mayonnaise. Every label of any item considered for consumption must be thoroughly scrutinized for sugar; in all it’s clever “non-threatening” disguises, GMO laden soy and canola – in any form, preservatives that we have been convinced are just fine and all sorts of other things that I never gave a second thought to. What I have learned in digging deep into the science behind the Paleo diet, is just how impactful these “acceptable” ingredients can be on our brains and bodies, throughout our lifetime. I thought I was eating “right”. Organic, natural, hormone and antibiotic free whenever and wherever possible. What I have learned is how a few changes can significantly improve my health. Again, these are my interpretations, based on my research and personal experiences. I have made these decisions for myself with no intention of recommending what anybody else should do. Except Dave….He has to eat what I cook.
In six weeks I have strayed from the guidelines of the diet only slightly; by consuming a glass or two of wine socially. In six weeks I have lost 12 pounds and I have more energy than I have had in a very long time. I am sleeping like a baby and, when taken a week ago, my blood pressure was about what it was in my 20’s. In six weeks, the life long patch of eczema on my elbow has all but disappeared; confirming my long-held suspicion of a wheat sensitivity. Can I and will I eat this way for the rest of my life? I don’t know, but I can say I will continue to follow the guidelines until I have finished losing the weight I need to and until my “numbers” are where I want them to be. I do know that I will pay far more attention to “hidden” ingredients and that if I choose to ingest sugar, in any form, it will be rare. Honestly, removing things like bad fats and processed sugar from your diet changes what you crave. If I miss anything, I miss cheese, yogurt and sour cream. I will add dairy back slowly; at some point, and determine if I have any negative reactions to it. Is this way of eating more expensive? Maybe a little, but not much overall when I consider the items I am no longer buying. The secret to any eating plan is just that; PLAN. Having food on hand is key. Making sure you have dinner leftovers for tomorrows lunch and healthy grab and go items in easy reach makes things a lot easier.
If you do need to grab something quick, my favorite sweet is anything from Hail Merry – macaroons, nut mixes and chocolate tarts, and my favorite protein / savory are the jerky bites from EPIC. (These are not PAID endorsements; I have not received any form of compensation. These are my personal “always in my backpack” lifesavers.)
Since we rapidly depleted $22 worth of mail-order No-Grain Granola, I decided I best figure out how to make this tasty breakfast alternative, myself. I am so happy I did! After reading numerous recipes and ingredient panels, I decided on a combination that would work for us. I spent about 20 minutes in the bulk bin section at my favorite store bagging up all the “legal” necessities: flaked coconut, cashews, sesame seed, chia seed, sunflower seed, pumpkin seed, and various forms of almonds. All were organic and most were raw and untoasted. Though I preferred all raw ingredients; rather than make a stop at a second store with the other 50,000 people shopping for weekly staples on a Sunday afternoon, I decided I would just adjust my cooking technique to balance the raw and pre-toasted ingredients. I had the other ingredients I needed at home: sea salt, Grade B maple syrup, organic vanilla extract, and organic coconut oil.
Heat your oven to 250′ F.
I used convection as it speeds the toasting process.
Line 2-4 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
For every 6 cups of dry ingredients you will need 1 cup of liquefied coconut oil, 2-4 tablespoons of grade b maple syrup (depending on your preferred level of sweetness), 2 teaspoons of vanilla and 1 teaspoon of fine sea salt.
(I am not giving specific quantities – just proportions for dry to liquid. This is to allow you to adjust the ingredients to your liking.) If using a combination of raw and pre-toasted nuts: Place your non-toasted nuts and seeds in a large mixing bowl. (Hold back the toasted ingredients.) You can also add cinnamon, cardamom, or any other spices that you enjoy.
Pour the coconut oil mixture over all. Mix thoroughly. Spread evenly on the baking sheets. Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring every ten minutes until lightly toasted. Set aside.
Place the remaining pre-toasted nuts and seeds in the large mixing bowl. Add the proportionate amount of liquefied coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla and sea salt. Mix thoroughly. Add the nuts and seeds from the baking sheets back into the bowl and remix. Distribute the mixture evenly amongst your baking sheets. Return to the oven and continue to toast until golden brown, another 45-60 minutes; stirring every 10 minutes.
Don’t try to speed this up with higher heat, as you will burn the delicate ingredients.
Remove toasted “granola” from oven and allow to completely cool. Place in air tight jars or freezer bags and store in a cool, dark place.
This is fabulous with the nut milk of your choice for breakfast, sprinkled over a warm baked apple for dessert, or by the handful as a quick snack.
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