Way to Go, Paleo!
By Melissa Diane Smith
The writing is on the cave wall: a hunter-gather diet is a blueprint for super health.

Two years ago, Cindy Armstrong went through the difficult process of learning to eat gluten free. Changing her diet lessened her digestive bloating, but didn’t reduce her waistline or prediabetic blood sugar levels. Over time, she came to realize that other foods, including soy, dairy products, and even nongluten grains, caused digestive upset, and that eating sugar or other types of sweeteners triggered insatiable cravings and binge eating.

“I wasn’t feeling well and wasn’t in control of my eating habits. I finally got to the point where I wanted to do something more drastic to help myself,” says Armstrong. “My nutritionist told me about the Paleolithic or hunter-gatherer diet—eating the types of foods our earliest ancestors evolved with and thrived on. It turned out to be the answer I was looking for to stop my food cravings, clear up my digestive problems, and get my weight and blood sugar levels under control.”

Also known as the Stone Age Diet, the Paleo Diet is effective at reducing waist sizes and lowering blood sugar levels in people with heart disease and blood sugar problems, and it improves a wide range of cardiovascular risk factors in healthy, sedentary people in as little as 10 days, according to recent research.

If you have taken gluten out of your diet, you already have taken an important step toward eating Paleo. Here are tips to help convert your diet:

How to Go Paleo
Beef up on animal protein and veggies. A central feature of a hunter-gatherer-type diet is eating high-quality, unprocessed animal protein, such as lean, organic, grass-fed meats; wild-caught fish; or omega-3-enriched eggs at every meal, along with plenty of nonstarchy vegetables, such as salad greens, artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, and zucchini. Starchy vegetables, such as yams, winter squash, and sweet potatoes should be avoided, but carrots are allowed. In one study, limited quantities of potatoes were allowed without detriment.

Go completely against the grain. Instead of just staying away from gluten, steer clear of all grains and grain-like foods—including oats, corn, millet, rice, sorghum, wild rice, amaranth, buckwheat, and quinoa. Also eliminate legumes (beans and peas). To do this, replace the gluten-free grains and beans you were eating in your diet with more servings of nonstarchy vegetables and proteins. Instead of pizza, pasta, and sandwiches, think meat-and-veggie-based stir-fries, sautés, soups, and salads.

Include fruits, nuts, and seeds in your diet. Fresh and unsweetened frozen fruits are part of the Paleo Diet, but avoid the more processed types—canned fruits and fruit juices—and minimize or avoid dried fruits. You can also use nuts and seeds as snacks or ingredients in dishes, but avoid peanuts, which actually are legumes.

Don’t eat dairy foods or sweeteners. In place of cow’s milk or cream, try unsweetened coconut milk or homemade almond milk. In place of butter, use coconut butter or olive oil. Keep sugar, other refined sweeteners, and artificial sweeteners out of your diet, including hidden sources of sweeteners, such as sweetened drinks.

Try nut-flour baked goods. Pancakes, muffins, and crackers can be made with almond flour, hazelnut flour, and/or coconut flour, with other helpful ingredients such as eggs, coconut butter, and fruit. For some people, such as Armstrong, these additional modifications take the gluten-free diet to a new level in providing therapeutic benefit.

Grass-Fed Lamb Meatballs Florentine
Makes 24 balls

The nutritional profile of grass-fed meats more closely approximates that of the game meats that were in the Paleolithic or Stone Age hunter-gatherer diet. Grass-fed meats have less total fat than grain-fed meats, so it’s important not to overcook them. This easy recipe uses grass-fed ground lamb. Top steamed or lightly sautéed spinach and garlic in olive oil with the meatballs and drizzle with meatball au jus. Serve with steamed or roasted asparagus spears. Reheat leftover meatballs, slice, and place atop a large salad with red onion, cucumber, tomato, and romaine lettuce with lemon juice, olive oil, and herb dressing.

Reprinted from The Going Against the Grain Group, 2009, by Melissa Diane Smith.

1 lb. organic grass-fed ground lamb

1/3 cup fresh baby spinach leaves, chopped

¼ cup fresh parsley leaves, minced

¼ cup fresh basil leaves, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced (3 tsp.)

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 11- x 7-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Knead together lamb, spinach, parsley, basil, and garlic in bowl; mix well.
  2. Form mixture into 1-inch meatballs; tuck in any herb or spinach pieces that stick out.
  3. Place meatballs in even rows in baking pan. Set on middle rack in oven. Bake 18 to 20 minutes, or until done. Season to taste with sea salt or Herbamare seasoning salt.

PER 4-meatball SERVING: 247 CAL; 21 G PROT; 17 G TOTAL FAT (7 G SAT FAT); 1 G CARB; 83 MG CHOL; 75 MG SOD; 0 G FIBER; 0 G SUGARS

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