Friday, January 27, 2012

Putting Paleo to Practice with Snacks, Condiments and Good Advice

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It’s time to put Paleo to practice. Hopefully you’ve had the chance to do some shopping and pick up the basics for your new way of eating in 2012.

Your kitchen should be stocked with all the things we talked about last week–a lot of vegetables and some fruit; seafood, meat and poultry; eggs; healthy oils; herbs and spices and of course a few little indulgences.

What You Might Need

Now it’s time to flesh out your food wardrobe with a few more items that will make healthy eating a delicious and easy way of life. Here are a few of my favorite things. I like to think of them as necessities. They are: Snacks, and Condiments.

Snacks

Nuts. Grab some walnuts, almonds and macadamia nuts for additional protein and omega oils. They provide a portable, convenient snack and will make your skin glow. In addition, the fatty acids found in nuts promote cognitive function and maintain a healthy heart, among other things.

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Macadamia nuts, pictured above, are my favorite. Unfortunately, they are also quite expensive. The good thing is, you really should not feast on nuts, which makes it a slightly more affordable habit.

Remember that nuts do not have a perfectly balanced ratio of omega fats for the human animal, and while they may suit the squirrel quite well, you should enjoy them in moderation.

Sauerkraut. Perceived as a Germanic food, sauerkraut is a tangy staple in my refrigerator. Packed with probiotics–the beneficial bacteria that aid immunity–sauerkraut is merely pickled cabbage, but it’s the fermentation process that gives it all those wonderful microorganisms that prevent cancer and keep your digestion on track.

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In addition, the cabbage itself is a good source of vitamin C, manganese, vitamin B6 and folate. Bubbies is my favorite brand. You can get it at Whole Foods. I snack on it all throughout the day.

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Kale chips. Kale chips are so yummy, I’m absolutely addicted to them. I get the Kale Krunch Cheezy Chipotle ones from my local Whole Foods, made by Alive & Radiant Foods. They’re kind of expensive, but Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Blueprint, has a reader recipe for making them yourself, if you are so inclined.

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Kale provides an impressive 194% of the recommended daily allowance for vitamin A per one cup serving, which is pretty amazing. In addition, it’s packed with vitamin C for immune support and vitamin B6 and manganese, which are important for fat metabolism. It’s a great source of dietary fiber, calcium, potassium and vitamin E, so the chips make a great snack.

Condiments

Stevia. I love my Stevia. I’ve used it for as long as I can remember, and boy has it been a life-saver.

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I have an incredible sweet tooth, and Stevia is an extremely sweet, herbaceous plant that originated in Paraguay. The people there chew on the leaves because they are so sweet. The great thing about Stevia is, it has no calories. No carbohydrates. It scores zero on the glycemic index, meaning, it will not raise your blood sugar, making it perfect for diabetics and everyone else. It’s completely natural and you can buy it in liquid or powder form. Get it at the health food store, or order your Stevia online.

You can use it to sweeten tea, smoothies and desserts. I get the liquid version and carry one in my purse all the time for dining out.

Tabasco, Tapatio, and salsa. If you know how to scramble an egg, you’re good to go for your Paleo breakfast. Adding a spicy sauce or fresh salsa makes it taste delish. Just look for all-natural versions, and ones that are free of sugar.

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Beware of Strangers With Candy

Of course your mother warned you, but you’d be surprised at just how many innocent-looking foods contain hidden sugars. Commercial mayonnaise, believe it or not, is a known registered offender. Its accomplice, ketchup, is even worse.

Lots of names in the food industry are completely corrupt, and even foods that claim to be good for you are often not your friend. It really saddens me, but sometimes I feel like you can’t trust anyone, so I suggest you read your food labels. I guess, ultimately, you can’t expect anyone to watch out for you. You have to do it yourself.

Maybe you’ve heard this phrase: Today is the first day of the rest of my life…So with that, let’s get started now.

In The Beginning

Often heralded as the most important meal of the day, breakfast is most definitely the first step toward starting your metabolism, and it represents a new beginning.

Robb Wolf, author of The Paleo Solution, recommends a high-protein, high-fat, low-carb meal, with no added sugars or grains.

Make it a solid breakfast that will set your hormones and neurotransmitters for the day.

You could always opt for a healthy smoothie, but when starting out Robb recommends limiting your fruit intake, and instead enjoying the savory side. He said that most people are battling some kind of metabolic derangement–such as obesity, diabetes, fertility issues or depression–and sugar, even if it is only the sugar you find in fruit, just makes it worse.

As you get leaner and healthier, you can introduce more fruit, but Robb explained that there is no nutrient in fruit that is not available in vegetables, so try to keep your sugar levels down initially.

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Eggs and meats are a good breakfast choice. Every bodybuilder I’ve met eats a ton of eggs, and there are a multitude of ways to prepare them. Poached, hard-boiled or simply scrambled, let your imagination go wild. But leave the toast and the potatoes behind, and eat a reasonable amount of fruit, or a bit of berries, instead.

There are so many ways to prepare your eggs. Make an omelette or frittata and be creative, using vegetables like mushrooms or zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, spinach, onion…you can’t go wrong with the incredible, edible egg.

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I’m a fiend for great Mexican food. Huevos Rancheros fits perfectly within the Paleo plan. Just ditch the beans and the tortilla, sub in a little sliced avocado, and you’ve got an ideal meal.

A side of bacon, ham, chorizo or sausage could complete it, and will provide a lasting sense of fullness because the fat in the meal will satisfy and satiate you, while the protein gives your body all the necessary amino acids to build muscle and remain strong.

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Remember: eating fat does not make you fat. Cook your eggs in the fat from the bacon, or use refined coconut oil.

Coconut oil won’t flavor the food–in fact, it is very neutral-tasting–and is the prime choice for cooking due to temperature stability and a host of healthy benefits. Spectrum makes the best brand.

What To Drink, and What Not To Drink

Water works. Teas are a perfectly safe choice, as long as they are devoid of sugar, artificial sweeteners and chemicals. You can sweeten them with Stevia.

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Sodas are completely unhealthy for a variety of reasons, especially the diet variety, and as far as juice goes, seriously, you might as well be drinking soda. Bottled juices are heated for safety and stability. Their nutritional value is completely destroyed by the time they get to the grocery store, and all that’s left is sugar.

Milk creates an insulin response–any diabetic knows what that is–and contrary to widespread opinion and oodles of celebrity endorsement, milk doesn’t ‘do a body good.’

If you are going to have a glass of milk, be aware that it may not be as bad for you as soda, but it’s still just comfort food, and we don’t need it.

A Gentle Reminder

Have you thrown out all your junk food yet? All your ‘heart-healthy’ grains? Boxes of cereal, crackers and refined foods? You should.

“You may want to dismiss this,” Robb said, “but think about it like this: Most people feel like they can stay in a monogamous, lifelong relationship. Well, what if we dropped you off at the Playboy mansion–I don’t care what gender or sexual orientation you are–and let’s say we got you falling down drunk and dosed you to the gills on Ecstasy. Would you remain monogamous? Highly unlikely, and this is my point: refined carbs are like an ecstasy-soaked beer binge at the Playboy mansion. This is a battle,” he said, “that you will not win.”

So if you haven’t already gotten rid of all that trash, please do. It’s for your own good.

Join me next Friday for another exciting nutrition installment…The Original Smooth-Talker: All About Smoothies. We’ll explore both sweet, and savory. See you then.

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