The key to health is to make sure the gut is happy. Over 70% of our immune system is in the gut. It is important to eat anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense food so our guts stay healthy and our immune system stays strong. Real food doesn’t come in a box. Real food isn’t what we get at the local fast food chain. With society on the go, there is barely enough time to get a decent meal, let alone have time to cook. We understand this. Our goal of this blog is to put together some recipes, most of which are pretty easy and quick to make, in order to bring people back to cooking, back to the table to eat as a family, and back to a more healthful you!
Following are a few tips to make this transition easy for you and your family. There are many great sites out there with a lot of wonderful information (see More Resources section), but here are a few things that have worked for us and some fantastic ways to get that healthy ball rolling. Instead of you having to reinvent the wheel, these tips and ideas will hopefully help you get a good jump on this. (Scroll to the bottom for a list of some great recipes to start with!).
1. DON’T TALK ABOUT “DIET” – Take it from us, if you haven’t mentioned the words “paleo” or “primal” to your family (i.e. those you will be cooking for) then don’t. We don’t like to say “paleo DIET.” This is not a diet. Human beings are meant to eat this way and our bodies just haven’t adapted too well to grains, processed foods, and tons of sugar. If your family thinks what you are cooking is putting them on a “diet” or if they hear the words “healthy,” “paleo,” “primal,” or “caveman diet,” they may rebel from the get-go. Just cook up a few meals, serve, see how the family responds. If they don’t like your “new recipe” then try another (However, we do list below some recipes that we feel are good starters and most members of the family, yes even the kids, will enjoy them). If anyone questions the different foods, just say that you are feeding them foods that have many more nutrients to nourish their bodies, while some of the “other” foods they may be used to eating can actually make us sick and unhealthy. For the adults, let them do their own research. Take a look at our Amazon Store link where we suggest some great books. Don’t just take our word for it!
2. GET RID OF IT AND THEN STOCK UP – If you have grains, processed foods, junk food, or unhealthy foods in your home you may feel it hard to part with them. After all, you are facing the true fact that you are ready to get out of your comfort zone and get started. Some people find it easier to just toss those “foods” out, while some don’t want it to go to waste. This is up to you. While we understand the part about watching your money being tossed out in the form of processed food, we do feel the sooner you rid your home, and most importantly your body, of these foods the sooner you will begin to feel a whole lot healthier. If you are unsure about what to toss and what to keep, just send us an email. We are happy to help.
We highly recommend buying a freezer, either an upright or chest freezer as it is a good idea to buy meat in bulk. It will save you a lot of money in the long run (and even make up the cost of the freezer that you purchase).
Finally, when you are ready to head to the grocery store, make sure to have a good Grocery List with you. This one comes from our own kitchen. For some helpful hints and tips on using it, check out this post.
3. PICKY SCHMICKY – Have a picky eater? Well, we have one too, but she gets to eat no differently than we do and she doesn’t buy the food. Most of the time children are picky not because of any fault of their own, but because of us as parents. We give in. We feel we are starving them if they don’t eat what we fix and so we fix them something else unhealthy and this becomes a vicious cycle. They will not starve, trust us. With more and more children dealing with obesity, type 2 diabetes, allergies, etc. (this does not even scratch the surface), we truly need to get a handle on this. We have many recipes your picky child will enjoy as ours does. They may not enjoy it all at first, but they will find what they like. Work with them. Let them dish up their own plates. Encourage them to help in the kitchen and let them choose a few recipes. When they are involved, they are more likely to eat what they make. Have patience.
I should mention here too, that it isn’t just kids who are picky. I’ve met some pretty picky adults and what I hear the most is, “but, I don’t like vegetables.” Really? I have to nicely say, “get over it.” Usually when I press them enough I find there really are veggies they do like, but maybe they only liked them cooked a certain way. It seems much of this goes back to when they were a child. Maybe they have flashbacks of something they didn’t like that was always served at Thanksgiving and it tasted horrible. There were a lot of veggies and other foods I thought I didn’t like, but once they are cooked in different ways, mixed with other things, I found that I could even tolerate beets. I encourage you to try something new. Eating your vegetables is the best way to get the vitamins and nutrients you need. Get creative. I think you will find a whole new world of yumminess has opened up.
We have a lot of vegetarian and vegan options on this site. However, if you are a vegetarian or vegan who would like to start adding in animal protein to the diet, then this may be a little hard to adapt to at first. Take it slow. Maybe make up some bone broth. Try cutting chicken or other meats up into small pieces and mixing it into soups, etc. If you have no allergies to eggs, then that is a good protein source as well and may be easier to help ease into your new diet.
4. COOKING IS PRETTY EASY… REALLY – We get the fact that not everyone is a cook or even likes to cook that much. Yes, it is true; in order to eat better you either have to cook yourself or have someone do it for you (we are not talking about the fry cook at the fast food place or your favorite restaurant here either!). We were guests on Whole 9’s site here where we (along with some other chefs) offer up suggestions (some listed below) on spending less time in the kitchen and more time doing other things you enjoy. And if you do enjoy time in the kitchen, even better!
Pick out a few recipes on our site you think you may enjoy. Look in your refrigerator, see what you have on hand, then pick some recipes that include these ingredients and that way you are using up what you have and shopping is minimal. Plan a menu for the week around these recipes. Sunday is usually our day to plan and shop. You can also cook up more than one meal on Sunday and freeze some to save at a later date. This works great if you are limited in time for cooking during the week. Make extra so that you have some leftovers for your lunch the next day. Cook your food overnight in your Crockpot and have it ready the next day for your meals.
Everything – from shopping to cooking – gets done faster and better when well organized. We use a custom-made shopping check list sorted by the sections of the stores we shop at and inclusive of about 90% of the things we buy on a regular basis. A detailed list gets you into the store, looking for what you need, and cuts impulse buying. Print the list ahead of time and post it in the kitchen. When an ingredient is running low, check it on the list immediately. When putting together a weekly menu keep the list at hand and make sure to include any ingredients not currently “in stock.”
Before you start, have everything you need ready. Get the family involved too and the prep/cook time is very minimal. The recipe should be printed (even if it’s shorthand notes on a napkin) and placed within an easy glance of where you are working. The ingredients (including all spices and herbs) should be rounded up and roughly measured out. The pots, pans, knives and any other utensils should also be assembled and ready to go. Have the sink empty, the dishwasher put away, and the countertops clear. Keep the garbage can and compost buckets within an arm’s reach. Get all of your prep work done at one time – chopping the veggies or fruits first, and then the meat last.
5. WHAT DO I EAT FOR BREAKFAST? – We love this question. Who decided that pancakes, donuts, and waffles were good for us, let alone breakfast foods? Whatever you eat for lunch or dinner you can eat for breakfast. Of course there is always the ‘ol standby of bacon and eggs, which is fine with us. Here are a few of our favorite breakfast recipes. Check out the link on our site marked “Breakfast” for even more ideas.
- Bacon and Beef Frittata
- Sausage and Sweet Potato Hash
- Almond Pancakes (don’t over-use this one)
- Omelettes and Scrambles
- Turkey-Veggie Breakfast
6. WHAT DO I EAT FOR SNACK? – Ideally if you are getting a good hunk of protein at each meal and filling your plate with veggies and getting in some good fats then you really shouldn’t feel like you need a snack. Our friends at Whole 9 use a great example of this. If you feel like you are so hungry you could eat up some chicken and broccoli right now, then by all means have something good to eat, but if you don’t feel like eating that, then it is just a craving. We suggest steering clear of items such as Lara Bars and the like, unless in a pinch. We did a blog post about having food on the go which gives some great snack ideas that we list here:
- Any meat you have leftover
- Hardboiled eggs
- Deli Meat (Applegate or Boars Head are good brands)
- Sardines or Kippers (Packed. Wild Planet or Crown Prince are good brands)
- Pretty much all the veggies and some fruit. Including, but not limited to radishes, squash, jicama, carrots, broccoli, , cucumbers (pickles), tomatoes, sweet potatoes, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, peppers, squash, kohlrabi, and mushrooms. Slice up the veggies and put in a container with water in ice to keep them cool and fresh.
- Unsweetened coconut flakes
- Mixture of nuts that we made up ourselves of macadamia, cashews, walnuts, almonds.
- Homemade mayo is quick to make and can be a base for a great salad dressing or dipping sauce. Just add some balsamic vinegar and some “No-Salt” seasoning (we get this at Costco).
- Coconut butter/manna. Just a good bite of this and cravings will pass.
- Unsweetenend applesauce
- Yogurt – homemade. Fage’s “Total” brand (full-fat) is also great to add in some berries (we note to keep dairy to a minimum).
- Water can be flavored a bit with cucumber or lemon if you want a bit of a treat.
- Blackberry-Nut Clusters
- Kale Chips
7. CAN’T COOK WITHOUT IT – Some kitchen utensils we have not been able to live without include a food processor and a large Crockpot. A good set of All-Clad measuring cups and spoons, although a bit spendy, are sturdy enough to use as mini-saucepans to melt coconut oil and will last you forever. You will never have to buy another set. Well worth it. Nice knives are also a good investment, but not necessary at first.
For food, we suggest stocking up on some good spices. We go through a lot of “No-Salt” Seasoning, Old Bay, and cinnamon, but use plenty of other spices too. Make sure to check the bulk section for your basic spices as buying them in that area is so much cheaper than the baking aisle. Balsamic vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and pastured butter are also musts – olive oil for great taste when added after cooking (it is unstable if heated), and coconut oil or butter as the workhorse oils for cooking. If you aren’t a fan of the “coconut taste” in everything you cook, we recently discovered the Tropical Traditions Expeller Pressed Coconut Oil that is void of coconut flavor but still full of all the good stuff. We keep this on hand as well as the regular “virgin” coconut oil. Finally, we always make sure to have a batch of homemade mayo made up also.
8. DON’T GET TOO OVERWHELMED – We talk a lot about organic and purchasing locally. Don’t get hung up on that. Start by just heading to your local grocery store. You can gradually work in the organics and local foods, etc as you learn more. Here is a link to a good article written by Robb Wolf about the cost of the “diet” and another written by Diane Sanfilippo here. Think about how much less you will be spending on meds and doctor visits. Save up all the money you had been using for that latte every day and invest it more wisely.
9. YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO AT IT ALONE – Find a friend to help hold you accountable, preferably one who is also on board and you in turn can hold him/her accountable. Get outside or get into the gym. Get a partner to train with. Please remember, however, that you cannot outwork a crappy diet – so do not think for a minute that spending a few hours in the gym a week will negate any bad eating. It doesn’t work that way. We see it all the time. Set some fitness and eating goals. Log your progress. This helps to set trends and is a good way to see which foods agree and disagree with you, as this is definitely not a “one size fits all.”
10. WHAT HAVE YOU GOT TO LOSE? – So, what do you have to lose? Give it a genuine shot for 30 days (which really is not a long time at all). We honestly have yet to hear anyone tell us that this didn’t work for them. It’s how we are meant to eat as humans after all. It is diving into the unknowable and it can take some work, but the rewards that await you are more than worth it.
11. TRY THESE RECIPES TO START – Delicious main dishes, sides, and desserts. This doesn’t even scratch the surface, but they are great ones to get started. Most of these are our own “fall backs,” the recipes we go back to time and time again in our own kitchen.
- Sloppy Joes
- Lemon Chicken with Veggies
- Shepherds Pie
- Sausage and Kale Soup
- Teriyaki Stir Fry
- Salmon with Blueberry Sauce
- BLT Salad
- Chicken Taco Soup
- Onion Pepper Burgers
Sides, Salads, Dressings, and Soups
- Balsamic Italian Dressing
- BLT Salad with Homemade Mayo
- Honey Mustard Chicken Salad
- Roasted Eggplant with Peppers and Onions
- Coconut Creamed Greens
- Mango Salsa
- Sauteed Mushrooms
- Sweet Potato Fries
- Butternut Squash and Pear Soup
- Green Beans with Hazelnuts
Desserts (in moderation please)
- Triple Berry Crumble
- Grain-Free Chocolate Cupcakes
- Apple Crumble
- Coconut Ice Cream
- Chocolate Coconut Bars
- Karen’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
We hope this will help get you going. Feel free to shoot us an email if you have any further questions or concerns. We always look forward to hearing the progress people have made so feel free to share. If you have a recipe of your own to share, we would love to feature it on the blog and write a little story about you and your progress as well! Thanks for using our site and sharing it. We appreciate the support!