One of the important logistical tasks when starting Paleo (especially if you have decided to jump right in rather than start slowly) is to compile a list of items to pick up from the supermarket/health food store/food market. I thought I’d supply mine for anyone interested to find out what I consider my staples that make life that much simpler!
Oils ain’t oils
Fat is controversial, no doubt about it. What is “controversial” about Paleo is that the demonised saturated fats such as coconut oil and bacon fat are approved, whereas vegetable and seed oils, such as sunflower and soy, are out.
My list of oils:
- Avocado oil (this is a fruit remember) – works well as a salad dressing or to roast veggies
- Olive oil (as above, this is a fruit) – I use this occasionally for cooking and on salads
- Coconut oil and butter – I use the oil to cook my eggs each morning and to spread on buckwheat bread
- Bacon fat – I cook free range rashers of bacon on a wire rack and then collect the fat on a tray to use on vegetables at dinner…mmm!
- Macadamia – this is excellent as a salad dressing and also can be used in baking. Incredible flavour.
- Almond oil – this is also good in baking
Fruit and Veg
Ok, so fruit is an iffy area as excess fructose is considered damaging to the metabolic system and a cause of inflammation and fatty liver disease. At the moment, I’m not eating much fruit at all because I’m trying to fix my hypoglycemia for good (blood sugar swings resulting in low blood sugar) and my gut health, but the types of fruit I generally think are good in terms of bang for your buck nutritionally speaking are:
- Bananas – it’s a shame they’re still priced like gold bars but these are a veritable powerhouse fruit and great in baking
- Red or ruby grapefruit – studies link grapefruit to weight loss and good skin. This is much more palatable than the traditional yellow grapefruit
- Kiwi fruit – packed with awesome enzymes and Vit C, love these furry critters
- Berries – low fructose and high in Vit C
- Papaya or pawpaw – full of good enzymes
- Lychee – I love these for their silky texture and unmistakeable taste. They work a treat in cocktails too!
- Pink lady apple – these also have a beautiful, subtle flavour and apples are considered a great broom for the intestines
- The very occasional medjool date. God these are incredible.
Vegetables can also be high in fructose unfortunately, such as carrots and beetroots, but if you have no metabolic issues, munch away! Gillian McKeith, that hardcore tele-nutritionist from the UK, has been absolutely slated by some of the UK press (it’s happened to the best of us ;p) over her credentials, but I always remember her saying that everyone should make an effort to eat a rainbow and I can’t agree more. The colours of the vegetables represent different beneficial compounds of the vegetable (for example orange veggies have caretenoids) so it’s important to get a good mix as much as possible. Here are some ideas and if you want to see how creative you can be with veggies, check out my fave Paleo site Nom Nom Paleo…the woman is amazing!
- White: Onion, garlic, parsnip, leek, taro, cauliflower, artichoke
- Green: bok choy, baby spinach, English spinach (delicious sauteed with onion and cinnamon), broccoli, brussel spouts (great with bacon or tossed with avocado oil and roasted), zucchini (very versatile, for chips or “pasta”), other green leaf vegetables, sugar snap and snow peas, green beans, asparagus, cucumber
- Red: capsicum (delicious roasted or fried in a pan), tomato (ok this is technically a fruit!)
- Yellow: squash, yellow zucchini
- Orange: sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots
- Purple: cabbage, eggplant, spanish onion, beetroot, some sweet potato varieties
People tend to panic when told they can’t eat grains, especially when they think of the baked goods they’re so enamoured of. However, you CAN bake plenty of amazing, healthy treats within Paleo as long as you’re careful with your sweetener. Here is what I bake with:
- Free range eggs
- Oils – coconut, macadamia
- Almond flour/meal (must be the type with the skin removed first)
- Coconut flour
- Coconut milk
- Rice syrup (probably the best low GI option)
- Maple syrup, occasionally and only a small amount
- Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, ground ginger
- Fine celtic sea salt
- Dried fruits (though I’m not eating them much at the moment)
- Nuts – my favourites are pecan, macadamia, hazelnut and walnut
- Sesame and chia seeds – I use these when I make savoury biscuits or coconut bread
- Bi-carb/Baking soda
- Arrowroot (for thickening)
Herbs, spices and flavourings
Spices are definitely one of the important elements of a creative Paleo menu and really make dishes that much more zesty without a lot of effort. Along with this list, there’s also mixes such as harissa (which I want to try) and of course, Indian spice mixes.
- Dukkah (amazing Middle Eastern nut/spice mix that’s fantastic with chicken as a baste)
- Cinnamon and cloves
- Five spice
- Star anise
- Mustard powder
- Fine celtic sea salt
- Chilli flakes
- Tomato paste, tinned tomatoes
- Whole black pepper
- Sichuan peppercorns
- Thai curry pastes (yes, you can track some down with no nasty additives)
- Sesame seeds (great for rolling chicken pieces in before frying, so simple!)
- Fish sauce (mixed with garlic and ginger for an amazing and easy steak marinade)
- Fresh garlic (do not buy the Chinese stuff please, get the good purple variety)
- Fresh ginger
- Thai basil
- Italian basil
- Curry leaves
- Bay leaves
- Fresh chilli
- Lemons and limes
Where possible, it’s a good idea to source wild caught, sustainably produced fish. Farmed fish is generally a big no-no, on account of the fish being fed a distinctly non-fish diet of grain. Ridiculous right - ever seen a fish out in the wheat fields snacking on some bushels?
Here are the types of fish I tend to buy:
- Tinned mackerel fillets
- Tinned sardines in olive oil or brine (avoid the ones with flavours or vegetable oils)
- Anchovies (I’ve started buying these in big glass jars when I get my deli goods – not many brands use olive oil though which is what you need)
- Tinned Alaskan salmon (fresh salmon in Australia is farmed Atlantic salmon
- Smoked salmon (though truthfully, I think this is farmed which sucks, I would love to live closer to stocks of wild salmon)
- Blue grenadier or gemfish (beautiful sweet, white fish varieties)
- Fresh Prawns
- Tasmanian scallops
- Tinned tuna (I only eat this once a fortnight or less due to the mercury content of large fish)
Other great seafood options are lobster, calamari, oysters, octopus, crab and sashimi grade fish. I really want to learn how to cook seafood properly, this is a definite area of weakness for me.
Meat and Poultry
Good animal protein is a must in my humble opinion. I find my energy levels are much better if I get two serves of animal protein in per day. Not to mention helping me to get those all important amino acids which are crucial for building things such as neurotransmitters. Here’s what I tend to eat:
- Grass fed beef (it can be difficult to get meat that is both grass fed and finished, most is finished on grain)
- Free range chicken – mince, breasts with bone in (great for baking), breasts without bone or skin, free range BBQ chicken, Portugese chicken (mmm!)
- Goat – great for curries and a non-pasta ragu
- Free range pork products (good cuts are middle bacon, pork belly, pork shoulder with bone in
- Free range turkey – turkey mince for example makes for great burger patties
- Lamb – lamb shanks are pretty damn good slow cooked. Of course there’s also sweet lamb chops, rack of lamb and lamb mince for burger patties
- Bones, for making stock and to make some yummy drinking broth. Beef bones, chicken and pork bones are the ones most commonly used
This is another area to concentrate on when getting prepared to switch to Paleo because it’s easy to come undone when there’s no longer a chocolate bar around!
- Nuts – pecans, macadamias, walnuts, brazils, hazelnuts
- Fruit – as above, though I tend to stick to low fructose options like berries
- Coconut butter (this is different to the oil)
- Coconut chips (warning, these can be addictive)
- Coconut milk
- A glass of coconut milk sprinkled with cinnamon
- Zucchini and root vegetable chips
- Almond, macadamia and hazelnut butter
Condiments and Miscellaneous
- Baba ganoush
- Olives – having a total love affair with olives at the moment. I particularly like to OD on Sicilian olives, I like their distinct apple green hue.
- Olive tapenade – did I mention I like olives?
- Almond, macadamia and hazelnut butter as above
I’m hardcore, I like herbal tea. Here’s what I find myself sipping day to day:
- Tulsi Rose tea
- Yogi tea range – loving Aztec sweet chilli and Hazelnut vanilla
- Campos coffee – mostly swiss water decaf but I also mix in some organic too. I’ve found that I get a really good quality brew using a simple stainless steel stovetop cafetiere (please please please never use aluminium ones if you want to keep your marbles!) Coffee is most likely not Paleo at all, I’m a deviant at times, what can I say ;p
- Fresh coconut water. I’m lucky enough to get this occasionally from The Suveran in Bondi Junction. Get a free coconut when you spend more than a tenner. Yum! Though you do get funny looks if you take it away and walk down the street sucking on a big coconut. I have now seen coconut water with no crap added in the aisles of Coles. I froze one and snacked on it just like in the olden days with fruit poppers. Ah, those weren’t the days.
- Mineral water with fresh lime. No idea why, but I love limes. A lot.
- Liquor – yes, Paleo is not all boring. Of course, alcohol is strictly not Paleo at all, but like I’ve mentioned before, it’s not much fun to stick to a dogma all the time. My drink of choice is Bombay gin with soda water and fresh lime (maybe a couple of drops of stevia if I’m feeling wild). I know others who make cocktails out of coconut milk and vodka, which I’ll get around to one of these days.