paleo network which type onion use yellow brown sweet red white shallot

Which type of onion should you use?

So you’ve got some red onions left over and no time to pop out to buy yellow ones – can you use them? Well onions aren’t all made the same, whilst it’s not the end of the world if you use the “wrong” type, for best results you’ll appreciate selecting the most appropriate type of onion for each recipe.

paleo network which type onion use yellow brown sweet red white shallot

Firstly, how to pick a good onion?

Make sure there are no obvious bruises or softness that may indicate the onion is old. They should feel heavy, firm and not have too strong-an onion odour before you peel them.

Brown Onions

Also known as yellow onions. These are the work-horse of the onion family and for me, the type I use most frequently. They can be used in many different dishes and are fairly sweet. The longer you cook them, the sweeter they’ll be.

White Onions

Cook these exactly as you would brown onions, but you’ll find them less sweet and with a sharper flavour. They’ll hold their texture far better on cooking than the brown onion. If you’re going for a raw recipe like a salsa, these would be my preference.

Sweet Onions

Whilst these may look similar to yellow onions, they are, as the name might suggest, even sweeter. These are another good option to eat raw in things like salads.

Red Onions

These taste similar to the brown onion, but won’t become as tender. They’re great for dishes requiring vibrant colour. The flavour can be toned down by soaking them in water before use, making them great to add to colourful salsas and salads.

Shallots

These are a lot milder and great for more delicate recipes where you don’t want a strong onion flavour to take-over.

What type on onions do you use in which dishes? Do you eat them raw?

Ugly fruit vegetables paleo network

What happens to the ugly ones?

I was interested to read that Australian retailer Woolworths are now selling ugly, misshapen fruit and vegetables. Normally when you go into a supermarket there is no variety whatsoever. Carrots all look identical and perfectly shaped. Apples are all shinny and the exact same size, with no blemishes. But if you’ve grown fruit and vegetables yourself, you’ll know this is not how most of your harvest will usually turn out. In fact, I’m convinced the “ugly” fruit and vegies actually taste better in my paleo cooking than their aesthetically pleasing alternatives.

Ugly fruit vegetables paleo network

This move by Woolworths does make me wonder – what do the growers usually do with this fruit and veg? The official line is that this new initiative will reduce waste – but I can’t believe they’d otherwise just let this misshapen produce rot. Surely those processed and ready meals and sauces already receive ugly fruit and vegetables? Aren’t oddly shaped tomatoes the ideal candidates for tomato sauce? Don’t they used some of the produce as animal feed?

I think most of the food waste happens in our kitchens up and down the country. How many of us are guilty of over purchasing fresh produce, with good intentions – then finding it rotting a week later? Unfortunately I can’t help but think cheaper fruit and veg would make this problem worse, as it could encourage us to buy more than we’re realistically going to eat.

Surely it would be better if we could just accept a carrot is a carrot. Instead of selling cosmetically perfect carrots and ugly carrots, can’t they just sell us carrots? Those of us making a stew could pick them at random, and those with high carrot expectations could rummage around to find the prefect specimens.

I’d love to hear your views. Would you buy ugly fruit and veg, or is beautiful produce important to you?

picky eater paleo diet fussy

How to get a picky eater to go paleo

We’ve all heard about those people who come with a huge list of foods they cannot possibly eat. Or worse still, those who can only eat from a restrictive list of very specific foods – and the acceptable foods always seem to be things like pizza or chicken nuggets, rather than green vegetables.

So when you know a paleo approach will benefit the picky-eater’s health, how can you help them break through their fussiness, to give paleo a fair go?

picky eater paleo diet fussy

Firstly, start off with a list of what your picky eater will and won’t eat (at the moment).

Why are they a picky eater?

Firstly, you need to understand why they’re a picky eater. Are they just a creature of habits, deeply stuck in their ways? Have they been eating the same restricted foods since childhood? If this is the case, could these familiar foods be somehow comforting to the picky eater? Or perhaps the reality is your picky eater is addicted to processed foods?

If they do lean heavily towards these foods, it’s best to ease them into paleo slowly. They like pizza – so make them a paleo pizza. Pasta addict – give them some pasta alternatives. Cake fan – wean them off slowly with some paleo baked treats.

What if they genuinely don’t like lots of foods?

If they absolutely hate the taste of lots of paleo-friendly foods, have they actually tried them recently? Is a memory of nasty Brussel Sprouts from school-days putting them off all green vegetables? Try re-exposing them to these foods again, if they’re willing to try them several times, they may find their tastes change. If this doesn’t work, how about hiding the veggies in a sauce, smoothie, or other dish and starting from there? Spinach is a great vegetable to add to dishes, as it vastly reduces in volume once it’s cooked, so could be barely noticeable in a curry.

Another possibility is that your picky eater has sensory issues – that is they are bothered by the texture and flavour of the foods they eat. Find out what is acceptable to them, and see if it can be replicated. If they like a crunchy texture, perhaps a dehydrator will be key.

Have you helped a formerly picky eater expand their food horizons? How did you do it, do share, in the comments below.

Paleo diet pegan vegan

Paleo is old news, it’s all about the Pegan diet now…

Have you heard of Pegan? It’s what you get when you combine Paleo, with Vegan. So…. How does that work?

Well, as we know, Paleo is eating natural, whole, unprocessed foods: meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, nuts, seeds and fruit. Vegan is a whole step further than vegetarian and doesn’t involve any food that comes from an animal. So no meat (obviously), but also no eggs and no dairy. Vegans would typically turn to grains for energy and legumes (like soy) for protein.

Paleo diet pegan vegan

When Paleo + Vegan = Pegan, we’re left with just vegetables, nuts, seeds and fruit. There’s no grains, no legumes, no meat, no fish, no eggs and no dairy. The food would be GMO-free, ideally organic and free of chemicals and preservatives.

On a Pegan approach cooking is harder, as vegan friendly oils like vegetable, soybean, canolia, sunflower oil or margarine aren’t allowed as they aren’t paleo. Paleo friendly oils like animal fats (tallow, lard, bacon grease etc) butter and ghee aren’t allowed because they’re not vegan. This leave good old coconut oil, olive oil, and perhaps other nut oils like macadamia and avocado oil to cook with.

To make a Pegan diet work, you’d need to really focus on fats and proteins and would need to rely on foods like avocado, coconut and nuts for fat consumption – whilst at the same time making sure not to over eat nuts, and upset your omega 3/ 6 ratio. Protein would have to be sought from seeds, vegetables and nuts. The bulk of your diet would need to be plant food, with lots of leafy green vegetables.

My verdict on the Pegan Diet

I can’t help but see the Pegan diet as just too restrictive. I think it would be almost impossible to obtain sufficient B-vitamins from this diet alone, without supplementing. But I do think we can take a few things from this Paleo-Vegan approach.

Instead of focusing on having meat & fish in our diet, I think we should focus on the quality of that meat and fish. Where we can, we should be eating organic, ethical meat. Fish should be wild, line caught and we should consider mercury content. I think eggs are a great food to eat – but again, quality is everything. And where eggs aren’t stamped, we need to be even more careful to make sure we know where our eggs are from. I think a vegan diet places more emphasis on vegetables than paleo sometimes does – and it’s a good reminder that we should make sure we’re eating a wide variety of differently coloured veggies.

Would you go Pegan? Or is It a step too far?

Australian not healthy star ratings system paleo network

Have you seen who’s behind the (not so) Healthy Star Ratings system?

I saw a TV commercial recently for Uncle Toby’s Oat sachets and the main focus of the advert was how amazingly healthy they are. Apparently these Oats achieve a “4 healthy star rating” – and the higher the star rating, the healthier the product. So they say. Whilst I don’t want to pick on oats specifically, as I think they’re probably one of the not-as-bad-as-the-other-cereals out there, it really highlights how dangerously misleading these Healthy Star Ratings are. Initially I thought the Healthy Rating System was just based on old, outdated (incorrect) advice, but when I saw who was involved in it’s creation, it took a far more sinister turn.

Healthy Star Ratings system paleo network

What are Healthy Star Ratings?

This is an Australian initiative, and it’s jointly funded by the Australian, state and territory governments, and developed in partnership with industry and public health and consumer groups.

I took a further look into these groups, who have jointly developed these ratings, and they include the Australian Beverages Council, and the Australian Food and Grocery Council.

And just who makes up these bodies?

Members of the Australian Beverages Council include:

  • Coca-Cola Amatil Pty Ltd
  • Coca-Cola South Pacific
  • Heinz Australia P/L
  • PepsiCo Australia Holdings Pty Ltd
  • Red Bull Australia Pty Ltd
  • Tropico Fruits Pty Ltd

Among many others… (Surely we’re not going to ever see health ratings on Red Bull?)

The Australian Food and Grocery Council has on its board:

  • Clive Stiff who is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for Unilever Australia & NZ – their brands include Bertolli, Streets Ice Cream and my favourite Flora pro-activ
  • Trevor Clayton who is Chief Executive Officer for Nestle Australia Ltd
  • Andrew Towle who is Managing Director for Kellogg (Australia) Pty Ltd
  • Darren O’Brien who is Managing Director for Mondelez Foods Australia (better known as Kraft Foods and Cadbury)
  • Michael Ryan who is General Manager of Mars Chocolate, and
  • Peter West, Managing Director of Lion Dairy & Drinks

So the very companies who produce packaged, processed convenience food have very helpfully come up with a healthy star rating system? And we’re supposed to use this to tell us what is healthy food we should be eating lots of?

How to get a high star rating?

No surprisingly the star system is based on the old beliefs that whole grains are good for us, and fat to be avoided. Products receiving above 4 stars will include whole-grain foods, low-fat milk and reduced fat cheese, and extra lite (urgh I hate that word, theirs, not mine) spreads.

And how to get a low rating?

Products getting below 1 star include those that are full fat, regular fat yoghurt, high saturated fat cheese, salted butter, coconut oil (yes, they expressly list coconut oil on the less healthy foods list) and of course, untrimmed meats. So we can pretty much assume if it’s a natural, unprocessed, paleo food, it won’t get a high healthy star rating.

So I’ve come up with a new system to help you use the star rating system to identify healthy foods:

If it has a healthy star rating, avoid it tweet this quote

What’s your opinion on the Healthy Star Rating system?

six ways to stick to paleo diet hard to stick to paleo network

6 ways to make sure your paleo diet is not hard to stick to

A common response to the idea of eating a paleo diet, is that surely it must be so difficult to stick to. All the changes, all the cooking – it seems impossible to keep up, long term, right?

Well, I think once you’ve established a few habits and patterns, it would be harder not to stick to it.

Here’s six ways to make sure it’s not hard to stick to a paleo diet, but becomes an easy part of your life

paleo six ways to make it not hard to stick to

1.       Know why it makes sense

If you’ve researched and read about paleo and why it works, it becomes so much easier to stick to

2.       Try it, properly

If you can stick to a strict version of a paleo diet religiously, for 30 days you’ll have the chance to see what difference it makes to you. You’ll observe how differently you feel in terms of energy, skin, sleep, mood and specific health issues. Knowing that eating paleo can significantly improve your health will make it much, much harder to go back to your old way of eating.

3.       Support

Support can make the world of difference. Paleo has got so popular, you’ll hopefully have someone in your life following it too. But as time goes by and people see the changes in you, they’re more likely to give it a try too. If you don’t have any real life support, check out meetups in your area, you’ll find local support and encouragement will make all the difference to your sticking power.

4.       Organisation

A lot of people waiver from their paleo diet due to lack of organisation. You overslept and missed breakfast, or got home too late to cook. One non-paleo meal becomes two, then before you know it you’re more 20/80, than 80/20. I find batch cooking at the weekend helps a lot with this, making sure my freezer is stocked with paleo meals that just need to be reheated. A paleo emergency stash at work (of nuts, jerky and even tinned fish) can ensure you’re not caught hungry with no options. If you know you’re going to a social function that’s likely to have poor food choices, plan in advance and either take something along, or even eat before you go – this way it won’t be hard to stick to paleo.

5.       Work out alternatives

You’re not going to be eating bread, or pasta on your paleo diet. But if you can come up with alternatives and substitutions, you’ll be ready to deal with situations where you’d have eaten those foods. Used to take sandwiches to work? Try taking wraps instead (made with lettuce, or nori). Used to have spaghetti Bolognese every Friday? Try it with zucchini noodles instead. Not so hard to stick to anymore!

6.       Be realistic

It’s important to avoid being too “all or nothing”. It’s easy to slip and have one small non-paleo thing, then tell yourself it’s all ruined, you might as well write the day/ week off. Instead, take a more flexible approach. Maybe agree with yourself to be 80/20 paleo. That is 80% of your diet is paleo, and you’re ok with up to 20% “not paleo”. If you strive for 100%, but achieve 80% you won’t be disappointed with yourself.

How easy do you find it to stick to paleo? What tips would you give to others finding it hard to stick to a paleo diet?

borderline paleo food paleo network

Borderline paleo food

Eating a strict paleo diet is simple; meat, veggies, eggs, nuts, seeds and a little fruit. Right? What about all those borderline foods? Are they paleo, or not?

borderline paleo food grey area

Dairy

Dairy is a huge grey area for a lot of people following a paleo diet. Strictly speaking, a paleo diet omits all dairy, since it contains lactose and casin, which a lot of people can’t tolerate and other components, such as IGF-1 which may be harmful. Of course, dairy encompasses a huge wealth of foods, some better than others. Fermented dairy, such as kefir and traditional yoghurt, is going to be a lot better than highly processed dairy, such as skim milk. The key is to try it for yourself and find out what works for you.

Fruit

Yes, the fruit we’re encouraged to eat every day is a food I would consider borderline paleo. Fruit, being carbohydrate, is packed full of sugar. Yes, it contains vitmains and is natural – but the sugar can’t be ignored. Of course, not all fruit is equal, and whilst I’d avoid high sugar fruit like apples and melons, berries are great as they are far lower in sugar.

Safe starches

There’s been a lot of talk lately about safe starches.  A safe starch is a carbohydrate that is low in anti-nutrients, such as phytates, for example sweet potatoes, plantain, yucca, tapioca, white potatoes and white rice. To slow down the glucose release, and lessen the insulin response from the carbs, they are best eaten with fat and protein. Why are these borderline? Clearly rice is a grain – and white potatoes are a nightshade. Whilst paleo is not, by definition, low carb, many people do take a low carb approach and should therefore take a considered approach with safe starches.

Non-paleo “Vegetables”

Corn on the cob and green beans might sit nicely on the plate masquerading as vegetables, but they’re not. Sweetcorn is a grain and the green beans legumes; both food groups which are excluded on a paleo diet.

Paleo sweeteners

Whilst honey and stevia might seem like far more natural options than table sugar, the fact is, in your blood stream they’re all the same. Whilst some sweeteners may more natural than others, they’re best off avoided.

Paleo baked goods

The more popular paleo becomes, the more popular paleo breads, paleo cookies and paleo cakes become. They might be made with almond meal and coconut flour, and use dates as a natural sweetener – but take care with these. They often still have a lot of sugar and are best kept as an occasional treat.

Pseudo grains

We know how bad gluten is – wheat is a grain strictly avoided on paleo. There are a lot of other pseudo grains that don’t contain gluten, that are become popular, especially amaranth, buckwheat, and quinoa. Whilst a lot better than conventional grains, it’s worth bearing in mind that gluten-free and paleo aren’t the same thing!

 Manufactured meat

So we know meat is paleo, but it becomes a lot more borderline when we look at things like bacon, sausages, hamburgers and cured meats. If you’ve not made them yourself, you need to know how they’ve been made, as many processes will use sugar, soy and chemicals that most definitely aren’t paleo

Is beer paleo alcohol larger paleo network

Is beer paleo?

I’ve randomly had a few questions about beer this week, along the lines of “is beer paleo” and “which beer is the most paleo friendly” and (perhaps more accurately) “which beer is the least bad on a paleo diet“

So it looks like beer is one of the things people miss most from their pre-paleo days.

Is beer Paleo Network

So firstly, what is beer made of?

Beer tends to be made with rice, wheat or barley and hops. Yeast enables to sugars in the barley and wheat to ferment into something resembling beer. The problem, is with the wheat. As we know, grains are avoided on a paleo diet, because they contains anti-nutrients, namely phytates, lectins and of course (in the case of wheat) gluten. There are some gluten-free beers available, but as is the case with “health foods”, often removing one ingredient (i.e. gluten), requires lots of additives to successfully remove it.

If gluten is your main issue, you may have luck looking for beer made with rice or the grain sorghum. Clearly still grains, but gluten-free.

The other thing to consider is the sugar content, which can be significant. Whilst cider can be a good alternative to beer, the issue of sugar content is still there. Spirits like tequila or vodka may be a better alternative if you’re looking for a replacement alcoholic beverage (but with a soda water mixer, rather than a juice or soft drink mixer).

But ultimately, if you want to enjoy an occasional pint, personally, I think you should enjoy your favourite craft beer as an occasional treat, instead of tolerating a gluten-free version. Let’s face it, it’s not going to taste as good – and it’s never going to be a health food.

Do you (still) drink beer? Have you found a good brand – and does the gluten content have any adverse effects on you?

Where does your food come from paleo network

So you think you know where your food comes from?

I saw a documentary the other day that was both fascinating and disturbing. I’ve given so much thought to the quality of what I eat, eating locally and seasonally – and avoiding processed foods. But it turns out there’s a significant aspect to what I eat that I hadn’t considered.

So you think you know where your food comes from ethical exploited workers farms Paleo Network

Who is involved in getting your food from the field to your plate?

The documentary focused mainly on fruit and vegetable farms right here, in Australia. I’m always careful to make sure all of my produce is Australian and I’d naively assumed those involved in picking and packing would be protected and treated fairly. Apparently this is not the case.

Whilst the majority of the work force at these farms is lawful and “on the books”, many of them were reported to rely on cheap workers, who are often forced to work incredibly long hours, underpaid, and in some cases struggle to get paid at all. The farms go through 3rd party labour providers, which seems to be a way they can bury their heads in the sand, claiming they had no idea the workers were being mistreated. Many of the third party labour providers were reported to with-hold part of the minimum $21 hourly wage the workers had earnt, which is clearly illegal.

Significant numbers of the farm workers are in Australia on Working Holiday Visa’s –the exact visa I first came into the country on. This visa enables the holder to work for 12 months, but it is possible to extend it to two years on completion of qualifying farm work. It appears the promise of granting the valuable second year visa extensions allows a lot of the farms to manipulate the workers even further.

I was also amazed at the sheer volume and range of well-known companies and brands some of these farms were reported to be supplying. With salad, fruit and vegetables going to all of the major supermarkets (often packed as their own brand) as well as restaurants and fast food outlets, it seems almost impossible to have the confidence to buy produce that you can be certain is not from exploited workers.

Is there any way we can be certain the food we’re eating was picked and packed ethically?

Weird paleo google searches paleo network

This month’s weird google searches

I’ve written before about the bizarre google searches that lead to people finding my blog. So I thought it was time I shared some new ones – and of course answered them, just in case they’re still looking for their answer.

  • what to feed a maltese dog that has allergies and is sick of eating kangaroo mince???

That age old problem when your dog is fed up of kangaroo meat eh….  Another person googled…

  • my staffy won’t eat anything else except cooked chicken

So it looks like there is a global problem with dogs being fussy or selective eaters. My advice, as a non-current-dog-owner is not to give in to your dog’s picky or selective tendencies and just feed it whatever you choose.

paleo network google searches weird funny strange paleo network

Despite the magic protective powers of the paleo diet, it looks like some people have still been getting colds – and even the flu! Surely there must be a mistake?

  • why do i have a cold on a paleo diet
  • what is this flu that’s going around melbourne
  • virus going around canberra
  • bad flu going around Sydney

If you’re going out and about in Melbourne, Canberra or Sydney – look out for germs!

  • how do I get more oil in my diet but not fat?

Hmmm, I hate to break it to you – but oil is fat. Coconut oil, olive oil, peanut oil – they’re all fat….

  • paleo replacement for peanut butter and jelly sandwich

Well this is a difficult one. The classic PBJ is made of bread – not paleo; peanut butter, not paleo; and jelly/ jam – not paleo. How about if we substitute the bread for celery, swap the peanut butter for almond butter and use real strawberries as an alternative for the jelly? Not quite doing it for you?

  • started paleo and my wife says I smell different

Perhaps you’ve spilt bone broth down your shirt?

  • what animal parts make mince
  • what part of the cow is mincemeat

I wish I could say the rump, but in reality the whole point on mince/ ground meat is to make use of parts of the animal that would otherwise be wasted. So your answer is likely to be mainly the offcuts.

  • coconut oil for suffocating insect

Er, how about no? Maybe you could let it outside if it’s bothering you?

  • paleo alternative for lasagne can be penne pasta

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s not the shape of the pasta that makes it not paleo. Spaghetti, Fusilli, Vermicelli, Fettuccine, Tagliatelle, Macaroni or Farfalle – it doesn’t matter – they’re not paleo.

  • margarine substitute paleo

This is an easy one – how about coconut oil or butter (if you do dairy)

  • paleo substitute for soy turkey

Gosh, I must be missing something here. Instead of eating synthetic soy turkey, what could you possibly have that is paleo instead? Hmmmmm…. How about TURKEY?!

  • should  I eat genetically modified crops?

Probably best to avoid those GMO’s

  • kangaroo versus ostrich fillets which is better?

Decisions, decisions…. Kangaroo or Ostrich. It can be hard living in Australia sometimes. Having never tried Ostrich, I don’t feel qualified to comment – if you have, perhaps you could help this person out by leaving your preference in the  comments?

  •  will I still have weight loss on paleo if everything isn’t organic

Whilst in an ideal world everything we’d eat would be organic (local, seasonal and unprocessed), in the real world it’s not always so easy. Fortunately this shouldn’t impact on your weight loss efforts.

  • what kind of knives do they use on my kitchen rules

Good question! And one that seems hard to find the answer too. Master Chef use Global Knives, and judging by the amount of blue band aids the contestants have – they’re clearly very sharp!

  • is buying a restaurant in a food court a good idea

Well, I might be biased, but I’d say probably not if it’s a fast food restaurant, I don’t think they’re doing so well these days. But a real food restaurant – now we’re talking!

  • paleo crocodile recipe

Unfortunately I’m all out of paleo crocodile recipes at the moment, but as soon as I’ve experimented with snake recipes, I’ll move straight onto crocodile recipe  development!

  • is the teflon coating on paleo

No, definitely not. Don’t eat it – and if it starts to come off, it’s time to throw your pan away!

  • what counts as two dress sizes

Er, is this a trick question? Maybe going from a size 14 to a size 10?