Gwyneth Paltrow fails the food challenge-min

Gwyneth Paltrow fails the food challenge

After doing my own $50 food challenge and seeing first hand just how hard it is to eat well on a budget, I was some what bemused to see Gwyneth Palttrow’s attempts to feed her family on a budget. The #FoodBankNYCChallenge she undertook was to eat on $29 USD (equivalent to about $37 AUD). This was said to be the average amount an American receiving food stamps gets on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – though apparently the true amount is actually closer to $45 USD. I’ve found food considerably cheaper in the US, so I suspect your money would go a lot further there.

Gwyneth lasted four days on the challenge before she had to give up and eat some chicken and black licorice. As you do.

Food choices

Gwyneth’s choices are very different to mine. Here’s what she bought:

  • a dozen eggs,
  • black beans,
  • green peas,
  • onion,
  • avocado,
  • brown rice,
  • soft tortillas,
  • lettuce,
  • garlic,
  • scallions (spring onions),
  • cilantro (coriander),
  • a sweet potato,
  • a tomato,
  • an ear of corn and
  • seven limes

Yes, she bought seven limes. Whilst limes (and avocados) may be considerably cheaper in Southern California than they are here – there are far better ways to stretch a budget than by buying limes. The whole shopping basket is low calorie and low fat.

Vitamins v Calories

Whilst the food bought may be great from a nutritional perspective – there just aren’t enough calories. The food she bought works out at about 1000 calories a day. And when you’re on a budget, calories are important, especially if you’re doing physical work or have a family to look after.

I would look at food from a cost-per-calorie perspective and try to bulk meals out with potatoes and rice (whilst not strictly paleo, I think white rice is a good compromise on a very tight budget). Meat is expensive – but bones can be cheap. A huge pot of bone broth is great alone, or as the base of many dishes and must be one of the cheapest things you can make.

I’d be really flexible with my fresh produce, and based it entirely off what is in season – and what is sold off at the end of the day, or is on special offer. Unless organic food was cheaper than conventional, I’d accept it as an unrealistic option. I’d happily buy packs of frozen veg, if they worked out cheaper than their fresh equivalent.

How would you manage a strict food budget of under $40 a week?

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7 signs intolerant dairy lactose casein lactase allergic symptoms milk Paleo Network-min

7 signs you’re dairy intolerant

Dairy is a huge dividing issue in the paleo world. Strict paleo would omit dairy, but a lot of people take a more primal approach and include good quality dairy in their diet. My study showed most people who identify with paleo do in fact consume some dairy. The deciding factor here is if you are dairy intolerant or not. And how would you know?

7 signs intolerant dairy lactose casein lactase allergic symptoms milk Paleo Network-min

Whilst not scientific, there are a few warning signs that will give you a pretty big clue you don’t tolerate dairy well. But what is it in the dairy that may not agree with you? Well, it’s not as simple as saying it’s the dairy, you could well have a reaction to the lactose, or the casein contained in dairy.

Today, I’m going to look at a Lactose Intolerance specifically, as this is the dairy component that seems to be most troublesome for so many people. Whilst Northern Europeans seem to tolerate lactose fairly well due to a long, long history of doing so, in other populations most people are lactose intolerant.

What does lactose intolerance mean?

Simply, this occurs when you stop making the enzyme lactase, which is required to digest lactose. Without lactase, bacteria will metabolise the lactose instead. Whilst not a serious condition, it is going to be uncomfortable and frustrating for the unwitting dairy consumer.

So what are the symptoms?

1. Symptoms are going to centre around your digestive system, so look out for:

2. Bloating

3. Gas…. Say no more

4. Crams and pains in your abdomen

5. How to put this nicely… loose bowel movements, sometimes very loose

6. Strange noises coming from your digestive system

7. In severe cases vomiting

8. Unexplained tiredness

Important to note is how soon they symptoms came on after consuming the dairy? And what type of dairy was it?

What next?

If you suspect you may be intolerant to dairy, you need to find out.

The best way to test this is by an elimination diet. No dairy whatsoever for 30 days. See how you feel, are the symptoms still there? If you’ve been symptom free, you can test this further by gradually introducing back in certain dairy products. I’ve heard some people will be fine with hard cheeses for example, but not soft cheese. Whatever you introduce, make sure it’s in isolation, and wait at least three days before bringing another dairy variable into the mix. You can experiment with raw dairy, fermented dairy, perhaps you’ll find clarified butter; ghee has a different impact on you.

Do you suspect you’re dairy intolerant? Do you consume it?

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5 ways to pick a good coconut oil-min

5 ways to pick a good coconut oil

Coconut oil is like wine – there are lots of great ones if you know where to look, just as there are some very disappointing ones out there! So make sure you get what you’re paying for.

We all know by now how good coconut oil is, it’s a great way to get more fat in your diet, it’s really stable at high temperatures and it’s really good for cooking in. But if you’ve recently searched for coconut oil, you’d be forgiven for feeling completely overwhelmed and confused at the choices available.

5 ways to pick a good coconut oil-min

So, what do you need to consider?

Choice One: Refined or Unrefined.

Coconut oil is either refined, or unrefined. A refined oil won’t have that coconut taste or smell, so it can be a good one to have on hand for cooking more delicate dishes, that you don’t want to take on that distinct coconut flavour. Refined coconut oils will still have a great fatty acid profile (and full of those great MCT’s). If the label doesn’t specify, assume it’s a refined oil. Of course to refine the oil is to process it. So if you can, stick with an unrefined oil – but this is great to have on hand for a particular recipe that demands it, or if you’re cooking for someone who can’t stand the taste of coconut.

Unrefined oil is a staple in my house. It does have the distinct coconut flavour, however, between brands there is a huge variation. Some taste way milder than others, so it’s best to try a few until you work out which is your favourite.

Choice Two: Virgin or Extra Virgin.

You’ll likely only see these labels on unrefined coconut oil and unfortunately there seems to be a lot of ambiguity about what they actually mean. As a base assumption, virgin and extra virgin should be a lot purer, and from the first pressing of the coconut.

Choice Three: Expeller-Pressed, Cold-Pressed and Centrifuged

Your next option is how the oil was extracted from the coconut. The less heat used in the process, the more raw the final product – the milder the flavour will be. If the extraction process did heat the oil, it’s not too much of a concern as coconut oil is so stable at high temperatures.

Choice Four: Bulk, Jar or Spray

Your next choice is how you buy the oil. If you use a lot of it, you’ll do far better buying in bulk, instead of individual jars. And as I’ve written about before – I strongly suggest you avoid buying a spray can of coconut oil!

Choice Five: Where to buy

I find it so expensive to buy coconut oil local unfortunately – it’s also hard to find it in bulk quantities. I buy mine from iherb, who ship internationally (get $5 off using code DUV741). It works out far cheaper and they’re got such a big range you can experiment with a few, to work out which you prefer.

And if you do buy a bad one? Don’t throw it away – there are loads of non-edible uses for it!

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Grow your own veggies vegetable patch organic gardening Paleo Network

Why I’m growing my own veggies

Just a few weeks ago I converted the old sand pit that the previous occupants of my house had left behind, to a vegetable patch. Well, when I say converted, I mean mixed some topsoil into the sand. I also re-purposed an old archway they’d left behind into a climbing frame for some green beans.

I put in loads of different seeds to see what would work, and basically forgot about them – until yesterday I saw 28 fully grown beans climbing up the arch! The basil is also working well, but it looks like the spinach I planted has been a bit too much of a hit with the slugs.

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I’d love to become completely self-sufficient, even if just for vegetables – hopefully with a bit more experimentation I’ll be able to plant more of what works and abandon planting seeds that have no chance in my garden.

Vegetables are surprisingly expensive to buy – and there’s no choice. There are perhaps three varieties of tomatoes, one type of zucchini, two spinach varieties – whereas in the real world there are hundreds of varieties. Take the beans as an example, they’re currently about $5 a kilo at my local supermarket (non-organic). I bought the entire packet of seeds for $1.50 and it looks like I’m going to get quite a big crop.

I also love the idea of being able to pick my dinner off the vine/ plant immediately before cooking it. You really can’t get any fresher than that! Of course, I can also guarantee that my veg hasn’t been sprayed with nasty chemicals, so that’s another huge win. And what can be more satisfying than eating the rewards of your labour!

I’m hoping that since temperatures never really get down to a frost here, I’ll be able to grow something all year round. But failing that hopefully with the aid of my dehydrator, some pickling recipes and my freezer, I should be able to wean off buying my veggies from the supermarket.

Whilst I have got a garden, I’m hardly using any space for my veg – if you’ve just got a balcony, or can squeeze in a window box, you’d be amazed what you can grow – give it a try!

I’d love to hear if you grow your own veggies, and what you’ve had most success with! Any tips would be gratefully received!

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Is bacon really bad unhealthy nitrates processed paleo

Is bacon really so bad?

Whenever I even mention the b word I get called out. Yep, apparently bacon is highly processed and must be avoided at all costs.

But is it really bad?

Almost everything we eat is processed in one way or another. We buy our meat cut, or maybe ground. We buy our meat dried or frozen. When I think of processed meat, I think of meat that has been ground up, combined with chemicals and other dubious ingredients and given a completely new form and shape (think “chicken” nuggets and hot dogs). Bacon is not processed like this.

Bacon bad for you nitrates sodium cured processed pork belly preserved Paleo Network

Why is bacon so different?

Bacon has been around for a long time, from the days we needed to preserve our meat to enable us to keep it for longer without it going bad. I don’t think the fact it’s preserved is the issue – the issue is how it’s preserved – and there are a lot of differences here.

Traditionally, bacon would have been preserved using salt, but since we’ve all got so worried about the wrong things being unhealthy, we now avoid sodium like the plague – so many modern techniques use ingredients that are a long way from natural, to preserve the meat.

If you’ve looked at the ingredients on packs on bacon, you’ll have seen huge differences. Looking at my local store, they offer bacon with contents between 83% and 95% pork – clearly the lower pork content bacon is to be given a wide berth.

But what about the other ingredients in packages bacon? Here are the ingredients I found, in various quantities:

  • Water,
  • Salt,
  • Dextrose (Corn), Dextrose (Maize),
  • Hydrolysed Vegetable Protein (Maize)
  • Sucrose, Sugar (yes – they add SUGAR to bacon!)
  • Mineral Salts (450, 451, 452),
  • Antioxidant (316),
  • Sodium Nitrite (250).
  • Food Acid (325)

But did you know you can get bacon uncured, without any of this? If you have a butcher like mine, you’ll be able to get pasture raised uncured bacon, without any of these additional ingredients.

What about nitrates?

Nitrates are a big talking point when it comes to bacon. Well, even unprocessed bacon contains nitrates naturally, and believe it or not celery is high in nitrates – and we don’t see warnings on sticks of celery. For more information on why dietary nitrates aren’t a bad thing – check out these studies: Inorganic Nitrate Suplementation Lowers Blood Pressure in Humans: Role for Nitrite-Derived NO Hypertension, 2010, 56, 274-271 and Dietary Inorganic Nitrate Improves Mitochondrial Efficiency in Humans.Cell Metabolism, 2011, 13, 149-159.

As for the sodium, when you eat a natural paleo diet – it’s often actually a good thing to get more sodium into your diet.

And the fat content?

Of course, a huge argument against bacon is the saturated fat content. Yes, bacon is a lot higher in fat than turkey. But I don’t need to tell you why eating fat is not a problem, do I?

What do you think about bacon? Do you eat it often? Where do you get yours?

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Are you eating contaminated fruit?

I’ve bought frozen fruit quite a few times recently. It’s often far cheaper than the fresh equivalent, and it’s far less wasteful, since I don’t eat a lot of fruit. In the summer it’s great for a quick frozen dessert too.

Contaminated Frozen Fruit Hepatitis A Australia Mixed Berry Paleo Network

So I’ve been horrified to read about the recent contamination recall on frozen mixed berries. Apparently certain packs have been recalled due to a potential Hepatitis A contamination. It hasn’t been long since the horse meat scandal, but this seems so much worse, since the only ingredient in these packs is the fruit. With the hose meat contamination, it seemed to be mainly in heavily processed foods.

With illness starting up to 28 days after exposure to the Hepatitis virus, it may not even be clear yet how widespread the issue is. The official advice is now to boil berries before eating – but really, who does this?

The other shocker with this latest recall, is that the fruit in question is from China and Chile. I meticulously check where any fish and seafood I buy comes from, but had naively assumed the fruit would be domestic.

It really begs the question how can the contaminate have got into the product in the first place? Contamination often seems to occur through transfer of fecal matter from an infected person. Unbelievable that in this day and age of health and safety standards that could happen.

After hearing about this latest scare, I’m going to freeze my own fruit from now on. It’s going to be local fruit, washed and organic. It seems to be the only way to ensure you actually know what you’re eating.

I wonder what the next food scare will be?

 

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Happy Thanksgiving paleo recipes turkey healthy

Happy Thanksgiving

With a lot of my readers being American, I couldn’t ignore the fact that today is Thanksgiving in the USA. So if you’re American – Happy Thanksgiving – and if not – how about having your own international Thanksgiving day? It’s often quite hard to get hold of Turkey where I live in Australia, but I find it a little easier to obtain at this time of year, thanks to the American Expats who live here!

If you are celebrating Thanksgiving, how can you accommodate your guests while still keeping it Paleo? Fortunately there are several options out there that will be great for everyone, using a few substitutions to the traditional Thanksgiving menu.
Happy Thanksgiving paleo recipes turkey healthy

Substitution Ideas For Traditional (Non Paleo!) Thanksgiving Recipes:

  • Substituting bread crumbs. A lot of recipes will ask for bread crumbs when you are cooking. A good alternative to bread crumbs is crushed up pork crackling/ pork rinds. Just crush them to the same consistency as you would bread crumbs – or alternatively try ground nuts.
  • Instead of sugar, if you can, try to omit entirely. If you can’t, try a more natural sweetener, like raw honey.
  • Substitute starch with spaghetti squash, butternut squash, or acorn squash.
  • If you are planning on making a salad use a natural dressing like olive oil and lemon or lime.
  • If you’re making a dessert, a recipe may call for whipped cream. An alternative to whipped cream is chilled coconut milk – both healthy and delicious.
  • Instead of making a traditional desert, keep it simple with berries in coconut milk.

Cooking for a group of family and friends is a great chance to show case your Paleo diet – and show that eating healthy food does not sacrifice amazing tasting food.

Thanksgiving is a time to share thanks for the blessings in your life – a worth while thing to do if you’re American or not. Are you celebrating Thanksgiving this year?

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Halloween healthy paleo recipes

Happy Halloween

Do you celebrate Halloween? Like so many festivals, Halloween is heavily linked with trashy food. If you are interested in ways to have a great Halloween while still following a healthy Paleo lifestyle then read on, because I have some great ideas to help you have a fun holiday.

Halloween healthy paleo recipes

One of the things to keep in mind with Halloween is that it’s all about spending time with family and friends and having a good time – rather than the treats you can and cannot eat. I know that Halloween is a big “treat” holiday, but there are plenty of other things you can focus on to have a good time.

As far as trick-or-treating goes, you can still have fun and do that; however you want to focus on the social fun traditional aspect of it, rather than the end result of candy. Take your family out and have fun. You can have a lot of fun creating unique costumes and so this is your chance to go out and show them off. At the end of the night you can spend time with your family and make your own tasty paleo treats. Some parents offer their kids a buy back scheme – to offer cash or another reward in exchange for the junk they collected.

I was really impressed to see how one father enabled his son to join in the fun – whilst avoiding the sugar filled junk normally given to trick or treaters – see the photo below. Would you try something like this?

Paleo Diet Halloween Trick or Treat Alternative
You can make some great Paleo friendly treats to enjoy. Try spiced nuts, jerky and kale chips instead of sweets and candy.

When you buy pumpkins to carve, make sure you save the inners to make a huge batch of pumpkin soup. You can use the carved pumpkins to serve dips for veggies, instead of plain bowls.

Well there you have it! Here are some ideas for you to make the most out of your Halloween. Just remember to not focus on what the world tends to focus on, which is the sweets, lollies and candy. Focus on having a fun time with friends and family and prepare some Paleo friendly snacks in advance.

Do you do anything for Halloween? How do you keep it Paleo?

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16 Paleo Slow Cooker Tips & Tricks for your Crockpot

16 Paleo Slow Cooker Tips & Tricks for your Crockpot

If you’re short of time and aren’t using a slow cooker – you need to get one! There’s nothing like coming home after a long day, to a freshly made, hot paleo dinner.

16 Paleo Slow Cooker Tips & Tricks for your Crockpot

If you’ve not used a crock-pot before, here are my top tips:

Preparation

They are completely safe to leave turned on all day, however, it’s always a good idea to make sure it’s sat alone on your counter with nothing sat too close to it.

If you can spare an extra few minutes, try searing your meat and veggies too. This makes a big difference with a far richer flavour of the final dish.

For maximum efficiency prepare your vegetables and meat the night before, so all you need to do in the morning is put them in and turn it on.

Along the same lines, I always avoid overly complicate recipes that call for lots of preparation. I figure the whole point of using this method of cooking is to save me time, not add to it.

Try to keep your cubes of meat and harder vegetables in uniform sizes to make sure they all cook at a similar rate.

Don’t overfill your slow cooker. Aim for no more than two-thirds full – and you only need to half cover the ingredients if you’re adding in extra liquid. This method of cooking loses virtually no liquid to evaporation, so once those veggies cook you’ll find you have more than enough liquid.

Put a lid on it

Make sure the lid is on properly – and don’t be tempted to lift it off mid cook for a nosy – it will take a long time to regain the lost heat.

If it’s looking to watery towards the end of the cooking time, this is the time to remove the lid. The extra liquid will evaporate thickening up your dinner.

Set the time carefully, go for a slower longer cook, over a faster hotter cook for deeper flavours and more tender meat.

Buy big

My top tip is to buy big! I stupidly bought a small one. I should have bought one like this. When you go to the effort of making a slow cooked meal, always double up on quantities so you have a few spares to put in the freezer. Cooking in a small one just seems like a waste!

Whilst most crock-pots have a removable “crock”, some are one piece – avoid these models as they’ll be a nightmare to clean!

Finally

Try making stock in your slow cooker – I always get great results and find it needs a lot less attention than when I do it on the stove.

One of my favourite things about slow cooking as that it allows me to use cheap cuts of meat, that would be tough in a faster cooking method. So when you see cheap cuts on offer – buy them and make a slow cooked dish with them!

Whatever you do – don’t use lean meat! Fat not only helps with flavour but will keep the meat moist instead of tough and dry.

For the same reason I also keep bones in and keep the skin on the chicken.

Finally, for maximum flavour wait until just before the end of the cooking time to add in your herbs and spices.

Now try these

Here are some of my slow cooker recipes:

Slow Cooker Chicken Coconut Veggie Stew

Creamy Coconut Slow Cooker Beef

Slow Cooker Jamaican Goat Curry

If you’ve got a slow cooker, which model do you have? Have you got any tip tips to share?

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Recipe simple paleo stir fry-min

Recipe: Simple Chicken Stir Fry

Sometimes it’s nice to make something simple and easy for dinner. And it doesn’t get much easier than a stir fry.

Whilst you can buy packets of ready to use vegetables to throw into a pan – don’t do this! Where I live a packet of pre-prepared veggies is upwards of about $7.50 a kilo. Or you can buy your vegetables individually. I get carrots for about $1 a kilo and cabbage for about $3 a head. Cheaper, probably fresher and only the nice bits. The only difference is that the prepacked veg are drier which is better for stir frying. I just use a cheese cloth to remove the excess liquid from my freshly grated veg – and save lots of money in the process.

Recipe simple paleo stir fry-min

 

 

Recipe: Simple Chicken Stir Fry
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Sometimes it’s nice to make something simple and easy for dinner. And it doesn’t get much easier than a stir fry. Whilst you can buy packets of ready to use vegetables to throw into a pan – don’t do this! Where I live a packet of pre-prepared veggies is upwards of about $7.50 a kilo. Or you can buy your vegetables individually. I get carrots for about $1 a kilo and cabbage for about $3 a head. Cheaper, probably fresher and only the nice bits. The only difference is that the prepacked veg are drier which is better for stir frying. I just use a cheese cloth to remove the excess liquid from my freshly grated veg – and save lots of money in the process.
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Ingredients
  • Large spoonful of coconut oil
  • Chicken breast (free range, obviously)
  • 2 carrots
  • Half a head of cabbage
  • Dash coconut aminos
  • Sea salt
Instructions
  1. Melt the coconut oil in a pan over a medium heat
  2. Cut up the chicken as you like it (strips or diced) and throw into the pan
  3. Grate the vegetables in a food processor*, or using an old school grater. In a clean tea towel or cheesecloth, wring out the excess liquid. I used cabbage and cauliflower – but throw in whatever you have!
  4. Once the chicken starts to look golden and is cooked through, add in the grated vegetables.
  5. Add the dash of coconut aminos for flavouring and season to your taste. You can also add in some herbs and spices if you want to change it up.
  6. *I usually prepare a lot of veg to take make enough for several meals. If you’ve got the food processor out, you might as well get good use out of it!

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