The biggest challenges to any diet are boredom and convenience. No matter how healthy you feel, or how much weight you have lost, there will be a day when you are bored with the grilled chicken and steamed vegetables, or just too tired to cook. While most diet books recommend purging your pantry of any tempting “cheat” food – that is only half the battle. When the urge strikes to indulge yourself , a “clean” pantry isn’t going to be a major deterrent. Those are the moments when our modern conveniences become our worst enemy, becuase you know a chicken parm hero is just a few clicks on seamless away from being delivered to your door. The best way around this problem is to not feel like you are depriving yourself. Cheat, but make a good choice. Should you have baked goods every day? No, but it is unrealistic to think you will never have a cookie again. So, instead of freeing your pantry of all flours, milk and chocolate, here are some paleo friendly staples that will add variety to your menu, and make your “cheats” less of an all out bender.
One of the hardest replacements to get used to is flour. Flour is in everything – from pizza’s and breads to cheese sauces and stews. The versatility of flour for baking, thickening and binding means that it has become one of the biggest culinary staples in the modern pantry. So for those of us trying to abide by a paleo / gluten free/ grain free diet, flour can present a big challenge.
To make matters more complicated, many of the paleo flour substitutes are not hypoallergenic, and can be difficult to tolerate for some, and dangerous for others. Personally, I am allergic to peanuts and tree nuts, so Almond flour (popular in a lot of paleo recipes) isn’t an option for people like me. Similarly, my husband is horribly allergic to coconut (much to my chagrin). This limits us for our selection of flours, but has also made me experiment with some more unusual flour options. Many of these substitutes are not easily available in your local grocery store, and require a process of trial-and error to work with. To help those of you out there with similar allergies – or just looking to try something new, I am compiling a review of my favorite flours used in many of my recipes.
There are many items out there espousing a “cup for cup” exchange, but these almost uniformly lead to culinary disaster. The reality is that the only thing that will give you a “cup for cup” exchange for wheat flour is wheat flour. Sorry. However there are still many good substitutes out there, each with their own specific characteristics, that will make great substitutes in certain ratio’s for many of the flour based recipes we all enjoy.
Milk & Dairy
Dairy is not for everyone. Statistics indicate that (depending on your cultural background) anywhere from 20-80 percent of certain populations have issues processing dairy or lactose. Given that shocking number, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that there are lots of dairy alternatives out there these days – even Starbucks has a soy milk option. The predominant dairy substitutes for individuals on a paleo diet are coconut and almond milk. Unfortunately, due to allergies in our household, neither of those are options. For those of you looking for more paleo dairy options, I’ve compiled the dairy options that I prefer.
Sweets & Sweeteners
Let’s face it, most of us have a sweet tooth. While we should all try to reduce the sugar we ingest in our diets, the reality is that it would be unrealistic for most of us to completely give up sugar. What we can do, is try to make the best choices possible when giving into our cravings, and be informed of the options out there. Though it isn’t recommended to indulge your sugar cravings on a daily basis, I’ve put together some suggestions for the cheat days when you just need to give in.
When starting to cook paleo, it is important not just to have a well stocked pantry, but to also have the right tools. The right equipment will not only make preparing your meals easier (trust me, once you have used a really good knife you will know what I mean), but will also help create variety in your meals that will make you excited to stick to this lifestyle. Zoodles anyone?