Note to my readers: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. As always, all opinions are my own.
Matt McCarry and Stacy Toth are the dynamic duo behind Paleo Parents, and prolific authors of paleo cookbooks, including one on eating nose-to-tail (Beyond Bacon: Paleo Recipes that Respect the Whole Hog)* and one for kids (Eat Like a Dinosaur: Recipe & Guidebook for Gluten-free Kids)*. Their newest offering is Real Life Paleo: 175 Gluten-Free Recipes, Meal Ideas, and an Easy 3-Phased Approach to Lose Weight & Gain Health*, which suggests a slower, three-phased approach to taking on a paleo diet.
In brief: this book is a gold mine. While I am a “jump in with both feet” kind of person, not everyone can handle that approach, and it is so easy to get overwhelmed. Stacy and Matt’s very encouraging tone gently leads the reader by the hand, always explaining why certain foods are encouraged or discouraged, letting them get more comfortable with the idea of paleo eating while offering tasty, kid-friendly recipes. It is written in a very conversational, friendly tone: I had to wrestle it away from my oldest in order to read it for this review!
In Phase 1: Swap, you swap out the worst foods in the diet. This means going gluten-free, as well as taking out refined and processed foods, changing dairy products and meat (full fat, organic and grass-fed are king here), and eating more veggies. The book has a useful tear-out grocery shopping guide that you can use in the store to remind you of products to look for while shopping, and tips for going out to eat. (As the primary cook in our house, this may be my favorite part of the book.)
In Phase 2: Remove, you focus on removing other grains, dropping dairy, legumes, and processed oils. (In this phase, you ‘go paleo.’) Matt and Stacy share more shopping tips here, and share suggestions from their family’s transition, as well as lists of paleo kitchen staples and suggestions for family activities (some food related, some not).
If Phase 2 is Paleo 101, then Phase 3: Heal is the next course in the sequence. In this phase, organ meats, bone broth, fermented foods and more are added to the diet. These are considered paleo super foods, in that aren’t just good for you, but can actively help heal your digestive system. This phase also emphasizes lifestyle aspects of paleo, since they can be just as healing as the foods you’re eating.
There is much more to the book: suggested menus, meal plans, and spice blends, as well as close to 200 recipes. Speaking of those: all of the recipes are categorized by phase, and all are indexed to help those who need to avoid specific allergens. There are lots of recipes for staples like coconut milk, and many good ideas for less-sweet alternatives to both breakfasts and desserts. Thus far, my favorite new-to-me recipe is the Green Onion and Bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheese (one of many squash recipes) — the husband went for seconds and thirds, and the meat loving oldest boy was barely done with his dinner portion when he asked to have some for breakfast. That dish is definitely going in the permanent rotation, though it may be a while, as my must-try list is about a mile long. The book strikes a good balance between safe, simple flavors kids will like, and a few adventurous ones that stretch the palate a bit (both the homemade beef energy bars and the mussels are on my list).
The Real Life Paleo approach is a really sustainable way to get folks eating healthier, one meal at a time. I wish I had had this book when we started our paleo journey: I dare say my kids would have been far happier if we had gone paleo this way. Still, I’m glad to have it now. This book has earned a place on my bookshelf for everyday inspiration.
- 1 medium butternut squash (about 1-1/2 pounds)
- 1-1/2 kosher or sea salt
- 1 (13-1/3 ounce) can full-fat coconut milk or 1-3/4 cups homemade
- 2 large pastured egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Slightly Sweet & Salty Snack Mix, for garnish*
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Remove the ends of the squash, slice it in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Then peel and cube the squash. Spread out the squash cubes in a rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven for 30 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork. Let cool completely.
- Place 2 packed cups of the cooked squash and the remaining ingredients in a food processor or high-speed blender and puree until smooth.
- Put the mixture in an ice cream maker and churn, following the manufacturer's directions, until stiffened, about 10 minutes.
- Freeze in an airtight container for at least 30 minutes before serving. If frozen for more than four hours, let rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving. (Natural ice creams don't contain chemical softeners, so they set hard like ice and require time to soften.)
- Scoop into bowls and top with the Slightly Sweet & Salty Snack Mix.
Note: if you can’t find butternut squash, any winter squash will do. Most grocery stores sell prepackaged peeled and cubed butternut squash to make this recipe even easier, but we’ve heard that pumpkin is a fan favorite.
Don’t have an ice cream maker? Never fear. After cooking and cooling the squash, place it in the freezer to harden for a few hours. Then, once partially frozen, add the squash and remaining ingredients to a high-speed blender and puree — you’ll have instant soft-serve.
* = Affiliate link.