If I were forced to sum up Real Life Paleo in a single word (which considering how verbose I am at times, might be a good thing), it would be brilliant. If you have ever thought about Paleo in the slightest, but decided it’s too difficult; if you or a family member have a nagging illness that you believe a nutrient dense diet can help; if you’re already Paleo but you’re trying to figure out how to get the rest of your family on board; or if you and your family are already Paleo and you just want an amazing book then you need to have Real Life Paleo on your shelf.
The beauty of Real Life Paleo lies not in the fact that it is “just” another Paleo cookbook, Real Life Paleo is an invaluable resource that helps slowly, gradually, AT YOUR OWN PACE, transition you and your family from eating a SAD (standard American diet) to living a Paleo lifestyle. I’ve said before the “band aid” approach may work for some people, however for those out there where that approach doesn’t work, they are often left to figure it out on their own. That task of having to find their own way through transitioning is enough to prevent people from even trying. Likewise, there are 21 and 30-day plans out there that challenge you to eat Paleo for a certain length of time, but they often don’t address how to make it a sustainable way of eating and living beyond that time frame—and what happens when you don’t know how to sustain the lifestyle? People tend to fall off the wagon and revert back to their old habits. Real Life Paleo not only coaches you through transitioning but it also provides you resources in the form of meal plans, shopping lists, easy and delicious recipes, and a list of internet resources where you can find products that will help you sustain the new lifestyle that you’re working so hard to achieve.
How exactly is this book different from standard Paleo cookbooks or books geared towards the challenges? How does it help you sustain a lifestyle (note I say lifestyle, not DIET)? It is masterfully divided into three phases: Swap, Remove, and Heal. There is no set amount of days or weeks assigned to each phase—you stay in that phase for as long as you think you need. This allows you to be certain that you’re fully ready for the next step on your journey towards health and wellness.
In the Swap Phase, Stacy and Matt help you to remove the items that are most damaging to our health and wellbeing—gluten, refined sugar, and processed foods and swap them with a substitute that is more closely aligned with a Paleo lifestyle. For most people the idea of removing and entire “food group” is daunting, and if I’m honest, was daunting to me too when I first approached Paleo. Many families come to rely on fast and quick options for meals and snacks—pasta and red sauce, toast, sandwiches, crackers, cookies, gummy snacks, chips, etc. You get the picture. By ridding our bodies of these highly damaging ingredients and swapping them with something that is a better choice, we immediately improve our health and wellness. However, how do you tell your family they can’t have pasta any longer? Bagel and cream cheese? Isn’t switching to something that isn’t one of these kitchen staples going to be time consuming? Well, that’s where Real Life Paleo comes into play, it shows you how quick and easy it can be to switch to something that is better for us. An easy switch is to start purchasing gluten-free versions of what you had been using before. Instead of white or whole wheat bread try a gluten-free alternative like Udi’s for example. Instead of wheat-o’s or anything coated in HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) try an organic puffed rice cereal. How about rice pasta instead of regular semolina flour pasta? I’ll be honest and say that my family is still in this phase. While I’m OK with having eggs and bacon for breakfast sans toast or having red sauce over spaghetti squash, the rest of my family isn’t there yet. My kids are still eating gluten-free versions of their “regular” staples (i.e. rice pasta, corn tortillas, rice cereal, and GF bread — organic and non-GMO where possible). We’ve made some progress—they will eat homemade paleo “granola” parfaits at breakfast, Mr. Man will eat fried eggs and even spaghetti squash if it is doused with butter and red sauce. It’s going to take a while for us to get past this phase fully—but I refuse to give up. Better yet—be sneaky! Lil One despises eggs, but I recently made Diane SanFillippo’s apple egg “muffins” and she ate them thinking that they were regular muffins! Start adding some additional veggies in your meals, swap out a small piece of fruit instead of the crackers for a snack. No one said that your “swap” HAS to be gluten-free versions (after all they are still processed foods).
In the second phase, the Remove Phase, you begin to further amplify your health by eliminating “foods” that can be inflammatory—all grains, dairy, legumes, and seed oils. Many people don’t know they are intolerant to dairy until they eliminate it from their diet and notice how their digestion is better or how their skin clears up. Same with legumes—I personally never thought I was bothered by peanut butter until I changed to almond butter (though for the longest time we still called it peanut butter in our house—it’s all in a name folks…it’s all in a name!).
In the final phase, the Heal Phase, Real Life Paleo begins to help you focus on healing your body from the inside out. Introduction of foods with a focus on nutrient density through the use of bone broth or even organ meats is the focus. Getting to this point may take you a long time—and that’s OK! This book isn’t about making you feel badly that you had a slip up. You don’t have to start back on Day 1 if on Day 25 you had some peanut butter on your banana instead of almond butter. Real Life Paleo is about helping you to recognize what the right choices are and how to recover from making a not so good choice without the guilt. The Paleo Police won’t come after you my friends—of that I can guarantee!
In addition to walking you through each phase, Matt and Stacy help you by providing shopping lists if you have no clue as to where to begin. These guides are invaluable for either those just starting out, or those who are already along their journey towards health and wellness. Matt and Stacy also realize that families go out to eat—they help you understand what the better choices are while out at a restaurant in their “going out” guide on page 27. They also really hold true to the old adage “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,” in that they teach you HOW to put a meal together by making suggestions for what side dishes to use with what main dish. However, if the thought of putting your own meals together is still daunting, Matt and Stacy also provide you with meal plans for each phase of the program.
The recipe section of the book is filled with 175-fantstic recipes with beautiful photography that makes your mouth water! Each recipe clearly identifies which phase the recipe complies with (the beauty of the phases is that even if you are on Phase 1 you can eat a recipe from Phase 3), what special equipment you will need if any, and if the recipe contains any potential allergens like nuts or nightshades. The recipes are simple enough for anyone to make—including my 3-year old Mr. Man. The recipes are not only simple, but they are fast. They really get at the core of “family meals”—and we all know that on weeknight’s sometimes family meals meal FAST meals. They have tagged recipes to indicate if they are one pot meals, as well as meals in under 30-minutes!
We have made many of the recipes and many of them more than once. My personal favorite recipe was the pan seared steak with Brussels and cauli-gnocchi. This recipe made a massive amount of cauli-gnocchi and I was able to freeze half the batch. I made the second half for dinner over the Christmas holiday when my in-laws were in town and received rave reviews. The Peruvian chicken is simple and delicious and a family favorite. I enjoyed the Mongolian beef—it brought me back to my Friday nights in college before me and my friend Lana would head out to Union Station in Washington DC to see a movie! The “Drunken Carrot Noodles” were delicious and even received the thumbs up from my kids who fight me tooth and nail to eat cooked veggies! My kids’ favorite so far has been the Apple Cinnamon Crumb Cake. There is no shortage of delicious recipes for the whole family in this book that is for certain—the best part? They are all beautifully indexed at the end of the book in thumbnail photos, followed by tear-out guides and resources for your information and ease of use.
I’ve said many times since purchasing this book how much I adore it and think it an invaluable resource for anyone. I had it out on my coffee table over Christmas while my in-laws were in North Carolina and both my mother-in-law and father-in-law spent a great deal of time reading the wealth of information at the front of the book, as well as reviewing the recipes in the rear of the book. Their opinion? My mother-in-law mentioned that she might just have to go and buy it (did you Grammy? Because if not, I know someone who is still due her birthday gift…). In the end, words cannot describe the awesomeness that is Real Life Paleo. Whether you are new to Paleo, a Paleo veteran, or even somewhere in between this is THE book of all Paleo books for those seeking to transition to a Paleo lifestyle. It is filled with easy to digest information, tasty recipes, and beautiful photography. It is hard not to want to gift this book to your loved one. Through Matt and Stacy’s easy and approachable method to a family-wide Paleo transformation, anyone of any age can navigate the transition from the standard American diet to a sustainable Paleo lifestyle for life.
As a thank you to Matt and Stacy for granting me the time with them after their book signing, and as a thank you to you for being local readers of our blog and of this three-part series (don’t miss parts 1 and 2), I’d like to give away two of Matt & Stacy’s e-books: Three Phase Paleo and Paleo To-Go. It would give me nothing but the greatest of pleasures to share some of the knowledge that Matt and Stacy work so hard to impart on others. Want to win a copy of both their e-books? Please follow the instructions below!