This past week, Valerie and I tried two new ‘breakfast’ recipes that I wanted to share with you all: Sweet Potato Pancakes and Coconut Flour Flapjacks. (I put that ‘breakfast’ in parenthesis because we ate them for dinner. #thereisnobreakfastfood #thematrix.) But before we get cooking, I wanted to share one thought on paleolithic nutrition and sustainability. If you browse the recipes on this site, you will find that they focus largely around two areas: healthy/easy-to-make meal ideas, and paleo “friendly” treats.
Switching over to a Paleo lifestyle means giving up certain foods that we have enjoyed for most of our lives: grains, legumes, and dairy (depending on your Paleo vs. Primal stance). Regaining our health through optimal nutrition, improved gut integrity and reduced inflammation is the primary focus of going on such a diet. We want to live healthy, happy lives – not ones riddled with health problems.
At the same time, we don’t want cooking to seem painful. In fact, quite the opposite. Learning your way around the kitchen should be a fun experience! That is why I like to focus on easy meals that pack in a ton of nutrition. (Like sloppy paleo. Last night, we made a giant batch that included: a head of broccoli, ¼ red cabbage, 2 onions, 1 zucchini, 2 carrots, and a bell pepper – I kid you not. Picture below to prove it.) The majority of our food (#80/20rule) needs to be from good sources if we want to optimize our health.
However, sustainability demands that we allow ourselves some wiggle room. If we tell ourselves “I can NEVER eat that again”, chances are that you WILL. And it’s not a question of being mentally “strong” enough. It’s a simple but potent combination of human psychology, time, and the availability of those foods we are denying. And don’t forget, the rule is 80/20 – it’s not 100% Paleo or bust!
When those times DO come and you want to kick up your heels, it is MUCH better to do it with a Paleo-friendly treat, where YOU control the ingredients and can anticipate how your body will react. This is where “paleo-friendly” recipes using almond meal, coconut flour, maple syrup/honey, coconut oil, etc. come in. They are fun to make, delicious, and a more than satisfactory replacement for some of your favorite foods.
But here’s the real question: how often should be eat “paleo-friendly” treats? Is almond meal/coconut flour given a free pass? In my opinion, no. Here’s 3 reasons.
Reason 1: Optimal nutrition
Even though the “paleo-friendly” versions are BETTER for you, that still doesn’t mean they provide OPTIMAL nutrition. Cooking with nut flour, for example, means you are dealing with a high load of Omega-6 fats along with some potential gut irritants. What’s more, as these foods become more than once-in-a-while treats, they tend to REPLACE other foods with better nutrition. Maybe you decide to have some coconut flour pancakes with blueberries for breakfast. That’s fine once in a while, but what about that veggie-loaded omelet or small steak they are replacing?
For those of you who’ve already done 30 days of strict Paleo, you’ll probably notice the difference in how you feel if you start reverting to treats as sustenance rather than as treats. This is a good thing, because you’ll be able to adjust accordingly and find a balance that works for you. For those who are just starting on a Paleo diet and have not given their bodies time to adjust, however, they might never be able to get a sense of how GOOD it feels to eat extremely well for a period of time. These folks often rely heavily on gluten-free/paleo-friendly versions of foods they used to eat every day, and are frustrated when they don’t see the results they are expecting. It will be harder for them to compare how they feel with/without treats in their diet, and make adjustments to suit their own goals and needs.
Reason 2: The feeling of deprivation
If you constantly feel that you NEED Paleo-treats in order to feel satisfied with your meals, it therefore stands to reason that you are DISsatisfied with your other foods. You may even feel that a meal isn’t complete without something ‘sweet’ to finish it off. That you are depriving yourself every time you DON’T eat a treat (and deprivation usually makes us feel miserable). That sets up a dangerous precedent. We want to ENJOY our food and our lifestyle, not feel like eating meat/veggies/healthy fats is somehow NOT ENOUGH.
Reason 3: Breaking the habit.
Part of changing our lifestyle is breaking the psychological hold that foods like grains (which react with the opiate receptors in our brains) have over us. It used to be that if you had a bad day, you’d get a bucket of ice cream and settle down on the couch to while away your sorrows. Just because your settling down with a batch of paleo-friendly cookies doesn’t mean that this is a healthy habit to continue. Food and emotions are heavily connected – but it’s dangerous to think we NEED a certain type of food (sugar/grains/etc.) in order to FEEL happy. It’s a difficult habit to break, and there will be times when you DO just want to eat something when you’re feeling down. But the goal is for this to be outside of the norm – not the first fall-back for stress.
So now that I’ve laid down some groundwork as to why you should avoid eating Paleo-treats everyday, let’s jump right in to two more delicious recipes! Haha. But seriously, these foods are OK to have. Please don’t feel like you can never eat them. The trick is moderation and understanding how your body reacts to these foods. The best way to be sure of this, as always, is to start with 30-days of strict paleo, and then start adding in treats as you go along. But be FOREWARNED: these are so good that you might find yourself developing a new emotional connection with food. (I think I had an out-of-body experience after eating the coconut flour flapjacks for the first time.)
Sweet Potato Pancakes (as seen on: balancedbites.com)
These are a great way to pack in some post-workout carbs on-the-go! They don’t have a strong flavor to them, but I enjoyed them all the same. (Makes 4-5 huge pancakes).
- coconut oil to pan-fry
- 3 eggs
- 2 teaspoons coconut flour
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon (this is where I differed from the original recipe, which only called for ½ a teaspoon)
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg (again, not in the original)
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 2 cups shredded sweet potatoes (skins removed) – best to use a food processor with a shredding disc. Worked wonders for us.
- Put everything in a bowl and mix well (except for the coconut oil)
- Put a big chunk of coconut oil in a frying pan so that when melted it fills up about 1/8” high
- Spoon the mixture into the pan in whatever size you want. Smaller sizes are easier to flip, and we cooked one at a time.
Coconut Flour Flapjacks (as seen on: nourishingdays.com)
I’m not joking when I say I think these are the best pancakes I’ve ever had. Our recipe was almost exactly the same as the one on the site, though we only used 1 teaspoon of maple syrup as opposed to 1 tablespoon of honey. Also went with the coconut milk recommendation (over normal milk) and have ZERO regrets. The coconut flavor in these is so freaking delicious that it’s unbelievable.
- 4 eggs, ROOM TEMPERATURE (helps make them fluffy. who knew?)
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- ½ cup coconut flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- coconut oil for frying
- Preheat pan over medium-low heat. Beats eggs in a small bowl until they are frothy (takes about two minutes, or you can throw them in a food processor which seemed to work well for us.) Mix in coconut milk, vanilla, and maple syrup.
- In a medium-sized bowl combine the dry stuff (coconut flour, baking soda, sea salt) and mix. Stir in the wet stuff until it’s all a single consistency.
- Put some coconut oil down in the pan, and then spoon in the pancake mixture. They should be fairly thick (part of how awesomely fluffy they are) and cook for a couple of minutes on each side until the tops dry out and the bottoms are just starting to brown. Flip and cook on the opposite side for another 2 minutes or so.
Did you give these a try? What were your thoughts?
-Stay healthy everybody.