Friday, May 11, 2012

Get out of the kitchen no sooner than you get in!!

Well, while that is technically not possible going primal/paleo will certainly save you a lot of kitchen time...think of all the wonderful things you can do in that time: plop some more on the couch, more tv time, more online blog gawking/shopping OR you can exercise, do some squats, pushups, jumping jacks, weights, play with your family/friends/pets, dig in the garden, read for an extra hour etc. So if you are a primal here is an example of time saving meals for 2 days (1 person).

Day 1:
Choco-berry smoothie, topped with 1 tsp cacao nibs.

Salad consisting of 2 cups chopped baby spinach, halved cherry tomatoes 2-3, chopped carrot 1, chopped cucumber 1, chopped boiled egg 1 and few chopped kalamata olives. Dressing was balsamic vinegar drizzled with salt and pepper. Sometimes I add a chopped green chilli if I have it.
Make sure you are using organic/seasonal veggies (all veggies need not be organic, as a rule of thumb the thick skinned ones can be conventional but for the thin skinned and leafy greens go for organic) and the real balsamic vinegar (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale).

Sweet potato "fries":
Pre-heat oven to 425F. Cut 2 sweet potatoes into match sticks (skin on if organic), toss them with 1 tbsp coconut oil/ghee, salt, pepper, rosemary (dried, 1 tsp). Arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet and stick in the oven. Cook for about 15-20 mins on each side. 
While the fries are baking, I made Mirchi ka salan: I used this recipe because its really simple and quick. Some modifications I made are as follows:
I halved the recipe because I only had 6 jalapenos.
Skipped the cinnamon (not a big fan) added 1/2 tsp turmeric.
Skipped peanuts completely and added macadamia nuts instead! Peanuts are legumes, not nuts hence best avoided. Macadamia nuts have a very neutral flavor and replace peanuts wonderfully in this dish, they also have the least omega-6 fatty acids amongst all nuts making them a tad bit healthier than others.

Dinner was half the fries and mirchi ka salan with a bowl of plain yoghurt (sprinkled with powdered cumin and rock salt).

Day 2:
2 boiled eggs (prepped night before) with 6-8 soaked almonds.

Leftover mirchi ka salan, sweet potato fries (were no longer crispy but tasted good) and carrots and cucumber.

Grilled shrimp (about 16 jumbo shrimp arranged on 4 skewers).
I marinated the shrimp for about 30 mins. While the shrimp was being marinated I made Beet  Tzatziki (If there is such a thing).
Take about about 1/2 cup shredded beet, add it to 1 cup whisked yoghurt (I used normal yoghurt, but if you have Greek yogurt that works the best). Add to it 2 cloves of garlic minced, crushed black pepper, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp chopped cilantro (mint or dill is used in the original recipe) and salt. Mix well and refrigerate it while you grill shrimp.
Methi sabzi: Roughly chopped methi leaves stir fried in ghee with green chillies, garlic, salt and garnished with shredded coconut.
Dinner was half of the shrimp, beet tzatziki and methi subzi, leftovers were next days lunch.

While this may seem little food to many, once you adopt the primal lifestyle you wont feel the need to eat as much as you did on a grain based diet. Do not worry, this is completely healthy because you are eating only as much as your body needs. By removing grains you wont miss out on any nutrients, in fact the above mentioned meals have more and varied nutrients than a grain based meal. If you work out daily you can up the carbohydrate content by adding more starchy tubers or veggies. I will post such meal ideas every once in a while and hopefully you will find them useful!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The changes we can make, let's start with Kale chips!

Three years ago my Dad was here one moment and gone the next, that is exactly how it happened! He was diabetic and had suffered a mild heart attack about 6 years before this event, but the fact that he had even suffered from these conditions in the first place was surprising to us! He was a picture of health: as a former college level athlete and a strapping young man, everyone in the family admired his health and lean physique when most men were literally ballooning. At 35 years of age his diabetes was reveled to us and after initial shock my mom made appropriate changes to our diet, like cut sugar and starch consumption and cook with less oil. We already ate quite healthy, refined and restaurant foods were banned in the house unless mom made it herself. My dad too accepted these changes, he was never a fan of eating out, snacking etc. all he ate was three square meals with tea in the morning and afternoon. He followed exercise (walking, yoga) and his dietary restrictions strictly except the times he was traveling for work. This continued for several years where his sugar levels fluctuated but remained in control until the day he got his first heart attack. We were shocked again and it was confusing that how could someone who was following such a strict diet and exercise even suffer from heart disease. Since it was a mild heart attack he did not require an invasive surgery and was on medication only. My mom made further doctor suggested changes to our diet where she cut out saturated fat sources like coconut, ghee and cook with "heart healthy" Saffola oil! Yet six years later he was gone from a second severe heart attack! It was very confusing to me because I couldn't fathom how on earth could this happen, not "why did this happen to my dad thought" but why was it happening to him when we thought we were doing everything right!
I think now I know why, three years after he is gone! While a change to sedentary lifestyle is a big factor in poor health our current diet plays an even bigger role. The prescribed low-fat high-carb diet is getting us nowhere close to good health. Indian diet as we know is grain dominated (hence high in carbs) and poor in proteins (lets face its dals, beans, pulses offer paltry amounts of protein compared to animal sources); meats and vegetables are deemed as sides and the good fats are shunned due to a bad rapport. The "seemingly healthy" whole wheat chapati (sans ghee) and rice led to sustained high sugar levels in my diabetic dad's blood, anti-nutrients in "healthy wheat" were causing unhealthy-issues and grains being choc-a-bloc with the pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid, caused continued inflammation in the body. The "heart healthy" saffola oil (or any seed or vegetable oil) which is full of the bad poly-unsaturated fatty acid was wrecking a havoc his arteries by generating oxidized LDL. These may not be the only reasons, but they were some of the major reasons. I know this now because I have been following a number of primal, paleo and whole health blogs! I sincerely wish I knew this information three years ago!
What I have come to realize is:
We don't have to have to live with diabetes, heart-diseases, arthritis etc.
We don't have to be plump/overweight/obese (which IMHO we have come to accept as a phenomenon that happens with marital status, age, job etc, its really not supposed to be that way)
We don't have to be confused/frustrated if the weight wont fall off or if we don't feel better in spite of eating "healthy"
This bring me to the title of today's post, I just want to point of the changes we can make so no one has to suffer themselves or for their near-dear ones. How to do that? "Let thy food be thy medicine", changing diet will win 80% of the war and exercise will fulfill the next 20%. 
1) Cut the sugar and grains: Specifically grains containing gluten, rice is okay to consume but its pure carbs so go easy. 
2) Embrace the good fats: Coconut oil/ cow-ghee to cook (olive oil is okay for salad dressing not for cooking)
3) Introduce meat in your diet if you can (grass fed-meats and pastured eggs specifically), for vegetarians eat lentils/beans/pulses that have been soaked (8-10 hrs in acidic medium) or sprouted. Dairy if you have to should be full-fat and raw. Fermented dairy is great!!
4) Eat all possible veggies you can, go easy on fruits. Eat a rainbow, more color = higher anti-oxidant level. 
5) Make exercise a necessity, not an option. Focus on complete body exercise (weights,  rather than cardio training.
I have already highlighted the above changes here.

Coming to the recipe, I was never big on snacking but did enjoy potato-chips if a bag was lying around me! Kale leaves can be quickly baked into delicious chips that have the same crunch as potato chips, but none of that accompanying bad stuff!! The key to making crunchy kale chips is that before baking them kale should be completely dry and add salt in the end after the chips are baked so that the kale doesn't release water! Kale is considered to be a nutritional power house, however when combined with coconut oil it helps in better absorption of nutrients. 

Based on recipe from Nom Nom Paleo
1 bunch red kale
1 tbsp coconut oil
salt and pepper for seasoning

Preheat the oven to 350F. Wash the kale, drain and tear the kale leaves from the center ribs. Spread out the torn leaves on a kitchen towel and either air dry or pat dry completely. Once dry toss the kale leaves with coconut oil, such that all leaves are properly coated. Arrange the kale leaves in a single layer only on a baking sheet and bake at 350F for about 12-15 minutes till the leaves crisp up! Season with salt and pepper and enjoy the crunchy kale chips. Not that there will be any leftovers, but if you want to store them make sure that the chips are completely cool before packing them in an air-tight container.  

Other primal snacking ideas: boiled egg, avocado, homemade nuts mix (go easy on sweet ones), dark chocolate, celery sticks with almond butter. More ideas here.

Disclaimer: I am not a licensed medicinal practitioner or a nutritionist/dietician qualified to give medical or nutrition advice. My views are solely based on my research and observations from my own eating regimen and should be considered as recommendations, not as professional advice.