The Paleo Primer by health and fitness coaches Keris Marsden and Matt Whitmore explains how a standard diet full of grains, legumes, sugar, and processed foods has led to our modern health crisis and then presents appetizing, healthy alternatives to those foods in its 100+ recipes. It is part-guidebook, part-cookbook.
In the introduction, the authors discuss what the Paleo diet is and how it can help a variety of health conditions; the reasons to avoid grains, legumes, and processed foods; the pros and cons of dairy, coffee, caffeine, and alcohol; how to get started; and they even mention the potential problem with FODMAPs. Keris and Matt explain Paleo in an easy-going, approachable way, making their book an excellent place for beginners to get their feet wet. My favorite chapter is “Change Your Mind, Change your Health”. It’s only a few pages long, but it features the kind of no-nonsense thinking like “quit the excuses” and “actually, you can live without pizza” that I think we all need to hear to make our lifestyle changes more sustainable. There are also some great tips to help fight cravings, establish a macronutrient ratio that works for you, and do your grocery shopping.
Plus, the book is gorgeous. It has a fun, informal design with adorable, sometimes irreverent illustrations (did you know that man-boobs are also known as moobs? There’s a complete recipe index in the table of contents as well as a smaller table of contents before each section, and you can find conversion charts, resources, and some nutrition facts for the recipes in the appendix.
As for the recipes, the instructions are clear and every single one has an accompanying photo. I made the Omega Breakfast Bake, Lemon and Olive Chicken Tagine, and Buttered Savoy Cabbage, which were all very easy to prepare. The Omega Breakfast Bake was basically a crustless quiche, and it was a fantastic alternative to bacon and eggs in the morning. We added olives for a little extra flavor. I found that my tagine had to cook much, much longer than the recipe indicated, and we thought it was a little bland for something with lemons, green olives, and a Moroccan-inspired spice blend in it. I would absolutely try it again as a roast instead of boiling it on the stovetop. But the cabbage… goodness, the cabbage! I should say that I was never a big cabbage fan. Or so I thought. Sauteed in butter and bacon, this cabbage made one of the best vegetable side dishes I’ve ever had. It was melt-in-your-mouth buttery, savory, sweet, and salty all at the same time. The recipe indicates that the bacon is optional, and I actually believe it. It would probably be very tasty without the bacon. It is going to be making regular appearances in our kitchen from now on. I’ve already got a dozen or so more recipes earmarked for the future, including the rest of their side dishes.
The book does not offer any information about or adaptations for the autoimmune protocol, and anyone on the AIP will have to take the authors’ praise of eggs and dairy with a grain of salt. However, many of the recipes are AIP-friendly and most could be adapted for the AIP by leaving out or substituting the nightshades and dairy. And if you want a really detailed examination of how gluten promotes leaky gut or a comprehensive guide to leptin resistance, you’ll have to look elsewhere. The Paleo Primer is about making the switch from a standard diet to whole-foods Paleo as easy as possible, and for that purpose, it delivers. If you’ve been dragging your heels getting started, this book can absolutely help motivate you.