From the first moment I flipped through Real Life Paleo by Stacy Toth and Matthew McCarry, I knew. You know that feeling when you know that the man or woman in front of you is the one you’re going to marry? Or that feeling once you finally land a job that is a perfect fit for you and you feel like you’ve finally found what you’re meant to do? I had just as profound a feeling of “knowing” when I looked at Real Life Paleo. I know that this book is a game changer; that finally there is a resource for real people to “go Paleo” that will set them up for lifelong success, that this is The Book (yes, it gets proper noun status) that you will recommend to your friends who are interested in “trying out this Paleo diet thing”.
But Real Life Paleo isn’t just for people wanting to transition to the Paleo diet. It’s not simply a transition guide. It’s a resource that everyone will love. It’s a cookbook full of recipes that even the most experienced Paleo foodies will appreciate, use and love. It’s packed with essential tips for day-to-day life, including everything from how to eat in a restaurant, to how to sneak in more nutrient-dense foods, to giving us permission to be the imperfect humans we all are. And did I mention the ridiculously delicious recipes? Holy yum, Batman.
Okay, full disclosure: I am very good friends with the authors. One of the best things about being a Paleo blogger is that it allowed me to meet the dynamic duo that is Paleo Parents. Stacy and Matt have not only become my partners-in-podcast, but also my BFFs (yes, you too Matt). That’s crazy cheesy to say, I know! And cheese isn’t even Paleo (hayuck)! But, one of the reasons that Matt and Stacy have become such great friends is because of an inherent compatibility: we share a similarity of purpose, philosophy, priorities, values, and palate (probably why so many of you who love my recipes and information also follow Paleo Parents). But, liking these two wonderful people doesn’t mean I have to like their books, nor do I have to say nice things. And there’s a million perfectly legitimate excuses I could have made to not write a book review (that would be the “if I don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” strategy). Fortunately, I don’t have to troubleshoot that awkwardness, because Real Life Paleo is objectively and completely fantastic.
My first look at Real Life Paleo was a pdf file before the book went to print. Of course, I knew about the project, it’s intended scope, and previewed many of the recipes that were going into it. I also got to see some of the food photography during the book’s development and heard about some of the topics covered in the extensive introductory material. But, it wasn’t until I sat (on an airplane, ironically enough, since I’m writing this review on an airplane as well!) scrolling through the pages, seeing the book in its entirety, that I was hit with that sensation of knowing. I immediately messaged Stacy and demanded the privilege of writing the foreword. The good thing is that Matt and Stacy were already planning to ask me (who knows what would have happened if they had asked someone else?! dirty fans somewhere probably, because I would have been pretty darned upset).
I’d like to share that foreword with you, for two reasons. First, I put a lot of effort into writing it! So, the more people who read it, the better! Second, I think that it summarizes everything you need to know about Real Life Paleo.
The Paleo diet is a powerful nutritional approach to health. Clinical trials show that it improves cardiovascular disease risk factors, reduces inflammation, improves glucose tolerance, helps with weight loss and can even improve autoimmune disease. Health improvements can be attributed to the fact that Paleo diet provides balanced and complete nutrition with its focus on eating a variety of quality meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits, eggs, nuts and seeds. The Paleo diet also eliminates foods that contribute to inflammation and hormone imbalances, including grains, legumes, refined sugars, refined oils, low-quality dairy, preservatives, food dyes, and processed foods.
As monumental as the health benefits can be, that doesn’t necessarily make “going Paleo” easy! Seeing a list of foods to avoid, many of which may be staples of your diet, can be overwhelming. Well, Real Life Paleo is here to the rescue!
Real Life Paleo guides you through the transition to a Paleo diet in three realistic, manageable phases: Swap, Remove, and Heal. With a detailed list of priorities for each phase as well as a huge collection of resources, such as shopping lists, a Food Swap guide, meal ideas, and weekly meal plans, this book takes the guesswork out of “going Paleo” and sets you up for success. Best of all, with a collection of over 175 mouthwatering Paleo recipes, Real Life Paleo shows you just how delicious following a Paleo diet can be!
Real Life Paleo also does something completely unique: it teaches you how to put together an entire Paleo meal. Rather than simply giving you a collection of main and side dish recipes and leaving you to figure out how to combine them, Real Life Paleo teaches you how to use those recipes to create a nutritionally balanced and complete meal, including ideas for flavorful breakfasts, lunches and dinners. One-week meal plans for each phase further expands on your repertoire of meal templates to take the stress out of choosing what to eat.
A variety of other tools and information in this book will be invaluable during your transition to Paleo and help you prioritize and get organized. And thanks to tear-away guides, including such gems as a Going Out Guide, Grocery List, Pantry Staples list, and Family Fun Guide, you’ll be able to take these resources with you wherever you go.
Real Life Paleo also helps you fit Paleo into your real life. The recipes are clearly labelled when they are nut-free, egg-free, nightshade-free, under 30-minute meals, 1-pot meals, under 5-ingredient meals, recipes for great on-the-go foods, and recipes that are perfect for holidays. This easy navigation means that figuring out what to cook on a busy weeknight is a snap!
While supporting people who aren’t ready to jump all in, Real Life Paleo ultimately focuses on nutrient density. The third and final phase, Heal, centers on delicious ways to add more nutrient-dense, healing foods into your diet. As a critical component of my own healing journey, I’m excited to see just how accessible Real Life Paleo has made these superfoods for you!
Real Life Paleo is the ultimate guide for those looking to adopt a Paleo diet. But don’t think this book isn’t for you if you’ve been following a Paleo template for a while! The recipes in this book are innovative with extraordinary flavors! It is quite simply a spectacular collection of some of the best Paleo recipes out there. And they will keep you coming back to this book again and again and again!
So, grab a fork, and maybe even a plate, and dive in!
Awesome, right? I meant (and still mean) every word. And the best part? Writing the foreword got my name on the cover of this amazing book! Sneaky right? Well, I wouldn’t put my name on it, if I wasn’t 100% in love with it. And since I am in love with the book, I enjoy being able to take some credit, even if completely undeserved.
I love that Real Life Paleo gives you everything you need to know to transition to the Paleo diet, while giving you permission to not do a Paleo challenge (you know, all those challenges that encourage you to rip off that bandaid and go cold turkey, and then tell you that you have to stick within a rigid framework forever if you are to be deserving of the label of a Paleo peep). Not only does Real Life Paleo guide you through a realistic and sustainable transition to a Paleo diet, it guides experienced Paleo dieters through a further transition, one that is focused on choosing more nutrient-dense superfood options. This last phase of transition is one that many people still need to make (including many who have been following this lifestyle for a long time), where you stop thinking of a list of don’ts and start focusing on a list of dos.
But, what good is all that great information if the recipes are sub-par? And unfortunately, it’s a common theme in Paleo resource books: that great information is paired with underwhelming recipes. Until now! I have never not loved a recipe that Matt and Stacy have developed (please excuse the double negative in that sentence, but it was clearly called for). And, that’s true for every recipe I’ve tried so far our of Real Life Paleo.
When my review copy of Real Life Paleo arrived, I let my family pick recipes from it for one Real Life Paleo-themed dinner. The rule was that they had to pick recipes I had ingredients for in the house (I had just been to the Farmer’s Market and Whole Foods the day before, so there was plenty of food in the house, and plenty of recipe possibilities with what I had on hand) and that we hadn’t tried yet. We made the Restaurant Steaks (p346) with Sauteed Mushrooms and Onion (p116), Roasted Rainbow Carrots (p266), Strawberry Balsamic Dressing (p124) for a garden salad, and Snickerdoodle Whoopie Pies (p370) for dessert.
To sum up our meal: everything was delicious and everyone loved every recipe. But let me just take a moment to rave about the Restaurant Steaks recipe. My photo does not do it justice. Frankly, the gorgeous photo in Real Life Paleo doesn’t do it justice either. I have quite simply never had a better steak. I certainly have never cooked a better steak in my home (and before this, I considered myself a pretty competent home cooker of steaks), but this topped steaks I’ve had in fancy steakhouses! I had no idea you could make such a flavorful, perfectly cooked steak without a grill. Nor have I ever bothered to combine pan frying and oven baking before–although I will from now on! As I ate it, all I could think of was that scene from The Matrix, where Cypher is eating in the restaurant with Agent Smith and sticks that giant bite of steak in his mouth and says “ignorance is bliss”. I don’t know about ignorance, but this steak was bliss (as an aside, I used the Frenched Ribeye Steaks from US Wellness Meats for this recipe–highly recommend!). I don’t care how much of a grillmaster you are, Real Life Paleo is worth the price tag just for this recipe. By the way, it paired absolutely perfectly with our sides. And yes, I am a geek.
The Snickerdoodle Whoopie Pies were very easy to make, so much so that my 4-year old did most of the work (and it was a lovely bonding experience to make them together, another property of Paleo Parents’ recipes that I adore). They had a very cakey (but not crumbly) texture with the perfect balance of a minimally sweetened cookie and a sweeter frosting in the middle. It was a decadent treat for the whole family, and I was such a fan of the recipe that I asked for special permission to share the recipe with all of you–look for that later this week!
When my assistant Christina writes books reviews, my instructions are to be honest. If we don’t like a book, we don’t write a review (that whole “if you don’t have anything nice to say” thing again). I tell Christina that liking a book, but having one thing we think the authors could have done better, actually lends legitimacy to our book reviews, so not to feel bad about including a constructive criticism in our reviews. Honesty is always the best policy and something I am a very firm believer in with everything that I do. And if you look back over the book reviews posted on this site, both the ones Christina has written and my own, you’ll notice that most of the time, there’s at least something I don’t love about a book. Well, I can’t say that about Real Life Paleo. I can’t tell you that I wish they had included X, Y or Z. The only negative thing I have to say about the book is that it makes my idea for my next book moot–this book is the perfect general Paleo resource.
I’m doing one more thing to emphasize my support for Real Life Paleo. Yes, it wasn’t enough to write the foreword, write the cover endorsement on the back cover, write this review, and of course making Real Life Paleo the first book I recommend when people ask me which one book they should get (although if you have chronic illness or really want to geek out over the science behind the Paleo diet, I still think my books are the best choice!). I also agreed to join Matt and Stacy on a book tour. Those of you who have been following me for a while know that this is a really big deal. I didn’t even go on a book tour when either of my books (The Paleo Approach and The Paleo Approach Cookbook) released! Make sure to check out the Book Tour info here, and if we’re coming anywhere near where you live, please come out and meet us. Matt will be touring with Stacy for the first week of the tour, we’ll all meet up in New York city for a cooking demo on November 8th, and then I’ll be traveling with Stacy for the second week of the tour. Matt and Stacy will be doing some additional events the third week of November. Please, come out and meet us, get your copies of all our books signed, and stock up on great gifts for the upcoming holiday season!