Your Favourite Recipes, Paleo-Style

Let’s be realistic. A diet that has too many rules isn’t one that you’re likely to stick with. To help, we’ve simplified some go-to Paleo recipes for you

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Paleo for beginners

Before we start talking about recipe swaps, let's go over some Paleo basics:

Paleo is often referred to as the caveman diet. It focuses heavily on fats and animal protein and tends to shun carbohydrates. Toronto registered dietitian Julia Stanislavskaia, says that the diet "simulates the way our prehistoric, primitive ancestors have eaten." Essentially foods like meats, eggs, seeds, fruits, and vegetables make into the daily menu, because that is all our ancestors had access to. It is also void of grains, added sugar and processed foods, as well as dairy, legumes and grains, since farming and manufacturing weren't available in to prehistoric humans.

Paleo is increasing in popularity. "[Paleo] attracts attention because it isn't just a diet book or plan, but more of an eating philosophy," says registered dietitian Jennifer Sygo, author of Unmasking Superfoods and nutrition columnist for the Toronto Star. "It is also dramatic shift from the way many people eat, and I think that also catches people's attention."

Paleo isn't all meat, every day. Registered dietitian Edie Shaw-Ewald, who works at Atlantic Superstore in Halifax, N.S. says that to follow a true Paleo diet, you would only eat what you had access to, which can be hard to do nowadays with the access to food we have. "Hunter-gatherers wouldn't have had animal protein everyday. After all, they had to chase and kill an animal, so one day there may have been a lot of meat, and then [they might not have any] meat for days or even weeks."

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Paleo-friendly Asian stir-fry

Swap greasy toppings and rice and noodles for lean meats, veggies and cauliflower.

"Any stir-fry can easily be made Paleo, simply by taking out the noodles or rice, and using good quality meat and plenty of vegetables," says Sygo. "Try pork, shrimp, beef or chicken sautéed with bok choy, broccoli, green peppers, mushrooms, onions, and ginger."

If you still want that "rice" base, Shaw-Ewald, suggests swapping it for cauliflower. "Just grate or dice up the cauliflower finely and sauté in a little olive oil for a few minutes." You can do the same for your grain bowl, too.

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Paleo-friendly pasta

Swap traditional pasta noodles for a veggie like spaghetti squash or zucchini.

"Use spaghetti squash," instead of noodles, says Shaw-Ewald. Or, "a spiralizer can come in handy for making long strands of zucchini to substitute for spaghetti. Top it with a tomato meat sauce with lots of veggies added to it."

As for how to prep spaghetti squash, here are Sygo's tips: "Simply cut the squash in half, spray it with olive oil, and roast it, face down, until soft, and then scoop out the insides.

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Paleo-friendly hamburgers

Swap wheat buns and breadcrumbs for nut flours, and ground flax and eggs.

Make sure your patty is made with grass-fed beef, says Stanislavskaia. And use an egg and ground flax as a binder. "Instead of bread, use lettuce [leaves] or homemade bread made from different flours. Breads and buns can be made out of nut flours, such as almond flour. This is a bit more complex - at least at first - and requires [you follow] specific recipes, but once you get the hang of it, it gets much easier."

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Paleo-friendly burritos and tacos

Swap tortillas for a lettuce leaf.

Load up with the fillings, suggests Sygo. "Make your favourite taco or burrito 'insides,' like ground beef, with lettuce, tomato, raw or sautéed peppers and onions, salsa, and guacamole."

As for the tortilla and shells, Sygo says to use a large leaf of lettuce, like romaine or Boston bibb, a blanched collard green leaf. "They're nice and big for wraps or burritos, plus collards are about as nutritious as kale."

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Paleo-friendly breakfast

Swap your usual yogurt, milk, toast and cereal for almond milk, eggs and pudding.

Since Paleo is all about fresh fruit and veggies, a smoothie might seem like the perfect Paleo treat. But watch out for the yogurt or milk you add. Instead, Sygo suggests adding "a scoop of almond butter, hemp seeds or pasteurized egg whites for protein, all blended together with coconut water or almond milk.

Shaw-Ewald suggests a breakfast of eggs, avocado slices and an orange.

Stanislavskaia, on the other hand, likes this sweet dish for brekkie or dessert: chia seed pudding mixed with fruit.