Irena Macri’s sustainable approach to paleo
By now, we’ve all heard about the paleo diet, partly thanks to its poster-boy, Pete Evans and partly because “paleo friendly” is present on almost every café menu.
Breaking the stereotype that a paleo approach has to be an astringent way of life with no room for treats, fun or wine (our idea of hell), Irena Macri, the author of Happy Go Paleo, makes paleo more accessible to the masses. She believes in an 80/20 approach. That’s 80 per cent of the time sticking to paleo principles and 20 per cent of the time, eating with flexibility, which is right up our alley. We talked to Irina about her ideas about health, her diet and listening to your body.
Your latest cookbook offers a less regimented and more sustainable approach to paleo, what do you think are the best aspects of the paleo diet?
I think the best aspect of the paleo diet is that it focuses on unprocessed whole foods and ingredients that are very nutrient dense. Because it encourages the avoidance of things like bread, pasta and cereal, you end up replacing those foods with more vegetables, fruit, and healthy fats that are very nourishing. Another thing I like about paleo is that it’s very holistic – it’s as much about your lifestyle as it is about what you eat. Sleep, stress, functional movement, being outdoors – these are all central to paleo as an approach to wellbeing.
Could you tell us what an average day of food looks like for you?
My mornings are all about free-range eggs with bits and pieces. I love a couple of fried or soft-boiled eggs with mushrooms or smoked salmon, avocado, cherry tomatoes and sauerkraut. I wash it down with filter coffee, which is basically a fancy long black. We have an amazing old coffee grinder and we like to try out different coffee beans. On the weekends I might make a frittata or paleo pancakes.
For lunch I tuck into a bowl of mixed salad with tinned wild salmon or sardines, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and maybe some goat’s cheese.
If I need a snack, I go for apple slices with almond butter or liver pate with gherkins and crunchy veggie sticks.
In the evenings I like to spend a little more time in the kitchen and make a nice meal. It could be some grilled lamb cutlets with roasted sweet potato and beetroot with rosemary and garlic ; or my special quinoa dish with chorizo and halloumi cheese. I always have a fresh salad on the side.
I don’t usually do dessert but I like a little cheese or dark chocolate, and if I’m out for dinner I will treat myself to a gelato or some crème brûlée. And did I mention I love a glass of wine here and there?
We love eating a tasty bowl of nutrient dense whole foods but during the week, sometimes we just don’t have the time or the motivation to prepare a meal like this. What’s your advice to busy, working women when it comes to mid-week meals?
Plan ahead and keep it simple. When I have a busy week, I stock up on my favourite staples on the weekend and make sure I have the right ingredients on hand to make a quick meal. I always have a bunch of ingredients for a salad, some starchy vegetables that can be boiled or baked in the oven, and a few pieces of healthy protein to choose from. Think baked salmon with green peas, mint and goat’s cheese salad; pan-fried beef patties with a simple rainbow coleslaw; or grilled chicken with sweet potato mash and broccoli. All of these meals take 20 minutes or less to whip up.
If you really don’t feel like cooking, pick up a pre-mixed salad and some roasted chicken or a nice ready-to-eat soup and some cooked prawns on the way home.
You talk about “listening to your body” rather than counting calories, what’s your advice to women who are trying to eat a more well rounded diet?
I love the Japanese approach of ‘Hara Hachi Bu’ – eat until 80% full – which is really about mindful eating. So often we overeat simply because the food is put in front of us or because our brain hasn’t caught up with our stomach. Savour and enjoy your food and don’t rush – your digestive system will thank you for it! It’s important to focus on choosing very nutritious foods and eating enough fat and protein, which are very satiating and will keep hunger at bay for much longer than the processed carbohydrates.
Irena Macri is the creator of the hugely popular foodie blog, Eat Drink Paleo. Her book, Happy Go Paleo, is available now.