When you’re making big changes in the kitchen, it can be overwhelming to say the least. Eliminating sugar, gluten, dairy, or grains can be a huge transition, and sometimes you just need some ideas about what you can eat now. Below, I’ll give you my best kitchen hacks for fast, easy foods we eat to stay on track, plus link up some excellent recipes and sources.
Whether I’m making a homemade pizza or spaghetti squash, I make a quick, easy tomato sauce by using a cup of tomato puree (I use organic, jarred tomato products like this), a tsp ea of my favorite Italian herbs like oregano, thyme, and basil, and garlic powder and salt to taste. That’s it.
Lettuce Wraps/ Taco Salad
I easily turn our favorite sandwiches or tacos into a lettuce wrap or salad by putting the fillings into a large piece of lettuce or over a bed of chopped lettuce. Easy to make and an excellent way to get more veggies in!
I make cheeseburgers and either wrap them in lettuce or just eat them plain, topped with avocado and served with a side of sweet potato fries.
When in doubt, combine some extra virgin olive oil with a dash of apple cider vinegar, then either add a little salt and your favorite herbs for a savory dressing, or a bit of honey for a dressing that tastes amazing with a salad that contains a little fruit.
When All Else Fails
Make a stew, soup or casserole! My book Our Top Five 30 Minute Meals is full of fast, easy soup and casserole recipes (get it for free here!). Spaghetti squash is easily combined with other veggies, and your meat and sauce of choice (cheese is a nice addition as well) for an easy casserole, while you can throw just about anything into a big pot with some broth or water and make a stew or soup. Get creative, use up foods you need to get rid of, and learn to love soup! Don’t make it too complicated; real salt is the perfect seasoning for every dish.
Condiment Recipes and Clean Ones to Purchase
Check out this whole page of paleo condiments recipes!
Squash and cauliflower are the workhorses of vegetables, as they can be easily exchanged for less-healthy options in many recipes. Thinly slice green or yellow squash length-wise for a substitution for lasagna noodles, or slice in thin strips (using a spiralizer helps!) to use as noodles in many recipes, like with meat balls, or in a cold “pasta” recipe with pesto. Butternut squash makes delightful fries for a good, lower-carb option on the side of a bunless burger, and spaghetti squash is the perfect replacement for spaghetti noodles with a tomato sauce.
Cauliflower is not only delicious roasted in butter, but it can be transformed to replace lots of foods! Boil, strain, then blend with butter for a satisfying white potato replacement (my kids don’t even notice the difference!), “rice” it in a blender or with a cheese grater (check out this tutorial from The Kitchn) or use a ricer. Make an easy white sauce to replace dairy and up your veggie game- find my yummy recipe here.
Get Your Fats Straight
Remember, a staple of a whole-foods diet is good fat! Here are recommended fats:
- organic, pastured butter
- coconut oil
- red palm oil
- avocado oil
- extra virgin olive oil
- pastured lard
- pastured tallow
One of the first things I did when making big diet changes was invest in a good cookbook. My resources page lists all my favorites, so go check that out for a place to start. A cookbook full of recipes that have been tried and true will be an invaluable investment as you navigate diet changes! The first cookbook I bought, that has simple, easy-to-follow, delicious recipes is Make It Paleo. There are dozens and dozens of wonderful books available now, so arm yourself with a couple and get busy in the kitchen!
Most importantly, you have to find what works for your body and your family. I personally believe gluten and sugar are poorly tolerated by the majority of people, though there are exceptions and various types of ancient grains that are better tolerated than modern varieties. Beyond that, however, is for each family to figure out. Because we skipped the “gluten-free” stage and went straight to grain-free, we had the benefit of feeling better right away. Some grains like oats and corn, though “gluten-free,” contain similar proteins that many people will react to like gluten. Dairy has similar characteristics: some people (like our family) tolerate and even thrive on raw dairy, while pasteurized dairy cannot be tolerated at all, and some people cannot tolerate even raw dairy.
The only way to know if you are reacting to a food is to remove it for 4-6 weeks before reintroducing it, and then decide from there whether or not to leave it in your diet. If you are dealing with more severe issues or battle stomach problems like bloating, constipation or diarrhea, you would be best served by an elimination diet like the Whole30 or Autoimmune paleo to see where your food sensitivities lie. If you are very healthy and simply want to lose weight or have no health issues to speak of, you can probably get away with a clean diet, and what that means for you will be very individualized.
Be sure to check out my resources page for a complete listing of books, supplements, foods and online stores we love!
Do you have any tips that make transitioning to a paleo or whole-foods diet easier?