We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Elana Amsterdam, author of the New York Times Best Selling cookbook Paleo Cooking from Elana’s Pantry and the popular site Elana’s Pantry, founded in 2006. She gave up grains over a decade ago in 2001 and is known as a pioneer in grain-free cooking and baking, tempting foodies everywhere with her incredibly simple, yet flavorful recipes for dynamic, vibrantly healthy food.
The Paleo diet is increasing in popularity among people from all walks of life. We offer it as a primary diet option for Gatheredtable customers, helping to support their dietary needs.
Read the interview below…
1. What is the philosophy behind the Paleo diet?
The Paleo diet is a nutritious real foods diet that eliminates processed foods as well as grains. It is the original human diet, designed by nature itself, that we are genetically programmed to eat.
2. You went on a Paleo diet long before the term “Paleo” was coined and popularized. What prompted you to do so, and how has the diet been part of your personal health journey?
I went gluten-free in 1998 when I was diagnosed with celiac disease. I saw little improvement from following the gluten-free diet 100%, and my digestive system remained in distress. So, in 2001 I went grain-free. After 2 months on a strict grain-free diet my digestive system felt dramatically better, and I’ve stayed on it ever since!
3. While you’re not a scientist, one of the things your blog is known for is in-depth research of various health and wellness issues. Can you tell us about the physiological benefits of a Paleo diet for people who don’t have a particular health concern but just want to eat better and feel better?
The Paleo diet is an all around healthy diet because it:
- Eliminates processed foods
- Replaces high-calorie grains with high-fiber, nutrient dense vegetables
- Increases intake of satiating fats and protein, in place of high-carbohydrate grains
4. Why do you think the Paleo diet has become so popular? To what degree do you think it’s a trend that will fade away vs. a new way of eating that’s here to stay?
Our country is in the midst of a health crisis where nearly 1 in 2 adults is diabetic or pre-diabetic. A real foods diet full of meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds, that excludes high-carbohydrate, calorie dense foods such as grains is a great solution to the current obesity epidemic that our country struggles with.
5. When people are switching to a Paleo diet (or experimenting with it) what are some of the most challenging adjustments for them to make in their cooking and eating routines?
Creating new habits can be a challenge in general, because it requires us to carve new neural pathways in the brain. Thus, forming new patterns and routines that support eating real food may initially be difficult.
The adjustments one needs to make when going on a Paleo diet are creating the habits of meal planning and food preparation. For planning, Gatheredtable is a great solution. Clip recipes from the “Dinners” section of my website into your Gatheredtable collection and Gatheredtable will do the work for you, generating a customized Paleo meal plan each week.
In terms of preparation, I spend Sunday afternoons grocery shopping and prepping vegetables for the week. This batch prepping cuts down on my time in the kitchen during the week and it really pays off!
6. What foods are allowed on the Paleo diet?
The Paleo diet is based on the diet of our Paleolithic hunter-gatherer ancestors who lived on animal foods such as meat, fish, poultry, and game. They also foraged for vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds. For a complete list of Paleo diet Do’s and Don’ts, see my post “What is the Paleo Diet?“ on elanaspantry.com.
7. What are some of the essentials for stocking a Paleo pantry?
- Almond Flour is high in heart-healthy fats, protein, and fiber and is fantastic for baking. Made from blanched, skinless finely ground almonds, almond flour is rich in flavor. I recommend purchasing almond flour online from Nuts.com or Honeyville Farms, as it is far more expensive when purchased at the grocery store.
- Coconut Flour is made from finely ground, dried coconut meat. It is high in fiber and fabulous for baking light and fluffy muffins and cakes. See my Coconut Flour page for brand recommendations and recipe ideas.
Fats and Oils
- Coconut Oil is a healthy fat derived from coconut meat that has anti-viral and anti-microbial properties and I use it for both cooking and baking.
- Grass Fed Butter is delicious and full of healthy omega-3 fats that we can all use more of!
- Palm Shortening is great for people that cannot eat dairy and makes a fabulous substitute for butter; be sure to purchase this oil from a sustainable, eco-friendly source such as Spectrum Organics.
- Olive Oil is best purchased in its extra virgin form and is perfect for salad dressings, sauces, and condiments such as homemade mayonnaise.
- Honey is a fabulous choice for baked goods. I use raw, local, organic honey.
- Maple Syrup is great because it has a mellower flavor than honey and is also delicious in baked goods.
- Coconut Sugar has a lovely caramel flavor that is similar to that of brown sugar, I use it in recipes such as my Paleo Cinnamon Coffee Cake.
8. One complaint we hear is that the Paleo diet can be expensive. What are your tips for eating Paleo on a budget?
- Buy in Bulk – purchase food in larger volumes to save money
- Join a CSA – get farm fresh produce directly from the farmer
- Search for Deals Online – items like almond flour are far cheaper online
- Cook at Home – restaurant food can vary in quality and is expensive
9. Let’s talk baked goods. A lot of people think “steak and salad” when they think of Paleo eating, but you’ve created delicious desserts that are within Paleo guidelines. How do you do it? Why do you do it?
I have literally hundreds of options for grain-free desserts on my website that are far lower in sugar than their traditional counterparts. Fans tell me that these desserts taste every bit as good as the originals they are based on. Whether it’s my Paleo Birthday Cake (made with 7 healthy ingredients!) or Chocolate Chip Cookies (also 7 ingredients), sometimes people want a treat that’s made wholesome and healthy.
I also love to bake bread, it’s simply not something I was interested in permanently giving up. So I created Paleo Bread which has 7 ingredients that you simply throw in a food-processor then bake. We love to toast it and use it for Paleo PBJ’s. We also use it to make egg in a hole, which is scrumptious!