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Eat Drink Paleo: Irena Macri

Paleo eating is extremely popular at the moment and it seems to be much more than just filling up on piles of meat, it’s opening us to up to reverting back to more nutrient dense food and enjoying a wider variety of plant based foods. Strictly speaking, the Paleo way of life means the removal of grains, legumes, dairy, processed foods, such as sugar, from the diet. Irena Macri, from Eat Drink Paleo answers my questions and shares 3 awesome paleo winter recipes from her popular cookbooks. 

Nat: I’m seeing a few different versions of Paleo floating around. What’s your definition or “rules” you live by? 
Irena: I don’t like rules so I like to think of paleo as more of a framework or a template that can be tailored to the individual. Of course there are guidelines that I use to navigate through  all of the do’s and don’ts but I try to keep them pretty simple:
·       Focus on eating foods that are as natural and unprocessed as possible
·       I like to follow a 2:1 vegetables to meat ratio so on my plate you fill find twice as much plant based foods as animal protein
·       Avoid toxic, inflammatory and gut irritating foods (grains, legumes, high omega-6 and processed oils, processed sugar and most dairy)
·       I like an 80/20 approach which I believe makes it easier to stick to paleo way of eating long term. My 20% is full fat and fermented dairy, occasional white rice and white potatoes and gelato J
·       Keep your gut healthy – include a variety of probiotic foods
·       Prioritise sleep and manage stress as much as possible as those are even more important than your diet
Is Paleo about calorie counting or is there more of a focus on nutrients? 
Definitely all about nutrients and also the anti-nutrients that we’re trying to avoid. The best way to describe paleo is that it’s about avoiding nutrient void foods (pasta, bread) and replacing them with more nutrient dense foods (good sources of animal protein, good fats, vegetables, fruit etc). If you consume enough protein and fat, you don’t need to eat huge portions either.
If someone was keen to get started with the Paleo lifestyle what are 4 tips to start them off on their way? 
        Focus on what you can eat rather on what you can’t!
        Redefine breakfast! It’s ok to have meatballs and sauerkraut first thing in the morning and an omelette for dinner.
        Don’t get too dogmatic about it. Just because some people follow a strict, very low-carb paleo diet, doesn’t mean that everyone has too. Learn about the basic principles, follow them for 30 days and then experiment with some foods like dairy and white rice to see how they make you feel. It will be much easier if you can add a little variety once in a while, although there are already so many great foods to choose from
        Make friends with your butcher and fishmonger and don’t be afraid to ask where the produce comes from or if you’re after something in particular. We vote with our wallet so the more demand there is for grass-fed, free-range meat and sustainable seafood, the more the suppliers will listen.
What inspired you to write your cookbooks? Do you just love food? 
I really love food and cooking and I felt that I had so many great recipes to share. I guess I saw my books as a tool to inspire people and to give them every day ideas that are tasty and nutritious at the same time. I also love the creative process of writing a cookbook, it’s my artistic way to express who I am.  My first cookbook Eat Drink Paleo Cookbookwas crowd-funded so my readers actually helped to publish it. And my RejuvenateeBook was a collaboration with Clare Yates, who is a nutritional medicine practitioner so it’s half cookbook half wellness manual. 
Do you have favourite ways you like to keep active? Do you find any forms of exercise particularly synergistic with the Paleo lifestyle? 
I love activities that don’t feel like exercise and I think they also happen to be synergistic with the paleo lifestyle as they are often done outdoors in the sunshine and fresh air. I love hiking, rock climbing and swimming in the ocean. I love to go for a long jog in the park and yoga seems to suit my body well too. I’ve tried Crossfit but I don’t think it’s for me.
I’m big on cutting out refined sugars. I’m keen to find out- what are your paleo ways of adding sweetness to dishes? 
Luckily I have a savoury tooth so I don’t crave many sweets but some foods just go so well with a something a little sweet like chicken livers with caramelised onions or Asian salads. I like to use natural sources that have a few nutrients along with the sugar so I tend to go for things like raw honey, maple syrup, dates, sweet potato or coconut nectar. Sometimes I will use fruit in a savoury dish like a tagine. But I also find that your taste buds change as you cut out the processed foods and sugar so you don’t need to sweeten dishes as much. 
What’s a favourite winter paleo recipe of yours? 
I absolutely love my paleo lasagna on the weekend and for a week day meal I can’t go past my lamb and coconut curry or a nice soup like my spicy pumpkin lemongrass soup. All three hits with my readers too. 
Winter Paleo Recipes: 

Paleo Lasanga

Paleo coconut curry

Scipy pumpkin coconut soup 

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