I have been asked on many occasions what are the most important Paleo kitchen cupboard staples, so below I have compiled a list of the foods I use on a regular basis. Eating Paleo should not be about restricting yourself, portion control OR counting calories. It is a diet rich in protein, vegetables and GOOD fat, LOW in carbohydrates and FREE FROM anything processed (grains, gluten, dairy, sugar, soya, manmade sweeteners etc). It is not a diet, you are not starving yourself or eating just one thing every three hours, it’s not dangerous for your health and you are not going to pass out for lack of carbs!
In terms of where you can buy some of the more “unusual” Paleo ingredients, I would always suggest bulk buying through websites such as Perfectly Paleo, or Amazon or visiting a store like Whole Foods (if you are London or US based). You can buy some fantastic meat boxes which are very reasonably priced from companies like Market Porter or Field and Flower, to stop any temptation in the biscuit aisle at the supermarket.
My other suggestion is to use your local farmers market! Since we have left London, I spend pretty much every Saturday morning at Marlborough Farmers Market stocking up on the stunning selection of fruits and vegetables. I will then make stews, curries and soups out of the produce, some of which I freeze for those nights when you just simply cannot be bothered to cook! They do packed big bowls full of produce for £1…..Things like blueberries, sprouts, quince, peppers, avocados, mushrooms, aubergine. You name it, it’s all there for £1. You can pick up large bags of onions and sweet potatoes for £2. It’s worth taking the time to buy local produce, support the community and know that you are eating well.
You can always pick up nut flours and coconut oil from health food shops, they might just be a little more expensive. I like to shop around and try new brands and I’m not going to lie, if there’s a 3 for 2 on coconut oil, I’ll buy 6! Eating well and Paleo doesn’t have to break the bank, I know it’s hard not to go crazy when you first start, eating all the expensive goodies like macadamia nuts, nut butters and grass-fed beef but you just need to take a step back, write a shopping list, a meal plan for the week and be savvy with your budget.
Nuts and Seeds
On Paleo, nuts and seeds can certainly be enjoyed as a healthy snack, however, they should not be consumed in high quantities on a regular basis.
Loaded with vitamins and minerals there is a lot of goodness that comes out of nuts. However, a lot are very high in polyunsaturated fat and in omega-6 fat, so consumption should be kept to a minimum.
Peanuts are not a nut but a legume and should be avoided at ALL costs. They are one of the most common food allergens, loaded with anti nutrients and are high in lectins, a well-known carcinogen.
Do your own research, however, the nuts I would suggest you stick to are:
- Macadamia Nuts
- Hazel Nuts
- Cashew Nuts
- Chia Seeds
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Sesame Seeds
Contrary to world-wide belief, SATURATED FAT IS ACTUALLY GOOD FOR US! We seem to have all just got lost in translation as to what is a good fat and what is a fat to be totally avoided. In fact, fats make you happy, and for those that follow a Paleo diet, it’s our main source of energy. The fats you should eliminate from your diet as of NOW are any vegetable oils, which are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids and Omega-6 as these are the ones that will aid cancer, heart disease, obesity and a whole host of other health issues! Examples of those include corn oil, peanut oil, soybean oil and grape seed oil. The fats which you can enjoy every day are:
- Avocado oil
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil (Best for cooking with. Buy from your local supermarket, health food store or online at Perfectly Paleo Read more about which type of coconut oil to go for HERE )
- Clarified butter (ghee)
- Nut butters and Seed butters (Make your own or buy from the supermarket or online. Stick to organic brands that only contain ONE ingredient- the nut itself! Brands like Meridian, Pip and Nut, Biona, Keen and My Protein are all great. They are amazing in baking, have a teaspoon as a snack, enjoy in my famous nut butter curry, dip crudités in them or drizzle with some chilli and seasalt on a salad- tahini is amazing for this with a little olive oil and lemon)
- Nut oils (walnut, macadamia)
- Coconut flesh
- Coconut Milk (Buy from Perfectly Paleo )With coconut milk always try to buy premium quality coconut milk with at least 60% coconut extract, free from added preservatives and stabilisers. Cartons like this one are mean that it’s BPA free, unlike alternative canned varieties. Coconut milk is a paleo cupboard staple that is a fantastic source of healthy fats. A hugely versatile ingredient, it can be used as a base for curries, added to smoothies, used as a dairy-free frosting on cakes, as a cream or as a yogurt alternative.
No eggs are NOT DAIRY. Enjoy them for breakfast, lunch or dinner and don’t limit yourself to 2 a week. Contrary to belief eggs are one of the most nutritious, affordable, protein packed sources and are known as a “perfect food”, they are very very good for us. The white provides us with protein, the yolk contains all the vitamins and nutrients. Always try to buy free range. Eggs are paleo because they are one of the most nutritious, affordable, and easy-to-prepare protein sources that there is.
- Chicken eggs
- Duck eggs
- Quail eggs
Spices and Other
I could not imagine a meal without using one or two (at least) spices from my kitchen cupboards. They are vital in giving food flavour and can completely transform a dish. Don’t be scared of them, use them and enjoy them in abundance. They also have incredible health boosting properties, are high in antioxidants, vitamins and have anti-inflammatory properties. You will find all spices in your local supermarket. A few of my favourites include:
- Black pepper,
- Cayenne pepper
- Fennel seeds
- Pink Himalayan Salt (Buy from Perfectly Paleo )
- Sea Salt
Herbs (Fresh and dry)
Like spices, herbs can also be enjoyed in abundance. Eaten fresh or dry, they add delicious flavour to a dish and a whole host of health busting properties. Great for adding to soups, curries or making your own pesto. You can pick up almost all herbs from your local supermarket.
- Bay Leaves
Meat and Fish
I am a huge advocate of buying meat from my local butchers. It’s locally sourced, grass-fed and reared in a safe and sound environment. When I worked in the City I didn’t have a lot of time for going to the butcher so would source my meat online through companies like Field and Flower or Market Porter, as they deliver grass-fed, organic, free range produce right to your door. They source from farms in the UK the whole process is enjoyable. The quality of the meat is excellent and it’s an all round good experience. In fact, I did design a Paleo Meat Box for Market Porter HERE. The great thing about the meat boxes is that you can add what you want, and work to your own budget. You can enjoy meat and fish in abundance, some of my favourites include:
- Beef (Minced, Diced, Fillet, Bones for Stock)
- Chicken (Breast, thighs, legs, heart, wings, liver, bones for bone broth)
It’s important to note that most fruits are very high in sugar. They will have an effect on your blood sugar and are to be enjoyed in moderation. However, things like berries are much lower in sugar and are high in antioxidants. They can be enjoyed daily as a healthy snack, add them to omelettes smoothies, baked goods and eat raw. As a Type One diabetic I am very wary of fruit and know only too well what effect it has on my sugars if I eat too much. By all means enjoy all fruit, just don’t go over board! Here are some of my favourites:
- Apples (Make apple sauce, dehydrate apple rings, or add 1/4 of an apple to a juice or smoothie for a little added sweetness)
- Bananas (Great in baking)
- Berries ( blueberry, blackberry, cranberry, strawberry)
- Medjool Dates (Great as a high energy snack with some nut butter, or in some homemade energy balls with cacao, macadamia nuts and orange zest. I actually use them as a hypo treatment! Buy from your local supermarket)
Vegetables can be enjoyed in abundance. Especially those that are green and leafy. I would suggest enjoying root vegetables sparingly. On the Paleo diet, we tend to eat lots of sweet potato but steer clear of white potatoes. Don’t be worried about not eating enough carbs on Paleo. Carbs are actually in everything, some vegetables just have more than others, the less you have the more stable your blood sugars will stay and if you are trying to lose weight then keep root vegetables to a minimum. My list of favourites includes, but is not limited to:
- Acorn Squash
- Aubergine / Eggplant
- Bell Peppers
- Bok Choi
- Butternut Squash
- Brussels Sprouts
- Onions (of any kind)
- Sweet Potatoes
- Swiss Chard
Ok, so nut or seed flour is a brilliant substitute for the normal flours. They are gluten and grain free and mean you can enjoy baked goods like bread, pancakes, muffins, cakes and biscuits without really noticing any difference. It’s a good idea to buy in bulk as they can be a little expensive. I tend to use ground almonds, tapioca, sesame seed flour and coconut flour the most. These are all easy to use and there are lots of amazing recipes around that utilise them.
- Ground Almonds – Great for any baking, and for creating a crispy coating on meat or fish (Buy from Perfectly Paleo or Amazon)
- Tapioca Flour– Great for pancakes, muffins and brownies (Buy from Perfectly Paleo or Amazon )
- Coconut Flour– Great in baking but be careful as it’s a dense flour so when substituting you will use a LOT less (Buy from Perfectly Paleo or Amazon)
- Sesame Flour – Great for savoury crackers and savoury shortcrust pastry (Buy from Perfectly Paleo or Amazon)
So, we all know that you can’t “milk an almond”, however, if you are following a Paleo diet you will also know that dairy is to generally be avoided. You can make your own milk or you can buy it from most supermarkets. Always go for the “original, unsweetened”, not a low fat one or a sweetened one. It’s a lot easier to make these yourself, and I urge you do, as you’ll get much more goodness out of it. However, it is a lengthy process and their shelf life (homemade) isn’t very long.
- Almond milk
- Coconut milk (different to the tins/ cartons)
- Macadamia milk
- Cashew milk
- Tigernut milk
Other (Chocolate and Sugar Alternatives)
- Cacao (A Superfood and Cocoa in its rawest form, great for adding to smoothies, desserts, cakes etc to give a rich chocolate flavour. Buy it from Perfectly Paleo , Amazon or any other health food store)
- 85% Chocolate (If I feel like a square or 3 of chocolate, I will have them and enjoy them. I like 85% chocolate brands like Lindt, the higher the % the lower the sugar content. Buy from any supermarket)
- Cacao Butter (Buy from any health food store or Perfectly Paleo. For making my own raw chocolate)
- Coconut Sugar (Great for baking, has a similar taste and consistency to brown sugar. Buy from any local health food store or Perfectly Paleo )
- Maple Syrup (Always go for 100% pure. Buy from most supermarkets, or online at Perfectly Paleo )
- Sugar Vida (If you are diabetic, I thoroughly recommend this product. It’s a natural sweetener. Use it in baking, add it to anything that needs sweetening. Read more about it and buy it HERE)
- Raw Honey
- Dried Fruit – In general, be wary as a lot of it is coated with sunflower oil which is not good for you. If you can either dry it yourself, or buy whole, organic with no added nasties then use it sparingly
- Tiger Nuts – Tiger nuts are not in fact nuts but a vegetable, a starchy tuber. For those who must avoid nuts tiger nuts are a great alternative for cooking and baking. Nutrition wise tiger nuts are high in vitamins C and E, minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus, as well as fatty acids, and fibre. They are even said to contain more calcium than liver and as much iron as red meat.