Review: 500 Paleo Recipes

      15 Comments on Review: 500 Paleo Recipes

Dana Carpender is best known for her many low-carb cookbooks.  (We bought several of them, including copies for relatives, before I even knew Dana.)  Her latest cookbook is for people who want to go more paleo, or would just like to have a collection of recipes that don’t include butter, cream, sour cream or cheese.  If you’re a low-carber who needs to avoid dairy products, this is the book for you.

In the introduction to 500 Paleo Recipes, Dana explains why she wrote the book:

Low-carbers around the world tell me a shift is occurring.  I hear from more and more people who are shunning soy products, who avoid gluten, who are seeking out grass-fed meat and dairy and wild-caught fish.  More and more, I hear from people who have quit using artificial sweeteners.

Many of the recipes in my previous books are paleo-friendly, but many are not.  Indeed, my own eating habits have shifted over the years, to the point where there are recipes in my own books that I would no longer be willing to eat.  I’ve gone gluten-free, no longer eating even low-carb bread or tortillas, yet quie a few of my old recipes call for these items, or ingredients such as vital wheat gluten, wheat germ and wheat bran.  Some use canola oil, which I haven’t touched in years.

She then explains what paleo means … or more precisely, how she chose to define it for the book.  As she notes, there is no one definition of paleo.  Different people who promote what they label paleo diets sometimes disagree with each other about what foods are acceptable.  And of course, few if any of us eat a true paleo diet anyway:

It bears pointing out that unless you eat only locally hunted and gathered wild foods, you’re not really eating the same as Ogg.  (Or Grok, with a tap of the hat to blogger and author Mark Sisson, of The Primal Blueprint.)

So for the purposes of the book, Dana mostly defines paleo foods as those you could eat raw, even if you typically don’t.  You can eat meat, eggs, fruits and vegetables raw.  You wouldn’t eat grains and legumes raw unless you enjoy a good bellyache.  She also eliminates dairy, alcohol and processed foods in her paleo recipes.

If you’re a low-carber, you’ll be glad to know Dana lists the calorie and macronutrient counts for each recipe in the book.  This isn’t strictly a low-carb cookbook, but there are still plenty of low-carb recipes:

You’ll find very low-carb meat and egg recipes here, absolutely, and recipes for non-starchy vegetables, nuts and seeds, and other low-carb favorites.  But you’ll also find recipes for sweet potatoes, winter squash and other starchy vegetables.  You’ll find more fruit than I have hitherto allowed, and recipes including honey.

Just as many low-carb folks don’t eat paleo, many paleo folks are not strictly low-carb.  Most low-carbers were drawn to the diet because of obesity, blood sugar problems, or a combination of the two.  Many paleo folks, though, have always been slim and athletic, with robust metabolisms that can tolerate more carbohydrates.

Yes, and when the never-been-fat paleo youngsters insist we should all eat plenty of “safe starches” because they personally tolerate potatoes and rice so darned well, I want to smack them.  My glucometer knows better than they do.  Speaking of which:

As always, you need to pay attention to your body.  If you have blood sugar problems, your glucometer is your friend.  Pay attention to your body and pick and choose the recipes that work for you.

Amen, Dana.

As you’d expect in a book of 500 recipes, there’s a little bit of everything here:  appetizers, main courses, salads, desserts, dips, cereals, pancakes, soups, broths … there even recipes for making your own yogurt and sour cream using coconut milk.

I happen to love sour cream and don’t have any issues with dairy products as far as I can tell, so I’ll probably stick with the real thing.  But even if you have no intention of becoming a paleo purist, there are plenty of recipes in here you’ll want to try just because they sound appealing.

I encourage people to buy low-carb cookbooks to avoid letting dietary boredom torpedo their goals.  After all, if the Atkins diet were actually as limiting as some people assume it to be (nothing but steaks, eggs cheeseburgers with a little bit of salad), almost nobody would stick with it.  Same goes for paleo, or low-carb paleo, or sort-of-low-carb paleo:  you need variety to avoid boredom.

500 Paleo Recipes will help keep your diet interesting.


15 thoughts on “Review: 500 Paleo Recipes

  1. Beowulf

    Nice review. I’ll have to see about getting that book. I still eat dairy, but I appreciate a good non-dairy paleo cookbook.

    The whole insistence on “safe starches” by some fractions of the paleo community also makes me want to smack something. I’m young, athletic, and have never been overweight, so I don’t have a problem with some sweet potato and winter squash, but the middle-aged people I know that are fighting weight completely stall out or even gain weight if they indulge in more than the occasional “safe” starch.

    Exactly. People who were never insulin resistant and fat aren’t metabolically the same as those who were.

  2. Liz

    So glad you pointed out the “always been lean Paleo” giving dietary advice. Even if you tell them their genetics are at play, I often get the “You’re not trying hard enough” smirk. It’s pretty irritating…about as irritating as when I went vegan and gained 20 lbs, only to find out the authors of Skinny Bitch were never, ever fat. ARGH!!

    Yup. If you’re fat and want to lose weight, take advice from a fat person who lost weight.

  3. Becky

    I took to this book right away, and use it more than any of my other paleo cookbooks. Dana’s Easter lamb roast is wonderful, and foolproof. Her recipe instructions are very clear and accessible.

  4. Tate

    First, I want to say that I love your website and your movie was the genesis for my eventual loss of 70 odd lbs (a journey that continues) and salvation. However, I think (with very few exceptions) the VLC diet is something of a cargo cult. I am in the military and have always been active in sports. While on the VLC I initially lost weight, but stopped losing weight at 250, after 35 lbs of weight loss. I felt better than I had in a long time initially while on VLC, but began to feel progressively worst. I started getting sick often, tore a hamstring, passed out while lifting twice, got weak, and was unable to regulate my body temperature. I was afraid that I was on the way out of the military because I couldn’t loss more weight and my physical fitness was progressively declining. It wasn’t until I added in tubers (skinned), really focused on cutting out the PUFA’s (including non-tropical nuts, grain fed poultry skin, and grain fed pork fat), and paid attention to liver health (mainly by eating liver) that my weight loss took off again. Currently, I am in the best shape I have been in about 14 years, the weight loss shows no sign of slowing, and I feel amazing. I think that VLC is a good start because you stop eating most of the poison in the modern diet. This includes grains, most PUFA’s, fructose, alcohol, and (arguably) lactose. But if you are active, dietary glucose is very beneficial. They are plenty of cultures which have thrived off of dietary carbohydrates, specifically yams, sweet potatoes, and bacteria processed milk. I WAS insulin and leptin resistant (at a hop and a skip from 300 lbs, I don’t know how you could argue I wasn’t), but low carb was making me unable to perform in my job and killing my metabolism. When I first added carbs back into the diet, I gain weight. (For every gram of glucose you body stores, it also stores 2 grams of water.) I gain almost ten pounds during the first week with dietary glucose back in the diet… and effortlessly lost 45 lbs in the next 4 months.

    I basically eat this everyday (still lower carb than SAD and high fat, but at a little over 3000 calories, 180 grams of carbs I definitely am not starving myself into weight loss):

    Breakfast: Coffee with 2 tbsp. grass fed cow butter and 2 tbsp. coconut oil
    Lunch (only if I work out): 4 cups full fat yogurt and 2-4 tbsp. of liver pate
    Lunch (if I don’t work out): 3-4 tbsp. of liver pate
    Dinner: Two cups skinned, boil sweet potato with 1 cup 80% lean hamburger (fat retained), 2 tbsp. butter, 1/2 shredded cheese, hot sauce to taste, and 1/2 cup sour cream.

    If you engage in a lot of intense physical activity and can’t keep your energy up on a very low-carb diet, then yes, I’d definitely add some sweet potatoes or other non-sugar, non-grain carbs into the mix. Not everyone needs or will benefit from a diet nearly devoid of carbohydrates.

  5. Peggy Sue

    I have several Dana Carpender cookbooks, and recently added this one to my collection. I never would have been able to make the transition from SAD to low-carb without them.

  6. Kathy

    Tom, the originator of the term “safe starches” is Paul Jaminet, author of The Perfect Health Diet. The term “safe” refers specifically to the minimal toxins in those plant starches, and does not refer to glucogenesis. Paul himself regained a lot of health (and lost some weight on the way to health) on a low-carbish Paleo-type diet, but then developed new problems which were relieved when he added starches to his diet. In his book, he has a specific chapter on weight loss, as well as advice for other health problems.

    I’m only saying all this because (1) sometimes people do find that they eventually feel better with some (NOT unlimited or just any!) starches. (2) Often we set weight loss as our goal, when better health is the goal, which is usually accompanied by weight loss. (3) I guess I don’t like to see one of my favorite authors disparaged! If you would get a chance to review his book, I’d appreciate it!

    No disrespect for Paul intended. I’ve read his work and believe his diet is a good one — WAY better than what most people consume. He’s also said that people who have pre-diabetes or diabetes probably need to skip the “safe starches” as well, so he’s open-minded enough to recognize that there’s no one perfect diet for everyone — even his.

    My “want to smack them” comment was directed at the young, never-been-fat paleo types who think that since they can eat lots of potatoes without any problems, that means we all should be eating them.

    1. Bob Parker

      When I cut out grains altogether I experienced a brief period of feeling unwell which I was able to relieve by a eating a meal including rice. I only had to do that once and I just went on grain free from then. It does take a little time to adapt to sensible eating.

  7. Justin B

    I find it funny that even after you explain that different people need different things, people still want to say “VLC is untrue because it didn’t entirely work for me!!!” in response. VLC worked great for me for many years. After about 7 years of maintaining my 80 lb weight-loss and health, I suddenly gained back 10 lbs, and maintained that weight for about another 2 years, until I decided to try some minor tweaks to see what would happen. I added more saturated fat. I stopped drinking Splenda-sweetened soda at home, and started using Sweetleaf Stevia drops in water instead. I stopped eating grains and sugar completely. I added back 2-3 servings of sweet or white potatoes per week. I proceeded to lose 11 lbs in a month, and now I weigh less than I did when I first lost the weight. I don’t know if this was partly due to, or in spite of the potatoes. I’m still under 60g of carbs on the days I eat them, so who knows.

    All of this was to say that different things work for different people, and even for the same people at different stages in their lives.


  8. David

    I should buy that book one of these days when I have some extra money to spend. Yeah as “limiting” as the Atkins diet is, I actually have had people ask me rediculous questions who straight up assume when I say I live a low carb lifestyle that it has to be Atkins but questions like “how are you not dead yet eating no carbs but mostly protein?” As far as “safe starches”, I still don’t go near potatoes.

    I’d answer, “How are you not dead yet eating that mutant wheat?”

  9. Robinowitz

    Updated comment–

    I’m a lover of Dana’s books and own 500 Low-carb Recipes, 15 minute LC Cookbook as well as the Fat Fast cookbook, so I’m sure I’ll eventually get this one, too! Sounds like a useful addition to my cookbook shelf!

    As for the starches, I’m one of those people that can eat potatoes and rice and maintain my weight, though in order to lose I tend to have to lower added fat calories some (1tbs of ghee instead of 2-3 plus sour cream on a sweet potato). I figure it’s a small accommodation to get to enjoy some daily starch I’ve been missing the last 4 years. I have been overweight and lost 30 lbs eating VLCHF, but I got to a place where it just wasn’t happening anymore with the weight loss. Going back VLC after some holiday eating always drops the weight and water fast but, as far as long-term satisfaction, I’m really liking the variety of having some starch (50-100 from sweet and white potatoes, mostly).

    I’ve read the older and newer versions of the Perfect Health Diet, and they definitely believe that blood sugar shouldn’t go over 140 when testing after eating…so I’d say their range of between 50-150 grams of starch a day would probably provide a range that’s suitable for lots of people. They also believe that eating coconut oil helps a person eat a slightly higher carb level than the VLC we’re mostly used to and still get ketogenic benefits without have to eat as ketogenically. It’s interesting stuff, really. They’re probably some of the nicest doctors out there writing books and blogs, too.

    So, for me, VLC doesn’t help me lose more weight (about 15 above ideal) so I’m willing to experiment with some starches and see how it goes. I’d been stuck in the VLC dogma for so long that it’s taken me a year to be willing to do this. For me, the blood sugar raises from eating starches is seriously blunted when eaten with fat and protein. Experimenters just have to be willing to do it for a few weeks or a month to see if they can adapt to a bit if starch. At first, I gained weight, too, but it went away easily with no effort on my part. My body just had to get used to processing starch again.

    And I’m a 33 year old female who weighs 140 lbs now…not a kid who’s never been fat. That’s my n=1 experiment with starches:)

    I prefer to keep my post-prandial glucose below 125, but if most people observed the guidelines described above, it would be a huge improvement.

  10. Robinowitz

    I agree with you there. I just meant they said it was best to NEVER get it above 140 post-prandially.

    I just tested my blood sugar about an hour and a half after eating a sweet potato with ghee and tuna and it was 100. I was pretty pleased with that! Of course, I’m one of the few ladies I know that didn’t fail the glucose tolerance test forced upon all pregnant women. I remember it being around 100 an hour after drinking that awful orange drink. Perhaps I’ve never actually been insulin resistant–I always assumed I was back when I was overweight simply BECAUSE I was overweight.

    I’ve found that about a half sweet potato pushes me up around 125, so I’ll eat that much with dinner now and then. No white potatoes, though — those push my glucose much higher.

  11. cTo

    Point of interest, our individual relationships with dairy might be more complicated than just being able to digest it. I too have no problems digesting dairy and did primal-paleo for two years, frequently enjoying yogurts and heavy creams. But then recently I tried a 3-week sugar/honey and dairy detox for the hell of it and lost 5 stubborn fat pounds around my abdomen, cleared up my sinuses considerably, and found that my mood and energy levels improved and evened out over the course of the day. Im now sticking with a much lower dairy intake and really enjoying the results (even though I do miss my full-fat yogurts 🙁 )

    I’ve considered going dairy-free for a month or so just see if I feel any different.

    1. Robinowitz

      That’s interesting, cTO, because on Sunday I decided to embark on dairy-free for 30 days to see how I feel. This is day 6 and I feel better and more energetic. I also expect to lose some weight because last time I gave up dairy for 2 weeks I lost 9 lbs! I know that’s a lot in a short time, but when I started eating dairy again I gained most of it back. I’m sure at least half of it was water weight as dairy seems to really make me retain water. A whole month of no dairy will be very illuminating. I’d never want to give it up forever, but if it’s something that keeps me at a heavier weight them I suppose it would be worth it to abstain for a while, just to see:)

      Tom: have you read about the Whole9 blog and the Whole30 program? They recommend and provide resources for a free 30 day program of eating high quality meats, fish, eggs, lots of veggies, some fruit and nuts, but ZERO grains, sugars, dairy, legumes, alcohol. I’d just have to give up dairy and stevia to try it (giving up stevia isn’t easy for me) but otherwise it’s a nice detox program from the SAD most people eat. I mention it because your Fathead movie is listed as one of their resources!

      Yes, I’m familiar with the program and will probably give a try sometime just to see what happens.


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