To Paleo or not to Paleo (Our Foodie Quest)

I’ve never been on a diet — except for the Pinoy one, that is.

As mentioned in a previous post, the Filipino diet is pretty much omnivorous in nature, rich in a wide variety of ingredients, cooking methods, condiments and spices. Water is typically the beverage of choice (to stave off dehydration, primarily!) with the exception of non-soda beverages involving crushed ice. And though the diet is heavily starch-based, with rice as the staple, many dishes, noodles and snacks are gluten-free – and relatively few Filipinos I knew growing up were overweight.

At the moment though, my family’s diet is nowhere near that. Wheat pasta, usually mere party fare in our childhood, is now a staple, alongside rice. Fruit and vegetables are a lot less varied, with veggies not as popular. Seafood is eaten less often, and snacks are heavy with wheat-based starches.

Although our diet doesn’t primarily consist of junk or processed food and I still cook from scratch pretty much everyday, there remains plenty of room for improvement.  But the urgency to resume revamping our meals was fueled by three events:

First, the diagnosis of autoimmune disease in two close family members spurred them to improve their diets, inspiring me to do likewise. Secondly, our panganay’s  (firstborn) frequent declarations of “I’m starving!” despite full meals seemed to suggest a growth spurt, urgently requiring nutritious and filling foods. Her eagerness to learn about nutrition and to try new recipes was a welcome impetus as well. But the final boost came from our bunso (youngest) who started announcing “Donuts!” or “Pizza!” each time the family car returned home – it was clear something had to change.

So, what to do and how to do it?

My goals were simple – to introduce more new foods to our kids including Filipino dishes, educate them in choosing healthier foods, and keep our panganay’s hunger pangs at bay. Any diet that could accomplish all these and incorporate rice (after all, a meal without rice isn’t a meal for most Filipinos!) would be a sure winner.

Microsoft PowerPoint - Food Plate.ppt
The Perfect Health Diet apple

The Paleo diet appealed to me – primarily because many Pinoy foods and ingredients are already Paleo friendly (or easily tweaked), and one Paleo diet in particular, the Perfect Health Diet, incorporates rice as a “safe starch” (Yey!) – with presoaking first.

Paleo foods are also nutritionally dense, filling our panganay’s  needs, and the emphasis on variety to attain optimal nutrition also fills our “foodie” goals. Of course it didn’t hurt that my newly-diagnosed family members noticed a remarkable boost in energy levels and reduced symptoms with the  autoimmunue protocol of the Paleo diet as well!

(If you haven’t heard of the Paleo diet yet, The Paleo Mom blog is a good introduction, written by a very practical scientist mom.)

There are tons of Paleo cookbooks out there (including the intriguingly entitled Eat Like a Dinosaur: Recipe & Guidebook for Gluten-free Kids), but the one I happened to pick up is Everyday Paleo Family Cookbook: Real Food for Real Life by Sarah Fragoso. It has great photos and interesting recipes, with a short introduction to Paleo. Her first book Everyday Paleo delves deeper into the how’s and why’s of Paleo, which I have yet to read. But what I’ve read so far in the cookbook and online appeals to me enough to inspire me to try some Paleo recipes.

Though I’m not an expert on all things Paleo by any means, and it remains to be seen how long before this dietary transformation takes root in our family (if ever!), we will take each week as it comes, introducing new, healthier foods or tweaking old ones – within the limits of our time and means. Hopefully, embarking on this culinary journey will cure even the pickiest of eaters in our family as well!

This past week was Week One of our resumed culinary quest – and below is a snapshot of the week’s meals with some recipes. All in all, it seems to have gone reasonably well, with a few new foods tried and some old dishes “tweaked” into healthier versions – like using coconut oil to scramble eggs. (Funny, we have plenty of coconuts back home but I don’t remember ever using coconut oil for that purpose!)

Small steps indeed, but at least headed in the right direction. And though we don’t know what Week Two will bring, I’m sure it will be no less exciting than this – or at least, as interesting!

May you, too, have fun and success in your culinary adventures.

Kain na! Let’s eat!


Week One in a Nutshell

Below are some meals from this past week- a mix of both labor intensive and simplified recipes, even frozen leftovers. Most are not Paleo friendly – still working on it. 😉

I’ve listed items marked with an asterisk* on the “Where to Buy” page, for those interested. (Quite a few food items are from Costco, where we buy most of our raw meat, seafood, fruits, bread, nuts and dairy – they stock a ton of Paleo friendly items!

Breakfast (Almusal)

  • Waffles*, artificial syrup and frozen wild organic blueberries*.  Only berries were Paleo.

Instead of plain syrup, our panganay made Grandmother’s blueberry syrup (syrup and berries microwaved together till hot) to go on top of her waffles. Not Paleo, but at least healthier. The others ate blueberries separately (Paleo). Maple syrup* is more Paleo friendly, but only I used it that day.

  • Scrambled organic eggs* (Paleo if using coconut oil) with buttered multi-grain toast*.

Hubby has been using this coconut oil* for a while now to scramble eggs – Nutiva Organic Virgin Coconut Oil, 15 Ounce. Very Paleo,  but not everyone is a fan. I decided to start small and added a tiny bit to the butter in the pan for the kids’ scrambled eggs – just enough for them to taste, but not enough to be an excuse for not eating it. 😉 Will add a little more next time.

  • Fried organic eggs* and buttered multi-grain toast* – our default breakfast these days. Eggs are Paleo if coconut oil is used – we’re not quite there yet.
  • Bagels* with cream cheese or butter plus apricot preserves. Not Paleo. 😉

Snacks (Merienda)

  • Crackers – Neither Paleo nor gluten free.
  • Fresh fruit* – blueberries, raspberries, apples, bananas, mangoes, watermelon. Paleo and gluten free.
  • Banana berry smoothies with chia seeds*. Smoothies were gluten free, potentially Paleo friendly as well if I had thought of using the almond milk we bought to try!
  • Packaged yogurt smoothie drink* (not Paleo) and fresh berries*.
  • Roasted seaweed snack* – gluten free, Paleo if without canola oil
  • Smoothie pops (frozen leftover smoothie) – Paleo if almond milk used
  • Greek yogurt*, fruit flavored or plain with honey – not Paleo

Lunch/Dinner (Tanghalian/Hapunan) 

Asian-Italian meal:

  • caprese-crop4PR - Copy
    Caprese salad

    Caprese* salad – Tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and a large pot of basil plants all came from Costco. So good – most are gobbled up on the way and never make it to the table. 😉 And so fresh it doesn’t need a dressing. Gluten-free. Paleo without the cheese.

  • Asian Style Salmon* with couscous and steamed broccoli – THE salmon recipe that converted one of our kids into loving salmon. Couscous is not Paleo or gluten free. Salmon can be made Paleo friendly by substituting coconut aminos* or wheat-free tamari* for soy sauce.

Pinoy meal:

  • Chicken Adobo served with rice and peas, with fruit for dessert. Try this recipe if your kids are new to adobo – the flavor is milder but still very much there. Gluten-free. Also Paleo if coconut aminos* or wheat-free tamari* used instead of soy sauce.

Mexican meal:

  • Easy guacamole and chips for starters (Paleo and gluten-free without chips) – for chips, I just cut tortillas into wedges and place in toaster till crispy.
  • Turkey tacos – Tacos are gluten-free but not Paleo. Substitute with pre-soaked rice (PHD Paleo) or just use lettuce wraps to make it Paleo friendly.
  • Avocado shake – Ended the meal with this shake (sans the ice cream), which at least one of the kids liked – yey! Not Paleo, but at least they got a dose of avocado. 😉

Fingerfood meal: Fish and chips with Greek starters

  • Spanakopita*. Not gluten-free or Paleo but gives a good dose of spinach.
  • Cucumber sticks and rounds – Some of our kids don’t like cucumber sliced  into rounds but happily munch away on sticks! Chilled cucumbers are more appealing too – they find it very refreshing. Very Paleo. 😉
  • Parmesan cod* fish sticks and tartar sauce – I mince dill pickles instead of pickle relish for the tartar sauce. Fish sticks not gluten-free or Paleo because of breading. The Paleo cookbook above has a mayo recipe which I might try for tartar sauce next time…
  • Sweet potato* fries – Paleo. Together with fish sticks = Fish and chips 😉

Hearty soup and bread meal

  • Okra (microwaved) served plain – kids thought it tasted like green beans (which they like!). Paleo! 😉IMG_8031-3 - CopyPR2
  • Hambone soup and Italian bread bowls thawed from the freezer. Can be gluten-free by substituting rice (pre-soaked for PHD Paleo) for the bread. Omit cheese and cornstarch to make this soup Paleo friendly. The kids do love the bread bowls and eating the soup from it, so it won’t be easy to omit that. 😉

All-new Recipes meal

  • Chopped Broccoli* Salad with minimal dressing – adapted from above Paleo cookbook. Gluten-free and Paleo. Not too popular. Serving this about 19 more times will hopefully change that. 😉
  • Spaghetti Squash with Turkey meatballs. Although this was by no means Paleo or gluten-free because of the bread crumbs in the meatballs, at least we finally got to try spaghetti squash – a big step in our book!

My panganay’s suggestion about the non-pasta “spaghetti”: “Mom, why don’t you start with mostly real spaghetti and a little fake spaghetti next time, just like you did with white and brown rice?” Needless to say, I ate most of the spaghetti squash. Lesson relearned – Start small.

Quick meals for the week:

1) “Fast” food

  • Baby carrots – Paleo.
  • Mac n Cheese – our speedy version involves layering about 6 or 7 slices of cheese on top of hot cooked macaroni, microwaving for 1 minute, then mixing. Mix in any leftover meat sauce if on hand. Not Paleo.

2) Leftover meal

  • Leftover turkey meatballs with real pasta, salad – No improvements there, not Paleo except for salad. But I did have the leftover squash and meatballs rolled up in some leftover lettuce – messy but surprisingly yummy!

3) “Instant” meal

  • Spinach salad then Rotisserie chicken* (from Costco – Paleo if homecooked) served with rice, chicken bouillon soup and frozen peas.

4) Takeout meal

  • Pizza, eggplant parmesan, and salad with olives – all takeout. Not Paleo except salad. 😉

Kain na! Let’s eat! 😉


*Where to Buy

Disclaimers: I, Emy Damian, have not been paid to review any of the resources listed above. All comments are mine, and any resource listed without comment has not yet been reviewed. I, Emy Damian, am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to


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