Author Archives: Steph

Why Am I Still Hungry on Paleo?

Why Am I Still Hungry On Paleo? |

Why am I still hungry on Paleo?

This is a fairly common question that I get from readers, and though the causes can be many, there are a few culprits that can leave you feeling hungry all the time even when you’re eating a Paleo diet.

You’ll have to take an honest look at your own dietary intake and habits to assess if you’re falling prey to some of these hunger-inducing pitfalls. One of the simplest things to do is to journal your meals for a few days and take an objective look at the composition of your meals and the relative quantity. You don’t necessarily have to crack out on FitDay or start weighing all your food, but just be honest with yourself about your intake.

Satiety vs. Satiation and Why They Matter

Let’s take a quick moment to learn the difference between satiety and satiation. (They’re really similar words and concepts, and they often get mixed up.) Satiation is what happens during a meal when you start to feel full, and it’s influenced by many factors like the smell and taste of food and how much your stomach is filled as you eat.

Satiety, on the other hand, is a longer-term response to the quality and type of nutrition in the food you eat, digest and assimilate. I think you can see how they’re connected: Eat low-satiety, low-nutrition foods, experience low satiation (hunger). And the converse is true. So, if you focus on nutrient-dense, satiating foods, it’s less likely you’ll experience constant hunger.

Reason #1 You’re Still Hungry: You aren’t eating enough volume.

Simply put, if you’re still hungry soon after a meal, you might not be eating enough food. This is especially common with people who have a history of restrictive dieting. Relative caloric intake, while it isn’t the only metric of food consumption you should be concerned about—not even by a long shot—still matters. Trying to do Paleo on 1200-1500 calories a day (read: low on calories) will not work long-term.

Instead of adding in extra snacks throughout the day—which puts a burden on the digestive system to be constantly working—bump up the intake per meal. Example: If you eat two eggs for breakfast, eat three instead. It’s not crazy, I promise. (p.s. Two eggs have 12 grams of protein. That’s not a lot.)

Reason #2 You’re Still Hungry: You need to eat more protein.

Of the three dietary macronutrients—protein, carbohydrates and fat—protein has the most potent satiety signal. It’s digested much more slowly than carbohydrate and does not have the same rapid insulin-spiking characteristics that sugars and starches do. If you’re skimping on the protein or you’re not including some protein in each meal, it’s time to change that.

Before you just pile more veggies on your plate because yes, they do have protein in them, remember that the relative quantity is much less than a dense source such as meat, seafood and eggs. My friends over at Whole30 have a great visual for how much protein to include at a normal meal: as many eggs as you can fit in your hand or 1-2 palm-sized portions of meat or seafood, depending on your body size.

Reason #3 You’re Still Hungry: You need to eat more fat.

Paleo is not a low-fat diet. Repeat: Paleo is not a low-fat diet. We need dietary fat as the substrate for building molecules in the body, like the membranes of our cells and to help us absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K. If you’re trying to eat low-fat Paleo, you might be feeling less satiated between meals.

As with protein, each meal should contain fat. Refer to this meal planning template for a general guideline, and be sure to include a variety of healthy fats from both plant and animals sources.

Reason #4 You’re Still Hungry: You’re drinking your calories.

Shakes and smoothies and juices are often considered healthy, especially when they’re made with fruit. They have a dark side, though. Because the food is already liquified it makes its way through your digestive tract much more quickly than something solid that you had to chew. Couple that with the fact that smoothies and juices are often packed with fruit—of which the sugars digest relatively rapidly—and you often have a scenario where hunger ensues just a short time after eating.

A better bet: Stick mostly to solid foods.

Reason #5 You’re Still Hungry: You’re not absorbing nutrients well.

Assuming you’re eating nutrient-dense whole foods in proper amounts, if you’re still constantly hungry—and especially if you’re experiencing issues such as diarrhea, constipation or indigestion—it may be time to peek under the hood and see if you’ve got some underlying gut health issues, problems with digestive enzymes or food sensitivities.

Your gut lining is the border across which nutrients pass and get absorbed into your blood stream for use in your body. Because of that, you need to make sure the good stuff gets in while the bad stuff—like partially digested food, bacteria and viruses—stays out. If the integrity of your gut lining is damaged from irritating foods or perhaps your gut flora (a lovely sounding word that means bacteria) isn’t up to snuff for a multitude of reasons, you won’t be able to absorb nutrients correctly.

Additionally, if your digestive enzymes are not working properly, you may not be absorbing nutrients correctly because food is not being broken correctly. If you suspect you have some gut issues going on, you may need to pursue a gut-healing protocol such as GAPS or work with a functional medicine practitioner.

Reason #6 You’re Still Hungry: You’re choosing too many nutrient-poor foods.

If a large proportion of your dietary intake is skewed toward nutrient-poor and / or processed foods, it’s hard to feel satiated. To add insult to injury, this junk food is often purposely engineered to make it ping those reward centers in our brains…hard. Ultra sweet, salty and fatty junk foods are often really hard to stop eating so the intake seems high (um, anyone ever eaten a whole bag of Cheetos?), but when it comes time to feel satiated, your body knows it’s had a fast one pulled on it.

If you’re new to Paleo, one of the best things you can do is to eliminate processed, nutrient-poor foods. Say goodbye to soda and chips and candy. At first, your brain may rebel with cravings worse than a cranky toddler, but once you start really nourishing your body, cravings are likely to diminish.

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Why Am I Still Hungry On Paleo? |

What are your thoughts or experiences on this topic? Share them in the comments below!

Paleo Travel Lessons from Abroad — Part 3

Paleo Travel Lessons From Abroad—Part Three |

Paleo Lessons from Abroad—Part Three

[This is the second in a three-part series about my experiences living, eating, cooking and blogging about Paleo in my four months abroad. Click here for Part One and here for Part Two (vacations).]

Bruce Lee famously said, “Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it.”

This could not apply more accurately to my time living abroad and still continuing the Paleo lifestyle. When my stay in Scotland passed the two or three week mark, I knew I was on more than just a vacation, and it was clear I’d have to make some adjustments to my Paleo approach. Like Mr. Lee said, going with the flow and being like water was the way I found success.

When you’re on a vacation for a week or two or three, you may have access to a kitchenette in your hotel room or perhaps in a condo you’ve rented. It’s likely, though, that you’ll be eating out a fair amount or most of the time. When you’re living somewhere on a more long-term basis, going out to eat for every meal is probably not on the agenda.

I learned pretty quickly to adapt to my new Scottish surroundings and here are some of the lessons about doing Paleo when you’re living somewhere long-term I’m passing on to you:

Paleo Travel Lesson #1: Be Accepting

When you live in a different country, food availability is likely to be different than what you’re used to. If you walk into any market expecting to see speciality products such as coconut aminos and chia seeds, you’re likely to be disappointed. Be accepting that some familiar products may not be available at all or if you can get them, it may be from an online retailer. Just don’t be surprised if you have to pay international shipping costs.

By accepting that I wasn’t going to be able to find some of my favorite foods or products, I found it less stressful. Another adjustment I had to make was the size of the refrigerator and oven: Everything was just so much smaller than I was used to. Instead of doing two big cooking days a week, I changed to three medium-sized cook-ups so there was less food to store. Viewing these new differences as challenges rather than obstacles kept me from getting frustrated about my new surroundings.

Paleo Travel Lesson #2: Creature Comforts

If you’re spending a long period of time in your location abroad, equipping your kitchen with some creature comforts will make cooking at home more enjoyable. I’m not saying you need to pimp out your cooking space and spend hundreds or thousands of dollars. But if the cutting board is tiny, the knives are all dull or there’s only one pot to cook in, it’s not going to be very enjoyable. Make sure your new kitchen space is stocked with the essentials to help you create simple meals at home.

Suggested essentials: a sharp chef’s knife, cutting board, baking sheet, a few pots of different sizes, some kind of grater, can opener and mixing bowls. Anticipate what you’d use almost daily and focus on that. If it’s a piece of specialty equipment or something you’d rarely use, skip it.

Paleo Travel Lesson #3: Get Acquainted With Local Food

When I was browsing the meat section in the market, I consistently wasn’t finding anything labeled grass-fed. Turned out, all the beef was grass-fed. D’oh. If you can do a little research on local / regional / national meat or veggie production / imports, it’ll help you more easily navigate and make choices aligned to your budget and ideals.

Be willing to try new / unfamiliar foods and make the most of what’s locally available.

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Paleo Travel Lessons From Abroad—Part Three |

Thoughts on living longer-term in a different country and trying to adapt Paleo to your new situation? Leave them below!

5 Things I Learned at PaleoFX

5 Things I Learned from PaleoFX | stupideasypaleo.comWhat’s new in the Paleo-sphere?

It seems like the movement and community are growing rapidly by the day, and the wild, wild West, tumbleweed era is over. What was once limited to a loose network of websites and a couple books has expanded into an industry. And while more choice may ultimately be better, it’s useful to stop once in a while and consider where things are headed.

I just returned from four days in Austin, Texas where I attended PaleoFX, a conference dedicated to all things Paleo / ancestral health. Besides eating my bodyweight in food around this amazing gastro-city—Picnik, Salt Lick BBQ, Sway and Salty Sow were just a few of the stand-outs—there were some really important take-away messages for me to pass along to you.

So as not to bore you to tears and keep this weekend to the most relevant points, I’ve come up with a list of five things I learned about the state of the Paleo union as it stands right now. In no particular order, five things I learned at PaleoFX:

  • Stress matters. A lot. For influencers, bloggers, scientists and just about everyone else responsible for keeping a finger on the pulse of Paleo, the conversation isn’t just about food anymore. Yes, nutrition matters. Let’s not be daft. But if we are prioritizing nutrition and ignoring everything else in our “do more, sleep when we’re dead” mentality, we’re missing the point.

Finding ways to decrease stressors must happen in concert with efforts to eat better.

  • Paleo-friendly companies are popping up by the day. Those who have been around a while are expanding, too. While the general premise of Paleo is pretty simple—focus on whole, nutrient-dense foods—there is a market for pre-made products such as jerky, salad dressing and even toothpaste that fits the Paleo lifestyle.

Some of my favorites that I saw this weekend: Epic bars (look for their new Thunderbird fruit and nut bars!), Tessemae’s salad dressing, Exo cricket protein bar (not kidding!), Cappello’s grain-free pasta, Kasandrinos olive oil, Vital Proteins gelatin and collagen, Primal Pacs jerky, and The Dirt bentonite clay tooth powder.

  • Paleo is more grey than black and white. Yes, starting with a list of “eat this, don’t eat that” is what’s helpful for most people but holding to extremely rigid food lists and attempting dietary perfection probably does more harm than good. The panel “Miserably Healthy,” for example, covered the concept of sacrificing happiness and social time for the pursuit of dietary perfection. Yes, it’s important to make healthy eating a constant in your life, but living so rigidly that you can’t enjoy it isn’t the end goal.

Read more about my take on the pursuit of perfection here.

  • It takes a village. There is no single Paleo expert. No one face of Paleo. No lone voice. We are a collective of individuals growing this grass-roots movement by the day. It takes cooperation and a mutual focus on what really matters—making lives better—to keep moving things forward. We read, discuss, debate, decide, make mistakes (sometimes) and continue to add to the collective volume of knowledge about this lifestyle. It’s pretty damn liberating to know that people’s lives are quite literally being saved every day because they have the courage to walk away from traditional dietary dogma.
  • Even the most well-known Paleo folks I met were down-to-earth. At the end of the day, we’re all real people who just happen to write blogs or books. I’ve been Paleo for a long while, so I was most excited to finally meet some of my long-time (s)heros in person: Robb Wolf, Mel Joulwan and Liz Wolf definitely topped the list for me, but there were many others, too. It felt like homecoming weekend for sure.

More than anything, this weekend made me proud to be part of this Paleo community, and it invigorated me to keep working harder than ever!

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5 Things I Learned from PaleoFX |

Do you think you’ll go to PaleoFX later this year in Denver? Or next year in Austin?

April Giveaway: Some of My Favorite Things

April Giveaway: Some of My Favorite Things ($100 Value) | It’s time for a giveaway and this month, it’s a collection of some of my favorite things, worth $100!

There are TONS of great new companies who support the Paleo / real food lifestyle, and this month, I’m putting a package with some of my favorite products up for grabs!

Included in April’s prize is:

To enter for a chance to win some of my favorite things!

#1 Make sure you’re signed up for my mailing list. (If you’re already signed up, cool! Complete the bonus entries below.)

If you aren’t signed up for my mailing list, use the box below to do that. I never ever ever spam, I promise.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required

#2 Leave a comment below telling me which product you’d be most excited to win!

#3 Use the Rafflecopter widget below to finalize your entry and unlock other bonus entries! (This is how the winner will be drawn, so don’t skip this step!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The contest ends April 30, 2014 at 11:59 p.m. PST, and the winner will be announced here on the blog by May 2, 2014. Be sure to check back to see if you won!

The winner will be emailed and will have 48 hours to confirm back with his or her full name, address, and phone number to claim the prize. Open to readers worldwide. If a non-US resident wins, an Amazon gift card for $100 will be provided.

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April Giveaway: Some of My Favorite Things ($100 Value) |

Tell me which thing you’re most excited to try!

It All Started With a Non-Stick Pan

It All Started With a Non-Stick Pan |

It all started with a non-stick pan and an innocent picture on Instagram.

I was just about to make some homemade ghee, and I posted a photo of the pan with 3 gorgeous sticks of grass-fed butter waiting to get all melty. Then it happened. Someone decided to shame me for using a non-stick pan. The fact that I’m temporarily living with a roommate with all my own kitchen pans packed up in storage was really of no consequence to the shamer who got pretty snarky about me [paraphrase] “not using my influence as I should be.”

It made me angry for a little while, but more than that, it made me think of the image that I and other healthy-living personalities / bloggers put out into the world. And too often, what I see is this expectation that we appear perfect. We tend to get called out on it. It’s exhausting.

But, it’s not just me. Recently, a fellow blogger posted a picture of her dinner—including some wrinkly looking hot dogs—and felt compelled to justify that she’d just microwaved them. Turns out she’d just spent the day preparing a meal for 40 other people and was too exhausted to cook but she didn’t want to get called out for her microwaving ways.

What this makes me question is why we, as a collective, push into non-stick-pan-shamer’s territory and instead of trying to hide that fact we’re not perfect. Yes, I have a responsibility to educate, and I’m well aware of the social audience that I get to work with on a daily basis. I don’t take that lightly.

But what I don’t want to convey is that if you can’t afford to grow your own produce in pristine soil that’s then washed by unicorn tears and dried by fairy wings, you suck and might as well pack it in. It’s this tendency to jump on each other’s imperfections that really has to stop. The dietary elitism isn’t serving us.

So you know what, InstaShamer, here are a list of other imperfect things I do:

  • Bake food on aluminum foil sometimes! Oh, the horror.
  • Wash my hair with regular shampoo and conditioner. (Gave no ‘poo an honest try a few times…I didn’t love it.)
  • Use plastic ziptop bags. Gasp!
  • Consume way too much chocolate. Sometimes even the stuff with soy lecithin.
  • Eat meat that’s not grass-fed or organic. Grass-fed meat from Uruguay makes it into my cart, too.

I could go on.

You know what though? I do lots of other things right, and I don’t need people to think that I’m perfect, just that I’m real. Not only that I’m real but that living a Paleo lifestyle isn’t just doable, it’s awesome. I care about helping others be better, not perfect.

It All Started With a Non-Stick Pan |

After all, the world needs more encouragers and fewer critics. I’m off to cook my breakfast, and you know what? I’m using that non-stick pan.

It All Started With a Non-Stick Pan |

Paleo Meal Planning: A How-To

Paleo Meal Planning: A How-To |

Paleo meal planning doesn’t have to be intimidating, and you’re going to learn the essentials of putting together a one week menu in this post. Cool, right?

Paleo Meal Planning, Step 1: The Weekly Cook-Up

When you eat Paleo, you tend to cook at home (a LOT) but one thing that can slow you down is cooking every single meal fresh, from scratch. By eating leftovers, you’ll be able to reach into the fridge, grab and reheat a meal without having to start the process from step one.

Instituting a weekly cook-up day is the an important part of meal planning. You’ll need to set aside one day a week to do a big shopping trip and a large amount of batch cooking. (Two or three hours usually does it.) Pick a day where you preferably don’t have to work. If you’re off on the weekend, pick Sunday as your big cook-up day.

With enough planning you’ll be able to create meals for Monday through Wednesday. Then, on Thursday, a small trip to the market and a little cook-up will get you through to the weekend. (Adjust according to your days off.)

My must-have tools for weekly cook-up day: a programmable slow cooker, baking sheets for roasting off tons of veggies, a high-speed blender for sauces and soups, and lots of glass-lock containers to store all your tasty eats.

Paleo Meal Planning, Step 2: Create a Template

This is probably the key to a successful meal plan: Create a template that you can pop recipes into by type. That way, you keep the template and vary the recipes week to week so that you’re taking some of the guesswork out.

Here’s what I mean:


Breakfast: Reheated frittata, blueberries, cherry tomatoes

Lunch: Slow cooker beef, roasted veggies, avocado

Dinner: Huge salad with grilled or pan-fried chicken, homemade dressing, nuts


Breakfast: Hardboiled eggs, leftover slow cooker meat, roasted sweet potato

Lunch: One-skillet stir fry, raw veggies, olives or coconut flakes

Dinner: Soup or stew, roasted squash, avocado


Breakfast: Leftover pan-fried chicken, veggie hash, homemade ranch

Lunch: Mixed salad with shredded pork, berries and avocado

Dinner: Tacos or enchiladas, fresh salsa and all the fixings


Breakfast: Egg muffins, fresh fruit, coconut flakes

Lunch: Leftover enchiladas from the previous day

Dinner: Out to eat


Breakfast: Hardboiled eggs, smoked salmon, olives

Lunch: Big salad with slow cooker chicken, homemade dressing

Dinner: Oven-baked meatballs and sauce with spaghetti squash, sautéed greens


Breakfast: Sweet potato hash, bacon and eggs

Lunch: Collard wraps, avocado and fruit

Dinner: Baked fish with homemade sauce, fresh slaw


Breakfast: Forage for leftovers

Lunch: Lettuce-wrapped burgers and sweet potato fries

Dinner: Slow cooker curry with cauli rice

and so on…

Individual preferences and how many leftovers you have will vary.

Paleo Meal Planning, Step 3: Browse for Recipes but KISS

Now that your cook-up days are scheduled, it’s time to decide what you’ll make. For a majority of meals, KISS. Don’t try to get involved in fancy schmancy techniques and complicated recipes for everything. Stick to recipes with ingredients that are easy to find in your local market. Running all over tarnation for random ingredients is not a great way to maximize your time.

If you need inspiration, check out sites like Pinterest. You can browse boards quickly and save pins to your own boards for later. Dig into your favorite cookbooks or visit your favorite blogs. My favorite for simple recipe ideas are Nom Nom Paleo, The Clothes Make the Girl, Paleo Cupboard, Popular Paleo and Meatified. These five are my go-to sites besides my own. *wink*

I recommend doing this a day or two before your weekly big cook-up, plugging it into your template (see step 2) and making a list of ingredients.

Of course, there is no one right or wrong way to do this. Experiment and find out what works for you!

Other Paleo Meal Planning Tips

Get creative

You don’t have to slave over a soup pot for hours and hours to create every meal. By including a variety of techniques, you can actually minimize cooking time. Eating a mix of raw and cooked veggies will help.

Every week I like to include:

Soups or stews

Slow cooker meals

One-skillet meals

Baked egg dishes

Hardboiled eggs

Vegetables hashes

Roasted vegetables

Sautéed vegetables

Raw salads or slaws

Grilled, pan-fried or baked meats / fish

Easy sauces or dressings

Meals that can be frozen for later

Be flexible

You can eat breakfast for dinner or dinner for breakfast. The first meal of the day does NOT have to be a Paleo version of a traditionally carb-heavy dish. You can really eat anything for breakfast. In fact, mine is usually eggs with leftover meat and raw veggies or fruit. Simple.

Try a meal exchange

Rope a couple other Paleo friends into creating a meal exchange. Basically how it works is this: Cook and prepare a main dish, side dish and sauce for your friends and yourself. Swap meals and you’ll have instant variety!

Plan one meal out to eat

Fill a gap in your template by going out to eat. Many restaurants are Paleo-friendly if you ask for substitutions.

Have fun with it

Learning to meal plan and balance your time with other demands in your life takes practice, but the more you do it, the more innate it’ll get it. Pretty soon, you’ll be planning meals like a pro!

Or…if all else fails, let someone do the planning for you!

The Paleo meal plans from Holistic Squid are great. You can even get a free sample to try before you buy!

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Paleo Meal Planning: A How-To |

Questions? Leave them in the comments below!

Strawberry Lemonade Gummies

Strawberry Lemonade Gummies |

Making homemade gummies with fruit and high-quality gelatin is one alternative to making lots of bone broth / soup stock for its gelatin content.

These Strawberry Lemonade Gummies are a recipe I develop for The combo of the berries and lemon give it a sweet-tart flavor that’s really refreshing. (This is the only high-quality gelatin I use.)

Click here to get the recipe → Strawberry Lemonade Gummies

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Strawberry Lemonade Gummies |

Strawberry Chili Grilled Chicken by Beyoutifully Delicious

Strawberry Chili Grilled Chicken |

Steph’s note: Please welcome Candace from Beyoutifully Delicious to the blog again. A couple weeks ago, I featured her PeaNOT Pineapple Slaw, and it’s gotten rave reviews. Candace is all about good food with big flavor, and this recipe will not disappoint. Without further adieu, take it away Candace!

Last Easter I came up with a fresh strawberry dressing that gave a subtle sweetness to a spring green salad. For the protein to compliment the slaw, I updated it as a marinade with some heat. There’s nothing like salty, sweet AND spicy. Now we’re talking game-changer.

I love this marinade on mahi-mahi, it’s a flakey fish that has a really clean taste to it. None of that “fishy” business that tends to draw people away from ocean proteins. If seafood is not your thing, this is perfect for chicken too.

You can easily flavor swap blackberry or apricot for the strawberry as they work well with chili peppers. I would use fresh apricots rather than dried just because I want to keep my sugar in check. It’s very easy for that to get crazy if I’m not intentional about food preparation.

Ingredients for the Strawberry Chili Dressing / Marinade

This is enough for two (6 ounce or 340 grams) filets of mahi-mahi or chicken breasts.

  • 1-1/4 cups fresh strawberries
  • 3 tablespoons coconut vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon freeze-dried strawberries, crushed into a powder (sub: 1 Tbsp apple juice)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried Thai chilis or 2 teaspoons chili paste
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • Pinch of salt
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons melted coconut oil

Directions for the Strawberry Chili Dressing / Marinade

  1. In a blender, add all the ingredients except coconut oil and blend on high.
  2. Turn down the speed a little and slowly drizzle in coconut oil.
  3. Marinate the meat or fish for at least 2 hours and grill it until it’s no longer pink inside, about 4 minutes per side. Discard the leftover marinade. Or, bring the leftover marinade to a boil and cook it for 5 minutes to kill any bacteria.

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Strawberry Chili Grilled Chicken |

Questions? Leave them in the comment box below!

Ghee: What Is This Healthy Fat?

Ghee: What is This Healthy Fat? |

Ghee…what is this healthy fat that’s becoming so popular in the Paleo & real food world?

Essentially, ghee is a type of clarified butter that’s been cooked a bit longer to give it a nutty flavor. It’s got some fantastic properties that make it both healthy and good to cook with.

But first, let’s settle something: Ghee, derived from butter, is technically a dairy product. Yep. There it is. Dairy. Even if you’re a very strict Paleo-eater, don’t click away just yet. There are some reasons why ghee is a superior fat and one of the least problematic dairy products out there. Put simply, ghee is pure fat.

How is Ghee Made?

Ghee (rhymes with “me”) is made by heating butter slowly until all the water cooks off and the proteins coagulate in the bottom of the pan. The ghee is poured off and strained, solidifying once it has cooled. Ghee is cooked longer than traditional clarified butter which gives it a nutty, butterscotchy aroma. Basically, ghee smells like victory. If you’ve ever caught yourself just smelling the ghee jar for no reason, you’re not alone. Ahem.

It’s easy to find ghee is most large markets and health food stores, and if you’re feeling crafty, you can also make your own. When it comes to purchasing or making your own ghee, make sure the butter is from grass-fed, organic cows: If the butter is white or very pale yellow, it’s probably not high-quality. The fat produced from grass-fed cows is superior for a few reasons which are mentioned in the next section.

To see my favorite brand of ghee, click here.

But, Isn’t It Still Dairy?

Technically. But. BUT.

The reason why dairy is not part of a rigid Paleo template is because it can cause inflammation, sensitivities and intolerances. (Milk is a complex brew of proteins, carbohydrates and fat of which folks are generally sensitive to either the proteins or the carbohydrates, not the fat.)

Ghee is pure butter fat without the components that can make dairy problematic for many people. Note: If you’re really dairy sensitive, trace amounts of these proteins—such as casein—may remain and cause issues, but for most folks, it doesn’t.

Need more convincing? Even my friends over at Whole30 have made ghee the only Whole30-approved dairy product—and trust me, they’re known for their incredibly high standards.

So what’s so special about this delicious, golden butterfat? Cows that feed on grass produce butterfat with more conjugated linoleic acid (a fatty acid), vitamin K2, beta carotene (which is why it’s so vibrant yellow), vitamin A and a better Omega-3 fatty acid ratio than those fed on grain. Try to go with ghee made from grass-fed butter when you can.

And, butterfat is high in saturated fatty acids. In other words, it’s a healthy fat. Need to know more about saturated vs. unsaturated fats? Read here.

3 Reasons Why Ghee is a Star In My Kitchen

Besides the aforementioned, when it comes to cooking, ghee is my favorite fat to use in the kitchen for these reasons:

  • It has a really high smoke point: 485°F (252°C), far higher than coconut oil, olive oil, lard, butter, etc. This makes it ideal for high temperature cooking.
  • It’s incredibly shelf-stable. Ghee will last for months without refrigeration, though it’s recommended that you store it away from direct light and heat and only use clean, dry utensils to remove it from its jar. Keep it tightly covered when not in use.
  • It has a rich depth of flavor and adds a complexity to many foods that can’t be achieved with other oils or fats. Plus, I know a lot of folks don’t like the taste of coconut oil so ghee is a great alternative.

Wondering what you can make with ghee? Try this silky, delicious Ghee Hollandaise, this decadent Cinnamon French Toast Panna Cotta or this wonderfully colorful Ratatouille.

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Ghee: What is This Healthy Fat? |

Have you ever tried ghee? What do you think?

Coming To Shelves in Early 2015…

Coming to Shelves in Early 2015 | stupideasypaleo.comBefore I spill the beans, let me just say this is not an April Fool’s joke—though I did pick probably the worst day to convince you it’s not!

I’m proud to announce that I’ve joined the Page Street Publishing family and am writing a print cookbook for release in early 2015. Ho-lee smokes! To say that I’m humbled / excited (and let’s be honest…a bit nervous) is an understatement.

Some of Page Street’s fantastic books include The Paleo Foodie (get a free recipe from it here) and Paleo Lunches and Breakfasts On the Go just to name a couple. We’re still hammering out the exact title of the book, but rest assured it’ll have my signature stupid-easy style with absolutely scrumptious food. Promise.

In the coming months, I’m still going to keep up with blogging so you’ll always have something new to inspire you. If you’ve noticed that I’ve had some pretty incredible guest bloggers here lately, well, now you know why! (I’ve already been working on some killer recipes for the cookbook.) What better opportunity to highlight some of my personal favorite up-and-comers in the Paleo / real food world!

The journey to get here has been pretty crazy: What started as a hobby has turned into a full-time endeavor. I cannot thank YOU enough for your support, whether you’ve been following Stupid Easy Paleo since day one or you just stumbled upon the site today.

More tasty eats are coming your way!

DIY Photography Background—No Tools Required!

DIY Photography Background |

DIY Photography Background—No Tools Required!

Steph’s note: This is another post in a series for fellow bloggers who are interested in improving their food photography and blog posts. You may also be interested in How to Take Better Food Pictures.

Creating a DIY photography background to make your pictures stand out is really simple, and this version requires no tools. I was inspired by this post and ended up with a lightweight, double-side, portable board that I can tote around the house, looking for the best light.

You could certainly scour your neighborhood yard sales for scrap wood with that authentically distressed, worn look. (That’d be a notch in your re-use belt.) But if you don’t have the time or access, this is a great alternative.

My local hardware store had these lightweight “hobby boards” in different types of wood. I chose poplar because it had the lightest color and was the least expensive. The sizes available to you may vary, so my quantities may not work for you, but do the best you can with the concept. I chose the 48″ long boards because I wanted a long enough platform. Somewhere between 36″–48″ should be long enough. Any shorter than 36″ and you may run into problems with portrait shots, especially when they’re straight on from the subject.

I was able to assemble mine, let it dry overnight for good measure and paint it the next day. It dried quickly because I watered down the paint. Choose a FLAT finish so the paint reflects very little light.

If you’re looking for more tips and tricks to improve your food photography, check out this awesome resource, Tasty Food Photography.

Supplies for this DIY Photography Background:

  • Four 48″ poplar hobby boards
  • Eight 24″ poplar hobby boards
  • Wood glue
  • Paint in your chosen color(s)—I got sample sizes in aqua and brown—with a FLAT finish
  • Paint brush
  • Disposable container to mix the paint and water

How to make the DIY Photography Background:

Find a clean, dry, flat surface to construct the background on. You may want to use a drop cloth or old sheet to protect the surface from paint and glue. Lay the 48″ boards flat and leave a small gap between each one, about 1/16″. I wanted the appearance of planks instead of one solid surface, but do what you like. Be aware that if you make the gaps larger than 1/16″, you’ll be able to see the boards underneath when you complete it.

DIY Photography Background | DIY Photography Background |

Do a dry run and arrange the 24″ boards perpendicular to the longer boards. There will be some wood overhanging and if you have a saw, you can trim the excess. I didn’t because I had no access to tools. Once you’re happy with the arrangement, you’ll start gluing. DIY Photography Background |

Squeeze a moderate amount of wood glue across the long board, going section by section: Apply enough glue for one short board, then lay the short board down, pressing firmly. Be careful not to squeeze glue into the gaps or it’ll show when you take the photos. Continue this until you glue down all eight short boards.  DIY Photography Background |

Gently lay some heavy books on top of the boards and let them dry for at least 3 hours. Overnight is better. DIY Photography Background |

The next day, get ready to paint your boards. I created a wash by combining the paints with water in a 1:1 ratio. This allowed the paints to dry quickly and helped create a layered effect. DIY Photography Background | DIY Photography Background | DIY Photography Background |

For the blue side, apply a thin layer of brown paint. Allow it to dry completely. Then, apply layer of blue paint in an uneven fashion. Do this by dabbing the blue paint, then smoothing it out by brushing it in both directions. The idea is to allow some of the brown paint to show through to create a worn look. I applied two or three layers. DIY Photography Background | DIY Photography Background | DIY Photography Background |

For the brown side, use the same technique as above, but only use the brown color. That’s it! Once it was dry, I was able to start shooting on it right away.DIY Photography Background |

Click here to pin this!

Questions? Leave them in the comments below!

DIY Photography Background |

Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers

Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers—Fed & Fit |

Steph’s note: Give a hearty welcome to my guest blogger, Cassy from Fed & Fit. Cassy is a quadruple threat: She has mad kitchen skills, is an ace behind the camera, gets her sweat on at CrossFit and is one of the nicest folks you’ll ever meet. On her blog Fed & Fit, Cassy brings approachable yet flavor-packed recipes with her signature step-wise photography that always leaves me drooling on my keyboard. I’m super excited to introduce you to her today! Make sure to make these Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers and go follow her on social media…you won’t be disappointed. Take it away, Cassy!

Oh my word…I’m on Stupid Easy Paleo! I just adore Steph, and you know what? I adore you, too. I adore you because you’re here, you’re a part of the Real Food movement, and you probably have a thing for crispy chicken fingers. All reasons we can be great friends.

Crispy buffalo chicken fingers and I go way back. Once upon a time, I was a student at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX and I LIVED off of buffalo chicken fingers from a lovely little dining establishment called Wings ‘n More. While my health was rapidly declining, I was rapidly falling in love with comfort foods. Since going Paleo about 4 years ago, I gave up those delicious little strips of perfectly spicy, salty, gooey, but still miraculously crunchy chicken wonders. I gave them up plus the fries and ranch dressing that went with them.

Like a message was sent to me from above, I woke up one morning with the conviction a Paleo version MUST exist in this world. It needs to happen for you, for me, and for all those 20-something college students who think the gluten-coated, MSG-dusted, filler-fed restaurant chicken is their only option.

This Paleo-friendly crispy buffalo chicken finger is made possible by my good friend, the pork rind. Sometimes called chicharrones, sometimes called cracklin’s, pork skins are a crunchy, light, fluffy chip made by frying pork skin in it’s own rendered fat. They make for an occasional crunchy treat or can substitute as breading!

In an effort to create that reminiscent thick buffalo breading, I crafted a hybrid between my famous Paleo buffalo sauce and an egg wash.

Keep scrolling for my step-by-step photo instructions, tips and tricks.

I also recommend you check out my Paleo-friendly ranch dressing! Crispy buffalo chicken fingers and ranch dressing are a match made in heaven. Just saying.

Our recipe starts with about one pound of (ideally, pastured) chicken strips.

Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers—Fed & Fit |

Next up, the buffalo egg wash! Crack two eggs into a bowl.

Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers—Fed & Fit |

Now add 2 Tablespoons of apple cider vinegar.

Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers—Fed & Fit |

Then the juice of one lemon.

Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers—Fed & Fit |

Now add 2 teaspoons of garlic powder.

Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers—Fed & Fit |

2 teaspoons of onion powder.

Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers—Fed & Fit |

And then 2 teaspoons of paprika.

Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers—Fed & Fit |

Now you get to choose your level of spice! For HOT add 2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper, add 1 teaspoon for medium, or add ½ teaspoon for mild. I opted for medium.

Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers—Fed & Fit |

Lastly, add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt or sea salt.

Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers—Fed & Fit |

Got all your ingredients loaded up?

Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers—Fed & Fit |

Whisk until well combined and set aside while we focus on our crunchy breading.

Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers—Fed & Fit |

The most important thing to remember when you’re buying pork skins is to read the label. You want to make sure the ingredients only read, “pork and salt.” Avoid bags with anything else listed.

Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers—Fed & Fit |

Measure out about 5 cups of pork skins into a gallon-sized plastic bag.

Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers—Fed & Fit |

Smash ‘em up! You’re also welcome to pulse the pork rinds in a food processor for a few minutes but A) I like to avoid washing more dishes than necessary and B) think smashing things is fun and therapeutic.

Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers—Fed & Fit |

Once they’re mostly broken up, pour them in a bowl.

Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers—Fed & Fit |

Make sure your oven is set to 400°F (200°C) and grab all your components!

Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers—Fed & Fit |

Dip each chicken strip in the buffalo sauce.

Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers—Fed & Fit |

Make sure it’s well coated.

Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers—Fed & Fit |

Then lay it in the breading.

Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers—Fed & Fit |

Pull it out when the crunchy pork goodness has it all covered up.

Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers—Fed & Fit |

Lay the strips on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Pop them in the oven for about 25 minutes or until cooked through.

Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers—Fed & Fit |


Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers—Fed & Fit |

I recommend you plate with some crunchy vegetables and a side of Paleo-friendly ranch dressing.

Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers—Fed & Fit |


Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers

Serves 4-6

Prep Time: 10 minutes; Bake Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients for Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers:

Directions for Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).
  2. Whisk the eggs, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, onion, paprika, cayenne and salt together in a medium bowl.
  3. Dip each chicken strip into the buffalo egg wash then lay in the pork rind breading, coating both sides.
  4. Place breaded strips on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until cooked through.

Follow Cassy on social media: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter

Click here to pin this!

Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers—Fed & Fit |

Questions for Cassy? Leave them in the comments below.

The Perfect Burger

The Perfect Burger |

Okay y’all…the perfect burger. It’s not every day you hear a burger claim to be “the one”, but this may very well be it. Perfectly flavored beef, parsnip crisps fried in coconut oil and a decadent avocado mousse…have I convinced you yet?

The Perfect Burger is just one of the awesome meaty recipes you’ll find in The Paleo Kitchen, a brand new cookbook coming out this June from none other than George Bryant and Juli Bauer. If you like the looks of The Perfect Burger, head over and pre-order their cookbook. And, if you do it before April 10, you can enter into a pretty sweet giveaway…a 3-day, all-expenses paid trip for 2 to San Diego. (Trust me, it’s an awesome city!)

Ingredients for The Perfect Burger:

Serves 3.

For the burgers

For the shoestring parsnip fries

  • 2 medium parsnips, peeled
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) coconut oil, melted

Garnish with

  • Sliced red onions
  • Avocado mousse (also from the cookbook)
  • Romaine hearts
  • Shoestring parsnip fries (from above)

Directions for The Perfect Burger:

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, mix together all of the ingredients for the burgers without overworking the meat.
  2. Divide meat into 3 equal portions and form into ½-inch (12-mm)-thick patties. Use your thumb to make an indentation in the center of each burger. Set aside.
  3. Using a spiral slicer or julienne slicer, cut the parsnips into strings.
  4. Preheat a grill to medium-high heat, and preheat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
  5. Once grill is hot, place the burgers on the grill and close the lid. Cook 6 minutes.
  6. While the burgers are cooking, add the coconut oil to the saucepan. Test the oil by placing one parsnip shoestring in the oil to ensure the oil bubbles. Add the parsnips to the oil and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until golden brown. When the parsnips finish cooking, place them on a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
  7. Flip the burgers and cook for 2 to 3 minutes for medium-rare, or until desired doneness. Remove the burgers from grill and let rest for 5 to 7 minutes.
  8. To assemble the burgers, place each on a bed of lettuce and top with sliced red onions, ¼ cup (60 mL) avocado mousse, and parsnip fries.

Click here to pre-order The Paleo Kitchen!

Digestion: From Brain to Bowl

Digestion: From Brain to Bowl | guts.png

Steph’s note: Please welcome my guest blogger Heather from Just Love Your Guts. Heather’s a true personification of a healthy, balanced lifestyle and she blogs about nutrient-dense recipes and wellness. She’s got a positive outlook and infectious enthusiasm. In addition, Heather’s a wellness coach, personal trainer and is currently studying for her Nutritional Therapy certification. I know you’ll find her post super-informative and entertaining, too. Take it away, Heather!

“Digestion is the breakdown of food into smaller components that can be more easily absorbed and assimilated by the body.” —from the all-knowing Wikipedia

Well, that’s a pretty succinct definition of digestion, don’t you think? But how does it work?  Why does it matter? What can we do to avoid digestive dysfunction?

Let’s take a walk down the digestive road, and I’ll try to break it down for you. (Get it??)

How does it work?

Think About It!

Digestion starts at the top and works its way down. Literally. The process actually begins in your brain, as soon as you even think about food. When the thought of food enters your mind, or you see it, smell it, taste it, your salivary glands kick into action and your stomach gets the signal to prepare for some serious nommage.

Chew Before You Swallow!

So, your salivary glands are now pumping out saliva. Saliva serves a huge purpose. (It’s not just for spit wads.) 99.5% of it is water and from the first bite, it moistens the food and lubricates the esophagus—the tube that leads food from your mouth to your belly—making it easy to swallow and transport food to the stomach. The other 0.5% contains enzymes that begin to chemically breakdown food—specifically carbohydrates—while it’s still in your mouth, before you even swallow it. (Am I a nerd because I think that’s totally cool? Maybe, but I’m alright with that. (Steph’s note: No Heather, you’re not a nerd. It’s amazing.) That initial breakdown of food in the mouth is a pretty crucial step, which is why it’s so important to adequately chew your food!  Chewing your food 20 to 30 times per bite not only begins the mechanical breakdown process, but it gives those enzymes sufficient time to start the breakdown on a chemical level. That way, when when the food is swallowed and travels to the stomach, it is prepped and ready for the next stage.

Down The Hatch!

You’ve chewed and swallowed your food. Now, you’ve got a pretty awesome blob of mush traveling down your esophagus where it will pass through the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and into the stomach. The LES has a really important job. (Okay, every job in the digestive process is important.) The LES lets food pass into the stomach, and it’s designed to be a one-way valve. The everyday responsibility of the LES is to allow food into the stomach and not let anything back up into the esophagus. There are exceptions of course, like when something enters your stomach that your body wants OUT. Then it becomes somewhat of an “emergency exit” and can be forced open to allow food back up & out (a.k.a. hurling). For now, we’ll assume you ate some awesome grass-fed, organic, nutrient-dense food that your belly is happily accepting.

Your Stomach:  It’s SUPPOSED to be Acidic!

So now this awesome grass-fed organic mushy blob has made it to your stomach. (As much as I love my name for it, that blob of food is called a bolus.) When the bolus arrives in the stomach, the ideal environment should be VERY acidic. Having the proper level of acidity (pH) in the stomach is crucial for a host of different reasons; here’s just a few:

  • Stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) disinfects the bolus and any bad bacteria or contaminants that may have been in or on your food, thus reducing your chance of food poisoning or bacterial infections.
  • Proper stomach acid levels, along with churning actions of the stomach muscles, are necessary for the further breakdown of the bolus, turning it into an even more liquidy mushy blob called chyme.
  • The pH of the chyme determines when it will be allowed to leave the stomach and enter the small intestine. If the environment is not acidic enough, it will sit in your stomach for too long and become a veritable breeding ground for bacteria. As bacteria feed on the poorly digested food, they can give off gas and create upward pressure on the LES. If the LES is forced open by this pressure and stomach acid (even a teeny tiny bit) is allowed to creep up into the esophagus, you get the burning sensation associated with heartburn or indigestion. See, the stomach is supposed to be an acidic environment, but the esophagus?  Not so much. Heartburn is a case of a little bit of acid in the wrong place, not too much acid in general—despite what the antacid commercials claim.

Assuming we are dealing with a healthy acidic stomach environment, let’s move on down the digestive road. When the pH of the chyme is right, a valve at the bottom of the stomach, called the pyloric valve, allows the chyme to slowly enter the small intestine. Upon initial entry, the acidic chyme triggers the release of multiple digestive juices. The liver and gallbladder produce and release bile, a substance that emulsifies fats. The pancreas releases digestive enzymes that begin to break down the food into nutrients we can actually absorb and use. It also releases sodium bicarbonate, which raises the pH of the chyme to a more neutral level for its trip to the small intestine.

Gimme Those Nutrients! (Or, if you’re more mature than I am, “Absorption”.)

So here we are, the chyme is movin’ on down through the small intestine. In the lining of the small intestine, there are these microscopic little finger-like things, called villi & microvilli. They’re responsible for absorbing the nutrients in our food so we can use them. Imagine this: The chyme is Justin Bieber and the intestinal lining is the red carpet. The villi are a bunch of 14-year-old girls flanking the red carpet, collecting autographs, photos, hugs and high-fives (nutrients) from the Biebs himself. (Did I seriously just use a Justin Bieber analogy to explain nutrient absorption? Yikes.) These nutrients (a.k.a. digestive Bieber hugs) then get passed on to the bloodstream where they can be used for energy and various other metabolic functions.

Solid, man.

So, what comes next? Through the gut lining, we’ve collected, absorbed and assimilated the nutrients from the food, so are we done with it? Well, it’s still liquidy chyme at this point. Key phrase there is, it’s still liquidy. How do I put this politely? I don’t know about you but in my book, if it’s still liquidy, we’re not “done with it”. It’s got one last stretch of digestive road to travel before we’re done with it.

This last stretch of road is the large intestine. Most of the large intestine is also called the colon. While most of our nutrient absorption occurs in the small intestine, the colon absorbs a significant amount of water along with any remaining available nutrients. The process of absorption in the colon is a slow process and can take anywhere from 3 to 10 hours. You may be putting this together in your head already but with all that water absorption, the chyme is now losing excess liquid and becomes the semisolid superstar we all know and love to talk about, poop.

I’m gonna guess by now, you’ve all figured out how this story ends, right? I’ll spare you the details but in the interest of landing this plane, we have made it to the bowl! (The crowd goes wild.) As long winded as I can be, this description is a pretty general explanation of what happens from the minute we think about food, eat it, get all the goodness we can out of it and eliminate the leftovers.

But, why is digestive health so important?

I’ve taken the time to describe this process from start to finish, because it is so important. It really goes beyond just having a pleasant experience in the bathroom. (Although, that is a perk). A healthy and fully functioning digestive system is foundational to overall health. When we have optimal digestive function, we are able to absorb every last possible nutrient we can get out of our food. After all, nutrients are the true prize we’re after when we eat a meal—or at least, they should be. Nutrients feed our cells, tissues, bones, muscles and organs…everything.

Without proper digestion and assimilation of nutrients, things can really start to fall apart.  We can become deficient in vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. These deficiencies can lead to an infinite number of conditions, many of which we’e probably never guess had anything to do with digestion such as headaches, allergies and even depression). I could write an entire post about what can go wrong when our digestion suffers, but let’s just say that if you’re suffering from any condition, exploring your digestive health could be the first step on your road to recovery.

What can you do, right this minute, to improve digestion?

There are a few simple steps to take, as soon as the next bite of food, to get digestion working more efficiently.

Chill out.

You’ve may have heard the term “fight or flight” used to describe the state our bodies go into during a response to stress. That reaction is governed by the sympathetic nervous system and is incredibly useful in times of distress. It sends signals and directs energy to our muscles (away from our digestive organs) so that we can quickly react in a stressful situation.

But what about “rest and digest”? That state is governed by the parasympathetic nervous system and is the state we need to be in before we eat. In the rest & digest state, attention is directed toward the digestive system and our bodies will focus on producing the necessary substances to adequately digest food. If we don’t slow down and allow our bodies to switch into a parasympathetic state before eating, we are sending food into bellies that aren’t prepared to receive it. This can cause digestive upset and malabsorption of nutrients.

Be thankful.

Allow yourself to feel grateful for the nourishment in front of you. Take a few deep breaths and a moment to imagine the health that your food is going to promote in your body.  That may sound like a bunch of malarkey, but I promise you, it’s not. This act of gratitude can quickly adjust our mindsets and in turn, better prepare our bodies to accept and digest food appropriately.

Chew your food.

I touched on this in the beginning and I’ll say it again because it’s that important. From my own experience, slowing down and chewing at least 20 times makes noticeable changes in digestion. Swallowing food that hasn’t been chewed properly can lead to digestive discomfort and less-than-ideal nutrient absorption.

Other ways to improve digestion include eliminating potentially irritating foods like processed grains and refined sugars, sipping a little apple cider vinegar or lemon water before meals, and/or natural supplementation. But simple steps like stressing less and chewing more might be all you need!

So I leave you with these words to sum up:  Breathe, be grateful, chew your food and just love your guts!

Connect with Heather and Just Love Your Guts on social media: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Click here to pin this!

Digestion: From Brain to Bowl |

Have a question for Heather? Leave it in the comment box below.

Plantain Protein Pancakes

Plantain Protein Pancakes are a great way to get some more good carbs into your post-workout recovery window.

Plantain Protein Pancakes |



















I created this recipe specifically for Breaking Muscle, so head on over there to check out the ingredients and the directions! (For 10% off my favorite brand of protein, Stronger Faster Healthier, use the code SEPaleo on check out!)

Click here for the recipe → Plantain Protein Pancakes!

How To Take Better Food Pictures

How to Take Better Food Pictures |

Want to know how to take better food pictures—especially better ones than Martha Stewart?

Food blogging is pretty unique (compared to other subjects) because you’ve got to convey a recipe’s appeal across a computer or phone screen. If you can’t smell the aroma and taste the mouth-watering flavors, the imagery of the food helps draw you in—or makes you click away. After all, we eat with our eyes first.

That being said, if you don’t come to the blogosphere with prior photography experience (like yours truly), learning to take pictures of food that actually look enticing can be a monumental task. In my early blogging days, I put more effort into the recipes and writing than the photos, and it shows.

Before we get to the do’s of taking better pictures of food, let’s start with the don’ts.

Top 5 Food Photography Blunders

1) Using the flash. Please, above all else, stop using flash carelessly with food. It creates areas of extremely high and low light that give food strange shadows and shiny spots. Put plainly, it makes food look chintzy. Every time I see food photos with improperly used flash (yes, there is a right way to use it), I think of awkward, crazy club photos from college days: everyone’s got their eyes squinted shut, doing that raise-the-roof thing. Not cool.

2) Getting too close. Resist the urge to get super up close and personal with the food. I’m so guilty of doing this when I first started blogging and part of it was due to my camera’s limitations. (See #2 below.) The other part was I thought it looked sweet. When you get too close to the food, it’s hard to tell what it is. Nobody needs a Rorschach test when they’re deciding to make a recipe.

3) Sloppy plating. You don’t have to be a professional food stylist, moving crumbs around with tweezers, but pay attention to basic neatness. It’s one thing to show what a casserole looks like when you just cut into it; it’s quite another to show food thrown onto the plate. Clean up messy spots and splashes. There’s a difference between making food look approachable—and not like a sculpture—and it coming across like Martha’s.

4) Shooting in low light. Nowadays, with a decent camera and good editing software, you can save lots of low-light photos from the trash can. But. BUT. There are some things you just can’t fix because they’re too dark. Shooting for 4 months in the Scottish winter taught me a lot about getting creative with light, reflectors, plating and camera settings. When in doubt, save the food for tomorrow and shoot in better light.

5) Only shooting in landscape or portrait. If you only ever shoot in one orientation—horizontal (landscape) or vertical (portrait)—start doing both…now. You never know when you might need the opposite orientation for another project or post, and if it’s months later, you’re screwed. When I wrote The Paleo Athlete, I realized all of the photos should be in portrait. A handful of them weren’t. Unfortunately, they were from archived recipes, and I didn’t have time to reshoot them all. Give yourself options.

Now, the do’s. Most of these I learned from this amazing book, Tasty Food Photography by Lindsey at Pinch of Yum. It’s by far the easiest photography book I’ve read and is specifically geared toward bloggers who need to take better food pictures.

Here are some before and after examples of my own recipes using techniques I learned in Tasty Food Photography:

How to Take Better Food Pictures | How to Take Better Food Pictures | How to Take Better Food Pictures |

Massive improvement, right?

5 Tips for Better Food Photography

1) Practice. Yep, the old saying is true. If you want to get better, you’ve got to spend time making nice with your camera. Taking lots of pictures and playing with settings and staging is the only way to transfer theory into reality. Shoot often.

2) Invest in a basic DSLR camera. Yes, your phone’s camera and point and shoot cameras can do a surprisingly good job, but there are major limitations. If you have any inkling that you like food blogging, an entry-level DSLR (like my Nikon D3200) gives you maximum versatility. You can adjust settings like ISO and aperture—which gives you the most options for working with light—along with a thousand other things. Most entry-level models come with an 18-55mm lens which will get you pretty far. I also use a 50mm f / 1.8 fixed manual focus lens (nicknamed the Nifty Fifty) for that cool depth of field look called “bokeh.”

3) Learn to love natural light. Shooting with artificial light can be done, but it takes lots of practice to make it look, well, natural. I generally shoot around mid-day, somewhere between 10 and 2. If you can’t do that due to work schedules, shoot on your off day(s). Early morning / later afternoon light is either flat or really yellow. Food looks best when it’s lit from the sides or back (unless you’re shooting from overhead). For example, I usually shoot in a west-facing window. I put the food on the kitchen table and tend to shoot standing parallel to the window, so the light hits from the left (or right).

4) Use some simple props to fill space. Remember #2 above…getting too close? Since you generally don’t want to be too zoomed into the food, you’re going to back out and have some open space in the shot. I keep my props simple: old worn baking trays, cutting boards, utensils and simple dish cloths or napkins. Play around with how to fill up the space. That being said, negative (empty) space can look amazing and dramatic, particularly when shot from overhead. Experiment.

5) Fill the plate with food. No matter which size plate, bowl or serving dish will be in the photo, make sure it’s full. I tend to use small salad plates and smaller bowls because it gives the illusion of fullness without requiring a mega-batch of the recipe. Most of the time, a large plate with a tiny amount of food on it looks awkward. By using smaller plates, it’s also easier to fit more than one comfortably in the shot. If you’re out buying plates for props, try to buy at least two of the same.

These are just a few of the things I’ve learned about taking better food pictures, and there are tons more in Tasty Food Photography. Two other books I really found helpful: Plate to Pixel and Focus on Food Photography for Bloggers. Get out there and start snapping away!

Click here to pin this!

How to Take Better Food Pictures |

Have questions about food photography? Let me know in the comments below!