Paleo vegan — now there are two words you'd never expect to see side by side. The paleo "caveman" diet centers around meaty meals and eschews grains on the basis that our ancestors didn't eat grain. But paleo diets and vegan diets do have a couple of common threads: 1) we both eat lots of vegetables, and 2) we both avoid dairy.
By contrast, the Standard American Diet (commonly and appropriately referred to as the SAD diet) is one filled with drive-through breakfast sandwiches, packaged chips and cookies, microwaveable dinners, and breaded and fried meats. And while some vegans do enjoy processed food from time to time (Hey, I can eat Tofurky sausages all day long), the basis of a healthy vegan diet is veggies. No meat, eggs, dairy, or other animal products are allowed, but every veggie gets a green light. And that's also very important to the paleo folks, whose diet centers around lean meats, veggies, and healthy fats. Paleo dieters avoid grains, legumes, and dairy.
The paleo diet has been all the rage among athletes over the past few years, and very recently, a couple of prominent vegan food bloggers have ditched veganism in favor of a paleo lifestyle. But according to a new cookbook by Ellen Jaffe Jones and Alan Roettinger, there's no need to trade that tofu for a T-bone.
Paleo Vegan promotes a vegan diet based on whole, unprocessed foods (sadly, my precious Tofurky is out) — nuts and seeds, fruits, veggies, and healthy fats. As for that protein that traditional paleos take in through their heavy meat consumption, Paleo Vegan has an answer for that too. Sure, veggies, nuts, and seeds contain protein. But there's another answer, and that's where things get a little creative. You see, many paleo diets allow for 20 percent of their foods to come from the banished foods list. This cheating allows paleo dieters to have the occasional banana or pasta dish. But with a paleo vegan diet, a little cheating means vegans can still have unprocessed or minimally processed proteins, such as beans, legumes, tofu, and tempeh.
Now, for the record, I've no desire to trade my junk food vegan diet for an uber-healthy paleo vegan diet. But it can't hurt to occasionally eat a healthy dinner in place of my weekly vegan ice cream sundae dinner (yes, that's a real thing in my house). I chose to two recipes from Paleo Vegan to get started.
First, I made the Black Beans with Red Chard.
This is a simple saute that's bursting with flavor, thanks to chipotle chile puree and smoked paprika. The chard leaves and stems are cooked down until they're melt-in-your-mouth tender. A traditional paleo dieter would have to cheat to eat the black beans, but it'd be worth it. Loved this dish!
On the side, I made Quinoa with Leeks and White Truffle Oil.
Technically, quinoa is not cheating. Even though it looks and cooks like a grain, quinoa is actually a seed. And it's packed with protein. Leeks and chives lend this dish an onion-y flavor, and the white truffle oil really sets it over the top. Honestly, you can add truffle oil to just about anything, and it would magically be amazing.
That's all I tried from Paleo Vegan, but the cookbook is loaded with other healthy dishes that I hope to get around to making soon. There's a Roasted Pumpkin Dip (made with pumpkin, cashew butter, olive oil, salt, lemon, and garlic) that serves as a paleo stand-in for hummus. And the Avocado and Tempeh Towers with Spicy Red Pepper Sauce sounds like something I'd make for a nice dinner party. There are even tofu dishes, such as Spicy Fragrant Tofu with Peanuts, which gets its flavor from lemongrass, Thai chiles, and garlic.
And lastly, of course there are desserts. But they're super-healthy treats that you won't feel guilty over later. Think Grilled Pineapple with Pineapple-Coconut Sauce and Figs with Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar.
Paleo Vegan may include more cheats than a traditional paleo eater would be comfortable with, but without all the fatty meats, it's likely much better for your heart and your waistline.