The modern day paleo diet with Tessa Kelly, aka @LondonPaleoGirl
Based on foods you might have found during the Palaeolithic era, the Paleo diet is, in its most rudimentary form, a caveman-esque diet compromising of meat, fish, veg and fruit, while avoiding processed dairy or cereal products.
Though the principal aim is to return to a way of eating that’s similar to the way early humans ate, following the Paleo framework can be somewhat restrictive given that everyday staples such as grains, legumes and dairy are off limits.
That said, people are finding more and more ways to combine the framework with 21st century life. We caught up with Tessa Kelly, a proponent for the modern-day paleo diet, to find out what the lifestyle looks like in 2019.
IN A SENTENCE, WHAT DOES A MODERN DAY PALEO DIET LOOK LIKE?
For me living ‘modern day paleo’ means looking at health and wellness as a lifestyle for optimum mental and physical health, that is maintained throughout your life and not seen as a temporary, quick-fix diet. Rather, looking at it as a 360 approach encompassing all aspects of nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress management.
WHAT MAKES IT ‘MODERN-DAY’?
The aim of paleo is to eat as ‘naturally’ as possible and focus on quality and nutritious ingredients. Produce that is sustainable is organic eggs, wild caught and sustainable fish and local, seasonal produce.
Back in the palaeolithic days, food was hunted and gathered, not mass produced and over farmed. For environmental reasons then, I swapped my normal meat portions to plant-based alternatives and introduced plant-based sources of protein such as peas, quinoa, and beans. I also try to eat the rainbow and fill my body with a variety of nutrients and beneficial fibre from fruits and vegetables.
Paleo in the ‘traditional sense’ is free from gluten, grains, dairy, refined sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, over processed carbohydrates and artificial ingredients.
However, I believe you have to do what works for you. Mental health is paramount to our overall health and wellness and paleo in the traditional sense can be seen as restrictive – nowadays, I want to ensure my mind is as healthy as my body.
Though I tend to avoid refined sugar and artificial drinks on the daily, if I am at a special occasion, I wouldn’t deny myself of having what I want. Having a healthy relationship with food is first and foremost and diet culture has played a big part in the rise of mental health issues and eating disorders.
Following a ‘modern day paleo’ diet provides a great framework for someone wants to lead a healthy lifestyle but at the end of the day, it’s all about finding the right balance for you.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN FOLLOWING THESE GUIDELINES AND WHAT WAS YOUR DRIVING FORCE?
In my final year of University, I developed glandular fever which knocked me for six. I was diagnosed with mild Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Depression and the more research I did the further convinced I was that my history of yo-yo diets, eating low fat and high sugar, excessively exercising and under-sleeping had contributed to my distressed immune system and little energy.
I realised that there was no such thing as a ‘quick fix’ and a serious lifestyle change was required to recover, food being one of the most powerful tools in achieving this.
ARE THERE ANY CHALLENGES YOU FACE FOLLOWING A PALEO LIFESTYLE?
When I initally changed my lifestyle, I followed the main principle of Paleo to a T. However, as my health has improved over time I have found out what works for me. For example, there is no need to eliminate something from your diet if you don’t need to and that has nutritional benefits.
Over the last few years, I have begun eating a more plant-based diet and reintroduced grains and legumes into my meals such as quinoa, peas etc. Some grains and legumes work for me and others cause bloating but ultimately, everything in moderation is fine!
PALEO DIETS ARE OFTEN ASSOCIATED WITH CROSSFIT – WHO ELSE CAN BENEFIT FROM FOLLOWING THE GUIDELINES?
Absolutely, it used to be seen as a high-protein, high-calorie diet to fuel CrossFit athletes. However, I believe everyone can benefit from following the Paleo framework and I really hope this modern day approach will help educate younger generations on living well and eating mindfully.
DID SWITCHING TO A PALEO DIET HAVE ANY EFFECT ON YOUR MENTAL OR PHYSICAL HEALTH?
When I first heard about some of the amazing benefits of Paleo that supposedly prevented our ancestors from disease, I started eating quality produce in it’s most unprocessed state.
It was difficult to rid myself of the mentality that low-fat and low-calories was the ‘right’ way to eat but I gradually began to focus on quality, micronutrient-rich food. This helped increase my energy levels and strengthened my immune system because I was finally eating enough!
WHERE DOES COFRO COME INTO IT THEN?
CoFro was born from my love of frozen yoghurt! In 2015, when I removed processed dairy and refined sugar from my diet, the only dessert options when eating out were either a sorbet or an overpriced, average fruit salad. There was just nothing on the market and I made it my mission to create a healthy and free-from alternative that was also tasty.
I also noted that people with allergies weren’t catered for either so I created CoFro to be free-from all the main 14 allergies including nuts and soy. I didn’t want to compromise on taste either so it took years to balance this and source the right ingredients. With the new soft serve recipe, which launched earlier this year, CoFro is now the lowest calorie and lowest sugar soft serve on the market using only natural unrefined sugar.
BESIDES COFRO, WHAT/WHERE ARE YOUR FAVOURITE THINGS/PLACES TO EAT?
As you can tell from my Instagram (@londonpaleogirl), I am such a foodie and love discovering new cafes and restaurants.
I also love cooking brunch and every weekend I seem to come up with something new! There are just so many alternatives now to the classic Full English. I also enjoy making omelettes, marinated fish, Thai curry full and creating healthier alternatives to traditional biscuits and cakes.
A few of my favourite spots in London right now are Granger & Co for it’s Aussie menu, the Farmers Mistress in Battersea for it’s fantastic all day brunch, Tell Your Friends in Parsons Green for delicious 100% plant-based cuisine and Daisy Green Collection for an Aussie brunch and dinner.