Book Review: Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo

When I started hearing the hype about Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole-Foods Lifestyle, I assumed it was just another cookie cutter cookbook, but Diane Sanfilippo’s masterpiece is much more than that.

Yes, it’s loaded with recipes, each of which includes prep time, cooking time and yield, along with notes about whether the dish includes nuts, eggs or nightshades, as well as helpful tips or suggestions for replacing certain ingredients..and gorgeous photos, of course. The comprehensive recipe selection includes breakfast foods, entrees (categorized by the type of meat used), sides and salads, sauces and dips, and desserts. The recipes are quite forgiving, which is always nice if you’re trying something new or aren’t used to cooking, and everything we’ve sampled so far (about 15 recipes) has been delicious. The spice blends section alone will help provide flavor and variety to your dishes.

There’s also 30-day meal plans, and the thing that’s so great about them is that there are so many to choose from…and each include some information on the condition or issue you’re trying to address, diet and lifestyle recommendations, supplements and herbs to consider, supportive nutrients (and the foods that contain them), and, of course, the meal plan. A heart-health meal plan. A meal plan for people recovering from cancer. One for blood sugar regulation. One for digestive health. One for autoimmune conditions. One for thyroid health. Parkinson’s, Alzheimers, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, multiple sclerosis… you name it, and there’s a 30-day meal plan for it. There’s also a squeaky clean Paleo plan, if you’re testing out the diet for the first time, and my favorite–a plan for athletic performance, which includes an ample amount of much-needed starchy grains. Diane’s website, Balanced Bites, even has grocery list printouts of a handy guide of ingredients you can download each week for each plan, which saves a ton of time if you wish to follow them. (A word of warning: if you’re used to cooking with leftovers and just eating eggs for breakfast every morning, meal plans can get $$$, even when they do incorporate leftovers, like Practical Paleo’s does. We did notice that a week of meal plan foods lasts us a good 10 days, though.)

What else does this book have? Really great pullout guides and info sheets on everything from what foods you can eat to tips for travel and eating out. Guides to Paleo foods, how to stock the pantry, food quality, fats and oils and cooking fats (as in, which to use depending on what temperature you’ll be cooking them at.) A guide to dense sources of Paleo carbs. A guide for sweeteners to use. These guides are all simultaneously easy to use and incredibly comprehensive. Sanfilippo must be one of those hyper-organized people, because all the recipes have specially designated key codes for types of foods–so if you want a quick visual guide to avoid using nightshades, for example, or would prefer to cook without fish, you’re set.

Most Paleo cookbooks explain the diet, and this was no exception–comprehensive yet highly accessible information on all things Paleo. One thing that was unique to this book (which isn’t sexy to write about, but is a great feature), was detailed information on different types of poop (complete with drawings of shapes and texture), what’s actually going on in your body, and what you can do to address it. I love that someone actually took the time to discuss this, because bowel movements are largely ignored, except by acupuncturists.

My new favorite Paleo cookbook is always the one I’m using, but Practical Paleo has quickly made its way to the top of the list. It’s available online for $26 or so,  and is well worth the price. Very highly recommended.