A recent article about the benefits of combining a traditional Paleo diet with a healthy vegan plan has set the Paleo-sphere abuzz. Whether or not you take the “Pegan” concept to heart, there’s no denying that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can be a beneficial addition to nearly anyone’s plate. A new cookbook out of England is here to prove that plant-based Paleo meals can be as delicious as any bacon-laden dish out there, without deprivation or loss of nutrient density.
Jenna Zoe is a nutritionist and the founder of Foods to Love, an online health food store full of gluten-, sugar-, dairy- and egg-free products based in London. Her first book, Super Healthy Snacks and Treats, was a milestone in her efforts to make nibbles and sweets nourishing and energizing. Her second book, Plant-Based Paleo: Protein-rich Vegan Recipes for Well-being And Vitality, was published in February 2015 with Ryland Peters & Small, and is already making waves in the Paleo world.
Jenna wrote the book with her own health journey in mind. Chronic acne and candida overgrowth struck with a vengeance when she was 18 years old, but after a life-changing consultation with a nutritionist Jenna became a believer in the power of real food.
This inspired her career – she trained as a nutritionist in order to help others feel their best and regain their health – and helped steer her various personal food experiments. About six years ago she attempted a strict vegan diet, and later veered toward the Paleo end of the spectrum. Her experience with a combination Paleo-vegan diet, including animal products when her body asks for it, has done wonders for her personal heath as well as her perspective on restriction and indulgence.
“If you go vegan or Paleo or something like that, what can often happen is that you get so excited about the things that are technically allowed on that diet, and you can go overboard on the things that don’t make you healthier,” Jenna said. “The only way to get healthier is to embrace more fruits and vegetables.”
This philosophy is in keeping with many healing protocols currently popular in the Paleo community, such as the Wahls Protocol and the autoimmune Paleo plan.
“I’ve experienced a lot of clients feeling cheated by certain plans, and I want to empower people to take charge of their own health,” Jenna said. “People come to me feeling betrayed by different things that they’ve read, that end up being too restrictive. There’s a shift happening in this movement toward doing what works for you.”
Jenna’s approach focuses on what the Paleo and vegan diets have in common: “Fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds – if I can eat this eighty percent of the time, I can occasionally eat things like fish and rice, but those are just accessories.”
This focus on simple, seasonal ingredients has made for a beautiful, inspiring cookbook that pushes the bounds of conventional vegetable use. Jenna’s approach is creative, and encourages a relaxed lifestyle that makes food the fuel, not the focus.
In Plant-Based Paleo, the food photography is stunning. Vibrant vegetables pop from the page, and the natural styling makes every recipe seem approachable – which, consequently, they are.
Jenna organized her cookbook in a playful way. It begins with “Sunrise Start” recipes, including a trio of protein shakes, Coconut Yogurt with Berry Chia Jam, and the inventive Eggplant “Bacon” ELT Sandwich. Her chapter on “Punchy Munchies” offers snacking solutions to an appetizer dilemma; instead of reaching for the chips, try Jenna’s Baked Jicama Fries or adorable Cauli-Pops for an extra serving of veggies that halts cravings. “Super Salads and Sides” showcases inventive alternatives to basic mixed greens – try the Ume Carpaccio, which makes use of umeboshi paste, or the Spicy Green Papaya Salad, inspired by traditional Thai flavors. The “Light Lunches” chapter features Jenna’s vegetable-packed Green Energy Soup, as well as more novel recipes like Cauliflower Pizzettas, Raw Sushi, and Bibimbap Cabbage Wraps. The “Evening Feasts” section offers recipes with a bit more heft, like the stick-to-your-ribs Spicy Sweet Potato Moussaka, the piquant Chilli Rellenos, and Aubergine Steaks with Cauli-Mash. The final chapter highlights Jenna’s “Feel-Good Treats,” all of which use only a little stevia or a dab of coconut sugar for added sweetness. The Chai-Ginger Panna Cotta and the Banana Split would be fun treats for a special occasion, and employ the use of real food ingredients like full-fat coconut milk, fresh grated ginger, coconut oil, and juicy strawberries.
Jenna’s approach is moderate – neither too restrictive nor too indulgent.
“Everything in the book is nutritionally conscious in the sense that we want things to taste good but we don’t want to add a ton of sweetness, or some other ingredient just so it tastes good,” Jenna said. “Everything is measured, and this came from my balance of doing Paleo and vegan diets, and having the best of both worlds.”
This philosophy means that the Plant-Based Paleo recipes will reach a huge audience, as they are appropriate for so many different groups. Strict vegans or vegetarians will rejoice at the whole foods approach, while hard-charging Paleo athletes need only to add a portion of animal protein to make a complete meal. Jenna encourages her readers to play with the possibilities, and to add things like salmon, steak or quinoa to make the recipes work for their specific needs.
This flexibility is the hallmark of a good plan, one that works with an individual’s requirements and does not create unhealthy mental restrictions, yet all the while maintains a focus on health above all. Jenna Zoe’s Plant-Based Paleo has struck this perfect balance, and is sure to inspire tasty dishes for meals to come.