The Truth About Paleo Sweeteners: Baking

Stevia by Irene KnightleyFruit is almost always my first choice for sweetening Paleo baked goods and desserts. While that’s fine for cookies or other goodies that are supposed to have a fruit flavor, it doesn’t always work as well for chocolate or nutty recipes. For that reason, I’m going to break down some of the readily available “natural” sweeteners.  I will let you decide how Paleo each of the sweeteners listed is.  Note that I am not including honey or maple syrup in this post (although I wouldn’t hesitate to use either in a non-fruit-based cookie recipe).  I’m only including sweeteners that tend to be (mostly) flavor-neutral.

Agave Nectar

Sweeter and thinner than honey, agave nectar comes in a variety of grades from light to dark amber (similar to maple syrup).  Yes, agave is the same plant used for making tequila.  For those who don’t know, distilling spirits relies on the breakdown of sugars.  Organic bases (mash) with high sugar content make for easy alcohol production.

Agave nectar is sweeter than cane sugar with about the same number of calories.  The good news is that you may use less agave nectar to get the equivalent sweetness of sugar and it typically has a lower glycemic index and glycemic load as well.  A downside to keep in mind is that some agave species used to make agave nectar contain steroids with contraceptive effects that could lead to miscarriage.  Pregnant women or women trying to conceive may want to avoid it.


I can’t hear the word Stevia without thinking about the funny story of extreme Stevia abuse that Tim Ferriss tells in his book, The 4-Hour Workweek.  If you want to know how not to make a dessert with Stevia (and more about minimalist living and lifestyle design) I recommend checking out Ferriss’ books: The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman and The 4-Hour Workweek, Expanded and Updated: Expanded and Updated, With Over 100 New Pages of Cutting-Edge Content.

Anyway.  Stevia is a plant based extract.  It is 300 times sweeter than sugar and has no calories.  You need very little Stevia to add sweetness.  On the downside, it tends to have a strange aftertaste and it’s also a very new product (well it’s been around for years but the heavy mass marketing of it is new).  If it has any major negative medical drawbacks, they are still pretty much unknown.


Sucanat is a silly brand name for what is basically minimally processed raw cane sugar. Su – sugar, ca – cane, nat – natural.  Sugar In The Raw is another brand name for a similar product.

I traveled to China a few years ago and you could buy sugar cane stalks on the street to chew on.  That’s as raw as it gets and I think it’s a great flavor.  Raw sugar cane contains the molasses normally extracted to produce white table sugar.  So expect that molasses flavor similar to brown sugar.  Treat it like processed sugar measure for measure and note that it contains the same calories and poses the same health risks like tooth decay and blood sugar spikes.

In A Nutshell

I have a cookie recipe that I plan to make two ways.  One with maple syrup and one with agave nectar.  This will be kind of a head to head comparison of two natural sweeteners.  I’ll post the results when I am done.  Stay tuned.


Sources: GristIn The Raw, and Amazon

Stevia Plant Photo: Irene Knightley

Why Your Great Grandfather Didn’t Have Type 2 Diabetes: The Story Of The Human Body


Great grandpa probably didn’t have IBS or Crohn’s either.  He also probably wasn’t obese or even overweight.  He’d probably never even heard of these health issues in his time. These and other “mismatch diseases” are only a small part of the story of human evolution presented in Daniel Lieberman’s new book: The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease.

How far have our bodies really evolved in the last 10,000 years?  Does the Paleo diet/lifestyle actually make any sense in our modern world?  What are the reasons why our society currently suffers so many “mismatch diseases” like type 2 diabetes in epidemic proportions?

Last week I caught this episode of NPR’s Fresh Air featuring an interview with Evolutionary Biologist, Daniel Leiberman.  Leiberman serves as chairman of evolutionary biology at Harvard University and has just released a book, The Story of the Human Body – Evolution, Health, and Disease, which helps answers these questions.

While Leiberman is not a complete supporter of the Paleo diet for a some reasons, the interview and his book shed light on why we face commonplace diseases today that were extreme rarities just a few generations ago.

This is just a brief post to share with you because I was pretty impressed by the interview.  Here is the link to the Fesh Air article with further links to the pod cast witch is well worth listening to: How Our Stone Age Bodies Struggle To Stay Healthy In Modern Times

Macadamia and Apricot Paleo Breakfast Bars

If you have been reading this blog for a while now, you know that I am all about simple, fast, and especially portable breakfast solutions for the Paleo diet.  These Macadamia and Apricot Paleo breakfast bars fit right in with that sentiment.  They can easily be made over the weekend and provide a steady supply of fast Paleo breakfast material for a week.

Egg Albumen

These Paleo breakfast bars are made with egg albumen (powdered egg whites) so they can also be considered Paleo protein bars or Paleo energy bars.  Perfect for post workout recovery or for some extra energy on a long bicycle ride.

Macadamia and Apricot Paleo Breakfast Bars

Makes roughly a dozen bars depending on how you cut them



  1. Place all dry ingredients in a bowl and combine well.
  2. Heat honey and coconut oil in a low-medium heat pan until warm.  Add dry ingredients and combine well.
  3. Place a sheet of non-stick baking paper on the counter and place the warm bar mixture in the center.  Place another sheet of baking paper on top and roll the mixture out until you have approximately a 4inch (100mm) by 12inch (300mm) rectangle of consistent thickness.  Cover and store in refrigerator for 2-3 hours to harden.
  4. When hardened, cut into equal sized portions ready for use.  Store in the refrigerator.

You will have to make sure that you you keep these bars cool if you take them with you.  They still taste great when they are warm but tend to get mushy and fall apart.

More Paleo Breakfast Bar Recipes

This recipe is from Nikki Young’s Paleo Protein Bar Recipes book which comes as a bonus freebie when you buy here Paleo Sweets cookbook.  It’s worth buying Paleo Sweets just for the Protein Bar Recipes and Homemade Dried Fruit Guide books that come with it. The Protein Bar Recipes book comes with 15 awesome breakfast/protein/energy bar recipes, but options are limitless if you use various dried fruits.  Highly recommended!

Sweet Potato Almond Pancakes

These sweet potato pancakes are a great Paleo/Primal breakfast recipe for when you are looking for a slightly more savory pancake option than the almond banana pancakes form my last post.

Sweet Potato Almond Pancakes
Serves 2-3


  • 3 eggs (organic cage free);
  • 1/3 cup almond butter;
  • 1/2 cup canned sweet potato puree;
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon;
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg;
  • stevia to taste;
  • coconut oil for the griddle;


  1. In a food processor, combine all ingredients into a smooth, liquid batter. I find that thinner is better.
  2. In a stainless steel frying pan or on a griddle, melt the coconut oil. The oil should be hot but not bubbling and smoking.
  3. Pour a large portion of the batter into the pan, making the pancake as thin as possible so it cooks through in the middle. Let the pancake simmer until golden brown on the bottom. Bubbles will form on the top and the edges will be dry. Flip the pancake and cook for another minute or two on the other side.

Serving Sweet Potato Almond Pancakes suggests using Stevia to sweeten these pancakes but I have found that the sweetness of the sweet potatoes is enough on it’s own. I also suggest topping these pancakes with some sliced almonds and drizzle of pure maple syrup. Enjoy!


Note: This post originally appeared on As part of my migration of content to EPM, I have re-posted it here.

The Paleo Recipe Book

Paleo Craving Killer – Double Chocolate Paleo Cookies


Out of the Rut

Anyone sticking to a strict Paleo diet regimen will eventually experience that craving for something sweet, something chocolate, something very un-Paleo.

This has been a major breaking point for me on my Paleo diet journey.  Some days my usual fast Paleo snack of a handful of almonds simply doesn’t cut it.  I long for that savory, semi-sweet flavor and euphoric satisfaction of biting into a tasty chocolate cookie.  For me, nothing else in the Paleo diet cures a cookie craving like a… cookie.

Most of the Paleo staples I have been making have come from recipes that I’ve found online from various blogs and forums.  There are some really good recipes out there for meals, but I keep seeing similar cookie and baked goods recipes over and over.  Anyway, last week I took a chance and hesitantly bought my first Paleo cook book.  The Paleo Recipe Book by Sebastian Noel.

Obviously, I only wanted the professional cookie recipes, but I bought the complete book figuring there might be some other meal recipes I could use.  I’ve seen it around for a while and I’m slightly kicking myself for not buying it before, because I have certainly not been disappointed.

Double Chocolate Cookies

I bought the book (it’s an instant .pdf download, not a physical book, which fits perfectly into my minimalist lifestyle, but that’s another story) and I immediately tabbed down to the Paleo Breakfast & Paleo Desserts section; Double Chocolate Cookies.  I knew what my first recipe was going to be.  So Saturday I made the Double Chocolate Cookies recipe.  It’s a typical Paleo recipe (flourless, grain-free, cane sugar-free) made with almond butter (If you have read my last post, you know that I think almond butter is the cookie keystone!), cocoa, and dark chocolate chips.

All I can say is, wow!  They are really good.  Actually, they are the best Paleo cookies that I have made so far.  They are really rich.  Really, really rich.  Between the cocoa and the almond butter, the chocolate flavor is intense (think chocolate fudge without the heavy sugar overtone).  I love chocolate, but one cookie is more than enough to keep me happy between meals.  Be prepared to have a beverage on-hand (like the almond milk recipe).

I will add the caveat that I have only made this recipe once so far, but the results were very good.  I baked them in two batches, the first for 13 minutes, and the second for 12.  The recipe calls for 14 minutes or until barely cooked.  My first batch was a little dried out and the cookies got very powdery.  The second batch was a lot better.  Next time I will shoot for 11 minutes and see what happens.  Keep in mind that I have an electric convection oven, so that may be a factor.

The Paleo Recipe Book

The Double Chocolate Cookies recipe from The Paleo Recipe Book will now replace my old go-to, whole-grain chocolate chip cookie recipe.  It’s giving me the savory, slightly sweet chocolaty bite that I was looking for to break up my usual Paleo routine.  Of course the added bonus is that I’ve found a host of other great snacks, desserts, and meals in the book which I’ll be giving a try.  If this first recipe (and the awesome photos in the book!) is any indication, I can’t see being disappointed.

Note: This post originally appeared on my first Paleo blog on 19-JUL-2011. As part of my migration of content to EPM, I have re-posted it here.  Still an awesome recipe!

The Paleo Recipe Book

Paleo Maple Soda Pop

I detailed the many negatives of brand name soft drinks like Coke and Pepsi including their diet variants in my last post for the Honey Soda recipe.

While I bashed the big guys for containing ridiculous quantities of high fructose corn syrup, sodium, and artificial colors, I have to remind you that soda in any form (within Paleo parameters or not) is still not something you want to consume on a regular basis.  Sugar is still sugar, whether or not it is a natural product or a highly processed laboratory experiment.

That said, if you are trying to break a soda addiction, trying to get your kids to develop healthier habits, or if you are eating Paleo and just want a special treat once in a while, Paleo soda is a fine option and Maple Soda is a delicious way to do it!

Paleo Maple Soda Recipe

Serves 1


  • 8 ounces Seltzer water
  • 1 tbs real maple syrup


  1. Pour Seltzer water into a clear glass.
  2. Stir in maple syrup or use a cocktail shaker to mix (see how I do it in this video).
  3. Add ice to glass, or pour over ice in a second glass and enjoy!
Nutritional Info – Maple Soda (8 oz) vs. Coca-Cola (8 oz)

Glycemic Index: 54 vs. 61

Sugar (grams): 13 vs. 26

Calories: 50 vs. 93

Total Carb (grams): 17 vs. 26

Sodium (mg): 0 vs. 45

Artificial Color: No vs. Yes

Preservatives: No vs. Yes

Is Quinoa Paleo?

Is Quinoa Paleo EPM

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), and whether or not it is truly a Paleo food item is a hot button topic on the Paleo scene lately. Why it is so controversial is due in part to what Quinoa actually is in biological terms. However, I do have some other issues with the Paleo-ness of quinoa which I’ll get into later. But first…

What Is Quinoa?

Quinoa is a seed harvested from a flowering plant species of goosefoot, Chenopdodium (a close relative of beets and spinach). While the leaves of the quinoa plant are edible, the seed is what has become so popular around the world, and that is what I am referring to in this post.

Quinoa is a pseudocereal. It behaves like a grain and is even harvested in a similar manner as wheat, but is not technically a grain. It has been domesticated and adapted to thrive primarily in the Andes region of South America. Quinoa is not well adapted to be grown in other global regions, which is a big part of my issue with the crop being considered Paleo.


Quinoa Harvesting and Processing

Quinoa seeds are hand picked. This is because the seeds on a common plant will ripen at different times (a lot like berries), making machine harvesting either impossible or extremely wasteful.

The seeds must then be winnowed like wheat, and before consumption a bitter tasting and toxic coating containing saponins must be thoroughly rinsed off.

Quinoa And Your Gut

The saponins in quinoa are linked to intestinal permeability (though this is arguable in some research). What this means is that these compounds may compromise the intestinal lining and allow intestinal contents to leak into the body. This gut leakage produces an autoimmune response and inflammation. You know. The very things you are eating Paleo to avoid in the first place.

Yes, most of the saponins may be rinsed off the quinoa seed, but it would be nearly impossible to process quinoa enough to eliminate them completely.

If the knowledge that you are eating a toxic substance isn’t enough to deter you from indulging in quinoa based meals, I encourage you to watch this very funny skit from the TV show Portlandia on the flatulent consequences of eating quinoa.

Is Quinoa Paleo?

Paleo is about more than just whether or not a food has been around for over 10,000 years (not that quinoa has been around that long… not that chickens have either but that is another story). To me, Paleo is about how a food is sourced, how it is grown or raised, and what effects it has on your body. In that sense, I personally do not promote or endorse quinoa as a Paleo food.

Quinoa has toxic properties that I just can’t get past. Global demand for quinoa is also contributing to increased poverty and exploitation of the people living in the regions where it is grown. Quinoa is a staple food for people of the Andes and thanks to demand, is now prohibitively expensive for those people to eat it.

By the time you have exploited South American workers and burned tons of fuel to transport it to your kitchen, you end up with an ingredient that isn’t a grain but is still harmful to your gut. If I had to eat something that produces a detrimental effect, I’d rather just eat locally grown corn or other grains and at least feel less ethically compromised about my decision.

Plenty of others (Mark Sisson, Robb Wolf, etc.) have varied opinions on whether or not quinoa is Paleo. My clear opinion is that quinoa is NOT Paleo, for ethical if not bioligical reasons. Therefore I don’t use it (there are plenty of other options) and I don’t bother repinning quinoa recipes on Pinterest or this website. What is your opinion?

Image: Wikipedia, EasyPaleoMeals

Sources: As Hyperlinked

The Paleo Recipe Book


Easy Paleo Snack: Sweet Potato Chips

Sweet Potato Chips by kthread on Flickr

I’m always looking for ways to make Paleo/Primal meals on the weekend that will last through the busy work week.  This sweet potato chips recipe is an easy one to make on a Sunday afternoon.  If you are like me, you already have the oven hot because you are making multiple meal preparations for the week.  Generally, I set aside 2-3 hours on Sundays to hammer out three or four durable (i.e. will keep in the refrigerator all week) items to have on hand.

Prep time is just a few minutes (5 max) for this simple Paleo snack using sweet potatoes (a true super food!).  Bake time takes less than a half hour, leaving you plenty of time to prep another meal while you are waiting.

Paleo Sweet Potato Chips

Serves 4


  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, sliced into 1/8-inch thick slices;
  • 1 tbsp cooking fat, melted
  • ½ tsp sea salt


    1. Preheat your oven to 400°F.
    2. Coat the sweet potato slices with the melted cooking fat in a bowl and line them on two baking sheets, making sure the slices don’t touch.
    3. Bake them in the preheated oven for 22-25 minutes, turning them once, until the edges are nice and crisp.
    4. Remove the sweet potato chips from the oven and sprinkle them immediately with the sea salt.
    5. Serve the chips with lime wedges (if desired).

A Naturally Sweet and Healthy Paleo Snack

The natural sweetness of sweet potatoes paired with the touch of sea salt make for a great snack anyone can enjoy.  You might want to make a double patch and store them through the week in an air-tight container at room temperature.  For a different taste, you may want to leave one batch salted, and try some cinnamon on the other.

Nothing makes me think of fall and winter more than the dark orange of sweet potatoes and other healthy dark orange veggies like pumpkin, carrots, and butternut squash.  Sweet potatoes provide a great supply of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium, and calcium to keep you healthy as the days grow shorter.  Enjoy.

Source: The Paleo Recipe Book, by Sebastian Noel

Image: kthread on Flickr

The Paleo Recipe Book

Simple (and Delicious) Banana Almond Paleo Pancakes

Almond Banana Paleo Pancakes

This recipe for banana almond pancakes uses just a few simple Paleo/Primal ingredients to make a dense and rich Paleo pancake.

Banana Almond Pancakes

Serves 2


  • 4 ripe bananas, mashed (slightly overripe is best);
  • 2 eggs;
  • 4 tbsp almond butter
  • butter, ghee, or coconut oil for cooking;
  • Optional: real maple syrup, fresh berries;
  1. Combine mashed bananas in a mixing bowl with eggs and mix well.  Add the almond butter and mix well again.
  2. Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat (a 10″ cast iron skillet works very well).  Melt in some butter or coconut oil (I prefer coconut oil).
  3. Once hot, pour a small amount of almond-banana batter into the skillet.  Note: I have found that making a small 3-to-4 inch diameter pancake works best for this recipe.  Cook until the edges become firm enough to allow you to flip the pancake.  Flip and cook until bottom is brown.  Store pancakes in a warming drawer or 200F oven until you are ready to serve.

Paleo Pancake Breakfast… or Desert

As I mentioned before, these pancakes are quite rich.  I prefer to top them with fresh raspberries (like my photos), but any fresh berry is a great complement to the heartiness of these pancakes.  I also like a drizzle of real maple syrup, but this may be a bit too much sweetness for some.
The almond banana pancakes also make a great decadent dessert.  Smother a couple of pancakes with a mixture of berries, or serve with a scoop of Paleo coconut ice cream for a nice ala mode desert.  Enjoy!
Source: The Paleo Recipe Book by Sebastian Noel

3 Paleo UnSandwich Ideas You Need to Try

I’ve been a bit obsessed with unsandwiches lately.  “Unsandwich?” you ask.  I’m talking about a sandwich that has most of the traditional sandwich hallmarks but without the bread.  In other words, a Paleo or Primal sandwich.

So here are three that I have gleened from my Pinterest Paleo UnSandwich board and have been working on my own variations of.  Basically, these are the top tree re-pinned images from that board as of this week.  Make sure you check out the rest of my board if you would like to see several others (constantly updated).

Sweet Potato Pulled Pork Sliders

I would love to share the great image of these Sweet Potato Pulled Pork Sliders with you here, but Lauren’s Latest has a copyright on her images (which I totally respect, despite my personal philosophy of sharing my food images).  So, I am posting the link to the YouTube video showing her making them instead.  I recommend going to to check her great photos.

The recipes for the pork and slaw aren’t exactly Paleo, they could easily be swapped with Paleo versions of your choice.  I don’t agree with using store-bought sweet potato chips either since they are so easy to make yourself, but it is the concept I love and over 40 Pinterest pinners can’t be wrong.

Paleo Chicken Salad Summer Wrap

Paleo Chicken Salad Summer Wrap -

I love the simplicity of this wrap.  Just make an easy Paleo chicken salad then roll it up in a leaf of Romaine lettuce. This is pinned from

Paleo Chicken Salad Summer Wrap:

  • 1/2 cup chopped chicken
  • 3 tbsp chopped Fuji apples
  • 2 tbsp chopped red grapes
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 tbsp almond butter
  • Mix ingredients together and wrap into a Romaine leaf

Turkey Sliders With Zucchini Buns

I couldn’t find any copyright or permission info on the Living Crunchy website, so I am hoping that I don’t completely piss them off by posting this image with their watermark intact, and by including lots of links to their website.  If you are from Living Crunchy and you want this image gone, please contact me and I will remove the image and all links.

That out of the way, this is a tasty little take on a cucumber sandwich.  Really, the cucumber slice “bread” idea will work with a variety of sandwich guts.  Bacon, cold cuts, a chuck of seared tuna, etc.  Great idea for small bites.