04 August 2012

Book Review: Practical Paleo. The Missing Manual Is Now Out


The basic idea of paleo diets and lifestyles is that man evolved eating foods and with activity patterns different from what most of us have today. Many of the foods we eat and the activities we pursue today and for that last 10,000 years (since the dawn of agriculture) are not good for us. (More accurately, do not provide optimal health). With some changes to our lifestyles, we can achieve robust or optimal health.

I have mentioned in some of my previous posts on nutrition that paleo style eating is probably a good path, and I continue to believe that. Many people have trouble actually implementing the approach. They have recipe books that call for added sugar, or breading, or the oils called for in the recipes are not healthful ones.

Now Diane Sanfilppo has written a book called Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole-Foods Lifestyle. It is the missing manual for Paleo.

Bottom Line - E4E Take:

Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole-Foods Lifestyle  by Diane Sanfilippo contains the why, what, and how of a paleo, ancestral-style diet. It is well-organized, beautiful to behold, and contains a ton of great information.

Even if you do not buy into the whole paleo movement, you can't go wrong with this book. Robb Wolf does the foreword. I think he is a highly principled person who would not put his mark on anything less than a top-rate product. It has 30-day meal plans for various goals, and all the recipes and ingredient lists you need to back it up. And keep in mind that paleo is not about caveman re-enactment, the main point is to eat healthful, natural foods that are nutritionally dense. That is not a fad diet. It's a good diet.

The book seems aimed especially at newbies to paleo, but even people who have been paleo for a while will benefit from the meal plans (and the lifestyle suggestions) and the recipes.

I notice that the macronutrient (fat, protein, and carbohydrate) ratios she recommends are pretty consistent with what I have recommended in the past (I recommended a bit more protein and less fat than she does). So maybe I like it because of confirmation bias, but more interesting is that Diane gets there by concentrating on food quality rather than macronutrients.

This book is a tour de force. I am ordering copies for my my kids and some friends. Buy pre-release and you get a discount.

Full disclaimer: I received a review copy of the book pre-release at no charge. I recognize that this can induce a bias. I have no financial or other interest in the success of the book unless you click the links to Amazon in the post, and even then it would amount to less than $1.00.

If you do want to order this (or any) book, I encourage you to go to Latest in Paleo scroll down a little and launch your Amazon search session with the keywords "Practical Paleo" from there. He does a really good service to the paleo community and we might as well give him a buck instead of Amazon.

The Book:

Diane Sanfilippo of the BalancedBites website has released a new book called Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole-Foods Lifestyle.

The book is gorgeous, and even just thumbing through the book you are guaranteed to learn something.

It contains everything you need to know about living a more healthy life following paleo/ancestral principles.

Following is a rundown of the table of contents with some commentary:

There are three parts to the book.

Part 1: The Why - Food and Your Body
What is Paleo
Everything We've Been Taught About Good Nutrition is Wrong
Paleo at Home: Shopping for Groceries - includes some great lists of foods that are considered paleo and information about their quality
Paleo in Public: Restaurants and Parties
On the Go: On the Road or in the Air
Your Digestive System
Is Your Gut Leaky?
Blood Sugar Regulation
Frequently Asked Questions

In Part 1, Diane talks about what paleo is, why conventional recommendations are flawed, and provides a bunch of practical tips for shopping eating out, and what to do when you're not at home. Then she goes into some detail on the science of why it is important, specifically dealing with digestive/gut health and blood sugar regulation and how those are in turn related to cardiovascular health, neurological damage, etc.

She talks a lot about questions and potential objections to paleo, including calcium, fiber, anti-nutrients, inflammation,  and cholesterol. She has good references including Robb Wolf, Mat Lalonde, Alessio Fasano, and Chris Kresser (among others) and information. I believe that the science is good.

Part 2: 30-Day Meal Plans
Autoimmune Conditions
Blood Sugar Regulation
Digestive Health
Thyroid Health
Multiple Sclerosis, Fibromyalgia, and Chronic Fatigue
Neurological Health
Heart Health
Cancer Recovery
Athletic Performance
Fat Loss
Squeaky Clean Paleo

Each of these sections contains information on overall diet and lifestyle recommendations (what to include and avoid), supplements and herbs to consider, important nutrients, then 30 days of three meals per day. These are not necessarily 90 unique meals, she does include leftovers.

The practical approach of targeting specific issues is innovative and very useful.

Part 3: Recipes
Kitchen Basics
Beef & Bison
Sides & Salads
Sauces & Dips
Treats & Sweets

Recipes are about half of the book with almost 200 pages (over 120 recipes). We have tried a few of them at home and so far, so good. Our favorite is the Italian-style stuffed peppers. I am confident that we will cook many meals form this book over time. The photography is excellent.

The author's FAQ can be found here.

Diane has:
a blog, Balanced Bites
a facebook page, and
a twitter account. ( @balancedbites )



  1. Thank you for a thorough and thoughtful review. I am looking forward to getting this book. I'm going to direct some friends to your review as you also explain nicely how solid the paleo approach basically is.

  2. Hi Anonymous, thanks for the feedback. I think of paleo as something that even your grandmother would approve.
    Tony (e4e)

  3. Thanks for the Latest in Paleo mention in your review. I talked to Diane on Saturday and will be releasing the discussion we had as Episode 61 tonight. We covered some good stuff that wasn't in the book. Thanks again!

  4. Hi Angelo, I continue listening to and enjoying your podcast and am looking forward to your interview with Diane. For any readers, Angelo's podcast can befound in itunes at http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=417736572

    or you can go to http://www.latestinpaleo.com


  5. This is great, but my grandmother would approve dairy, flour and baked beans. She was also partial to hitting the cat when her football team lost but we don't talk about that since she passed.