The Novice Foodie

Just eating real foods, lifting heavy things and learning about it along the way

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Lessons from Paleo: Get comfortable buying meat

Protein is an essential part of any diet, and the good news is there are lots of ways to get it. Some of the most delicious ways are through natural, unprocessed meats.

But for a new cook, tackling a dish with meat products is pretty intimidating! There is high potential for disaster, from undercooking and contracting food borne illnesses to overcooking and ending up with dry, tough meat.  For the longest time, the only meat I would cook on my own was boneless, skinless chicken breast for a few reasons. 1. It comes all nice and ready to go, 2. it’s generally agreed upon as a healthy food choice, 3. it’s versatile,  and 4. it’s pretty hard to screw up even for the most inexperienced cook.

After a while, though, I got bored with my meals. I’m gonna go ahead and say that diet rule number one for anyone on any kind of diet should be “always be excited about your food.” This may be the singular most important thing to making a diet sustainable long-term.

So after I got bored with chicken, I began to experiment with ground beef, another relatively easy and versatile meat to conquer. More importantly, it’s all packaged for you and you don’t have to make a whole lot of decisions.

But that got old, too, so I decided to broaden my horizons. There’s a whole new delicious world of possibilities right behind your deli counter/butcher shop, if you can just get yourself over there. This, too, is an intimidating place for a new cook/meat purchaser. You gotta know the proper names of cuts you want and how much you want in pounds. It’s really not so bad, but for a newbie it can get a little overwhelming. So start small.

Some tips for first-time meat buyers: Find something familiar to you and start there. One day on my way to the pre-packaged section of Whole Foods, I noticed that they had kielbasa behind the counter.  I’ve had kielbasa many times in my 50% Polish life, so I pretty much know what to expect when cooking it, and decided that day to get me some. You gotta start somewhere.

kielbasa and sauerkraut

And then I had a nice kielbasa and sauerkraut dinner at work!

Some other tips: Look things up before you get there so you know what to ask for and how much. Follow a recipe! Following recipes are a great way to be introduced to new ingredients and methods of cooking. Soon enough, you won’t need a recipe and you can concoct your own masterpieces. As for the meat preparation itself, there are step-by-step instructions and even videos to guide you through it. And for even more convenience, many grocery stores will even have pre-seasoned meats that are basically dinner-to-go.  (**But check those ingredients lists–it is always better to do the seasoning yourself so you know exactly what all went on there.)

And then, after all of those doors opened, an even greater thing happened. I discovered U.S. Wellness Meats. And I was beyond sold. The trickiest part of purchasing meat is finding the kind that isn’t loaded with fake, scary ingredients, and this place made that pretty simple. All products are grass-fed, humanely raised, nitrate-free, hormone-free, antibiotic-free. And it comes right to your doorstep.

My order from US Wellness Meats

My order from US Wellness Meats

How cool is that? I instantly (well, after they were defrosted) had dozens of meal opportunities without leaving my apartment. But there’s no rush–meat kept frozen will last for years because it comes vacuum-sealed.


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Lessons from Paleo: Ingredients List is most important

We are trained to check the nutrition labels of the foods we eat, and we tend to focus on calories, fat and sugar. But what I’ve learned from “eating clean” is that the ingredients list is arguably more important than the nutrition facts label above it. A “low fat” product can and often has a mile-long ingredient list full of chemicals and foreign substances. At the same time, a food with a little more calories and a lot more nutrients gets a bad reputation.


Exhibit A: Bars

Beside each other on the snack bar shelf of the “organic section” of a grocery store are two random choices. B0th would appear to be decent choices. Bar 2 Bar 1

Flip them over, and see the difference in the ingredients. Not only what the ingredients are, but the sheer number of them. 6 identifiable ingredients compared to….a lot. A lot of things that were possibly once recognizable as natural but now have been chemically altered.

Bar 2 back

Bar 1 Back

A rule of thumb: the less ingredients, the better. I’ve gotten to a point where if the ingredients list is more than a few lines, I just put whatever it is right back down. The best foods are the ones without an ingredients list at all (think produce aisle or farmer’s market!)