Eating Paleo in France (and while pregnant)

If you’re unfamiliar with the paleo diet, Google can explain it better than I can. Though in general, I am more into the idea of a paleo template or lifestyle rather than “diet” and have totally adapted things to suit my needs, and to take into account what I can and can’t get in France.

So I can’t say that I’ve ever been 100% paleo, though I have gotten very close a few times in the past year, especially when I was running on a regular basis. It takes a fair amount of planning to get through a full week of work and evening activities (sports, friends, etc.) and I can only maintain that kind of attention for a few weeks at a time. Also, it can get a bit pricey!

 

Before . . .

Planning for breakfast is the hardest, because my husband spent years eating cookies every morning. (Eileen posted about eating habits in France, and it’s not just my husband who does this! ) So when I can, I make four or five hard-boiled eggs one night after dinner, or a batch of paleo muffins, to have ready for breakfast the next few days. Almond butter and apples are another go-to breakfast for me, though almond butter is not available in the large supermarkets here, and sometimes I make it myself. But usually I go to organic (biologique or just bio) stores like La Vie Claire. That’s also where I find coconut oil, coconut flour, and sometimes even coconut palm sugar.

Some organic products are relatively easy to find in the bigger supermarkets in France (eggs, butter, chicken, vegetables, fruit) though I’m still unsure as to what is considered “free range” here. Grass-fed would be “nourri à l’herbe” but I’ve never seen that written anywhere, so I assume most of the meat you get in the supermarket is grain-fed.  We go to the outdoor market on Saturdays sometimes, and I could ask the sellers, but for the moment, grass-fed meat is not high on my list of essentials.

What we mainly try to do is avoid processed food, and any treats we want, we make ourselves and it all seems to work out. Avocado chocolate pudding sounds kind of nasty, but is actually super delicious and tastes nothing like avocado, I promise. And it’s already fairly common to make sweets with almond flour in France, so it’s just a matter of adapting the recipes and replacing the sugar with something else (honey, maple syrup, molasses).

Rather than trying to put a name on it, in general, both me and my husband feel better when we’re able to eat less processed food and cook more for ourselves (duh). So I hesitated to even talk about paleo in this post, but that’s where the inspiration for our version of “clean eating” has come from. I am not saying this is the best choice for everyone, but it’s still one that’s totally possible in the land of bread and cheese. Meals with my in-laws are already full of fresh meat (wild boar is hunted in my husband’s hometown) and seasonal veggies, so it’s simply a matter of saying no to the baguette and skipping the cheese course. The apéro is trickier, but there are usually at least cherry tomatoes or olives in addition to chips and crackers.

 

Now . . .

During my pregnancy, I have been way less concerned about following any particular plan, other than trying to eat vegetables twice a day and starting January 1st I stopped drinking soft drinks. If I feel like eating bread, I will, and if another night salad and baked chicken sounds good, I’ll have that. Since I had cut out so much sugar months and months before even thinking about being pregnant (with an incredibly indulgent break during our last trip to the states in October), I wonder if that’s behind the reason for my relatively tame cravings. Though my other theory is that after getting used to not having all my American treats readily available to me in France, I’m already so used to ignoring cravings, I may not even notice I’m having one.

A dislike for sweets certainly makes trying to stay paleo easier, though in my second trimester I regained the taste for chocolate I had lost early in my pregnancy. I’ve been trying to stick with healthier alternatives most of the time, but without putting too much pressure on myself. If we have peppers, I’ll have those with dip instead of chips, but if all we have are chips, then that’s what I’m eating.

I’d say before we were aiming for 80% and now I’m at around 40-50%. My husband has been cooking a lot more recently, and the rule is that when he cooks, I eat whatever he makes, no complaining. And really I have no reason to complain, he can get quite creative in the kitchen! But if he decides to make pasta and canned tomato sauce, then that is what I eat. And the days when I have more energy, I’ll make a big crustless quiche with coconut milk and cut up enough veggies to last a few days.

 

The future . . .

So will our bébé be a little paleo caveman? I don’t know yet. I don’t think anyone would argue that more fruits and veggies and less sugary cereals isn’t a good idea for kids. As with most things involving pregnancy and babies, I have my hopes about how things will go but also try and stay open to adapting as needed. My big hope is that all the planning that goes into how we eat will help us stay organized the first few crazy months (years??). But as long as we try and set a good example by trying new things and not eating too much junk, I think it should be fine.

Almond Flour Carrot Cake Recipe

I’ll write a longer post soon about eating paleo in France (and while pregnant) but for now, I just wanted to share a recipe for carrot cake I’ve adapted from Fast Paleo based on what I did and didn’t have in my kitchen last night.

Almond flour carrot cake

Almond flour carrot cake

Whisk together 200g shredded carrots and 3 eggs until nice and frothy.

Mix in 30g of melted butter and 4TBS honey (I just used a big spoon to measure).

Add 150g almond flour (“amandes en poudre” or “poudre d’amande” in France), 1tbs each of salt and cinnamon (a small spoon works for this) and 1/2tbs nutmeg. Stir until well combined.

Pour into a greased cake pan (I did mine with coconut oil, but butter is fine) and bake at 160° C (325° F) for 50 minutes until a knife comes out clean.

Notes

This is probably way better with raisins and walnuts, but I had neither, and my husband doesn’t like carrot cake with raisins anyway.

The dates would definitely have made this sweeter, but I found the carrots and honey were sweet enough on their own. Also I didn’t have any dates. Pretty much all I had on hand were carrots and almond flour. Still, it makes a good breakfast cake this way; I personally don’t like starting my day with a crazy amount of sweetness.

Like a lot of paleo recipes, it’s a bit eggy, though not as much as things made with coconut flour. So keep it in the refrigerator if you don’t eat it all right away.

I am not very good at taking food pictures.