The increased popularity of both plant-based eating and the meat-heavy paleo diet seem to be in direct juxtaposition with one another, but Lauren Lobley is of a different opinion. As she explores in “The Accidental Paleo: Easy Vegetarian Recipes for a Paleo Lifestyle,” health-conscious foodies can easily take advantage of both the health benefits of plant-based diets and anti-inflammatory effects of a paleo diet, with a host of delicious, easy-to-make recipes.
What’s an ‘Accidental Paleo’ Diet?
The paleo diet, in its purest form, is a diet that eschews all grains and pseudo-grains, legumes, dairy, refined sugar (including alcohol), white potatoes, and most vegetable oils. Plant-based diets, on the other hand, range from vegetarian, which excludes only meat and fish, to vegan, which also foregoes dairy, eggs, and honey.
When making a Venn diagram of the restrictions of both diets, all that seems to remain for someone seeking to follow both is fruits and vegetables – not much to go on if you’re trying to build a healthy, filling meal plan.
But the diet outlined in Lobley’s book is neither strictly plant-based nor strictly paleo. She begins with a vegetarian diet, which permits eggs (and Lobley herself notes that she occasionally eats a bit of fish, though no fish-based recipes feature in the book). From this base, Lobley removes most of the inflammatory foods forbidden by the paleo diet, including refined sugars, most vegetable oils, and dairy. She does, however, include quinoa (and sometimes rice), some legumes and pulses, the occasional potato, and even a bit of goat cheese and wine. The result is a diet whose focus is on whole fruits and vegetables, with a few added accoutrements for more balanced, filling, and delicious dishes.
It’s a balanced approach, but the rhyme and reason behind it are unfortunately a bit vague on the page. While Lobley explores her philosophy a bit in the first few pages, it reads less like an inspirational or informed intro than like a resumé of her admittedly impressive background as a pastry chef turned certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and yoga instructor. While there’s no doubt she knows how to create a balanced diet or how to decide which potentially inflammatory ingredients to include or not include, she doesn’t share this information with her reader before delving into the recipes.
For strict paleo or strict plant-based dieters, Lobley’s approach may require a bit of tweaking, but for the average person who’s just trying to eat a bit healthier, it’s the best of both worlds.
Cooking Up Accidental Paleo Recipes
This book is a gorgeous one, filled with a variety of creative, colorful recipes that make the Accidental Paleo diet look fun and easy to cook for – a theme that’s supported by Lobley’s exuberant headnotes introducing dishes like purple potato salad, fruity guacamole with fresh berries, and mango, sweet potato, and avocado sushi rolls.
Breakfast ideas – often the toughest thing to master for paleo dieters – are wonderfully varied and include paleo pancakes, breakfast bowls, and even a breakfast pizza with sweet potato crust for your accidental paleo brunch parties.
The book also features a few revisited versions of classics, like a plant-based spinach and artichoke dip or sugar-free paleo Nutella, but the stars of this cookbook are the simplest staples that you’ll make again and again: grilled veggie salad with pesto, stuffed acorn squash with quinoa, vegetable chili, spirulina pesto, or my personal favorite, a vegan “tuna” salad made with soaked nuts, chickpeas, and a touch of turmeric.
Lobley’s pastry chef background shines in her easy-to-make desserts devoid of processed sugar, like date-sweetened vegan pumpkin cheesecake, chia seed pudding, and decadent dark chocolate raspberry bars, and unlike many other paleo desserts, these recipes don’t call for an endless shopping list or expensive gadgets.
Above all, “The Accidental Paleo” is a book that makes two of the most popular healthy eating plans a little bit more approachable, and for that, it’s a winner.
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