Irena Macri is a passionate cook and paleo food blogger who released her first cookbook in 2015. She draws on her love of world cuisines and all-natural ingredients to produce delicious recipes that promote wellness and longevity (and even blogs some Whole30 recipes too!). PICK + PALEO recently asked her a few questions about her paleo lifestyle and publishing the Eat Drink Paleo Cookbook.
How long have you been eating paleo for? What do you include/ exclude in your day to day diet – and for what reasons?
I have been eating paleo since late 2011. Back then I started looking for ways to optimise my diet and lifestyle to foster better health and to promote longevity. I think it’s something many of us do once we turn 30 and realise we don’t have the same boundless energy we used to. In my search, I stumbled on paleo and after reading a few books and doing my own research I fell in love with its basic philosophy of eating whole, nutrient dense foods and living in a more natural, holistic way.
Day to day, I focus on nutrient dense foods and eat a variety of protein in a form of quality sourced meat, poultry, game, fish, seafood, and free-range eggs; loads of vegetables including tubers such as sweet potatoes; some fruit, berries, nuts and seeds; and good fats such as coconut oil and ghee for cooking, olive oil for salads and condiments, avocados, coconut milk. I also add occasionally dairy such as butter, full fat yoghurt and aged cheese and I will sometimes have white rice, quinoa and buckwheat as I don’t have severe digestive issues and tolerate these foods well.
Things I avoid include processed/added sugar, refined carbs, most other grains and legumes (except for fresh green beans, snow peas and some fresh peas), hydrogenated and processed oils such as canola, soybean, vegetable and margarine and most other dairy.
I transitioned into paleo gradually and soon noticed that my energy levels increased and became more stable throughout the day and I was feeling more satiated between meals. I stopped getting sugar cravings in the afternoons. The changes in the way I felt motivated me to keep going until this new way of eating just became natural.
People often get into paleo because they want to lose weight, and although that’s a natural by-product of eating this way, there are so many more benefits. For some, it’s a perfect diet because they are sensitive to say gluten and dairy, both of which are pretty much eliminated in paleo. For others, it’s about getting their metabolism in order, improving gut health, increasing nutrient absorption and reducing systemic inflammation, which is often the cause of health issues.
Do you have a favourite paleo food blogger/ writer that you follow or gain inspiration from?
There are so many and they are not all paleo focused. I find inspiration in different nutritional philosophies as long as they encourage nourishing whole foods and help to build a healthier relationship with food. Within the paleo community I really enjoy Nom Nom Paleo for everyday cooking, The Urban Poser for baking and patisserie, Chris Kresser for health info…well there are too many to mention.
What kind of exercise to you like to do? Do you find that eating paleo helps/ hinders exercise?
I love the outdoors so I really enjoy rock climbing, hiking and the ocean. I also like to go for a run and do some yoga. Eating paleo gives me sustained energy, which is great for any activity, and my high protein intake means better muscle recovery. The only thing I have to tailor is the amount of carbohydrates I eat, especially on the days that I am very active, so I increase my intake of starchy vegetables and fruit, and maybe add some white rice or quinoa to the mix.
How long did it take you to produce your cookbook?
Originally, Eat Drink Paleo Cookbook was self-published so I did most of the work. From concept and planning to shooting and designing the book, it took just over 6 months. Every day I was living and breathing this cookbook.
The most exciting and fun element was probably the two weeks of cooking, styling and shooting the book with a good friend of mine Carla Hackett who did all the gorgeous chalk lettering and the design and layout of the book. We worked 16-17 hour days and had to have a dinner party every night to eat all the food I cooked but it was a very creative and collaborative process.
The most frustrating part was probably the last two weeks of production and organising all the marketing, promotion and then working out how and where to print the book, how to get it to customers – all of that was completely new to me. It was a massive learning curve but we found good solutions and I was very happy with the final product. Now it’s published and distributed by Penguin Random House Australia and UK so it turned from a DIY passion project into a dream publishing deal.
What is your favourite recipe in the book?
Paleo lasagne is amazing and would be a great hit for non-paleo eaters. It takes a bit of time but is worth every single minute. I also love my lemongrass pumpkin soup, spiced cauliflower ‘couscous’ and paleo banana bread – all of which are vegetarian by the way.
The Eat Drink Paleo Cookbook features hearty feasts, feel-good breakfasts and cheeky treats and will inspire seasoned paleo followers as well as those curious to know more about this way of eating. All recipes are free from grains, gluten and processed sugar but, far from being restrictive, they showcase the rich flavours and inventive cooking that can be enjoyed as part of any healthy lifestyle. It’s not a diet book – it’s a cookbook!