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Paleo diet: Here's how to get started with breakfast and lunch

Lifestyle and LeisureCooking

Paleo diets are all the rage, but you don't need to be a caveman -- or a cavewoman -- to enjoy the recipes in the new cookbook "Paleo Lunches and Breakfasts on the Go."

For those who are wondering, "What the heck is Paleo?" it's one of the hottest food trends going. Entire libraries are being written about the so-called Paleo/Primal food movements, but we'll keep it simple here: It's about stripping one's diet of refined sugars, grains, legumes and, in many cases, even dairy. Adherents believe that such a way of eating closely mimics the lean-and-clean diet of our early ancestors, and is key to optimal health.  

We'll leave it to the experts to debate the finer points of Paleo. The rest of us -- those always on the lookout for good ways to clean up our eating habits -- can just enjoy the Paleo movement's spinoff of cookbooks, blogs and recipes that put an emphasis on enjoying real food, supporting sustainable farming and fostering the eat-local movement.

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One of the newest entries into the marketplace is the new guide by Diana Rodgers, a nutritional therapy practitioner and Paleo eating coach who lives in Carlisle, Mass.

Rodgers says many of her clients are looking to adopt a Paleo / Primal lifestyle but are often tripped up by breakfast and lunch. That's not surprising, she said, given the nation's cultural bent toward carb-heavy offerings like pancakes, waffles and cereal for breakfast, and sandwiches, wraps and burgers for lunch.

"We're so conditioned to do the same thing everyday, especially for breakfast," she said. "This cookbook just tries to zero in on breakfast and lunch. I've found that goes a long way to helping people make the transition."

PHOTOS: A peek inside Diana Rodgers' new cookbook

Her breakfasts emphasize fast-and-easy Paleo-friendly eats like egg muffins, smoothies, homemade sausages served with fruit, and "pancakes" made with sweet potatoes. Almost all the recipes are designed to be prepped and prepared over the weekend, and then reheated or whipped together on busy mornings. As written, these are not bland recipes: Ginger, curry, cloves and cayenne are just a few of the spices she uses to brighten up breakfasts, with cherry tarragon breakfast sausages being just one example.

Lunches are equally flavorful and diverse, including Thai, Indian, Mexican and Asian-fueled dishes such as lamb "dosa" purses with a cardamom-and-lime coconut creme dipping sauce, chorizo tacos and Chinese ginger pork wraps.

Wraps, in this case, mean using a crunchy Romaine or radicchio cup to cradle ingredients, making it unlikey you'll miss that slice of sandwich bread.

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Rodgers said she hopes people enjoy her flavor combinations, but she really wants them to use the book as inspiration for their own favorite flavors. "I love hearing from readers about other combos that worked," she said.

She said the most common misconception people have about Paleo/Primal eating is that it's a protein-rich approach, a la Atkins.

"People sometimes mistakenly think that Paleo is low-carb," she said, "Not necessarily." (She recommends that most of her clients generally eat in the range of 75 to 125 grams of carbohydrates a day, depending upon health and activity levels, with carbs coming from fruits and vegetables.)

A Paleo/Primal dinner is easier for most people to envision, she said. "People can wrap their heads around the simple steak and potatoes or a pork chop and a vegetable for dinner."

Rodgers adopted the Paleo lifestyle after spending much of her childhood and early adulthood suffering from chronic digestive ailments. She was later diagnosed with Celiac disease. Like many of the Paleo faithful, she read Robb Wolf's "The Paleo Solution" and recognized herself in its pages.

"It totally changed my life," she said. "I couldn't believe the difference."

And yet, Rodgers is a bit of a renegade in the Paleo movement.

Though many rally around a zero-tolerance approach to wheat, grains and dairy, Rodgers encourages those who fear going "cold turkey" to take baby steps.

Start by cutting out wheat and sugar, she suggests. Then, focus on enjoying Paleo-adherent breakfasts. Then, clean up your lunches. Use these building blocks to work up to a strict 30-day period of adherence, which she says will be "mind blowing" for people because they will feel so good.

"You'll have better energy, less brain fog ... much better skin," she said.

Whether people adhere to Paleo 100%, Rodgers wants them to make more conscious decisions about what they eat for breakfast and lunch.

"I think people are just used to eating cereal and fast-food options," she said. "It's worth it to take a little more time in the kitchen -- not a lot of time, just a little more time -- to put food on your plate that will be good for your health and make you feel great."

She added: "Give yourself the gift of nutrient-dense food for the day."

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