Health and fitness expert Mark Sisson, founder of Primal Kitchen, best-selling author of "The Primal Blueprint," "Primal Endurance" and "The Keto Reset Diet," has paved the way for primal enthusiasts to challenge conventional wisdom's diet and exercise principles. He's also redefining what it means to eat healthy with uncompromisingly delicious food.
Sisson, who also runs a blog called MarksDailyApple.com, is a former elite endurance athlete with a 2:18 marathon and a fourth-place Hawaii Ironman finish. He has recently delved into the world of keto and has applied his unique perspective to the movement — one centered on achieving optimal health, eating whole foods and living primal. Here are a few of his favorite keto-friendly recipes, from smoked salmon hand rolls to honey-mustard pork.
Big-Ass Keto Salad
This has been Sisson's lunch of choice for decades. "Trust me, this salad is no side dish," he said. "With a whole avocado, a generous chunk of Emmental cheese and a jaw-dropping dose of my own Primal Kitchen Caesar Dressing, I literally call this my fat-bomb salad. See if it won't make you a keto salad believer." Some people might try to minimize vegetable intake when they're eating keto, but Sisson has never found that necessary or beneficial. In fact, he highly recommends plenty of above-ground vegetables and even berries for an optimally varied, nutrient-dense keto diet.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Mark's Big-Ass Keto Salad
Taco Salad With Edible Cheddar Bowls
Sisson is a fan of Mexican food, and this recipe makes it so much easier to enjoy it the keto way. "Taco salad made from seared steak, avocado, tomato, shredded lettuce and creamy chipotle dressing is delicious without any embellishment," admits Sisson. "But if you happen to have cheddar cheese and a few extra minutes to grate and bake it, why not make an edible cheddar bowl to add to the healthy fat and salty richness of this hearty keto salad?"
Edible cheddar bowls are easy to make with just a little know-how. Simply bake a circle of cheddar cheese in the oven until bubbling (about eight minutes), remove and let cool for a minute or two, then drape over an upside down bowl. Pretty soon you'll say goodbye to ordinary tortilla bowls forever!
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Taco Salad With Edible Cheddar Bowls
Mini Smoked Salmon Hand Rolls
Both simple and extravagant, these sushi hand rolls are one of the easiest quick meals out there. According to the Mayo Clinic, consuming healthy omega-3s from fatty salmon "reduces inflammation, decreases triglycerides, lowers blood pressure slightly, reduces blood clotting, decreases stroke and heart failure risk and reduces irregular heartbeats." Sisson mixes in avocado-based Primal Kitchen Mayo to his salmon for some monounsaturated goodness and makes these hand rolls as a nutritious (and delicious) grab-and-go lunch or dinner.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Mini Smoked Salmon Hand Rolls
Instant Pot Coconut Pulled Pork
This dish is full of succulent pulled pork with an Indian twist. The meat swims in a fragrant coconut sauce rich with antioxidant-loaded spices like garam masala, turmeric, coriander and cinnamon (plus lots of onion, garlic and ginger). And with the help of Instant Pot magic, this recipe offers an efficient meal with one-pot cleanup.
Turmeric has really seen an increase in popularity this year (turmeric latte, anyone?), and, according to the University of Maryland, it's for good reason. The spice may be responsible for aiding in digestion, reducing cholesterol, preventing cancer, lowering blood sugar and reducing inflammation.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Instant Pot Coconut Pulled Pork
Lamb Turmeric Soup
This soup is loaded with ingredients — including turmeric, ginger, garlic, lemon and bone broth — that can potentially ease the symptoms of the common cold or give your immune system a little boost during cold and flu season. Turmeric boasts an array of potential pharmacological effects, including anti-inflammatory powers, cancer prevention and more. Plus, it just might relieve your cough and clear up excess mucus. Sisson adds vitamin C-rich kale to the soup along with ground lamb, which is a great source of protein, essential amino acids and vitamins and minerals.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Lamb Turmeric Soup
Shrimp Pad Thai
Pad thai is a favorite takeout dish for many, but when it arrives tasting too sweet, oily and starchy it's not worth the splurge. When ordering pad thai, you can often ask restaurants to hold the peanuts, but you'll have less luck asking them to leave out sugar, vegetable oil or rice noodles. You'll have an especially hard time getting them to hold the rice noodles, since they make up most of the dish. "It's entirely possible to enjoy the sweet, funky flavor of pad thai without the sugar, rice noodles and industrial seed oils," Sisson promises. Sisson combines "crunchy purple cabbage and bean sprouts tossed with egg and shrimp and mixed with a bold dressing inspired by the flavors of traditional pad thai. It's all the taste, all the nutrition and none of the junk," he adds.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Shrimp Pad Thai
Chicken and Spinach Alfredo
Sisson loves this chicken and spinach Alfredo for its celebration of high-fat dairy and butter, considering that dairy provides essential healthy fats, protein and fat-soluble vitamins and minerals. He suggests mixing in chicken breast and baby spinach and pouring the sauce over zucchini noodles (an excellent grain alternative), sauteed greens or roasted cauliflower for an irresistible keto meal. If you aren't avoiding dairy, then this Alfredo sauce is going to be your new favorite recipe. It's unbelievably creamy and so easy to make that you'll want to pour it over everything from grilled steak to roasted cauliflower.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Chicken and Spinach Alfredo
Slow-Cooker Chicken Cacciatore
According to Sisson, if you're looking for a quick keto meal that cooks itself and freezes well, this is the ticket. Tender chicken falls off the bone into a creamy mix of tomatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms and garlic. With the ample fat of chicken thighs and the high antioxidant power of its vegetable-based sauce, it's a go-to keto meal that appeals to everyone. You can serve this chicken cacciatore atop something like gluten-free pasta, cauliflower rice or spaghetti squash, but you don't have to. This meal is plenty flavorful and filling simply served alone in a bowl.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Slow-Cooker Chicken Cacciatore
Honey-Mustard Pork Chops and Balsamic Braised Red Cabbage
Cabbage is an excellent prebiotic for the gut, according to the World Health Organization — not to mention the way the red variety makes any dish more colorful and appealing to the eye. Here balsamic braised cabbage is paired with mustard pork chops, which are rich in both fat and protein to keep you full and energized throughout the day. Marinate the chops in Primal Kitchen's Honey Mustard Vinaigrette for an infusion of antioxidant-rich avocado oil and spices.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Honey-Mustard Pork Chops and Balsamic Braised Red Cabbage
Leg of Lamb With Pistachio Pesto
"Made with my favorite Primal Kitchen Extra Virgin Avocado Oil, the pesto in this recipe is so creamy that you won't even notice it's dairy-free," says Sisson. He adds, "It's a perfect recovery meal after a hard workout or a long day out on the water." This leg of lamb is impressive enough to be the main event at a dinner party, or it can be something you make on Sunday night and eat throughout the week.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Leg of Lamb With Pistachio Pesto
What Do YOU Think?
Have you tried the keto diet? Will you give some of these Mark Sisson recipes a try? Let us know which dishes you make in the comments below!