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Why Irena Macri (Eat Drink Paleo) is Australia's most loved Paleo Blogger?

In a community dominated by USA bloggers (not that there is anything wrong with that) Irena Macri from Eat Drink Paleo is fast becoming Australia's Favourite Paleo Blogger. In a short span of approximately 18 months she has attracted nearly 20,000 Facebook followers. At Wodnut, we were lucky enough to have the chance to ask Irena a few questions. Learn how she got on the Paleo bandwagon, why it's now her preferred lifestyle, what inspires her recipes and what's in store for Eat Drink Paleo in the near future.

Tell us a little about yourself? Prior to Eat Drink Paleo what did you do?

Prior to Eat Drink Paleo I was in a corporate world working in digital for close to 10 years in various roles. I guess I got to a point in my life when I realised that as much as I love working in digital my real passion is actually food and cooking. So, I quit my job and got stuck into building my own cooking and lifestyle website.

When and how did you discover Paleo? Was it an easy change to make? What was most challenging?

Eat Drink Paleo was started in 2012. I discovered Paleo through friends. I’ve always been interested in nutrition and fitness so I was pretty intrigued by the whole paleo phenomenon. After reading and learning the principles and the science behind the diet, I got pretty convinced that it’s a much healthier way to eat. I remember the transition wasn't sudden. I took my time, eliminating wheat and sugar first, and then slowly reducing the amount of other grains and legumes I ate. I started eating protein with every meal, getting more Omega-3 fatty acids and just eating more fat in general. I started to feel my energy levels changing – they were more consistent throughout the day and I stayed much 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 the way I ate just became natural. For me personally it wasn't a difficult change because I already ate lots of vegetables and protein and I don't really have a sweet tooth so eliminating processed sugar and sweets was quite easy. The hardest part was to retrain my brain about the place of fat in the diet and what the breakfast should look like. It’s kind of the reverse of what you know.= I don't think Paleo diet is hard as long as you focus on what you can eat, rather than what you can’t. It can be challenging when you go out as you can’t control what goes in your food but you can still make smart choices. At the end of the day, if I really want to have an ice-cream, I will have an ice-cream. But I will make sure that my next meal is really nutritious and healthy.

For those who don't know Paleo, how would you describe it in one sentence?

Basically, paleo is about eating real, whole foods and cooking with natural ingredients and living a more primal lifestyle with less stress, more functional movement, better sleep, more sunshine and outdoors, less environmental toxins, which combined lead to more optimal health and wellbeing. I have a full page dedicated to what paleo is about on my site for anyone interested to learn more http://eatdrinkpaleo.com.au/what-is-paleo/

Going Paleo is one thing but making it your career is another. At what stage did you know this is what you wanted to do?

I've always wanted to do something with food so I started thinking that maybe paleo is a niche I can tap into because there wasn't much in Australia in terms of books, blogs or other online resources at the time. Everyone was using US based websites and to be honest some of the recipes really didn't look that appealing. I wanted to show how good paleo food and recipes can be and how much variety you have to play with. So I started doing my research and planning what I wanted to do while I was still in my corporate job.

When I tell people I'm Paleo they often say they love food too much and can never imagine going Paleo. What’s your response to that?

I think what they mean is that they love pasta and bread too much. The reality is that eating high carbohydrate, grain based diet is easier and cheaper but you actually end up eating very similar meals day in and day out: toast or cereal for breakfast, sandwich for lunch and pasta for dinner. Throw in a muffin at 3pm and you get a pretty common daily menu. I much prefer scrambled eggs with asparagus, butter and a little truffle oil for breakfast, chicken and avocado salad with sun-dried tomatoes and olives for lunch and coconut salmon curry with broccolini for dinner…maybe some dark chocolate and a glass of red wine after. You see where I’m going? I tell people what I eat every day and they get very interested in Paleo.

Who or what inspires your recipes? And how do you come up with them? Did you always love cooking? Do you think living in Australia gives you a competitive advantage?

I'm inspired by fresh produce the most. I often come up with recipes while strolling through food markets or doing my weekly shop. I see a good piece of meat or a nice looking eggplant and I start thinking about what I want to do with it, what I want to pair it with, what spices or herbs would go well with it. It’s like a story develops in my head. Sometimes I will be on a bus daydreaming and I will start thinking about food and flavour combinations…I’m weird like that. Also, I've grown up in a family of very good cooks and I have a very good palate so I can tell if something is going to work in my head, before I even cook it. It’s very rare that something doesn’t turn out the way I imagined it. And of course, living in Australia I am exposed to so many cuisines and fantastic chefs that I always want to recreate things I taste and make them at home.

When you started Eat Drink Paleo did you envisaged getting over 18K likes on Facebook? Was it always a smooth journey? What’s been the most challenging thing?

Almost 20,000! Can you believe that? To be honest I didn’t expect such a fast growth both with the audience numbers on my website and on Facebook. I kind of set a 12 months goal when I started and then I smashed it in 6 months so I stopped thinking about where I can get and how fast and I just went with the flow. I do put a lot of hours and effort into what I do because I really care about providing value to my audience but it never feels like work. So the challenge for me is actually keeping a work-life balance and making sure I let go of my mental to-do list at the end of the day. It’s hard because you want to keep the momentum going but it’s easy to burn out too. I think I am a bit more relaxed now because I've published a cookbook and I am now making some money so the pressure on myself is not the same as it was at the start of my journey. It’s a lot of fun though!

We love the fun look and feel of the website. Do you do all the creatives yourself? (ie. Photography, graphics etc)

I do my own photography unless it's photos of me of course. I really like the whole creative process from recipe development to cooking, styling and shooting. I did photography at uni and design early in my digital media career and these skills really help me every day. But I also work with a very talented letterer & illustrator Carla Hackett from Foxglove Lettering, she does all that beautiful chalk art you see in my site and in my cookbook.

What’s the next big thing for Eat Drink Paleo? Another book? Maybe a café?

Oh, I wish I could pick one! I have a never-ending project list. At the moment I am working on a 28-day program with a talented paleo-focused nutritionist Claire Yates. I have another cookbook on my mind and I would love to start video series next year. I just need to find a very good-looking kitchen ;) And of course I keep developing new content for the website and engaging with my audience every day.

If you have to name one MOST USED item from your pantry what would be?

Here are my top five: sea salt, olive oil, coconut oil, tinned oily fish and almond meal.

Breakfast was the most difficult meal for me when transitioning to Paleo. For those who do not have time to cook, what would be your recommendation?

A couple of hard-boiled eggs with smoked salmon and avocado or a mixed berry and coconut smoothie with a side of turkey slices. My best recommendation is to make time for breakfast, it really does set the pace for the rest of the day. We often prepare all of the ingredients the night before so all we have to do is thrown things in the pan and scramble a few eggs in.

Lastly, who’s your favourite Paleo Blogger?

I like Michelle from Nom Nom Paleo and I follow Balanced Bites. Paleo Cupboard and Urban Poser are pretty cool as well. In Australia I follow Claire Yates’s Indi Nature, Paleo in Melbourne and Lady Homemade. There are so many good paleo food websites now. It’s really great that the community is growing. I wish I could mention all of them.

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If you have yet to try any of Irena's recipes you're really missing out. Whether you're Paleo or not, her recipes are simply yummilicious and reflects the multi-culturalism Australian's are so lucky to have . Check out her website Eat Drink Paleo or Follow her on Facebook | Twitter.

Why Irena Macri (Eat Drink Paleo) is Australia's most loved Paleo Blogger? An intimate interview | Wodnut

Why Irena Macri (Eat Drink Paleo) is Australia's most loved Paleo Blogger? An intimate interview | Wodnut

Wodnut

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