Ballard teen gives a Paleo-diet spin to ice cream

Nineteen-year-old Ben Hirshberg used to love Cheez-Its and, chicken nuggets and Cocoa Pebbles. But after choosing to eat like a Paleo, he had to eliminate the food he normally craved. The hardest thing for Hirshberg to give up was ice cream.

“Ice cream was one of my favorite foods,” he said. “But I’d go to the store and grab the ice cream carton, look at the ingredients: sugar, high-fructose corn syrup … I wasn’t super excited to put that into my body.”

Hirshberg calls himself a “loose Paleo,” referring to those who follow the Paleolithic Diet, also known as the Caveman Diet. It’s based on the presumed ancestral human diet of wild plants and animals, which were consumed during the Paleolithic era around 10,000 years ago. It consists mainly of fish, grass-fed pasture-raised meats, vegetables and fruits; it excludes such products as grains, refined sugar and processed oils.

“I’ve always been really into health, but as a kid, I could not have eaten less healthy,” Hirshberg said. “And then I just realized I kind of felt better when I was eating healthy. Sometimes at school, I would have the largest afternoon crashes and I would just come home from school and just nap.”

Hirshberg did a lot of online research and found he liked the ideas behind the Paleo Diet.

“It just makes sense to me,” he said. “In terms of ancestral health, evolutionary health, things we evolved to eat.”

Since ice cream isn’t considered part of the caveman’s daily diet sustenance intake, Hirshberg has been spending the past summer months experimenting and creating ways to make his own version of ice cream to fit into the rules. He was able to come up with a variety of flavors, ranging from simple vanilla to olive oil or goat cheese.

He published his findings in an eBook, “Paleo Ice Cream: 31 healthy recipes for the primal sweet tooth that are so easy a modern caveman can do it,” (www.paleoicecreamrecipes.com/) for other Paleos to enjoy the dessert without violating the strict diet guidelines. (He chose 31 flavors to mimic Baskin-Robbins, his old favorite snack stop.)

With three base ingredients — coconut milk, egg yolks and honey — this guilt-free ice cream is simple and quick to make. The most complex recipes have eight or nine total ingredients. Hirshberg said it only takes him about five minutes to prepare the ingredients and then another 30 minutes once the mix is in the ice -cream machine.

“I like to keep my recipes simple,” he said. “You can make things taste delicious with a small amount of ingredients.”

Hirshberg’s creative juices are not stopping with his eBook, though — he’s now working on a fictional children’s story with his girlfriend. Together they hope to write and illustrate a book about the differences between children from Generation Y and those from the Paleolithic era, when video games did not exist and children were more active and in tune with life and nature.

Though he has influenced his family and friends around him with his eating habits, he has never tried to force the Paleo diet on anyone. But through all his success and newfound love for cooking Paleo-friendly meals, Hirshberg hopes to continue his growth in personal health, while informing others through his books and articles.

“I don’t really consider myself as on a diet,” he said. “It’s kind of a lifestyle, the way I choose to consume food.”

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