What is the Paleo Diet and how do you follow it?
It’s a lifestyle that aspires to achieve optimal health by following a diet based on what and how our Paleolithic ancestors ate. The current Paleo movement uses our ancestors as a starting point, but leverages modern science to expand from there. Essentially, it is a diet focused on consuming whole, natural foods, such as meats, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts and healthy fats.
How to get started
Eat plenty of meats, seafood, vegetables, eggs, healthy fats and some fruit and nuts. Eliminate the top three food toxins – gluten, industrial/vegetable oils and sugar!
Always purchase the highest-quality ingredients that you can afford.
Foods that are organic and grass-fed are not only void of toxins, such as pesticides and antibiotics but are also highly nutritious.
Avoid grains and legumes
It’s especially important to avoid wheat and other gluten-containing grains, such as rye and barley. But also avoid soy, corn, beans, and peanuts (they are actually a legume, not a nut).
Avoid added sugars
This includes artificial sweeteners. Only occasionally consume natural sweeteners, such as honey, maple syrup and coconut sugar.
Avoid vegetable oils and industrial seed oils
This includes canola, corn, soybean, cottonseed oil, safflower, sunflower, among others.
Don’t be afraid to include healthy fats in your diet
This includes animal fats, avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, ghee, grass-fed butter (if you tolerate it well), lard (preferably from pasture-raised pigs), tallow, etc. One of the biggest mistakes people make when adapting a Paleo diet is not consuming enough fats. Fats will keep you satiated and provide you with energy.
Eat foods with minimal ingredients
If you don’t recognize something in the ingredients list or if it is something your grandma didn’t eat, chances are neither should you.
Typically a Paleo diet does not include dairy, only consume dairy if you digest it well.
Whenever possible, choose dairy from a grass-fed source: If you are not sure how well you tolerate dairy, I suggest cutting it out for a month and then reintroducing it. If you are going to include dairy, it is best to use high-quality dairy, preferably raw and from grass-fed sources. Grass-fed dairy is richer in nutrients and has a better fat composition, plus it tastes amazing! The only dairy foods I personally include regularly in my diet are raw milk, heavy cream, grass-fed butter and ghee. However, I will indulge in some high-quality cheese on occasion.
Is the paleo diet a low-carb diet?
No, it is carb agnostic. It really depends on your lifestyle and your goals. There are people who choose to take a low-carb approach, particularly if weight loss is the goal. Depending on your needs, you can adjust accordingly. Athletes may choose to include more starchy options such as sweet potatoes, potatoes, tubers, plantains and bananas.
What are some of the benefits of the paleo diet?
>Weight loss >Omega-3/Omega-6 balance in the diet >Reduced inflammation >Reduced risk of modern day diseases such as diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease >Increased energy and focus >Better athletic performance
Some Tips for Following a Paleo Diet
Clean out your fridge and pantry
Before you get started, throw out all the foods in your fridge and pantry, that you will not be consuming on the Paleo diet. If you only have healthy options to choose from when you get hungry, then chances are that you will make a healthy choice and stay on track.
Eat enough food. Eat until you are full.
This may seem counter-intuitive because we have been told so often to eat smaller portions. However, when we are eating the foods our bodies were designed to eat, our bodies also know when they have had enough. Trust your body. The Paleo diet typically has a much lighter caloric load than grain-based diets, so you may need to eat more in volume to stay full. If you eat larger meals, you will also need fewer snacks. Snack foods even on a Paleo diet are the ones that are easy to overeat, such as nuts and fruits.
Be very strict the first 2 weeks
Do not “cheat” at all in the first phase. I have found from my own experience and from talking to friends that the first two weeks are the most difficult. You may not feel great at this time because your body is adjusting to the changes in your diet. You may still be craving the foods you used to eat. Stick with it. It will become much easier after this point. I promise! Once you are past the first couple of weeks without cheating, you will be feeling your best and you will want to continue with the Paleo diet.
Preparation is key, especially when you are first starting out. Plan what you are going to eat in advance and prepare whatever you can ahead of time. I tend to focus on preparing meat in advance, as I find this to be the most time consuming, hence my obsession with the slow cooker. I make a large roast every Sunday and this lasts us for a few meals. This way at dinner time, we can throw together a well-balanced meal quickly. You can find all my slow cooker recipes here.
As the typical American diet is heavily made up of grains, at first glance it seems overwhelming to exclude these foods. As we look at what we can eat, we see that the options are endless on the Paleo Diet. You can have meats, seafood, fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds, herbs/spices, and healthy sources of fat. Any combination of these foods makes for a fantastic meal!