What is the paleo diet anyway? Let me give you a simple breakdown into the inner workings of this caveman diet. It is definitely more than just a weight loss option.
I receive one of two reactions when I mention anything paleo:
- Confused look and, “what is that?” or
- “Why?” Paired with a look of complete and total distaste
So, what is the Paleo diet anyway?
To put it simply, the paleo diet and subsequent lifestyle are when you eat like a caveman. If our ancestors ate it then you can eat it too. Let me break it down for you:
Grass-fed meat, wild fish, any kind of fruit under the sun, almost any vegetable (with the exception of peas, beans, corn, and legumes), healthy fats (like coconut oil & avocados), nuts & seeds, and herbs & spices. Honey is debated in the paleo world. In my opinion, if you buy organic, unfiltered honey than you’re ok. Black coffee and tea are some more items that are debated. I figure they are just fine in moderation without all the added creams and sugar.
I am willing to bet that you noticed an absence of bread, cheese, & alcohol (among other things). Well, I doubt a caveman would have made a grilled cheese sandwich at 3 AM after drinking a few too many beers, right? That would have been quite the sight, though.
There are a handful of foods that are not permitted on the paleo diet. Such as: refined sugar, dairy, grain, wheat, legumes. I know these make up the bulk of the average diet nowadays but the way we approach food needs to be adjusted. So, let’s get back to our roots!
What are the health benefits of the paleo diet?
I have always been interested in food and in recent years I have really started noticing how others eat and what their typical meal would consist of. I also like to take note of how they act and how they seem to feel. Basically, my conclusion has been:
Comes from the earth or nature = happy & healthy
Comes from a box = unhealthy (physically & mentally) & weight issues
There is nothing wrong with convenience meals when you’re in a pinch (on rare occasion) but when these types of meals become the norm then we start having problems. If we are being honest, I would include my family in the second category. We have fallen into a rut and those boxed lasagnas and premade stir-frys are just too easy. We need to get back to our roots. More from nature and less from a box.
Others, who have committed to a paleo lifestyle have reported some astonishing health benefits.
- Increased energy & stamina
- Reduction in high blood pressure
- Stronger immune system
- Reduced risk of diabetes (stable blood sugar)
- Weight loss
- Clear skin & healthy teeth
- Better sleep
- Overall feeling of health & wellness
That sounds worth it to me.
How can you give up certain foods?
If you can go 100% of the time without dairy, wheat, grains, sugar or legumes and never look back then go for it! Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s realistic for most people (myself and my family included). I love caramel ice cream, everything bagels slathered with butter, and black beans (Tex-Mex is a frequent visitor to our kitchen table). If you would find it difficult to go cold-turkey, then I recommend gradually transitioning to a paleo diet. Choose one category each week until you have reached complete paleo status.
If you eat a wide variety of foods then you will receive all the nutrients that your body craves. Worried about not getting enough calcium without dairy? Eat leafy green vegetables and you will get an adequate amount. Concerned about fiber without all the bread in your daily diet? Vegetables are once again the answer, like broccoli.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, here are some tips to help you get started.
- Clean out your fridge/pantry/cupboards of anything you deem unhealthy. Trust your own judgment
- Keep your fridge stocked with more vegetables than anything
- Cook at home and keep it simple
- Pick one day a week to prep snacks for the whole week (keep snacks simple, think grab-n-go)
- Plan your meals ahead of time. I plan one week at a time but some people do the whole month (breakfast, lunch, dinner, & snacks, with the rare dessert)
- Leftovers are great for lunch the next day
- Experiment with new fruits and vegetables
- Experiment with more than just salt and pepper. Use a variety of spices and herbs
- Stock up on frozen fruits and vegetables
- Learn to love slow cookers – they can do anything and work great on busy days
- If you want to snack late at night or before bed, choose vegetables
- Before you head to the kitchen to snack, make sure you’re actually hungry. If you aren’t then find something else to distract yourself (read, draw, walk, play, etc…)
- Get the whole family involved
- Your sugar cravings will diminish, just keep pushing yourself
- Learn to read ingredient lists. If you don’t recognize an ingredient or can’t pronounce it then you don’t need it
- The paleo diet is ideal for those who need or want a gluten free lifestyle
- Learn to love water. Water, water, and more water. Flavor it naturally with fruit on occasion
- MOST IMPORTANTLY! Be gentle with yourself. You’re not perfect and one cookie won’t kill you. Pick yourself up and jump right back into it
I hope I have helped some of you. We like to try and be paleo for the majority of my days but, I am too fond of whole-grain bread, cheese from The Hubster Granny’s hometown in Wisconsin, and the occasional glass of wine. I appreciate the healthy philosophy of the Paleo diet (and logically it makes sense) but for myself and my family, we cannot do it exclusively. For those that can, kudos!