Paleo basic principles
You want to eat according to the paleo lifestyle but are not sure where to start? I have made a short checklist of things to eat and things to avoid. What you eat and don’t eat is ultimately up to you and depending on how you feel after eating foods that are off plan. This is just the basics.
A lot of people confuse paleo with low carb. Yes, you do not eat any refined carbs if you’re eating according to the paleo lifestyle but it is certainly not carb phobic. We need carbs for energy and for our brains and there is plenty of carbs in vegetables and fruit. No need to eat anything else then that.
It’s a lifestyle not a diet
One other thing to know is that paleo is a lifestyle. Not a diet. It is a way to sustain your mind and body using the foods we were meant to eat. It is NOT a crash diet or a diet that you cannot keep up for a longer period of time. It is the best way to fuel your body going forward (which means it can be done forever) It is in fact more then just the food: it doesn’t have to be but a lot of “paleo-folks” put a greater emphasis on an active lifestyle, managing stress and being healthy on a deeper level then just the food we put on our plates. I do sometimes say ‘paleo diet’ but just so you know what I mean when I say that. It’s just the easier term to use..
It’s not about being perfect
Since this is not a fad diet but a lifestyle, it also means that it is not perfect. You will not be perfect. I am certainly not perfect. It’s about finding that balance between making better choices as often as you can while keeping it sustainable for the longer term. For me that means that I will occasionally indulge in something that is really worth it (like a home baked cake my friend made just for me) and just go right back to my preferred way of eating.
Is paleo always healthy?
Hell no… There are loads of ways to recreate lots of things with paleo ingredients which would still fit the bill of junk food. Pancakes, muffins, brownies, you name it. They are technically paleo but definitely not always healthy. One piece would be ok but eating the whole plate is not healthy. Going overboard on anything is – generally – not healthy. Paleo or not paleo.
What do you eat on a paleo lifestyle?
I often get the comment that it is probably very hard to eat this way, but really it is not. Take a look at the list below of great food items that are all considered perfectly fine to eat
- All vegetables
- All fruits
- Mushrooms (the edible kind of course)
- All meats
- All seafood (fish, shellfish, seaweed and other sea vegetables)
- Nuts and seeds
- Herbs and spices
- Healthy fats (both from plants and from animals)
Doesn’t sound all that scary to me right? One note on that too: in essence the paleo diet is a plant based diet. Roughly 2/3 of your plate is made up of vegetables and only 1/3 is protein. The idea that the paleo lifestyle is purely one for carnivores is simply not true.
What do you not eat?
Now here comes the scary part or at least the part where people go ‘I could never stop eating bread/pasta/grains…(fill in the blanks)’ and to be honest I was the same way when it did my first whole30. Sure I can stop eating bread for 30 days but pleaassse don’t tell me I can never have bread again! It filled me with horror and dread and a very strong sense of; that’s just not gonna happen. But here we are – fast forward four years – and I hardly ever eat bread anymore. It makes me feel bloated and full while it doesn’t contain all that much nutrition. So it’s a process and if you’re committed it really is not that difficult.
- Grains and pseudo grains (such as quinoa and amaranth)
- Legumes (the ones which are eaten with the pod such as green beans are fine)
- Dairy (especially the processed ones)
- Refined and processed foods
- Sugar (which also belongs to the above but it is worth mentioning specifically)
There are some foods which you might be able to enjoy like rice or butter or fresh yogurt. The best way of figuring out if you can eat these without issues is to follow a whole30 for 30 days and then follow the correct plan for reintroduction of the foods you left out to see which ones are safe to eat and which ones not.
I know that I am not gluten intolerant, so other than the bloated stomach it doesn’t have a direct effect on how I feel. So I might choose to occasionally eat a sandwich. I also know that dairy makes my allergies much worse, so in the summer I eat no dairy at all and in the winter I might enjoy the occasional bowl of yogurt.
White potatoes is one of those grey areas. Some people include them and consider them ok. Other people avoid them. In the end it comes down to your own choices. There are no hard and set rules to following this lifestyle. It’s whatever you make of it.
I would highly recommend following an elimination diet first if you want to start eating paleo. For me that is the whole30. But of course you can do it any way you like or follow any kind of elimination diet you want. Pretty sure there are others out there. The idea is to eliminate all potentially troublesome foods for 30 days. That means: dairy, sugar, legumes, grains and pseudo grains, alcohol and – for some – coffee. After those 30 days you reintroduce those foods one at the time. So the first day you might eat a bowl of yogurt or a piece of cheese. You continue with your elimination diet after that day and wait to see if there is a reaction. If non then you move on to the next item and so on until you found out how each separate food item effects you.
You can then make an informed decision if you want to add certain foods in or not.
In the coming months there will be more informational articles on paleo and the whole30, but this is the basic principle you need to know before you start. I will also be sharing why you exclude certain foods from your plate and why you definitely want to eat others.