The paleolithic, or simply paleo diet – is a fairly popular diet which revolves around the concept of only eating foods that humans could’ve eaten in primal times, basically an all natural, no processed foods diet.
Basic Principles of a Paleo Diet
In a paleo diet, you can’t have any foods that prehistoric humans couldn’t have gotten. This means you can only have foods that are completely natural, either coming from animals or from plants and trees.
This diet has a lot of benefits to it. Since you’re cutting out processed and factory-made foods, you’re cutting out a ton of unhealthy foods from your diet. This alone will yield weight loss and health improvement results almost immediately.
Additionally, the lack of processed foods containing harmful ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup can lead to you having more energy and even an increased life span.
The paleo diet is supposedly how our bodies were meant to live, so we perform better on it. The meals you’ll eat on the paleo diet will leave you feeling more full, which helps prevent you from overeating, a major contributor to weight gain in the United States.
As long as you keep your portions controlled under this diet, you won’t be hungry, and you’ll be plenty satisfied. A paleo diet still allows you to have enough food options that you’ll never quite be bored of the meals, but is restrictive enough that you won’t be overwhelmed by options or be allowed to just go overboard.
No unhealthy food means you’re most likely going to lose weight, but just because a food is healthy doesn’t mean you can have as much of it as you want. For example, you can have just about as much broccoli as you’d like, which fits within the limits of the paleo diet.
However, if you were to eat an excessive amount of almonds, which is also allowed, you’d be taking in too many calories. One of the few drawbacks is that this diet can get to be a bit more pricey than a diet full of junk food.
Processed factory foods are often far cheaper than real natural foods, but there are a few ways around that if you know how to shop smart. However, the increased cost is worth it given the results.
The paleo diet can even help with inflammation pain, as naturally occurring foods like vegetables and fruits can help immensely with that. They contain all of the right nutrients to help your body fight disease, whereas the chemicals in factory foods can lead to increased risk of disease.
Who a Paleo Diet Works Best For
The paleo diet isn’t necessarily for everybody. For many people, it can be an effective way to lose weight and cleanse your system of overly processed foods and chemicals. However, given the restrictive nature of the diet, some groups of people may find it a bit too difficult.
For example, this diet isn’t particularly suited to vegetarians. The paleo diet involves a fair amount of meat, and if you don’t eat meat, you’re going to be left with fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
Vegetarians could normally have things like grains instead, but you can’t have that on a paleo diet. Another group that might be affected by the paleo diet is those who are active on a regular basis.
The paleo diet doesn’t really allow major sources of carbs like pasta, bread, or legumes, so if you require a lot of carbs for your exercise, you’ll find it pretty difficult to get the carbs you need.
That being said, the average non-active person will find the amount of carbs adequate for their daily needs. If you work an office job and don’t attend the gym regularly, then you won’t need as many carbs as someone with a physically demanding job who works out multiple times per week.
It might be a difficult diet for beginners, but not necessarily impossible. This diet cuts out a lot of things that we’re used to eating almost daily, like bread, chips, soda, and more. Some people aren’t really used to a diet without these common processed foods, but it’s not too hard to make the change.
If you don’t live near a place where you can easily get access to natural and organic foods like eggs, chicken, and vegetables, you might find the paleo diet to be a bit tough. It’s very easy to walk into your local Walmart and grab a bunch of processed food at a low price, but consider going to a nearby farmers market and getting more natural foods.
This diet can actually help people affected by diabetes – both type I and II. It can greatly lessen the effects of the condition, especially the obesity that accompanies type II. By cutting back on carbs and increasing the amount of fats, it actually helps your body fight back and increases insulin sensitivity.
If you’re planning on going paleo while pregnant, it’s best to wait until after you give birth to start this diet. According to various research, your baby could suffer from a variety of birth issues if you don’t get enough carbs in during pregnancy.
Given that the paleo diet is very low carb, this makes it unsafe for pregnant mothers. In general, though, the paleo diet is safe and helpful for a majority of people. If at any point during your paleo diet you start to experience signs of sickness, try stopping and trying out another diet.
How to Get Prepared for a Paleo Diet
The first step to getting ready for your paleo diet is to gather all of the supplies you’ll need for it. This includes all of the ingredients, the meal plans, and the cookware if you don’t already have it.
Try to decide early on what meals you’ll be preparing during your paleo diet. There are tons of online meal plans with ingredients that fit the restrictions of this diet. Once you’ve gathered your meal plans, make a list of the ingredients and go ahead and get them.
These ingredients might include things like chicken breast, fruits, vegetables, and more. You want to try to get your food as non-processed as you can. For example, instead of getting canned vegetables from a supermarket, which are sometimes packed with sodium and preservatives, you can get fresh cut vegetables from a farmer’s market.
This applies to all of the foods you get on paleo. The less canned and processed, the better. This diet is meant to replicate the diets that cavemen lived off of, and cavemen certainly didn’t have fruits in heavy syrups in cans.
You should also get some basic dietary tools to help make your diet a bit easier. If you don’t already have the basic pots and pans, go ahead and get a nice set, because you’re going to be spending a lot of time cooking your own meals.
You should also get a food scale to be able to measure the right serving sizes. Because making your own meals takes a fair amount of time, you should get some plastic food storage containers.
Then, you’ll be able to cook large batches of paleo-friendly food at once and store it for meals throughout the week. This comes in handy if you eat lunch at work, so you can stick with your diet.
One thing you should definitely do as you start is clearing out your house of any foods that don’t fit your paleo diet. This includes just about everything boxed, canned, and processed.
Don’t let these foods go to waste by trashing them, though – donate them to a local food shelter instead. Once your kitchen is only stocked with paleo foods, you have the right kitchen equipment, and you feel ready to start your paleo diet, you can begin.
You might consider picking up a paleo cookbook or printing off some online recipes to keep around the kitchen for when you want to cook dinner. You should be planning a lot of your meals well ahead of time with this diet.
You don’t want to be hungry and go to get something only to remember it doesn’t fit your paleo diet. If you have all of your paleo friendly meals laid out ahead of time, you won’t run into this problem. Planning is key.
Sample Meal Plan for a Paleo Diet
For many people, the idea of cutting out all processed foods sounds fine at first, until they realize just how much of their diet revolves around it. This can make things difficult at first, but don’t get dissuaded.
You’ll soon find that this diet doesn’t have to be that hard if you get a good meal plan laid out. For breakfast, your obvious go-to for the paleo diet would be eggs. Eggs are allowed in the paleo diet, are very nutritious, and can be prepared in a wide variety of ways.
You can pair the eggs with some fruit if you’d like, but not any dairy. That means no cheese on the eggs, or no milk for a drink. For lunch and dinner, you have a wide variety of options.
The easier go to choice is some kind of chicken prepared with vegetables. This meal is simple, easy to make, and provides you with a lot of nutrition. There’s also enough variation to this meal that you can have it more than once per week and not get sick of it.
For example, one day you could have spinach with grilled chicken, or even chopped up chicken in a salad with lettuce and spinach. Another day, you could have baked chicken with cooked carrots.
Try out different recipes, mix and match them, and try to see what works for you. You can always mix it up by trying out different kinds of meat. If you prefer pork or fish over chicken or beef, you can always substitute it as needed.
As long as nothing you’re getting is processed or unnatural, it’s fair game in the paleo diet. There are a few seemingly natural foods that aren’t actually allowed in the paleo diet that you should avoid when laying out your meal plan.
For example, you can’t have any form of beans, lentils, legumes, or anything of that nature. This includes peanuts and its derivatives, including peanut butter. You’re also not allowed to have any form of dairy.
This includes milk, cheese, and butter of all kinds, because even though it’s not exactly processed and does come from animals, it’s a product of technology that cavemen didn’t have.
The upside to these restrictions, of course, is that you cut out any harmful chemicals or molecules that may be in these foods. For example, trans fats, which are extremely bad for your health, are found in tons of processed foods as a means of preserving foods and preventing them from going bad.
While this may seem excessive, you’re still actually left with a wide range of options. You can still have oils such as olive oil, salts, spices, nuts, vegetables, almost any kind of meat, fruits, and more. With this wide variety, you’re bound to find at least some kind of meal that you enjoy.
Tips to Increase Success on a Paleo Diet
Whenever you’re on a restrictive diet plan, such as the paleo diet, it can be hard to stick with it long term because you’re missing out on certain foods you enjoy. Make sure you’re getting enough healthy fats, such as avocado, to help eliminate some of your cravings.
Because the diet requires planning and preparation, you might feel overwhelmed. Make sure that starting out, you keep it simple and not try to create elaborate meals that are difficult for you to keep paleo-friendly.
Many people go the paleo route because they can eat meat. But don’t forget to fill your body up on vegetables. This will not only make you feel full, but it will provide many of the nutrients your body needs to feel good on a diet like this.
As with the mindful eating diet, make sure you’re listening to your hunger cues. Cavemen ate when hungry – living off the land. You need to get back to the basics and listen to what your body is telling you.
Learn how to make paleo-friendly substitutions whenever you’re cooking a meal. Some people give up their favorite foods, not realizing that with a simple swap, they could still enjoy it.
There are many vegetables (like squash or zucchini) that will take the place of pasta, honey that can mimic processed sugar, and things like cauliflower to take the place of potatoes or rice.
If you want to kick your paleo routine up another level, try going the organic route whenever you shop for meats, fruits and vegetables. This will ensure your body isn’t ingesting pesticides and preservatives it doesn’t need.