The Paleo Diet has become one of the most popular programs for a healthy lifestyle. It has proven to be a great weight loss program and people rave about the changes in their bodies, level of energy and overall mood. In some of the Paleo forums you will see postings from couch potatoes who have lost over a hundred ponds to elite athletes who use the diet to get an extra “edge.”
Is the Paleo Diet or “lifestyle” right for you? Let’s look at what it takes to get started on the Paleo Diet.
Paleo Diet Benefits
Many people who begin this program want to lose weight. They keep on going because of the many other benefits of the Paleo lifestyle.
Some of the benefits of this program include:
- Weight loss
- Reduction of sugar and carb cravings
- Reducing inflammation in the body that can lead to chronic disease and aging
- Improved sleep patterns
- Higher energy levels
- Better Hormonal balance
- Decrease in gas and bloating
- Improved cholesterol
- Lower risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes
- Reduction in allergies
- Better muscle tone
- Fewer aches and pains
- Reduced depression
- Fewer mood swings
Who wouldn’t want to have these health benefits? By following this simple program, you can feel better than you’ve ever felt before. While this plan may seem very different from the way you’re eating now, you’ll find that it is quite simple to follow.
While you may experience food cravings in the first week or so, they will quickly fade away leaving you satisfied with loads of great and healthy food choices.
Paleo Diet Basics
Paleo is short for Paleolithic. The diet is sometimes called the Cave Man Diet.
The premise of the Paleo program is that you eat like your ancestors who lived in prehistoric times. They were lean and muscled because they ate natural growing food. They didn’t have access to processed foods including grains and factory meats. Instead they hunted and gathered – eating mainly wild meat, fruits and berries, vegetables and nuts.
So what can YOU eat on this diet? You’ll be able to eat fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, meats (grass fed is preferable), fish and other seafood, eggs, seeds, and healthy oils including olive, flaxseed, and coconut oils.
It’s best if you choose to eat organic foods as much as possible – since those are free from any pesticides, antibiotics, or herbicides that can actually be toxic for your body and cause inflammation. However, organic can be expensive so a more realistic starting goal is to simply get started.
Focus on eating whole, unprocessed foods that are as free from toxins as possible. As you begin to follow the Paleo diet, you’ll see that the food choices make sense and the diet is easy to understand.
There are foods that you’ll stop eating once you begin the Paleo lifestyle. These include grains, dairy, potatoes, legumes (beans and peanuts), salt, refined vegetable oils (such as canola or soybean oils), refined sugar, and processed foods. Note: some people add some forms of dairy back into the diet. Yogurt and cheese are two of the most common. This is your choice but is not strictly Paleo.
If it comes in a box or bag, you need to think twice about eating it (veggies are fine). If it has any form of grain or sugar in it, it is absolutely on the NO list. For some, this is a drastic change. You’ll find that there’s a bit of an adjustment period when you learn how to prepare foods differently and get used to new tastes.
Paleo Diet Pros
Though you will need to make some big changes, the Paleo diet is actually one of the easiest to follow because you don’t have to count anything including calories, carbs, protein grams, or points.
You also don’t have to worry about eating at specific times or following arbitrary food rules. As long as you’re eating whole foods and avoiding the foods that are off-limits, you’re following the plan.
There is no need to feel hungry all the time. Eat until you’re satisfied and listen to your body’s hunger cues – stop eating when you are full. After a week or so, you will find that your body automatically adjusts and you don’t feel ravenously hungry all the time like on many diets.
Challenges with the Paleo Diet
Though the Paleo Diet is simple to follow, it does have some challenges. Many of the fast food restaurants you used to go to simply don’t have food you can eat. Convenience stores are traps, they too don’t have food that is suitable and are filled with the processed stuff you used to eat!
You’ll need to plan ahead and do more cooking than you may be used to.
If you opt for grass-fed products and organic fruits and vegetables it will appear that the costs are higher. Some of the costs will be off-set by the fact that you aren’t eating, bread, crackers, cookies and fast food Big Macs and pizza anymore.
You’ll also benefit from better health – no more drugs and medical treatments.
Some people find the most difficult times to be potluck dinners, family gatherings and holiday parties. The good news is that once you get into it, making the right choices get easier and easier. You pick what you can eat and ignore the rest. You will amaze yourself by not even looking at the dessert tray.
No matter what the challenge is, careful planning can help you have a better experience with getting started and with sticking to the program.
How To Start The Paleo Diet
First, prepare your kitchen by getting rid of non-paleo foods. If everyone in your household is going on the diet, it is much easier. You can simply get rid of anything in your kitchen that’s processed or includes grains or sugar.
If you don’t want to throw food away, consider donating it to a food bank. IF you are just testing the program out, pack up the foods that aren’t part of the Paleo Diet and ask a friend to store them for you.
Getting non-compliant foods out of the house will make it easier to stick to the plan.
Next, stock up on healthy foods. In addition to having items for the meals you plan to eat for the first few days, make sure you have plenty of snacks available. This will prevent you from getting too hungry in between meals and abandoning your plans.
Some great snacks include: carrot sticks, beef jerky, herbal teas, a variety of nuts, applesauce, dried fruit, nut butters, and banana chips.
Stock up on common cooking ingredients found in Paleo recipes: olive oil, coconut oil, unsweetened almond milk, maple syrup, almond flour, and coconut flour.
Having these staples on hand will make it easier for you to grab a snack and prepare the foods you need for success.
Create a Paleo Menu
It REALLY helps to have a plan — at the very least a weekly meal plan. Some people even like to plan two weeks to a month in advance. This way they can stock up well in advance, cook in bulk and create freezer meals for those “in a hurry” times you KNOW will come up.
Coming home tired and facing an empty refrigerator is the stuff disasters are made of. It is easier to phone for a pizza than to decide what you want, get back in your car, and go to the grocery store, then come back and cook it.
When you are first starting, being prepared and keeping stocked up is the hardest part of the diet. PLAN AHEAD. This one step could mean the difference between success and failure.
For each day of your Paleo Menu, you should have a breakfast (if you eat it), lunch, dinner, and two snack options. You may not always stick perfectly to your plan, but having one will help you adhere to the Paleo diet most of the time.
Paleo Cooking Strategies
When you’re on the Paleo Diet, you may find that you’re cooking a lot more than you once did. If you work and especially if you have kids, weeknights can be tough.
You can overcome this problem by cooking once for the entire week, or by cooking in bulk.
Create your weekly menu. Go grocery shopping for everything on the list the night before you plan to cook. Then on cooking day, start by chopping, mincing, dicing and slicing vegetables and meats.
For example, if you are cooking four different recipes and they all call for 1 cup of diced onions, the easiest and most efficient thing to do is peel 4 – 6 onions and dice them all at the same time.
I start by doing a quick review of all my recipes. Since I always use onions, peppers (green, red, yellow) and garlic, I peel 10 onions, dice them (food processor) and put into a bowl. I’ll wash and dice 5 or 6 peppers, and then will peel, smash and mince 20 cloves of garlic. Then I work on the other veggies I will need … peas, cauliflower, broccoli etc.
Next, I cut all the meat I will need. With those basics out of the way …
Start putting together the recipes. Either place all the ingredients for a recipe in a gallon size resealable bag to cook in your Instant Pot later in the week, or go ahead and cook the entire recipe now, refrigerate and reheat when needed.
You can get an entire week’s worth of food prepared in four to six hours and be done with most of your cooking for the week (I make salads and some snacks as needed).
If a full day of cooking is too much for you, try cooking the way my friend Rachel does. Every time she cooks, she cooks BIG batches. For example, she might make a VAT of chili one weekend and freeze a dozen or more portions. She freezes and packages them using her FoodSaver. Then she hauls out one or two portions anytime within the next six months. She said that if she cooks one or two BIG batches every week and always has lots of choices on hand. Rachel also suggest starting out by cooking 4 to 5 BIG batches before or during your first week.
Try this: Take one recipe that you love (which can be frozen). Make it and double the batch. That way you can eat a meal on night you are cooking and have another serving later in the week. If that works for you, the next time triple the recipe or just go for the VAT and stock up.
Here is Rachel’s 20 quart VAT sized pot.
Think of all the money you are saving by NOT buying those tiny freezer portions of Weight Watchers (five bucks for a snack size portion) or unhealthy Swanson dinners.
Make A List Of Paleo Snacks You Can Grab When On The Fly
Even at your most prepared, you may run into situations when you don’t have any snacks available. Keep a snack list on your phone, in your purse, or in your wallet of snacks that will work and are convenient.
Take out your list before you pop into a grocery store. This avoids temptation. Go directly to the correct section of the store to quickly pick up deli meat, bananas, apples, beef jerky, nuts, or a small package of dried fruit. A deli salad without processed dressing is another great choice – ask for a lemon slice and squeeze it on for flavor.
Other choices include a can of tuna (keep a basic can opener in your trunk) or a tin of sardines or kippered snacks.
Though eating out can be a challenge, a big salad with chicken slices is a great choice. Ask for a simple oil and vinegar dressing. Don’t be afraid to order a customized meal, for example ask for a small steak with buttered beans and a small salad – restaurants are used to special requests.
Track Your Progress
One way to stay motivated, especially when you get started or if have weight loss as a goal, is to track your progress.
Take photos of yourself at the beginning and then weekly to see if you can visualize any changes. You can also keep a journal about your energy levels, any health problems that you’ve experienced, and generally how you feel.
Seeing problems improve and getting closer to your goals will help you stay committed to the Paleo diet – even when it’s tempting to give up. The longer you do it, though, the better you’ll feel and the more results you’ll be able to document.
At the end of every week assess your progress. What went right? Where did you go wrong? What adjustments or changes will you make for next week? Never beat yourself up about taking a wrong turn … simply do your best to get back on track and celebrate your successes!
Get Support and Keep Going
It can be tough to overhaul your lifestyle on your own. Look for a buddy at home, among your friends or co-workers OR join an online support group.
It makes a difference if you have someone else to share ideas, recipes and tips with. Your diet buddy can help you feel more committed and motivated to adhere to your healthy eating plan.
The Paleo Diet and Lifestyle offer numerous benefits including weight loss, the prevention of many modern day diseases, and improved health. Foods to eat include meats (preferably grass-fed), fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables, and healthy oils such as olive oil and coconut oil. Foods to avoid include grains, dairy (optional), beans, potatoes and corn, and any processed foods, including sugar, salt, and refined oils.
Dieters have found the Paleo Diet to be one of the easiest to stick to. Their successes keep them going and going and going!