The Paleo diet isn’t really meant to be a temporary weight loss regimen. It’s a lifestyle.
This nutritional strategy claims to leverage our body’s evolutionary eating adaptations for maximum health.
Maybe you want to reap the benefits of this healthy style of eating but don’t know where to start.
We’ll give you a quick start guide here.
For a full run-down on the philosophy behind the Paleo diet and the benefits, read our article The Paleo Diet – Is It Right For You?
Consider this the cliff notes version to get started quickly.
Step 1 – Understand food eliminations
The bedrock of the Paleo diet is understanding what you can and can’t eat.
Paleo eliminates all the types of foods that aren’t well suited for our bodies. We’re not going to dwell on the underlying reasons, but in a general sense Paleo requires us to eat as our ancestors did for thousands of years.
Some foods are forbidden because they are gut irritants, empty calories, or otherwise problematic.
Further, these foods are barren of nutrients compared to what we will be eating.
And regardless of whether or not you buy into the “caveman” philosophy or not, it’s hard to argue that Paleo doesn’t lead to healthier food choices all around.
With the paleo diet, you can’t eat:
- Refined Sugar
- Vegetable and Seed Oils
- Processed Foods
- Sodas and Sugary Drinks
- Excess Starches
Step 2 – Clean out the fridge and pantry
Time to make room for the good stuff.
And if we can’t eat it on Paleo, it’s best to get rid of it. If there are others in the house, they can eat these foods, but having these around is going to be a temptation.
And you are going to have to ensure you have the willpower to stick with your new food choices.
Therefore, we recommend you get rid of anything on hand that is non-Paleo as rapidly as possible.
Feel guilty about throwing food out? Take it to a food bank.
But otherwise, it’s best to get rid of those things that you can’t eat on the diet.
You’re going to need room in the refrigerator for all the healthy meats, seafood, vegetables, and fruits you’ll be eating.
And make sure you get rid of any beverage choices that aren’t compatible – juices, sodas, and more.
Step 3 – Load up on what you can eat
There’s a lot you can’t eat, but there’s also a lot of great tasting, satisfying food that you can eat.
Remember, Paleo is about natural, nutrient dense foods full of vitamins and minerals.
Go to the grocery store and load up on:
- Meat and Poultry
- Nuts and Seeds
- Animal Fats
- Healthy Oils
You’ll notice that vegetables are listed first in the list above.
To truly embrace Paleo you’ve got to learn to love vegetables.
Vegetables almost have it all : fiber, vitamins, and minerals in a low-calorie package without too much sugar. The only thing really missing is protein and essential fats.
And for that we’ve got lots of animal based proteins – meats, poultry, fish, seafood. There’s a lot of choices.
Paleo friendly beverages
For some flavor, options such as vegetable juices, coconut water, coconut milk, almond milk, soda water, and mineral water are all Paleo friendly.
And sorry folks – beer isn’t Paleo. It’s grain based, and like all alcohol it honestly has no nutritive value.
Tips on finding Paleo friendly foods
Remember to avoid highly processed foods.
Look for things with the smallest amounts of ingredients. Is the ingredient listing 1, 2, or 3 items only? There’s a good chance that’s a Paleo friendly food choice.
On the other hand, if the ingredient listing is dozens of items long, and includes some hard to pronounce chemicals, it’s likely not Paleo friendly.
Secondly, as you examine ingredient listings, you’re going to see that our food supply is awash in the vegetable and seed oils, such as: corn oil, rapeseed oil, canola oil, and more.
Eliminating these highly processed oils is a key Paleo elimination. So any item that contains these is not allowed.
Do I need to buy Organic foods only?
Do you need to buy organic foods only on Paleo? That isn’t necessary. It will be more expensive. But you certainly can choose that option if you wish. For a beginner we recommend you find food choices that work for your tastes and budget. You can always buy more organic items in the future.
Step 4 – Keep Paleo friendly snacks on hand at all times
Having Paleo friendly snacks that you can snack on quickly is a great idea.
When you are really hungry, like after a long day on the job or at the office, you are going to want to grab something quick and easy.
If temptation is close at hand, you’ll grab something that maybe you shouldn’t be eating.
Secondly, try to avoid that ravenous feeling in the first place. Eat small meals regularly to keep your blood sugar stable – and avoid the low blood sugar situation in the first place.
This will be a big help in sticking to your diet.
Need some snack ideas? Here’s some of our favorites
- Beef jerky – (low sugar versions)
Step 5 – Stop eating out so much
Sticking to the Paleo diet at a restaurant is not impossible.
But, it is more difficult than when you have control over how the food is preapared, and what the ingredients are.
Avoiding grains and vegetable oils will be very hard at most restaurants. The problem is that vegetable oils (and sugar, including high fructose corn syrup) are so cheap that they are pervasive in our food supply.
And both are cheap – so restaurants use them in mass quantities.
So, our advice is to eat a lot more meals at home. You have control over the ingredients and how it’s prepared. You’ll know exactly what is in it.
This will also help you save money. And with those savings, you can buy higher quality food items.
When you do eat a restaurant, look for a buffet style salad bar. Pair that with an animal protein, and you’ve got a meal.
Step 6 – Physical activity, sleep, and other lifestyle habits
To truly embrace the Paleo lifestyle you need to live more like our ancient ancestors.
And that means getting adequate sleep.
And physical activity as well – whether that is through your job, your hobbies, or exercise. Our prehistoric ancestors certainly didn’t sit in chairs and watch TV all day. They were active for a good portion of the day.
There’s a lot to these topics, so we’ll leave a detailed rundown for a future post.
But, in the meanwhile if you browse most of our articles on this site, you’ll get some good ideas.
In summary, getting started with Paleo is not that hard.
The first step is understanding what you shouldn’t be eating, and the second step is to stop eating that, and eat the right stuff instead.