Whether you’re a little curious, ambivalent, or even raring to go on the paleo diet and ready for a paleo quick start, you’ve come to the right place. This is one of my favorite pages for getting to really understand what the paleo diet is all about. It’s filled with vital information, so read everything, and read it carefully!
But there’s something you need to understand first about the paleo diet. It’s really not like any of the other “diets” you’ve tried (and probably failed at, if you’re anything like me!). The paleo diet does not set you up for a loss like all those fad diets out there because it’s actually not a diet. It’s a way of eating, and a way of living.
Referring to paleo as a diet has always seemed a bit strange to me. Diets tend to mean restriction, forcing yourself to eat a certain way that’s unnatural to you. That’s not paleo at all! The paleo diet is actually a paleo lifestyle. It’s about eating (and living) in the way that’s most natural for the human body.
You’re going to see a lot of different “versions” of the paleo diet. As you try to figure out how to do the paleo diet, this can be a little confusing at first, to say the least! So I really, really want to get this across to you: The paleo diet is a template. It’s not a strict regimen that you have to follow. If you veer from it, it doesn’t mean you failed or that you’ve “blown yet another diet.” This can be quite a relief to those of us who’ve “been there, done that” when it comes to yo-yo dieting.
Understanding the Paleo Diet
I was never one to do something or follow a rule without a good understanding of the subject and the whys of it. Only then could I form my own judgment and participate in the activity at hand. (Yep, I was a sweet yet strong-headed girl. And you know what? I still am.) What is important is that you understand some basics, and then you’ll work with these over time. Through pumping yourself full of knowledge and then trying things out yourself (there’s nothing like personal experience when you’re trying to learn something new!), you’ll determine what is workable—what enhances your health and what doesn’t. So please think with this information, test this out and test that out, and come to your own conclusions. As you experiment with the paleo diet, take mental notes (or even written notes) of your personal observations. The paleo diet is about YOU and YOUR BODY.
YOUR Paleo Food Pyramid
In the end, what is important to walk away with is that you will determine YOUR optimum diet! Many paleo enthusiasts and opinion leaders will agree with me on that one statement. You have taken your health and lifestyle into your own hands. You are in the driver’s seat, and you’re all set and raring to go achieve your goals now, even the ones you may have given up on.
We are humans. We all share the same basic physiology, which is why the paleo diet “template” is a good base for everyone to use. There are certain foods that are toxic to everybody. Then there are some foods that only make some of us feel crappy, such as dairy, eggs, nightshades, etc. (These can be eliminated on the Whole30® Challenge, mentioned below, and you can determine which are affecting you.)
First of all, the paleo diet is a personal fit. What works for me may not work for you. The premise of the paleo diet is very much a basic workable and well-researched template with which to work. But heck, I don’t do well with eggplant, and I have to watch it when too many peppers are in a dish (even though the spicier the better, to my palate), so I have to watch out for these foods. I do well with eggs, but a good friend mine doesn’t. Our very basic physiological makeup is the same, but we’re individuals.
Step One: Kiss Processed Foods Goodbye!
One point does apply to each and every one of us: We do need to eliminate and avoid processed foods, which is no doubt behind our deteriorating health, obesity, and a host of other body issues. Flours, sugar, soy, refined oils and chemical ingredients were not part of our ancestors’ diet, and they really should not be part of ours. This would be a very good first step!
Step Two: Eat WHOLE Foods
The second step would be to base your new paleo diet on real food. This would be foods that contain nutrients, that do not cause inflammatory response and that help us to build a healthy relationship with food. Nutrient-dense is the keyword here. Refer to my paleo food list for these foods. The body likes to survive well, and if you supply it with stuff that align with this purpose, it will be happy. And so will you.
Paleo Diet Versions
Ok. So let’s get to the different paleo diets out there. By the way, I named some of these myself to clarify each version more easily.
This is the most popular template, and a very common approach to the paleo diet. This is the version that most people end up following after starting out strong or semi-strong, or even after doing the Whole 30 Challenge. This is basically when you’re strictly paleo 80% of the time. The rest of the time, you have foods that aren’t traditionally paleo. For instance, you might eat dairy, have alcohol, eat ice cream or drink coffee 20% of the time. Some choose to “go off” the paleo diet one day a week. Some do this when they cannot follow the diet, such as when eating out, for example. Some follow it the best they can and assume they might slip around 10 to 20% of the time. What’s interesting, though, is most people report that they are very happy to go back to paleo after their non-paleo meal or day off. They feel much better and in sync with the body while adhering to the paleo diet. Another interesting point is that many people report that they do not get the same negative effects after an alcoholic drink, ice cream, etc. that they used to before going paleo. Could this be that the body is now stronger and more able to repair, recover and eliminate? (That’s my guess!)
Lacto-Paleo (Primal Paleo)
This is as simple as it sounds. This is when you (like my husband and daughter) eat and drink dairy. The ideal source is grass-fed. If you want to know why grass-fed is better, please read my blogs on this topic and do your own research on the internet.
This is the version where you follow the paleo diet to a T. You do not eat or drink anything off the diet as laid out in the original book, The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain, without a hitch whatsoever. You are basically able and willing to pull off the diet that man ate back in the day, and maybe you’re trying to live like they did too. You do not consume coffee, dairy, legumes, sugars, honey, maple syrup, etc. If it was not available then, you do not eat it now. Some feel this is the only way to do the diet and some of these people are outright critical of those not following it to a T. Oh well. That’s too bad!
NOTE: Loren Cordain’s The Paleo Diet emphasizes low fat in the first edition. He does make a few changes on fat in his second edition, yet he still emphasizes low fat. There is much evidence and many writings that contradict this point of low fat. High fat, and always good fats, are very much paleo, as far as I’m (and many others are) concerned. You’ll need to research this and come to your own conclusion. I’ll be blogging about the various scientific points on this. I feel fantastic and stay lean eating good healthy fats with no limits. I love my Paleo Bone Broth recipe. It’s loaded with healthy fat and bone marrow. I’m also liberal with my omega-3 oils in my paleo cooking. Again, you can read much about this on the internet as well as in my blogs.
paleo-fishPaleo overall is lower in carbs, but I adore my sweet potatoes, winter squashes and many higher-carb fruits. Someone on the low-carb version is cutting all these out and usually has goals to lean out or drop some weight even faster. On a personal note, I have to admit that if I cut out my sweet potatoes, my fruits and even my baked nut flour yummies (see my paleo recipes section), I get very thin. For any man or woman reading this who wants to get thinner, there you go. Of course, you’ll eat good, healthy fats, animal proteins and non-starchy veggies.
Paleo for the Autoimmune
“Autoimmune” refers to when the body is attacking itself. As it is, the paleo diet is very healing and repairing. In fact, that’s what attracted me to the paleo diet in the first place (you can read more about that on my page, Gluten-Free and Paleo). If you have an autoimmune disease, there are some extra steps you can take which will take you from feeling good on the paleo diet to feeling great! In this paleo diet version, you’ll eliminate the ever-popular autoimmune inflammatories. These are currently listed as eggs, nightshades and nuts. You can Google this subject to learn more about it. The topic of nightshades is a worthwhile topic to learn if you have any elderly family member, or if you cook for loved ones.
paleo-grilled-veggiesI honestly don’t know how some do this. The paleo vegans I knew have all converted to eating meat protein, and they feel better now. I’m sorry to have to share this with you if you’re a vegan. But I just don’t know of a way to do even the paleo diet template spoken about above with these criteria.
The 30-Day Challenge
Many try the paleo diet by doing a 30-day challenge or the Whole30® Program Challenge. Google this and see if it’s of interest to you.