So first off--- I have always hated the word diet. Maybe this is because I feel that I have spent most of my life "on a diet.” According to Merriam-Webster (http://www.merriam-webster.com/) a diet is: food and drink regularly provided or consumed or habitual nourishment. We need to start thinking about the word “diet” in this sense. While it can refer to a way of eating to help oneself lose weight, that is not what we want to focus on. We want to focus on this Paleolithic diet as a way of life, not as a DIET!!! It is a way of eating to make you healthy and fit (and if you loose some weight in the process all the better). So let’s get down to the facts of the Paleo Lifestyle!
What is it?
The Paleolithic Diet refers to the Paleolithic Era, a prehistoric era distinguished by the development of the first stone tools; it extends from the introduction of stone tools to the introduction of agriculture. The Paleo Diet is a way of eating according to what our ancestors ate. The thought behind this is that our bodies are genetically evolved to eat in such a way, as our hunter and gatherer ancestors ate before the introduction of agriculture and animal husbandry. It is a diet that focuses on lean meats, seafood, fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds, and asks you to stay away from overly processed foods, sugar, legumes, grains, and dairy.
Why it makes sense:
The Paleo Diet is rich in foods (lean meats and seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables) that are high in valuable nutrients that promote good health and almost barren of the foods that contain little to no nutrients (refined sugars and grains, processed foods, saturated and trans fats, high-glycemic carbs). The nutrients (soluble fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, omega-3s, monounsaturated fats) found in Paleo food are shown to increase energy, lose fat, gain muscle, decrease stress levels, build stronger bones, help you sleep better, increase fertility, improve digestion, slow aging, build a stronger immune system, help to control or reverse conditions such as diabetes, Crohn’s disease, heart disease, IBS, heart burn, ulcers, eczema, joint pain, arthritis, and the list goes on and on! (and all these benefits can be obtained without portion control or calorie counting!!! YAY) While the foods avoided on this diet often lead to health problems such as weight gain, diabetes, acne, and heart problems. YUCK!
What can I eat?
Lean Meats- organic, pasture-raised, grass-fed, unprocessed, no nitrates, no hormones, no antibiotics, trim excess fat
Poultry eggs- organic, cage free, from happy chickens, ducks and geese!
Seafood and Fish- fresh, wild-caught when possible!
Vegetables- organic, local, fresh, in season!
Fruits- (if you are trying to lose weight- go light on the fruits until you’ve reached your happy weight) organic, local, fresh, in season!
Nuts and Seeds- Almonds, Brazil nuts, Cashews, Chestnuts, Hazelnuts (filberts), Macadamia nuts, Pecans, Pine nuts, Pistachios (unsalted), Pumpkin seeds, Sesame seeds, Sunflower seeds, Walnuts… (Peanuts are NOT nuts!) again--- if trying to lose weight, try to limit nuts to 2-4oz/day
Beverages- organic coffee and teas, water, unsweetened- organic fruit juices (ingredient list should be just fruit and maybe water), coconut milk/water, almond milk (great for smoothies!)
Herbs and Spices- Rosemary, Basil, Mint, Parsley, Oregano, Sage, Pepper, Garlic, Ginger, Onions, Mustard Seed, Cayenne Pepper, Cumin, etc.
Oils- Olive, avocado, walnut, flaxseed, coconut and canola oils
Alcohol- I am sticking with wines, no beer or hard liquor because they are grain based. (Although I may occasionally cheat with Bourbon because I love it so much, but will definitely make sure its a special occasion!)
Sea Salt- some recommend avoiding salt altogether, I’m just using it in moderation when needed.
Sweeteners- Organic raw honey, Organic maple syrup
What can’t I eat?
Sugar and sugar substitutes (splenda, sweet n’low, etc)
Legumes- beans, peas, soy (tofu, soy milk, soy protein drinks), etc.
Grains- No gluten, wheat, corn, rice, oats, barley, etc
Grain like seeds- Amaranth, Buckwheat, Quinoa
Dairy- including all processed food made with dairy, yogurt, milk, cheese, etc.
Starchy vegetables- potatoes, yams
Soda and other sweetened beverages
Processed foods- table salt, protein bars, “if it’s in a box- don’t eat it”
Hydrogenated Oils- Vegetable Oil, margarines, soybean oil, corn oil, Crisco, peanut oil, safflower oil and sunflower oil
How Do I Start?
The key to starting this lifestyle is to be prepared! The first week or two are going to be hard--- heck the first month will be difficult. In the end though, it will all be worth it. Think of it as a new challenge, something fun you are doing for yourself that will lead to a happier, healthier you!
Step one- Clean out your cupboards and refrigerator. If it's not at your house, it can't tempt you! Donate non-perishables to a local soup kitchen, church or homeless center.
Step two- Go to the local farmers market or grocery store and load up on fresh vegetables and fruits. Peruse the meat section for hormone-free, grass-fed, organic, happy meats. Check out the fish market for wild-caught fish and seafood. Next up- Nuts! Look for unsalted, raw nuts. You can always roast or lightly (sea) salt yourself at home--- much healthier!
Step three- Bring home and unpack the goodness!
Step four- Plan out your week's menu and start cooking! You’re on your way.
I found it easiest to get through the day with plenty of snacks, it’s always best to over think and have too much food (you can always save that apple or turkey and vegetable lettuce wrap for tomorrow) then to be sitting at your desk starving and day dreaming about the vending machine.
Wow--- that was a long one. Thanks for sticking with me. I promise Paleo eating is not hard, and it's a fun challenge to think of how to use these basic ingredients in new and tasty ways. (Rosemary and Sea Salt Crackers anyone! the recipe is coming...)
Good Luck! Any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to ask, I’m always here.