A Paleo diet typically consists of different types of food which are similar to those eaten by out hunter-gatherer, pre-agricultural ancestors. Those which they used to gather, pluck, hunt or even forage out in the wilderness. People who follow the Paleo diet eliminate certain foods from their diet specifically dairy, gluten, sugar, and other modern-day foods which are found everywhere these days. They substitute those foods for unprocessed, whole, low-sugar, and nutrient-dense foods. These can help stabilize the levels of blood sugar and reduce hunger as well as cravings. When following this type of diet, one may lose weight and reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases.
According to a study, people who have Type 2 diabetes can benefit from a Paleo diet even just short-term. This is because the diet can help enhance lipid profiles and glucose control better than other types of diets. Also, the Paleo diet can improve MS or metabolic syndrome a lot better than other diets. In this article, we’ll learn all about the Paleo diet and how one can upgrade it.
What is the Paleo Diet?
The Paleo diet is a type of dietary plan that’s based on the foods consumed by our ancestors back in the Paleolithic era, hence the name. This era dates back from approximately 10,000 to 2.5 million years ago. Typically, someone following a Paleo diet would consume fish, lean meats, vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts. All these foods which, in the past, could have been obtained by natural means like gathering, hunting, and more. This diet limits the types of foods which emerged approximately 10,000 years ago when farming came out. This diet is also known as the Stone Age diet, the Caveman diet, the Hunter-Gatherer diet, and the Paleolithic diet.
The goal of this diet is to go back to a way of eating which is a lot like what the early humans or our ancestors ate. The reasoning behind this diet is that the bodies of humans are genetically mismatched to modern foods and the modern diets which emerged because of farming practices. Because of farming, people changed what they ate. They started to add grains, legumes, dairy, and other processed foods as additional staples in their diets. This rapid and modern change in diet made it difficult for the human body to adapt. Because of this, diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity are prevalent in our society.
A Short History of the Paleo Diet
This way of eating which will truly bring one back to the basics, the Paleo diet is all about consuming food just like our ancestors. Of course, one doesn’t have to chase down prey each time he has to eat a meal. Still, those who follow this diet prefer eating natural foods as much as possible. They choose fruits, vegetables, grass-fed meats, and other types of whole foods such as seeds and nuts. For other people who are more “relaxed” about following this diet, they don’t have a problem consuming “taboo foods” such as potatoes and dairy products.
The dietary concept of Paleolithic living was first introduced and promoted by Dr. Walter L. Voegtlin who was a gastroenterologist. Back in the year 1975, the published a book entitled “The Stone Age Diet,” and this paved the way for a surplus of various Paleolithic approaches. All of these approaches have similar core principles but they have different restrictions and rules. Although there are different ways one can practice this dietary concept, there are three prominent and respected “gurus” that many people follow. These are:
Dr. Loren Cordain. Dr. Cordain is a professor at Colorado State University and he specializes in the science of health and exercise. Many consider him as the authority on Paleolithic living. His book entitled “The Paleo Diet” got published in the year 2002 and it focuses on the advantages of Paleo for health and weight loss.
Robb Wolf. Wolf was formerly a biochemist who studied under Dr. Cordain. He also published a book entitled “The Paleo Solution” back in the year 2010 and it’s another popular resource among Paleo followers.
Mark Sisson. This ex-athlete came out with his own online resource entitled “Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint” and it’s a version of the Paleolithic approach with some slight differences.
The Paleolithic era, for the most part, was pre-agricultural. Nowadays, some types of food that we eat in abundance were actually unsuitable for consumption in the raw form. A lot of Paleo enthusiasts and followers believe that the digestive systems of human beings have undergone some changes since that era which means that some foods can put a strain on our GI tract. There are different forms of the Paleo diet and they vary in terms of their restrictiveness. But all these forms encourage people to consume vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and healthy fats which come from whole foods like seeds, nuts, grass-fed meat, and even olive oil.
What to Eat and What to Avoid When Following the Paleo Diet
As we’ve mentioned, the recommendations vary among the different versions of commercial Paleo diets. Some diets are more strict than others but they’re generally similar. In terms of what one can eat, such foods include:
- seeds and nuts
- lean meats such as wild game or grass-fed animals
- fish, especially the ones rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as mackerel, albacore tuna, salmon, and more
- oils from nuts and fruits such as walnut or olive oil
One should also avoid certain foods when following a Paleo diet including:
- grains such as oats, barley, and wheat
- legumes such as lentils, peas, beans, and peanuts
- dairy products
- refined sugar
- highly-processed foods
For a better idea of how one would eat each day, here’s a typical menu of someone who follows a Paleo diet:
- Salmon (broiled) and a cantaloupe for breakfast
- Lean pork loin (broiled) and a salad for lunch
- Carrot or celery sticks for a snack
- Lean beef sirloin, steamed broccoli, and a salad for dinner with strawberries for dessert
Also, the diet would generally encourage drinking a lot of water and staying physically active each and every day.
It’s Time to Upgrade Your Paleo Diet!
Select High-Quality Meat
Our ancestors consumed meats which contained a nutrient profile that’s superior that what we eat now. These days, commercial meats contain antibiotics, hormones, and other problematic components. According to studies, grass-fed beef is richer in essential nutrients such as vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids, and more compared to grain-fed beef. Also, studies show that farm-raised fish doesn’t contain as many nutrients compared to wild fish.
In the past, our ancestors who used to hunt, gather, and more didn’t have to deal with hormones, antibiotics, and other chemicals which are present in modern-day meat products. When shopping for meat, go for the wild or grass-fed varieties. These are more similar to the types of meat our ancestors used to eat and, therefore, fit right into a Paleo diet. Also, these meats are more superior in terms of quality than conventional meat.
Give Your Fiber Intake a Boost
Studies have shown that Americans don’t get enough fiber in their daily diet. In fact, they consume less than half of what’s recommended. And people who follow low-carb diets fare lower. While following a Paleo diet, make sure that it’s well-designed. It should contain a lot of cruciferous and leafy vegetables, fruits which are low in sugar, seeds, and nuts, and other plant foods which are rich in fiber and nutrient-dense. In doing this, even following a Paleo diet would allow the person to meet his daily fiber requirements.
It’s a fact that pesticides, antibiotics, and other chemicals didn’t exist in the past. Studies have shown that organic foods actually contain more nutrients. Organic means that the food hasn’t been treated with pesticides, antibiotics, and other components which can be potentially toxic. Therefore, such foods are richer in magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin C, and more compared to the non-organic foods. Of course, they cost more too. But if a person wants to stick to a Paleo diet, organic is one of the best ways to go.
Select and Use the Foods Wisely
Even those die-hard Paleo fans would, on occasion, want to satisfy their cravings by consuming comfort foods. But that doesn’t mean that one should devour an entire body of cookies or snacks labeled as “Paleo.” When it comes to choosing foods, one must always check the labels to see if they contain any large amounts of sugar alcohols, artificial sweeteners, and other ingredients which are decidedly un-Paleo. Fortunately, there are a lot of great options out there for those who know where to look.
Aside from choosing the right foods, one must also choose his supplements smartly. Just like a lot of the modern foods available these days, vitamins didn’t exist in the past either. Still, since a Paleo diet restricts some types of food, some people may end up having deficiencies. Usually, it’s a deficiency in calcium. When following such a diet, one needs to have himself checked regularly in order to find out if he needs any supplementation to stay at the peak of health.
Try Deviating From the “Rules”
We’ve mentioned how Paleo diets are varied. Therefore, another way one can upgrade the diet is to combine the benefits of Paleo-friendly foods and some nutrient-dense foods and food sources which weren’t available to our ancestors including dairy and legumes. Such foods can add some variety to the diet but this is only a suggestion. People can acquire raw dairy products from naturally-raised, organic sources which means that they’ve undergone minimal processing.
Get Enough Sleep
Aside from eating different foods, our ancestors were also free of the modern distractions such as television, smartphones, and other devices and gadgets. All these play a huge role in interrupting one’s sleep. Therefore, studies have shown that most people don’t get more than 6 hours of sleep each and every night. This lack of sleep will definitely take a toll on one’s health especially if it happens regularly. But getting enough sleep will enhance the benefits of a Paleo diet in one’s health and this applies to other types of diets as well.
Watch Out for the Comfort Foods of the Paleo Diet
Bread, cookies, and other kinds of snacks weren’t available to our ancestors. However, manufacturers of these snack items have started cashing in on the “Paleo versions” of these foods. There’s nothing wrong with snacking and indulging once in a while. The important thing is to watch what one is eating by checking the label of the product before purchasing it. As we’ve said, there are plenty of tasty and satisfying options out there which will still allow people to follow their Paleo diet.
Lifestyle Hacks for a Paleo Diet
Whether a person is a Paleo beginner or a more experienced Paleo follower, there’s always an opportunity of learning something new. As a matter of fact, life hacks are so popular these days because people love learning new things. Here are some lifestyle hacks one can do to boost the Paleo lifestyle:
- Consume fermented foods as they will nourish the body with their metabolites and beneficial bacteria.
- Practice meal planning. This will help a person stay on track while following a certain diet.
- Accept and embrace hunger. Letting one’s hunger build is okay. In fact, it’s better than reaching for the first unhealthy snack available as soon as the stomach starts grumbling.
- Practice meditation and mindfulness. Following a Paleo lifestyle would encourage one to disconnect from the constant stimulation of these modern days. But when one learns meditation and mindfulness, it will keep the anxiety and stress levels in check which, in turn, will make him healthier.
- Stay away from soy products as these are usually highly processed.
- Stick with the diet. In the beginning, especially in the first few weeks, following a Paleo diet would seem very difficult. But as time goes by, things will get easier so it’s important to stick with it.
- Never restrict oneself. Although the Paleo diet is restrictive by nature, that doesn’t mean that one has to restrict himself too. Do research on everything that’s allowed to be eaten and the possible alternatives which are still Paleo-friendly.
- Exercise regularly even without equipment. Our ancestors didn’t have access to modern-day foods and they didn’t have access to exercise equipment either. Technically, all a person needs is his own body to start exercising. One excellent type of exercise which doesn’t require equipment is yoga. This is just like Paleo as it offers a holistic approach to living a healthy lifestyle.
- Exercise the brain too. Anyone can work to change his or her brain through exercise. This is another great way to upgrade one’s diet and one’s health as well.
- Eliminate caffeine if possible. Coffee and other caffeinated drinks tend to over-stimulate one’s cardiovascular system which might increase stress levels. When drinking such beverages, remember to consume wisely.
- Invest in a crock-pot. A lot of Paleo recipes can be made with a crock-pot so anyone on this diet should think about investing in one.
- Consume a lot of probiotics. These bacteria are healthy as they aid in digestion, boost metabolism, promote skin health, enhance the mood, and promote weight loss too.
- Get some coconut oil. It’s not just the Paleo-friendly cooking oil but it’s also an excellent makeup remover, sunburn soother, moisturizer, hair tamer, and more.
- Practice intermittent fasting. This is an eating pattern which would work well with a Paleo diet.
- Learn about different hunger types. Hunger can either be mental or physical. But what a lot of people don’t know is that the body feels hunger in different ways. That’s why it’s important to listen to the body before reaching for food or snacks. Sometimes, the body needs more than just food.
- Fat doesn’t always make people fat. Unfortunately, a lot of people believe the opposite and so they go for the “low-fat” or “non-fat” versions of food items. However, these products are typically high in salts and sugars. Instead of staying away from all fats, stick with the healthy fats when eating to stay healthy.
- Eat a lot of hard-boiled eggs. Eggs are an excellent protein source and hard-boiled eggs are quick and easy to prepare. Whip up a batch of eggs, store them in the refrigerator, and eat them as a snack, breakfast, and more.
- Cheat the right way. We’ve talked about how it’s good to indulge in cravings once in a while. But if people want to have a “cheat day,” still choose food items like snacks wisely.
- Have some dessert. This is a favorite of many and fortunately, desserts are allowed in Paleo diets. One doesn’t have to consume a heavy indulgence. Sometimes, a popsicle, a smoothie or even a piece of fruit will do.
- Try different cuisines the Paleo-way. For those who love cooking, the kitchen is the perfect place to experiment with different spices, foods, and cuisines to come up with dishes which will fit into their Paleo lifestyle.
- Pay attention to the gut, literally. The gut is the body’s second brain because it affects a lot of systems. Therefore, it’s also important to nurture the gut’s health.
- Try different recipes each week. For a person to stick with a specific diet like Paleo, it’s important not to get trapped in a food rut. There are many resources out there one can use to come up with different dishes to keep things interesting.
- Speaking of cooking, try making Paleo meals which are kid-friendly too. This would be very beneficial especially if the whole family practices this lifestyle. This is also a great way to get picky eaters, usually, the kids, on board.
- Know which kinds of sweeteners are Paleo-friendly. Be careful though because there aren’t a lot out there. When looking for a sweetener, go for the low-glycemic, natural versions and always consume these in moderation.
- Stay Paleo even at work. Of course, people who follow this diet know how to stay away from unhealthy snacks in the office break room. But there are many ways one can stay Paleo even while at work. For instance, one can choose a standing desk and take regular breaks.
- Learn how to substitute grains for Paleo-friendly ingredients. For a lot of people, it can be difficult to forego foods like muffins, cakes, bread, and such entirely. But one doesn’t have to do this. When baking bread and pastries, try using coconut flour, tapioca starch, and almond flour. Also, use Paleo-friendly sweeteners when baking goodies.
- Cut down on portion sizes. This will make food last longer and make one healthier.
- Eat for one’s own individual needs. Yes, the Paleo diet has a lot of rules but that doesn’t mean that everyone has to follow those rules strictly. This is especially true if one notices that the diet is starting to take a toll on the body. Instead, try making a few modifications in the diet to suit one’s needs.
- Clean out the kitchen before starting. When making the change, the first thing one must do is clean out his kitchen. Remove all the junk and gradually restock with healthy, Paleo-friendly food items.
- Shop for product weekly but stock up on the staples every month.
- Invest in a grill whether it’s a stovetop one or an outdoor one. Grilling is a quick and easy way one can enjoy veggies, fruit, and proteins. This method of cooking also adds a dimension of flavor which one won’t be able to use in any other method of cooking.
- Join a Paleo community. Although there are a lot of resources online and people can generally learn how to follow the diet on their own, it’s better to find support while starting a Paleo journey.
- Have greens in each and every meal. Greens are essential because they can provide fiber as well as the essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
- When it comes to the staples, try DIYing. For instance, one can make almond butter, coconut milk, and almond milk at home using the raw ingredients along with some time, effort, and patience.
- As one starts the Paleo diet, it’s best to phase out the food groups one by one. Since this diet has a lot of food restrictions, those who follow it would have to let go of some foods they’re normally used to. And for a lot of people, this can be very challenging. That’s why it’s better to eliminate the foods gradually to make things easier.
- Don’t think of Paleo as a diet but a lifestyle. If one chooses to go Paleo, it’s not a good idea to do so only for a specific time period. It’s better to see this as making a holistic lifestyle change which involves the body, mind, and the soul.
- Never shop while feeling hungry. When one is faced with limitless options, he’s more inclined to choose food items which will satisfy his cravings instead of the healthier choices. If one wants to stick to his shopping list, it’s best to grab a snack before going on a food shopping spree.
- Cut out any non-Paleo elements to enjoy all the flavors. For instance, one can still enjoy tacos by simply cutting out the tortilla. The same goes for sandwiches. Just get rid of the bread to make the sandwich a chef’s salad instead.
- Make a healthy stock from bones. After removing the beef or chicken meat from the bones, keep them and make a chicken stock or a bone broth that’s both tasty and rich in minerals.
- Eat a lot of foods which fight diseases. These disease-fighting food items include spinach, salmon, and more. One can also include a lot of “super herbs” in his diet. Such healthy and beneficial herbs are rosemary, cinnamon, ginger, and others.
- Learn more about gluten. Don’t be like most people who don’t know what gluten is and why it’s important to stay away from it. Also, it’s important to learn why gluten-free foods aren’t always the best option.
- Get a lot of vitamin D otherwise known as the “sunshine vitamin.” Even while following the Paleo diet, it’s important to get enough of this vitamin even if it has to be through supplementation.
- Get rid of unhealthy habits. This is easier said than done but it’s necessary. If one wants to be truly healthy, following a certain diet or lifestyle isn’t enough. One should also get rid of any bad or unhealthy habits to stay healthy.
- Eat some dark chocolate. When it comes to chocolate, people don’t really need much convincing. Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants and contains high levels of nutrients such as copper, magnesium, iron, and more.
- Kick the sugar habit. If a person’s hunger craving doesn’t feel like it would be satisfied by eating fresh vegetables, proteins, and healthy fats, one might just be craving foods which are high in sugar. A lot of people crave sugar but consuming too much of this will cause long-term consequences. Therefore, it’s essential for people to kick the habit and try to stay away from sugar as much as possible.
All these tips and hacks seem like a lot but one doesn’t have to follow them all at the same time. Instead, just like when starting a Paleo diet, go slow. Eventually, one will be able to upgrade his diet gradually until he becomes healthier, stronger, and more in-tune with his body.
Did You Know That You Can Follow the Paleo Diet While on a Budget?
A lot of people believe that following a Paleo diet is expensive. This is usually true but not all the time. Unfortunately, most people use this excuse not to start the diet. But the fact is, eating Paleo doesn’t have to be expensive. As a matter of fact, it can be quite cheap. Here are some tips to follow the Paleo diet even while on a budget:
Eat a Lot of Vegetables
Our moms always tell us to eat our veggies and moms are always right. Especially when one is following a Paleo diet, it’s important to eat a lot of vegetables. Fortunately, vegetables are generally inexpensive so one can stock up!
Shop at the Local Farmer’s Market
Rather than spending so much time in grocery stores, try shopping at the local farmer’s market. There, you’ll find a lot of food items which are Paleo-friendly. Also, the foods in farmer’s markets are fairly inexpensive, fresh, and tasty too.
Select Items Which Have a Close Expiration Date
For those who want to save a few bucks while shopping, go shopping just before eating dinner. Usually, items like cuts of meat and more come close to their “sell by” dates and would usually come with big discounts. The same thing goes for food items which have close expiration dates. Just make sure to consume the food items right away so that you don’t end up with a refrigerator stocked with spoiled items.
Try Not to Eat Out All the Time
In itself, Paleo isn’t expensive. What’s expensive is eating out all the time. If a person wants to follow the Paleo diet without having to spend too much, he should stay away from takeout and restaurant food. Instead, buy some fresh ingredients and whip-up some meals at home.
Learn About Inexpensive Food Items Which Are Good Paleo Alternatives
A lot of times, Paleo food items can be quite expensive. However, more often than now, there are cheaper alternatives available which are still Paleo-friendly. Here are some excellent options to consider:
- Rather than choosing a costly steak, try going for a hamburger patty made from lean meat.
- Instead of expensive sources of protein, try choosing chicken, pork, and eggs.
- Rather than snacking on nuts, try getting the needed fats from tasty (and budget-friendly) avocados.
- Berries usually come at a higher price than other fruits so try snacking on apples instead.
- Instead of purchasing pre-cut vegetables, buy the whole ones which are cheaper. Of course, the person would have to chop them himself but at least he would save a few bucks.
- Also, one can look for Paleo-friendly food items which are on sale. It’s also very helpful to search for special offers and coupons which will help save money.
Don’t Feel Nervous About Organic Products
When starting out, one doesn’t have to feel nervous about organic products. Rather, just focus on eating foods approved by the Paleo diet. After some time, one might realize that organic foods would be beneficial even if they usually cost more. Otherwise, it’s better to go slow and just focus on eating the approved foods.
Buy Food Items in Bulk
People can save a lot of money by buying in bulk. Whether shopping in grocery stores, local Farmer’s markets or online shops, this practice is a lot more cost-effective. Buying in bulk is also better because the products typically come with big discounts. Then one can simply freeze the food that won’t be eaten right away then thaw them out before cooking.
Set Aside a Food Budget
Making the choice to go Paleo would involve a lot of changes in one’s life. One of those changes would be the food budget. Do research on Paleo-friendly foods and this will help one come up with an appropriate budget. If one really wants to eat healthily, making adjustments to the money spent on food is necessary. But this doesn’t mean that one needs to spend too much on the food. For instance, rather than eating out frequently, use that budget to purchase healthier ingredients then cook food at home.