The diet rich in protein and produce and low to nonexistent in dairy, grains, and legumes has been scrutinized by some nutritionists for decades, perhaps even centuries. However, in its most recent incarnation, it became world known as the Paleo diet. Loren Cordain PHD, the author of the 2002 book that revolutionized the movement, spent years studying the research of others along with taking into account his personal experiences to create a diet beloved by many.
For those who are wishing to try out a Paleo lifestyle but aren’t sure where to start, here is a beginner’s guide to the Paleo diet.
The first step to any major diet overall is to simply clear the clutter from your kitchen. The Paleo diet restricts any cereal grain based foods, both whole and processed, legumes, sugar, dairy, processed foods, and nuts. Many of these foods are known as “trigger” foods and are likely to set your new way of eating off course so it is best to simply remove them from your house. By starting with a fresh slate, pantry and refrigerator, it will be far easier to reach for a snack that is not only healthy, but also follows the guidelines of the Paleo diet.
Although it is convenient to eat out or grab take-out, by cooking more often it is easier to incorporate the guidelines of the Paleo diet into your lifestyle. By planning meals and snacks for the week and having all of the necessary items on hand, dinner is simple matter of choosing which dish to create. The entire family can join in the fun of making appealing and appetizing meals that eliminate the processed foods that the diet restricts, while still making choices that make everyone happy. In addition, for families with young children, by having everyone participate in the planning and cooking, the children can learn more about nutrition and where their food comes from.
Any change in lifestyle comes with its challenges. Making an abrupt change from a life filled with grains, processed snacks, and sugar to a diet plan consisting of protein, fruits and vegetables can be a shock to anyone’s system and have a dramatic effect on the ability to follow through. Especially for the younger members of the family, but true for everyone, beginning the change by sticking to the Paleo diet guidelines 85% of the time while allowing 15% for alternative choices will make life easier all around. Whether its happy hour with the girls, a scoop of ice cream or a bun with that burger, knowing that you have a choice makes any change easier. It can also be helpful to note how you feel after eating something not following the Paleo guidelines so you can further judge if a “cheat” day is worthwhile in the future.
One of the best things you can learn for any diet is to simply avoid those “middle” aisles of the grocery store. By sticking to the outside ring you will find the fresh produce and meats you are looking for, easily avoiding all of the processed foods in the middle. However from time to time you will need to venture into that dark territory and so when you being to practice reading the labels your Paleo guidelines will be much easier to follow. For instance peanut butter is actually a legume and therefore not recommended and many soy sauces, vinegars and sauces contain gluten and other preservatives best kept away from.
One myth of the Paleo diet is that you must eat pounds of animal protein daily. In reality, by rethinking your plate and serving up a palm sized portion of meat and filling the rest of your plate with produce, produce and more produce, you are getting all of the lean protein your body needs along with vitamins and minerals from natural plant sources. The Paleo diet is excellent for those with IBS or gluten allergies as it is, by definition, gluten free and by avoiding the over processing of many foods helps a number of intestinal issues.
Corn, canola, and soybean oil are big sellers in the United States, and yet these over processed oils should be avoided. For cooking, turn to coconut oil which allows for a higher stabilization when heated, and olive or avocado oil for salads and vinaigrettes. In addition, using lard animal fats from grass fed beef packs a punch of omega 3’s. For those with a sweet tooth put down the Twinkie! If you require a bit of sweetness at the end of the day reach for a piece of fruit. Naturally sweetened but still satisfying, you will find over time that your taste buds adjust to the lack of artificial sweeteners and if you do take a nibble you will undoubtedly find them overly sweet.
In the end, switching to a Paleo diet is all about going back to what our ancestors ate. Long before the time of manufacturing and processing plants, families lived and thrived on diets made up of grass fed meat and vegetables and produce that they could grow themselves or were easily available to them. Foods of the past generations were based around “whole” foods without the additives of refined sugars, preservatives, chemicals and hormones.
Paleo is about going back to our roots. Back to a time before agriculture on a grand scale began over processing the basic foods needed for survival. Many people lose weight but, more importantly, have increased energy levels, better sleeping habits, and an overall feeling of lightness. Once you begin to adjust to this new way of living it is an extra benefit to add in a light exercise routine to truly find your energy and zest for life heading towards an all-time high. Join the Paleo revolution today!