Going Paleo // What IS the Paleo diet?

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When I started the blog 2 years ago, my goal was to encourage and equip women to live well in all aspects of life, starting with the decisions they make surrounding the items they fill their homes, bellies and minds with. For me, life began to take shape in a completely different way when I began to really consider the source and types of food I ingested. Since 2009, I’ve been gluten free. I cut dairy in 2010, and in 2012, I went paleo. While I have broken off of that diet several times [I ate whatever I craved within reason while I was pregnant and it took me a LONG time to get back on the bandwagon], I know that this diet works really well for me and for my body’s needs. I’ve had so many of you reach out to me, asking for tips, tricks and advice for starting a paleo diet… I’ve decided to go ahead and share my advice, but first, I need to tell you WHAT the paleo diet is before I can tell you HOW I made the switch.

Paleo Diet 101

If you’re going paleo, you should at least know how the paleo diet started and what it is. The paleo lifestyle was developed by a researcher from Colorado State University named Dr. Loren Cordain in the 1970s. According to him, the paleo diet is the way that humans were genetically designed to eat when they were first created. [Think caveman.]

Studies show that paleolithic humans were more vegetarians than carnivores… They were hunters and gatherers, and they did nOT lead sedentary lives.

Today, -and this is a shocker- we are not cavemen [THANK, YOU JESUS]. We have plenty of food choices that we don’t have to hunt for or gather and a vast majority of us lead sedentary lives. Womp Womp…

Furthermore, the food choices that we have all around us do not come directly from nature. Many are filled with preservatives, pesticides, antibiotics, toxic food dyes and additives. The result? We are getting sicker and sicker by the day.

So, let’s get back to the way it used to be, shall we? We might’ve been way more hairy and grunt-y, but our food actually nourished us and provided for us exactly what we needed.

So… what foods are allowed on the paleo diet?

Think this way… if the cavemen ate it, you can have it. Did the cavemen have cheetos and Popeye’s? No… no they didn’t. Also, all foods ingested on the paleo diet should be clean, organic and all natural. That means grass-fed beef and no GMO’s… You better head on over to Whole Foods. [Yes, I know it’s more expensive, but you will not be eating out NEARLY as much on this diet and paying a little bit more for your groceries is better than paying those future medical bills for something you could’ve prevented right now.] Okay… I’m off my soapbox… Back to Paleo…

Here’s what you CAN eat:

  • Pretty much any lean meat like chicken, turkey, pork, lean beef, and bison
  • Fish and seafood
  • Fresh fruit
  • All vegetables, such as lettuce, asparagus, green beans, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and spinach [try to stay away from the starchy vegetables like potatoes, though.]
  • Nuts and seeds, like pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, and pistachios [no peanuts]
  • Eggs
  • Plant-based oils, such as olive, walnut, grapeseed, and coconut oil [no canola or vegetable oils]

Here’s what you CANNOT eat:

  • Grains, so no oats, wheat, barley, corn or rice — [that’s cereal, bread, pasta, bagels, crackers, or granola, tortillas, beer, corn chips, popcorn… should I keep going?]
  • Beans or Legumes — no hummus [this is a bummer] or beans of any kind. also no peanuts or peanut butter and the part I love most about this diet is no soy foods, such as soy milk, tofu, or edamame [soy is actually SO bad for you!]
  • Dairy — no milk, cheese, cream, yogurt or ice cream [there are some awesome ways to make this more manageable, though.]
  • Processed meats like salami, bologna, pepperoni and hot dogs
  • Sugars, like processed syrups, candy, cakes, fruit snacks, cookies, juices, sport drinks, energy drinks mixers, sodas, sweet snacks and more.
  • Processed foods or foods high in trans fats, [pretty much anything in a box or a bag or sold in a fast food chain] such as doughnuts, french fries, macaroni and cheese, crackers, chips and pretzels

Excuse me, so WHY would I do this diet?

The benefits of this diet are endless. For me, I’ve chosen this diet because I have autoimmune issues [thyroid problems] and switching to this diet alone has significantly reduced my symptoms. Plus, I notice a direct correlation between processed foods and how I feel/my energy levels.

Anti-Inflammatory – The paleo diet has anti-inflammatory benefits because of the nature of the foods you’re eating, so it benefits everything from digestion issues to even behavior problems [which have now been proven to be a direct result of digestive issues!]

Weight Loss – Many people lose weight as they remove the poisonous high fructose corn syrups and other processing chemicals from their diet.

Lowered Risk of Type 2 Diabetes – This diet significantly decreases the amount of sugar intake, but replacing the artificial sweeteners and added sugars with natural, simple sugars that come from fruits and nature. This is a great way to make sure you aren’t putting yourself at a greater risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.

No Calorie Counting – Instead of counting calories or macros, you get to eat whenever you’re hungry. The best way to go paleo is to eat often, about 6 small meals a day.

You Get to Eat Foods You Typically Don’t on Diets – On the paleo diet, fats are a GOOD thing. Yes, I said it. Your body needs good fats – the kind that help your body move – and if you’re eating strict paleo, you’ll be getting only good fats. What’s nat good? Saturated fats. They’re the ones making you… well, fat. The fats that come from animals and plants are not only way better for you, but they serve a significant purpose in your body’s daily function. Bacon? Eat it. Avocados? Eat it. Olive oil? Eat it.

You can have coffee and alcohol – While this is not something super recommended, you can have moderate amounts of caffeine and alcohol. There are certain alcohols that are NOT allowed [beer, whiskey, rum, bourbon…], but an organic, potato vodka [like Tito’s or Deep Eddie’s], clear, organic tequila, and a glass of organic red or white wine is allowed in moderation. Drink a cup of joe every day? Keep on keeping on. Just make sure you’re not using a dairy creamer and try to keep your caffeine intake on the lower side.

Increased energy / stamina – Many people say their energy levels triple once they switch to a paleo diet. Sounds good to me! Want to know why this diet is so popular in the fitness community? That’s because it is the fastest way to start seeing the results from all the hard work you’re putting in at the gym. Remember, though, that you’re getting significantly LESS carbs on this diet, so you’ll need to go heavier on the sweet potatoes and starchy vegetables if you’re cardio-heavy.

Cooking paleo is easier – I honestly believe this. I have less stuff to prepare on a daily basis than I did when I needed to make sure that I had something edible “from all five food groups.” Because the foods are mostly vegetable-based, cooking is significantly easier. [Plus, I’ve got some great paleo recipes here on the blog!]

So, Here’s My Take on it…

The important thing to remember is that living paleo is not just a diet or a trend, it’s a lifestyle. Choosing to be paleo is choosing to make consistently better decisions when it comes to your body, your food and your health. Remember to take baby steps and give yourself grace every now and then. It’s okay to have a cheat, just consider the ingredients of your cheat and hop back on the train again tomorrow! If you’re ready to take a leap of faith and give it a try, I know you won’t be disappointed.

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