The Beginner’s Guide to the Paleo Diet
The Paleo Diet is easily one of the most popular diets these days, alongside the Gluten-Free Diet, the Detox Diet, and the Atkins Diet.
Most people see diets like the Paleo Diet Plan as the perfect way to lose weight, but that's a mistake! The Paleo Diet isn't just about losing weight, but it's an entirely new way of eating. Once you see what's on the Paleo Diet food list and check out a few of the Paleo Diet recipes, you'll have a better understanding of what it's all about!
What is the Paleo Diet?
Close your eyes and imagine yourself back in caveman days, the days before modern technology, modern tools, and even simple inventions like the wheel.
What do you see in your mind? Probably a lot of hairy men (and women) walking around with clubs. The men hunt for the food, and the women collect whatever they can find growing on trees, bushes, and in the ground. The food is simple, but it's all natural.
That is the essence of the Paleo Diet: only eating foods that would be found in the cavemen era. Also called the Caveman Diet, it's primary purpose is to help you eat all-natural foods only. Get rid of everything processed, cultivated, or pre-packaged foods.
Why the Paleo Diet?
The modern human body is very different from the bodies of early cavemen. Our bodies have evolved over millennia as our world has changed. Where human bodies once demanded a lot more fat and protein, now we crave carbs and sugar--thanks largely to the advent of baking, sugar refinery, and now mass production of sweets, baked goods, and treats.
But a lot of the foods we eat now were nowhere in sight in the days of the cavemen. For example, grains like wheat and rice are modern, as the cavemen had no system of agriculture. When you consider how many side effects are caused by eating grains, you can see the premise behind the caveman diet.
The purpose of the Paleo Diet: get your body back to its natural state by consuming only the most natural foods. The foods consumed are only those found in nature--meat, seeds, nuts, and raw foods.
Pros and Cons of Paleo Diet
There are a lot of great things about the Paleo Diet, but there are quite a few drawbacks as well. Understanding the good and the bad will help prepare you for what you'll experience while trying the Paleo Diet.
- Weight loss -- A carb-heavy diet is one that can lead to serious weight gain--which is why so many Americans are overweight and obese. With the Paleo Diet, you consume very few carbs, instead focusing on the fat. The more fat you consume, the easier it is for your body to burn fat. This includes both dietary fat and the fat stored around your body.
- Fewer unhealthy foods -- If you've ever looked at the food in your fridge and pantry, you have probably been amazed by all the unhealthy options there are. White flour, white rice, sweets, pastries, baked goods, and high-sugar foods are just a few of the foods you'll give up while on the Paleo Diet, so you'll be eating ONLY healthy foods.
- Reduced health problems -- Health problems often stem from our diet, and the modern diet almost always leads to nutritional imbalances. As you get back to the basics of the Paleo Diet, you'll find that the food you eat contains more of the nutrients your body needs to be healthy. This will lead to a healthier diet, ergo a healthier you with fewer problems!
- Fewer allergies -- Millions of people suffer from gluten sensitivity, lactose intolerance, and allergic reactions to grains, sugars, and other processed foods. By removing these foods from your diet, you remove the allergenic foods that cause the reactions. You'll find yourself much healthier thanks to the fact that you no longer need to combat the sensitivities and allergies that once plagued you.
- Fully customizable diet -- With the Paleo Diet, there's no limit to how much you can eat, just what foods you can eat. You'll want to stick with a healthy number of calories-- between 2000 and 2500 per day--but there are no strict guidelines to follow in terms of when and how much to eat.
- Rich in important nutrients -- While on the Paleo Diet, you consume foods high in fiber, Omega-3 fatty acids, protein, healthy fats, and low-GI carbs. You also avoid high cholesterol foods, sodium foods, and artificial foods. Essentially, you get all of the important vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy.
- No risk of bingeing -- When you start the Paleo Diet, you cut out all of the "binge" foods--i.e. snacks, chips, brownies, cakes, cookies, etc. Seeing as you're eating healthy, balanced meals, there's no risk of bingeing. (except these snacks)
- More energy -- The more healthy foods you eat, the more energy you will have. All of the artificial, refined, and processed foods you currently eat actually sap your energy, so cutting them out will give you a lot more stamina and more available calories for your body to burn.
- Potentially very high in fat -- Meat used to be much leaner, but the meat we eat today contains more saturated fat. You'll find that the diet is fairly high-fat, which can lead to heart problems as well as potential weight gain.
- Lacking in nutrients -- It's tough to get calcium and Vitamin D without consuming dairy products, and you'll find that the diet is fairly lacking in other vitamins and nutrients.
- Expensive -- Most of the food items you will buy will be fairly expensive. Organic, free range, and grass fed proteins are costly, as are the special raw seeds, nuts, and sprouted grains you're allowedto eat. Even fruits and vegetables can be expensive, and you eat A LOT of them. Prepare for some serious spending!
- Takes adjusting -- When you start on the Paleo Diet, you change the way your body produces energy. It is currently accustomed to burning carbs for energy, but it will require some adjusting in order to become efficient at turning fat into energy. Prepare for some low-energy days.
- Not vegetarian-friendly -- The diet is very oriented around protein, so vegetarians will find it very hard to follow the Paleo Diet. The diet excludes all legumes, so the Paleo Diet lacks non-animal protein sources.
- Lacking carbs -- Athletes need anywhere from 3 to 6 grams of carbs per day in order to keep up with their training, but the Paleo Diet cuts out most carbs.
As with any diet, there is plenty of good balanced out by the bad.
Paleo Diet Food List
So, let's take a look at the foods you can and cannot eat while on the Paleo Diet.
Allowed on the Paleo Diet food list:
- Lean meats -- beef, venison, veal, lamb, bison, chicken, turkey, and more. (try to buy free-range, grass-fed, and organic as much as possible)
- Seafood -- shrimp, crab, mussel, and oyster.
- Fish -- bass, tilapia, salmon, and all the rest.
- Eggs -- go nuts, but try to get organic.
- Nuts -- in moderation. Buy them raw, and toast them yourself if you want to.
- Vegetables -- the greener and crunchier, the better!
- Natural oils -- coconut, olive, and avocado.
- Fruit -- berries and low-sugar fruits are best, but all are welcome.
- Sprouted grains
- Grass-fed butter and natural youghurt
Not permitted on the Paleo Diet:
- Anything processed, artificial, pre-packaged, "instant", or with added chemicals.
- Dairy, excluding grass-fed butter and natural yoghurt
- Flour and anything made with flour
- Cereal grains
- Refined vegetable oils
- Refined sugar
Paleo Diet Tips and Hacks
Here are a few tips to help you get your Paleo Diet off the ground:
- Start the day with a big breakfast. A loaded omelet will quash your hunger pangs, and will stop you from being hungry for hours.
- Add more of everything. Instead of skimping on your meals or restricting calories, start making them more filling and a bit heavier. Add a bit of chicken or beef to that salad, and add more veggies to your meat dishes.
- Use berries as a dessert. That sweet tooth of yours can make it tough to avoid traditional desserts. Instead of giving in to cravings, use berries--and other fruits, of course--to make tasty desserts that will stop you from cheating.
- Clear out your closets. You've probably got a lot of non-Paleo-friendly food, so it's time to throw them away. It will be much harder to cheat on the diet if there's nothing tempting around.
- Load up on fresh foods. Raw vegetables and fruits aren't just healthy, they're filling as well!
- ALWAYS have eggs. They are one of the most versatile foods around, plus they're low-calorie and easy to cook.
- Enjoy your food. Find ways to prepare the recipes to be as delicious and enjoyable as possible. Only by truly enjoying your food will you avoid the temptation to cheat on your diet!
- Plan your meals in advance. It's much easier to avoid cheating on your diet if you're following a meal plan.
- Stop worrying about the "rules". Focus on eating the right foods as much as possible, but don't freak out if you slip up. It's part of life!
- Find support and help. Join groups online to find encouragement, tips, and advice.
- Read labels. Always read labels carefully to know EXACTLY what's in your food.
With these tips, you stand a chance of GREAT SUCCESS while on the Paleo Diet!
Paleo Diet Recipes
Here are a few recipes to get you started down the road to Paleo Diet success:
Breakfast: Paleo Pancakes
- 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
- 2 tablespoons almond milk
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons coconut flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon Himilayan salt
- 1/2 cup almond meal
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, or to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves, or to taste
- 2 teaspoons coconut oil, or as needed
- Whip up the pumpkin, almond milk, maple syrup, vanilla extract in a bowl, and beat until the mixture is nice and smooth.
- Use a whisk to mix the baking soda, coconut flour, salt, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, and almond meal in a different bowl, and stir the dry and wet ingredients together.
- Let the batter rest for a few minutes before dropping dollar-sized dollops into a hot, oiled frying pan. Cook until bubbles show on the top, and flip over to cook until browned.
Lunch: Paleo Coconut Curry Stir Fry
- 1 1/2 cups coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon oyster sauce
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon chile-garlic sauce (such as Sriracha®)
- 2 tablespoons white sugar or sugar substitute
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- 1 pound chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1/2 onion, sliced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
- 2 cups broccoli florets
- Combine the lime juice, fish sauce, garlic, oyster sauce, coconut milk, sugar, and chili-garlic sauce, and stir well.
- In a skillet or pan, heat the avocado oil until hot. Cook the chicken stir-fry style, and make sure it is thoroughly browned.
- Dice the onions and toss them in a hot skillet, along with the curry powder. Mix in the broccoli and cook for a few minutes, and add in the coconut milk mixture. Let the sauce simmer for a few minutes, and add the chicken into the curry to cook thoroughly.
Dinner: Chicken Walnut Cheese Wrapped in Bacon
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved horizontally
- 8 ounces crumbled blue cheese
- 6 ounces walnut halves
- 8 slices bacon
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
- Use a tenderizer to pound the slices of chicken, and make sure they're about the same thickness. Use a spoon to scoop blue cheese onto the chicken, along with some walnuts. Spread the cheese and nuts, and roll the chicken breasts.
- Roll the bacon around your chicken, using toothpicks to hold the bacon slices in place.
- Cook your bacon chicken rolls in a skillet your bacon is nice and crispy. Place the chicken into the oven, and bake until it is properly cooked--usually about 30 minutes.
Salad: Paleo Taco Salad
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup salsa
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 2 romaine hearts, shredded
- 3 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese, or to taste (optional)
- 1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
- In a bowl, stir all of the spices together.
- Cook the ground beef in a skillet, along with the garlic, onions, and the spice mixture. Make sure to cook the beef thoroughly, until there is no more pink showing.
- Mix the lime juice in a bowl along with the sour cream and salsa. Spread some shredded lettuce on a platter, and pour the meat and salsa mixtures over the top. Sprinkle with cherry tomatoes, Cheddar cheese, and some nicely chopped cilantro.
Loved the look of the recipes above? Want hundreds more?
Check out the complete Paleo Diet Guide, with over 300 delicious recipes to try. It's a total steal, and you'll love our creative meal plans!
Good luck, and happy Paleo Dieting!