I remember when my Doctor told me that it would be best to start a paleo diet. I had no clue what he meant and felt very overwhelmed when he told me all the things I needed to stay away from. I thought, what the heck am I supposed to eat, grass? It felt like everything in my (well my parents’ - I was in college at the time) pantry and fridge was no longer edible. I stood in the kitchen with the pantry door and fridge opened and cried. Not only did I feel absolutely horrible, in pain, and fatigued, now I needed to change how I ate? If you are finding yourself in a similar place, I just want you to know that I understand, I see your pain, I see your frustration but I also see hope and know that lifestyle changes like what we eat can bring healing.
The paleo diet, also known as the caveman diet, focuses on nutrient-dense food that nourishes our bodies. It promotes optimum health by reducing inflammation and balancing blood sugar. It does this by avoiding processed and high inflammatory foods and focusing on primarily plant-based foods. Examples include vegetables, fruits, nuts, roots, grass-fed meats, fish and healthy fats.
I really dislike calling it the paleo diet, because for me this has become my way of eating. It is not a diet for me, but a lifestyle. My hope in sharing this with you is that it will be helpful and educational in understanding why paleo is a great lifestyle and to encourage you, walk with you and support you in your journey of finding health, healing and hope.
What To Eat:
We have long treated vegetables as a side with a meal. The goal with paleo is an array of fresh vegetables as the foundation of your meal.
Fruit is a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth. And as your body adjusts to not eating refined sugar, fruit will start to taste like candy.
Meat & Fish:
Protein is a big part of the paleo diet, but I am not talking bacon. Stick with grass-fed, good quality organic meats. Wild game and fish are really great as well as free range eggs.
Nuts & Nut Butters:
This is another good source of protein and fat. You may wonder why peanut butter is not paleo, and that is because it is actually a legume. If you want something to dip your apple in, stick with a nut butter.
Fat is crucial in this diet, but not just grass-fed butter. Good oils, like olive, avocado, coconut and tahini are great. I personally eat grass-fed butter and many other on the paleo diet do as well, but grass-fed ghee is also a great option.
Although any type of sugar should be consumed conservatively, you can still use some natural sweeteners. Some adhering to paleo, especially for health reasons, choose to stay away from sweeteners altogether. But like most things in life, just remember moderation is key. Coconut sugar, date sugar, maple syrup and raw honey are all allowed on the paleo diet.
Water, water, water. Although you can have more than just water, four out of five Americans are not drinking enough water, so drink up. Tea, coffee, bone broth, unsweetened sparkling water.
Generally, those who are strict paleo avoid alcohol. Beer is made from grains so contains gluten and liquor can also have trace amounts of gluten in it as well. But both hard cider and red wine are more accepted in the paleo community.
What To Avoid:
- Grains - oats, rice, quinoa, corn, rye, wheat (gluten)
- Beans & Legumes - beans, lentils, tofu, soy foods, peanuts
- Dairy products
- Refined salt
- Trans fats - sunflower oil, peanut oil, canola oil
- Soda & Fruit Juices
- Refined Sugars
- Refined meats - sausage and bacon, which contain other additives
- Processed foods - chips, crackers, cookies, cereal, anything with refined sugar, refined salt, refined vegetable oils and artificial sweeteners
- Added preservatives and chemicals
- Smoothie- using frozen fruit, kale/spinach adding in a good fat like almond butter or avocado with a paleo protein powder or collagen with an unsweetened nut milk
- Egg scramble- scramble your eggs with some ghee or avocado oil, add some spinach, red pepper or any other veggies
- Make a crust less quiche- eggs, nut milk, veggies and sweet potato’s
- Yogurt Bowl- make your own or find a paleo friendly option and tops with nuts, unsweetened coconut, nut butter and fruit
- Salads- lettuce, veggies, pumpkin seeds and an olive oil and balsamic dressing. My personal favorite is a cucumber tomato Greek salad.
- Lettuce wraps- use leftover meat and add your favorite sandwich toppings like homemade mayo, mustard, pickles, tomato etc
- Soup- make a chili but instead of adding beans add sweet potato’s, carrots, red pepper
- Leftovers- do you have some leftover sweet potato’s and chicken from the night before? Throw it on some lettuce and make a dressing and boom, done.
- Chicken salad- Find some avocado mayo or make your own and add shredded chicken, grapes and nuts
- Apple & almond butter
- Homemade granola bars
- Veggies & salsa
- Homemade banana bread
- Paleo friendly snacks- depending on how strict you need to be or want to be, there are really great packaged snacks. Like these crackers and these chips
- Grilled chicken, salad, roasted butternut squash and veggies
- Big salad like this one, just omit the cheese and add roasted chicken
- Greek bowls- grilled chicken, a yummy sauce, cauliflower rice and grilled veggies makes for a filling and flavorful dinner
- Taco Bowls- use ground turkey and taco spices, add salsa, chopped tomato, cauliflower rice and romaine lettuce
- Turkey burgers with roasted sweet potatoes or Yukon potatoes
Depending where you are on your journey, there are many great dessert options. You do not have to miss out on holiday and family traditions nor do you have to sacrifice taste.
- Chocolate chip cookies
- Cake- I mean we all want to be able to have a birthday cake right? There are many paleo recipes out there, but here is one that is easy and delicious
- Fruit crisp- one of my all-time favorite desserts is crisp. My recipe uses oats, but can easily be subbed for chopped nuts. Otherwise there are so many great options out there
- Apple nachos- Slice up some apples, melt some paleo friendly dark chocolate and add a nut butter
I hope that this has been helpful. Depending on what your body needs, you may need to be strict, or you may not need to be. There have been seasons where I have consumed no added sugar, no paleo packaged snacks. But because I have adapted to a paleo lifestyle I do my best to not restrict myself.
Personally, diets have not worked for me but becoming paleo was one of the best decisions I have made. Since I started paleo approximately 5 years ago, I have been able to tolerate and reintegrate certain foods back into my diet (for example goat and sheep cheeses). No journey is the same, so take the time to understand what your body needs and what is going to help you reach your optimum health.
I truly believe that living a paleo lifestyle is not only going to help your body heal, but you will feel better than before. My goal with H3 is to encourage people on their journey of health, healing and hope. I also desire to provide recipes that not only make you feel better but give you the same nostalgic feeling that your mom’s cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning do. I have learned that being paleo does not mean missing out, it actually means living life healthier and more abundantly.
Lastly, if you are not struggling with health issues or have seen healing, paleo is a great lifestyle for the 80/20 rule. Incorporate some paleo recipes, stay away from high inflammatory foods during the week and enjoy a night out with friends on the weekend. A change in lifestyle will set you up for more success than a diet will.
I hope this was helpful and please let me know if you have any questions!