This blog post is for anyone who is iffy on what the paleo diet is, but it’s also definitely for my family who seems really confused by what I eat and why I eat the way I do. The paleo diet is becoming more popular and a lot of people have heard about it but there are definitely some misconceptions about it going around. Firstly, paleo isn’t actually a diet, it’s a lifestyle. It’s not meant to be a temporary fix, it’s a way of eating that heals and nourishes your body. There are definitely other mind/body aspects of the paleo lifestyle but in this post I will be doing a quick overview of the diet portion. The paleo diet is also known as the “caveman” diet, because the idea is that we eat the same things as our ancestors did (before factory farming and processing of foods)- basically eating the optimum diet for our bodies to function properly. When people hear “caveman” they tend to picture Fred Flintstone with a giant dinosaur steak or mammoth rack of ribs. Yes, meat is a part of the diet and everyone who follows paleo does it a bit differently, but that doesn’t mean I just eat meat all day. Actually, the other day I ate totally raw vegan and I didn’t stray from paleo at all.
The basic, important facets of the paleo diet:
- eliminate processed foods- this includes refined seed oils and processed sugar
- eliminate grains and legumes- basically no gluten, no grains, no corn, no soy, no beans (white rice is a gray area, some paleos, like myself, eat it)
- try to eat all or mostly grassfed, pastured, and wild meat, diary, and seafood (dairy is also a gray area)
- try to eat organic and local produce as much as possible – you can avoid a lot of toxins buying the organic versions of the produce on the dirty dozen list
So what do you eat on the paleo diet?
Basically real, whole foods. All kinds of meat, fish, eggs, dairy (if you tolerate it), fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, healthy fats and oils. It might seem like a short list to some but there are so many fruits and vegetables out there to try! As far as healthy fats go, ditch the margarine and canola oil and use real grassfed butter, olive oil, coconut oil, fat from healthy animals, and avocado oil – to name a few. Find and eat what works for you!
If your goal is lose weight then eat starchy vegetables such as potato, sweet potato, yucca, and squash as well as sugary fruits in moderation. But paleo is about the quality of food, not the quantity of calories! I don’t count calories, I just serve myself a reasonable portion, eat till I’m satiated (not full). If I’ve finished everything on my plate and I’m still hungry I just eat more. I’ve lost about 12 lbs in the past couple of months without doing any exercise (only because I was feeling really crummy at the time- you should exercise!).
A huge part of the paleo diet is eating for health, paleo is not the same for everyone because everyone is different. Part of the paleo journey is discovering what works for you, what helps your digestion, what heals you, and what might not be such a good food to eat all the time. Your gut is an integral part of your body, so much of your health is related to your gut health. So finding foods that are good for YOUR gut, will help you in many ways.
Why do I choose to eat paleo?
To me it just seems like common sense to eat foods as they are, without processing. A lot of mainstream foods today either contain ingredients that your body just doesn’t recognize and can’t process or contain ingredients that become poison when your body does try to process it *cough* artificial sweeteners *cough*. Also, trans fats are the devil – trust me, I got an A in biochemistry. Trans fats were created in a lab, your body cannot process them. Fun fact about trans fats, if there is less than 0.5 g of trans fat per serving, a food is labeled as having 0g trans fats… but if you eat more than one serving those trans fats start to add up…
Sure, sometimes I crave cupcakes and baguettes but I stick to paleo because the difference between how I felt before being paleo and now is huge. My energy levels, my digestion, my sleep quality, my ability to focus, my mood, my anxiety, my weight – so much has vastly improved. And it might be my imagination, but I’m pretty sure in the span of only a few weeks of strict paleo, my cellulite has visibly reduced. Yay! Eating mostly paleo, as I have been doing for several months now, is great but I noticed even better results eating a more strict paleo diet the past month or so. I’m pretty sure now that my stomach issues were mostly caused by the diet that the doctors suggested after I first got sick- crackers, toast, plain pasta, ginger ale, and gatorade. Gluten and sugar galore. I had not eaten like that in a very long time but with the doctor’s permission I went a little overboard and my stomach issues got really bad. Now that I’m strict paleo, I’ve been healing, and I feel so much better. I actually probably feel a lot better than I have most of life. (I might have a gluten free cupcake on my birthday but I accept it will make me feel crappy and it’s a special, very infrequent treat.)
Another reason why I choose to eat this way is for the welfare of animals, farmers, and the environment. I choose not to support factory farms as much as possible because of the terrible practices they employ. I think we’ve all seen the traumatizing PETA photos and trust me it’s actually a lot worse than that. I was vegetarian and vegan for a long time until I realized that there are places to get meat where they don’t abuse animals or pump them full of hormones and antibiotics. I get my meat from a local farm; I signed up for a meat CSA which allows me to buy grassfed and pastured beef, pork, and chicken in bulk so I pay a much lower price than if I was buying all my meat at Whole Foods. As far as the welfare of farmers and workers go, they’re not that much better off than the animals, as they are working in these toxic environments and are the ones distributing the antibiotics. You can find plenty of literature on the terrible consequences this has on their health. Even agricultural farm workers suffer. The amount of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides used on conventional produce is staggering. These chemicals go into the soil- soil that is overworked and depleted of nutrients. So anything that grows in that soil is a sad shadow of what that fruit or vegetable is actually supposed to be. If the soil is depleted of nutrients then whatever grows in it is as well. It’s not sustainable. We’re soon going to run out of food if industrial farming continues this way. And don’t even get me started on carbon emissions and toxic runoff waste. I realize that it requires a little more work, time and money to eat pastured meat and organic produce but I really feel that it’s worth it to at least try. Support farms that are helping the environment rather than destroying it!
If you are considering doing paleo, there are many 30 day kick-off programs to follow. For example, Whole 30. There’s a whole paleo community out there who are more than happy to help. Instagram is full of passionate paleos! Hehe follow me at @adventures_eating. Feel free to ask me questions! I will also be going more in depth into the hows and whys of paleo in future blog posts.
Thanks for reading!
Awesome links to learn more:
NomNomPaleo – Paleo 101 (I love the cartoon!)