Curious about the Paleo Diet lifestyle? Not sure exactly what that means? Check out the Nutrition page for some great resources.
The Paleo Diet is based on some very simple principles: eat natural, unprocessed food that is high in fat, moderate in animal-based protein and low in carbohydrates. In general, research shows you’ll function better by avoiding sugar, soy products, dairy, legumes and grains (including gluten and wheat).
Not sure where to get started? Check out the 5 tips below to kickstarting your Paleo Diet journey.
1. Clean house
It all starts in the kitchen. Get committed and stay committed by cleaning out your pantry and fridge of all things processed. If a product has a laundry list of “ingredients,” it’s not actually food! Be especially wary of trans fats (vegetable, canola, corn and partially hydrogenated oils, margarines), artificial sweeteners, artificial colorings and products that boast bogus claims like, “low net carbs” or “no sugar added.” In truth, the best kind of food is food that has no label at all.
2. Shop wisely
Now that you’ve emptied your cabinets, it’s time to fill them with real food. Do a little research; do you have any farmer’s markets nearby? What about a natural foods store like Trader Joe’s, Jimbo’s or Whole Foods? These will be your best options for finding the kind of real food you’re after. If you’re not within reasonable distance of a natural food store make sure you stick to the perimeter of your local grocery store—the center aisles stocked with canned goods and sugary cereals are to be avoided at all costs.
Fill your cart with lean, grass-fed, free-range, organic animal protein sources (including, but not limited to: beef, chicken, turkey, pork, fish and eggs), tons of fresh and frozen organic vegetables (like broccoli, spinach, kale, zucchini and squash, brussel sprouts, asparagus, cauliflower, onions, bell peppers and mushrooms), and sources of good fat (avocados, nuts, olive and coconut oil and grass-fed butter). You’ll want to limit your consumption of fruit because of its high sugar content.
For a more complete list of recommended foods, check out the Paleo Diet Food List.
Find a schedule that works for you! I like to make a trip to the local Farmer’s Market on the weekend (for all kinds of fresh vegetables), and swing by a Trader Joe’s once every 1-2 weeks to stock up on protein.
3. Plan in advance
We’re all human. When hunger hits, we’re much more likely to reach for the first thing available–even when it’s not the best option. Planning in advance is crucial to success with the Paleo diet. After I make my farmer’s market run, I take an hour or two on a weekend day to plan out and cook my meals for the week. This usually involves chopping up plenty of fresh veggies to roast in the oven, hard boiling a dozen eggs and prepping meats for quick dinners.
4. Set goals, stick with it
This should be the easy part. Set some goals—what motivated you to give the Paleo Diet a try? Are you looking to shed some weight? Have more energy? Improve performance in workouts? All of the above? Write these goals down and post them somewhere prominent and visible.
It’s likely you’ll experience a detox period (with withdrawal symptoms and energy loss) in your first 2-3 weeks following the switch to the Paleo Diet. It’s simple science: your body has utilized sugars and starches for energy until now and you’ve just removed that primary source.
The transition period is your body moving form burning sugar/starch to burning nature’s most efficient energy source: fat. Recording and remembering your goals will help keep you focused, strong and committed during the weak moments.
After the detox, your energy will return and stay consistent throughout the day. You won’t feel as hungry as you used to and you’ll start to crave real, nutrient-dense food to fuel your body.
5. Know yourself
I recommend keeping a food journal for the first few weeks of this transition. It’s the easiest way to spot underlying trends in your eating patterns. Do you tend to make poor choices when you’re stressed? At work? Out to eat with friends? When you’re happy? Sad? Immediately after a tough workout? Identify those periods when you know your resolve is low and plan in advance.
Keep a few items in the house that will satisfy that craving to “cheat.” For me, my cure-all is almond butter. A scoop of almond butter and a piece of dark chocolate always does the trick. Know yourself—what is the best option for you?