- Beginner Steps for Starting the Paleo Diet
- Top Foods to Eat
- Top Foods to Avoid
- Paleo Lifestyle Guidelines and Tips
- Adopt a Paleo Lifestyle
- A Beginner’s Guide to Paleo for Anyone Curious About Going Caveman
- The Paleo Diet In 140 Characters
- The Ultimate Guide to the Paleo Diet
- What Is The Paleo Diet?
- What Can I Eat on The Paleo Diet?
- Does The Paleo Diet Work?
- The Most Common Paleo Misconceptions
- How The Paleo Diet Works
- The 2 Best Paleo Diet Video Explanations
- But, Is The Paleo Diet Bad For You?
- Where Can I Find Delicious + Simple Paleo Diet Recipes?
- The Best Paleo Resources On The Internet
- Frequently Asked Questions
- The #1 Paleo App on iTunes
- The Tricky Details of Paleo
- Helpful and Practical Paleo Guides
- Criticisms of the Paleo Diet
- Next Steps
- The Paleo Diet for Beginners
- What is the paleo diet?
- Where did the paleo diet come from?
- What are the benefits of the paleo diet?
- Clean out your kitchen.
- Pinpoint your motivation.
- Follow the 85/15 rule.
- Cook Paleo Recipes
- Expect a setback (or two).
- Become a food label decoder.
- Rethink your plate.
- Make an oil change.
- Eat meat.
- Fool your sweet tooth.
- Eat out with ease.
- More information…
- Paleo 101
- Paleo doesn’t have to be super strict
- Have I convinced you to give Paleo a shot? Good.
- Plus, I’m a food fiend. As a modern cave-foodie, I follow these three basic rules:
- Some final thoughts to keep in mind:
- paleo diet
Beginner Steps for Starting the Paleo Diet
Getting started with the Paleo Diet might seem daunting at first, but the basic premise is fairly simple. The idea of the Paleo Diet is to stick to consuming what Paleolithic humans consumed thousands of years ago in order to improve overall health.1
The diet consists mainly of whole foods and discourages consumption of processed foods and refined sugar. This restriction is especially significant for improving health in today’s society because according to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, around 1,000 calories a day of a person’s diet come from highly processed foods.2
Given the popularity it has gained in recent years, it’s actually easier than ever to stick to the Paleo Diet. Additionally, there are a variety of studies on the Paleo diet that show its positive impact on a variety of health issues including its ability to reduce the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease.3
Additionally, the Paleo Diet not only encourages following a diet similar to that of Paleolithic humans, but it also encourages a complete lifestyle change, including increased exercise and exposure to natural, unpolluted air filled with secondary metabolites.
Top Foods to Eat
Though high-quality meat is an important component of the Paleo Diet, avoid eating excess amounts of meat. You’ll want to consume primarily lean meat including chicken, lamb, beef, and pork. Additionally, opt for grass-fed beef. Otherwise, you’ll be consuming omega-9 fatty acids due to the cattle being fed a diet primarily consisting of grains.4
Look for fatty fish like wild salmon, trout, shrimp, monkfish, lobster, and crab. Additionally, always opt for wild-caught fish, avoiding farm-raised if possible.
Eggs are one of the staples of the Paleo Diet. However, when you’re choosing eggs, stick to free-range eggs. Remember that the Paleo Diet is not just about consuming the same foods as a Paleolithic ancestor but also requires that the food is derived from sources similar to where it would have been derived from in the past.
It’s important to consume a variety of vegetables on the Paleo Diet including, leafy greens, onions, carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, and peppers.
Unlike some other more restrictive diets, you’re encouraged to consume fruit in moderation on the Paleo Diet. If possible, stick to the fruits that contain the lowest concentrations of fructose, also meaning they have a lower glycemic index and won’t spike blood sugar levels as much. Berries will be your best choice for a snack, but you’re also encouraged to consume other fruits like oranges, pears, and apples.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts are nutrient-dense and contain high concentrations of healthy omega 3 fatty acids. However, it’s important to consume nuts in moderation as too many can promote inflammation throughout the body. Some of the best nuts for the Paleo Diet include macadamia nuts, walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts.
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Seeds are another solid source of nutrients. Look to include nutrient-dense options like pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
For cooking foods at high temperatures, you’ll want to stick to oils that have a moderate smoke point like coconut or avocado oil. Other options that you could cook with should be healthy oils like extra virgin olive oil.
Spices and Herbs
You’re also encouraged to use a lot of spices and herbs in the preparation of your Paleo meals like garlic, turmeric, mint, and rosemary.
Top Foods to Avoid
Processed foods are to be avoided on the Paleo Diet, even if they are marketed as “healthy.”
Sugary Drinks and Snacks
This category especially includes sugary drinks and snacks containing high fructose corn syrup, which can lead to an imbalance between omega 9 and omega 3 fatty acids.
Grains and Legumes
This includes every type of grain including pasta, bread, and cereal. For the legumes category, this includes black beans, pinto beans, and lentils.
This is especially true when it comes to low-fat dairy which often contains higher amounts of added sugar to compensate for flavor. If you’re looking to use butter, opt for ghee (clarified butter).
Trans Fat and Vegetable Oils
This might be the most difficult one to avoid when you’re eating out. While it’s easy to avoid foods cooked in vegetable oils at home, it can be much more difficult when you’re unaware of what they’re cooked in at restaurants. If you’re unsure, simply call ahead and ask.
Paleo Lifestyle Guidelines and Tips
Stick To Whole Foods
While this might be inconvenient at first, you’ll eventually appreciate the nutrient density and better taste that whole foods provide. Whether it’s meat, fish, eggs, fruits, or vegetables, you have plenty to choose from on this front.
Shop at Health Foods Stores
As mentioned above, the Paleo Diet has become so popular that you now have options to choose from at health foods stores. A lot of brands and manufacturers are making Paleo snacks and Paleo approved ready-to-eat meals. This has made sticking to the Paleo Diet easier than ever before.
Be Mindful When Eating Out
If you are going to be eating out, try to stick to the Paleo Diet without sacrificing too much of your enjoyment. Luckily, it’s fairly easy to stick to Paleo nowadays, with more restaurants catering to healthier lifestyles.
Don’t Be Overly-Restrictive
While you want to stick to the Paleo diet as much as possible, you don’t want to do it to the point where you are fed up with it because overly-restrictive diets are typically unsustainable.
If you’re someone who needs to have a non-Paleo approved food here and there, you can always follow an 80/20 rule which refers to sticking to the diet 80 percent of the time and venturing off 20 percent of the time.
Find Substitutes and Alternatives
The only way you’re going to be able to maintain the Paleo diet and lifestyle is by finding substitutes for your favorite foods. Luckily, you should be able to find ingredients that offer you the ability to enjoy your favorites without sacrificing much.
For instance, you can enjoy Paleo ice cream by making it with coconut milk or Paleo waffles by substituting almond flour. There is always a substitute or alternative ingredient you can use to enjoy your favorite meals without having to sacrifice your health to do so.
Adopt a Paleo Lifestyle
It’s important to remember that the Paleo movement is not just about changing your diet but adopting a Paleo lifestyle change. Because of this, making the appropriate lifestyle changes can also help you better stick to the diet.
For example, the Paleo lifestyle stresses the importance of regular exercise and increased time spent outdoors exposed to the healthy chemical compounds produced by plants. If you have a busy schedule, and it’s difficult for you to get outdoors sometimes, opt for essential oils.
These oils contain the same beneficial compounds found in plants and can be used topically or aromatically to provide a range of health benefits like boosting energy, relieving stress, and reducing cravings.5,6
For an easy on the go option, try breathing these essential oils through a portable diffuser like Healthy or Active MONQ.
Overall, there are many health benefits associated with going Paleo. To achieve the greatest benefits of doing so, you’ll want to fully embrace the Paleo lifestyle, meaning you should strive to not only consume a diet full of whole foods, but you also want to become more active overall.
Additionally, breathing Paleo Air by getting outside or practicing aromatherapy can support you in your transition to the Paleo Diet, in addition to providing a range of other health benefits.
A Beginner’s Guide to Paleo for Anyone Curious About Going Caveman
So you get the text: Can we go out for burgers (no buns!) tonight instead of pizza? Oh no, is she on this caveman diet everyone’s been raving about too? You don’t know whether to be mad or happy for her, but you can’t help but wonder why the Paleo diet is getting all this hype. You’re intrigued. We don’t blame you. What is Paleo, anyway? Is it for you? Let’s discuss.
WTF Is Paleo?
A Paleo-friendly diet puts the focus on eating real, natural, whole foods that have gone through little or no processing to get on your plate. Simply put: You eat plants and animals. We’re talking meats, fish, eggs, greens, veggies, fruits, and nuts.
Sounds easy, right? Maybe for cavemen it was… because they weren’t tempted by the thousands of packaged foods we have access to. If they couldn’t hunt it or gather it, they didn’t eat it. Today the only hunting we’re doing is for good deals on food we can gather into our grocery carts. In the cart goes bread, cheese, yogurt, rice, candy bars, milk, chips, cereal, etc.
Paleo experts took note of our modern-day behavior and thought, if obesity and disease rates are rising as quickly as processed foods are flying off shelves, maybe we should go back to our roots and eat like our early ancestors did?
A Modern-Day Caveman
Before you grab a spear to go after tonight’s dinner, simmer down. It’s 2017, and grocery stores and farmer’s markets are there to do the work for you. How convenient! (Well, finding parking is a b*tch, but we guess it’s better than fighting a buffalo.)
So your Paleo life can look something like this: Wake up in the morning to scrambled eggs with spinach, chicken sausage, and avocado, and a cup of coffee (yes, coffee is Paleo!) with a splash of almond milk. For lunch it’s all about the spaghetti squash and slow cooker Bolognese you made overnight. And oh, you can’t wait to dig your hands into shrimp stir-fry with cauliflower rice tonight. For dessert, it’s a few pieces of dark chocolate. Sounds good? That’s Paleo for ya. And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of the seriously good food that’s permitted on the plan.
What You Can Eat
- Chicken. Probably already a staple in your diet.
- Fish. BRB. Gone fishing to the fish market.
- Red meat. So many meatballs.
- Pork. Slow cooker Paleo pulled pork FTW.
- Eggs. For breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- Vegetables. As if you thought you couldn’t eat these.
- Fruits. The less sugary ones (berries) are best.
- Nuts. Peanuts aren’t allowed, but go nuts on almonds.
- Natural oils. ‘Cause ya gotta sauté the veg in something.
- Healthy fats. Because avocados.
- Natural sweeteners. Honey and maple syrup? YAS.
Pro tip: Prioritize organic, grass-fed meats and free-range eggs, and opt for wild-caught seafood and organic vegetables… when you can.
- Processed foods. Yes, even the natural, gluten-free, avocado oil-based chips.
- Refined sugar. Good-bye, Snickers. We’ll be making a Paleo version of you soon.
- Refined carbs. RIP Bagel Fridays.
- Legumes. Silver lining: Maybe you’ll have less gas.
- Dairy. But have you tried banana “ice cream”?
- Grains. Not even brown rice.
- Vegetable oils. Easy at home, tough when eating out.
Pro tip: Just like bad breakups, “out of sight, out of mind” works here too. Get these foods out of the house, and it’ll be easier to say good-bye.
What’s Up for Debate
There are tons of Paleo bloggers and experts out there, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned from them, it’s that there’s no such thing as perfect Paleo. Our friend Michelle Tam of Nom Nom Paleo puts it well:
There isn’t just one definitive, monolithic, one-size-fits-all Paleo diet. Some Paleo eaters choose to go super low-carb, while others are happy to munch on a baked potato or a bowl of white rice every now and then. There are Paleo eaters who can’t imagine life without dairy, and more orthodox folks who refuse to touch even a pat of butter with a 10-foot pole.
So, really, there’s no debate. It’s finding the Paleo plan that works best for you. If that means adding a sprinkle of goat cheese to your baked sweet potato every now and then, or going out for ice cream on your birthday, we think that’s OK.
9 (Unofficial) Paleo Commandments
Since there really isn’t a Paleo rule book set in stone (age), we collected guidelines that most experts and bloggers follow. These will help any Paleo newbie understand what to expect when you’re going full (or even halfsie) caveman.
- Eat plenty of whole foods.
We can’t live without sweet potatoes, avocados, and eggs while eating Paleo.
- Eat less processed foods.
Packaged chips, cookies, breads, etc. are a no. While it might seem hard at first, you might find it harder to add them back into your diet once you start feeling better.
- Just because it’s packaged doesn’t make it totally off-limits.
We’re definitely stocking our pantry with these Paleo-approved staples. And when we’re on the road, we’re bringing these travel-friendly snacks.
- Avoid foods that don’t make you feel good.
Even if something is “Paleo approved,” that doesn’t mean you have to eat it. Bolognese recipe calls for red meat but you’re not a “red meat” person? Go for lean turkey instead.
- Find what works for you.
Some Paleo peeps eat rice on occasion (gasp!), while some won’t even say the word “rice” without flinching. Be your own caveman and create a plan that will help you succeed at feeling your best.
- Don’t be too strict.
We like to follow the 80/20 rule: 80 percent of the time we’ll eat Paleo, but 20 percent of the time we’re not saying no to pizza, rice, cookies, or cheese. The leniency makes it easier to stick to the plan the majority of the time.
- Learn to love cooking.
Since you’re eating less processed foods, you’ll be making more homemade meals. Don’t let it stress you out. Find easy recipes (like all of these), and ones you really love, so it becomes a joy, not a nuisance.
- Don’t entirely say good-bye to your favorite junk foods.
Paleo allows you to still enjoy pancakes, chicken tenders, and chocolate… as long as they’re made with Paleo-approved ingredients. Think coconut flour flapjacks, almond-crusted tenders, and three-ingredient chocolate.
- If ya booze, ya don’t necessarily lose.
Unless you and alcohol go together like oil and water, it’s hard completely giving it up. We’re not saying to drink three daiquiris at brunch, but wine, gluten-free beers, and hard ciders are OK on occasion. Even Paleo guru and author of The Paleo Solution Robb Wolf suggests a combo of soda water, lime, and 100 percent agave tequila for all of us lushes.
Why Go Paleo?
To get a six-pack, amirite? Just kidding. While this plan is popular for helping you whittle your waist and bulge your biceps, it’s so much more than a CrossFitter’s dream diet. Anyone who wants to clean up their eating and lifestyle habits can give it a go. Although further research is still needed, a number of smaller trials have suggested benefits in the weight loss and metabolism departments.
Experts from the Paleo Plan suggest the following results are what Paleo-ers most commonly experience:
- Weight loss
- Feeling pleasantly full for longer
- Less sugar cravings
- Clearer skin
- Increase in energy
- Physically more muscular
- Improved digestion
- Reduced inflammation
- Healthier relationship with food
Is Paleo for Everyone?
If you’ve already found a way of eating that makes you feel your best, then you should probably stick to that. If you’re still feeling kinda (or really) crappy on a daily basis, then you may want to give it a try. Going Paleo and taking a break from grains, dairy, and soy might be the stepping stone you need to find out if eating more animal proteins and less processed foods (and the occasional glass of wine; oops we said it) is what your body needs.
Welcome to the Ultimate Paleo Guide. We are the #1 resource on the paleo diet on the internet.
This guide is comprehensive, so if you just want to get the basics of paleo – I’ll show you the best places to start.
If you’re here, you might want to get started with some our reader’s favorite content:
- The only paleo food list you’ll ever need (and the most comprehensive list anywhere on the internet).
- 550+ delicious paleo recipes (so you never run out of ideas)
- Our hugely popular paleo blog (so you can get all the latest recipes + research from our team of coaches and nutritionists.
Now, getting started, the paleo diet is known by a few names including the primal diet, the caveman diet, and the wild diet. But before we get into the deep parts of the diet, I want to explain very simply. In fact, I can do it in 140 characters.
Table of Contents
The Paleo Diet In 140 Characters
Here’s the paleo diet summed up in 140 characters or less.
Paleo improves your health by eating real foods including veggies, meats, fruits, nuts, and seeds – @thepaleoguide
Feel free to use this definition when you explain paleo to your friends and family (or just click the button below to tweet).
If you want to jump into the details, that’s what the rest of this comprehensive guide to paleo is all about – so if you can stick through the rest of the article as I take you step by step on what to do next.
The Ultimate Guide to the Paleo Diet
How does the paleo diet work? Can you trust it and is it safe? Most importantly, how do you get started with the paleo diet?
If you’ve ever wondered those questions – you’re in the right place. We’ve put together a complete guide to the paleo diet here called Paleo 101 – the complete beginner’s guide to the paleo diet.
Now, please note that this comprehensive guide to the paleo diet is just that – comprehensive. It’s pretty long. To make things easier, we’ve created a short index here, so that you can jump to whichever part of the guide you’d like to read.
What Is The Paleo Diet?
What is the paleo diet? Good question!
The paleo diet is a focus on eating natural, real food that is widely available with little or no processing. In other words, the paleo diet focuses on eating the way nature intended us to eat.
Our current diet is relatively recent, as we’ve only been eating this way for about 10,000 years. In contrast, most estimates say that humans have been around for a little over two million years. Now that’s a long time. The paleo diet focuses on eating food the way we ate before the last 10,000 years.
Nowadays, the Standard American Diet (SAD), featuring sugar, refined sugar, and even more sugar, is simply ruining the health of almost anyone who tries to eat according to the food pyramid.
Clearly something is not working. The paleo diet seeks to fix that.
The Popularity of Paleo
Books like The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf and The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson, have caused a surge in the amount of attention paid to the paleo diet and similar diets. These books, and the success experienced by people around the world, are widely regarded as the reasons for the paleo diet’s popularity.
The History of The Paleo Diet
The paleo diet began a long time ago in a cave far, far away. Well, probably in Africa.
The human body has evolved over millions of years. We’ve only been eating grains and other things since the agricultural revolution, which happened about 10,000 years ago.
That might sound like a long time, but it’s really a teeny, tiny amount of time in comparison to how long we’ve actually been roaming this blue marble in space.
As it turns out, our bodies are best suited to eating different foods compared to the foods that we tend to most these days. The copious amounts of sugar and processed foods that permeate our diets just weren’t around when your great-great-great-great-great-great-grand cavefather was running around and throwing spears at saber tooth tigers. They were eating much more natural foods – wild meat, fruits, vegetables and seed – combined with unplanned or intermittent fasts where food was simply scarce.
And, while we’ve been eating processed grains since agriculture got started, our bodies never quite turned away from their caveman roots.
Not only that, but grains don’t like to be eaten. There’s a whole host of dangers associated with grains and with eating them. Grains have been shown to damage your gut lining, hurt your immune system, and cause a bunch of other issues. Put simply, when you eat grains, things get messy.
The paleo diet is a return to eating like we used to, eating mostly fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, eggs, and nuts.
What Can I Eat on The Paleo Diet?
What foods can you eat on the paleo diet? Good question!
Here is a quick run-down of the foods allowed on the paleo diet. These are the ones that our ancestors would have had access to on a regular basis.
- Lean meats – beef, veal, venison, lamb, chicken, bison, etc (try to eat the grass-fed versions of these if at all possible).
- We recommend ButcherBox for the highest quality meat delivered straight to your door.
- Fish – salmon, tilapia, bass, etc.
- Eggs – go for it
- Vegetables – don’t leave these out!
- Some fruit – Berries and the less sugary fruits are best
- Nuts – in moderation (and not peanuts)
- Natural oils – olive, coconut and avocado oils
Basically, if a hunter-gatherer wouldn’t have been able to eat it 10,000 years ago, you shouldn’t eat it either!
That means no Twinkies, Oreos, or your favorite breakfast cereal. Sorry, but we’re not sorry. There are 101 other paleo foods you can eat and they’re pretty tasty.
Remember, if it contains a bunch of chemicals that you can’t pronounce, it’s probably not paleo. Sorry!
You can see a complete list of foods allowed on the paleo diet here. Trust us – eating paleo tastes great!
Are Grains Paleo?
This is simple. No.
For more about grains, read Why Aren’t Grains Paleo?
Is Dairy Paleo?
The quick answer is no. The more complicated answer “it depends.”
There’s no one set rule for the paleo diet, as it’s much more of a framework than a diet. For example, Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple includes whole milk and some fermented dairy products in his primal lifestyle (the primal diet is similar to the paleo diet). However, other strict paleo dieters would exclude milk completely, arguing that early cavemen didn’t have domestic cows hanging around outside their caves.
Wherever on the spectrum you fall, the more processed a food is, the less paleo it is. So whole milk is better than 2% milk which is, in turn, better than skim milk.
whole milk > 2% milk > 1% milk > skim milk
But are yogurt, butter, cheese, and ice cream paleo?
Another good question. With lactose intolerance as widespread as it is, it’s surprising that we continue to eat such high quantities of dairy.
But, as with carbohydrates, dairy comes on a sliding scale. Let’s take a look at it more closely.
Grass-fed butter is widely considered to be paleo. It’s a good source of fat and has a solid omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acid ratio, so including this in your diet occasionally is considered acceptable.
Yogurt is definitely a bit of a grey area. The probiotics in yogurt can help improve digestion and yogurt is a traditional way of extending the shelf life of dairy. The main problem with it is the high sugar content of most modern yogurts.
Simply put, the sugar content in some of these is surprisingly high. (The average Chobani yogurt contains twenty grams of sugar and they’re marketed as healthy!)
Again, the rule is that the more processed a food is, the more you should stay away from it.
Cheese is another form of dairy that’s relatively safe (the fermentation process removes much of the lactose that may bother those with lactose intolerance). That said, you should read more about the problems with dairy before making a call on this one.
Ice cream, however, is still a no-go. Have it as a treat every once in a while if you must, but there is just too much sugar in it for it to be a regular staple in the paleo diet.
And finally, are legumes paleo?
A legume, for the uninitiated, is a pod fruit. Legumes that you’ll be familiar with include the following foods.
It’s important to note that legumes are NOT paleo. For more in-depth knowledge about how legumes fit with the paleo diet, please read What The Hell Is A Legume? and Are Legumes Paleo?
How Do You Know What Is and Isn’t Paleo?
Most of the time it’s clear whether or not something is paleo. Beef is found naturally in the world in the form of cows, so it’s paleo. Ice cream isn’t found naturally in the world and is manufactured by humans, so it’s clearly not paleo.
But sometimes the boundaries between paleo and non-paleo foods are a bit fuzzy.
For example, you might think peanuts are paleo because nuts are paleo but peanuts are actually a legume, which isn’t paleo.
There are a number of ways to work out what is or is not paleo. You can consult our Paleo Diet Food List to see if the food you’re curious about is on there. You could waste loads of time researching it on the internet. Or you could use Paleo.io, the paleo app that tells you whether or not a food is paleo in an instant.
With Paleo.io, you simply type in the name of the food you’re curious about and straightaway the app will tell you whether it’s paleo, primal, or neither. It will also provide you with an explanation, so you’ll understand why that particular food is or isn’t good for you.
The app also contains a paleo diet food list, access to over one hundred delicious paleo recipes, and quick “do eat” and “don’t eat” guides, which serve as handy guidelines for when you’re out and about.
Paleo.io is the easiest way for you to stay paleo whether you’re out shopping and want to know what food to buy or at a restaurant with your friends and not sure what to order. It’s particularly useful at the start of your paleo journey, when you’re still learning the basics of what is and isn’t paleo.
from the app store today to make sure that you never have to guess again, with the power of paleo in your pocket.
The #1 Paleo Reference App on iOS and Android
This Seems Complicated, Just Tell Me What To Eat On Paleo
I totally get it. Just print this out for your use going forward. It’s that easy.
Paleo Foods To Eat
Foods To Stay Away From
- Processed Food
Does The Paleo Diet Work?
If you follow it, yes!
The main reason many people find the paleo diet to be such an effective method for losing fat is that it turns your body from a primarily carb-burning machine into a fat-burning machine.
Here’s how it works (burning carbs vs. burning fat):
Your body’s preferred source of energy is fats. Fat is a slow burning fuel and it’s more efficient for your body to use. However, due to the amount of carbohydrates that we consume on a daily basis in the western world, our bodies burn carbohydrates rather than fat. So, when we take in more carbohydrates than are needed for energy, our bodies store the rest as fat for later “just in case” (this process is left over from when we needed to store fat in case we couldn’t find food for weeks).
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), most people will never really be in danger of “not eating.” We almost never have to resort to using our fat stores for energy, so instead of us eventually burning the fat we’re storing in our bodies, we simply add to it, over and over and over again. This is a pretty good explanation of why there’s such an obesity problem in the United States and abroad.
The paleo diet changes a lot of this by doing one simple thing: removing a lot of the simple carbohydrates from your diet.
When this happens, your body can no longer get away with using cheap carbohydrates for energy, so it’s forced to use the fat stores. That’s good!
Without the constant stream of cheap carbohydrates that your body would normally turn into sugar, your blood sugar drops to a normal level and your insulin levels begin to regulate. Regulated insulin levels allow a process called lipolysis to occur. Lipolysis is the process of your body releasing triglycerides (fat stores) to be burned as energy. That’s a bunch of big words. Basically these words mean that, by reducing the amount of cheap carbohydrates in your system, the paleo diet allows your body to start the process of burning fat. Thanks paleo!
The Most Common Paleo Misconceptions
Good Carbs & Bad Carbs
So, are all carbs bad? No, not all carbs are bad. Some are worse than others and there’s definitely a sliding scale of carbohydrate badness.
It’s easy to make a jump from “eat fewer carbs” to “all carbs are bad for you.” There’s definitely a sliding scale. The chances are that you’ve heard of simple and complex carbohydrates and, while these can be a little tricky to understand, basically, with carbs, you want to be asking how fast your body turns the carbohydrates you’re consuming into sugar. Carbs that are transformed quickly are considered “simple” (you’ll want to avoid these), while carbs that take longer to break down are considered “complex” (you can eat these in moderation).
Simple carbs break down into sugar quicker than complex carbs, triggering a bigger insulin response. When your insulin levels are elevated, your body is prevented from burning fat. This is the main reason you should stay away from simple carbohydrates like white bread and pasta. Eating them is not much better than eating straight sugar!
You can find out more about the Glycemic Index here or you can view the Glycemic Index Food List here.
Isn’t Fat Bad for You?
No. Not in the way that you’ve been told all your life.
Most people think that fat is to be avoided because your body takes it directly from your food and sticks it right onto your thighs, right? Well, that’s not what really happens.
See, your body’s preferred source of energy is actually fat. Yup, you read that right. Fat is a longer lasting and slower burning fuel than carbohydrates. Because of this, when you stop shoving simple carbohydrates and sugar into your mouth day after day, your body resorts to burning body fat for energy – energy that, up until this point, was sitting on your body and jiggling around. It was unused because you were getting way more energy than you needed from simple sugars because you were consuming simple carbohydrates.
For more on this, check out this stellar infographic: Fat doesn’t make you fat – that’s not how it works.
Also, check out the video below to see why you really got fat.
Why You Got Fat (video)
This is a really great short video on how fat works (it just might surprise you).
See, fat is actually much more satiating than carbohydrates (this means it makes you feel fuller). Because you get full faster, it’s actually easier to eat fewer calories on a high-fat diet than it is when you’re on a high-carb diet. You naturally eat less because you simply feel full faster. It might seem strange, but it’s true.
Note: if you’re feeling hungry on the paleo diet, you’ll want to start eating more fat. Coconut oil and avocados are great for this.
How The Paleo Diet Works
The paleo diet works by focusing almost exclusively on real, unprocessed foods that have been around for thousands of years. If it comes in some cute packaging, it’s probably not paleo.
Eating this way eliminates the preservatives, salt, and sugars that are so often added to foods from your diet. So, whether or not you like the name “paleo”, by moving away from eating processed foods towards eating real, whole foods, it’s virtually impossible to not make better eating decisions. In fact, you can throw out the names “paleo”, “primal”, “caveman diet“, or whatever you want to call it, just focus on eating real food, and you’ll start feeling better.
To get started with the paleo diet, peruse our Paleo Diet Food List and meal plans. We’re doing our best to continually add information to these, so they’re comprehensive (and always growing) resources.
We’ve also collected together a couple of our favorite YouTube personalities to weigh in with their thoughts on paleo.
The 2 Best Paleo Diet Video Explanations
Ask Robb Wolf Anything about The Paleo Diet
Robb Wolf is a real paleo diet expert. He’s the founder of RobbWolf.com and author of The Paleo Solution.
The Truth about The Paleo Diet
Elliot Hulse is one of the best fitness personalities on the internet. In this video, he lets loose about the paleo diet (NSFW due to the language he uses, so put in some headphones).
Elliot Hulse on the Paleo Diet
But, Is The Paleo Diet Bad For You?
This was a big, big question. Interestingly, no one ever asks if the pizza and Diet Coke that most people are eat is safe, but whenever you threaten to take away breadsticks, people get all worried.
Essentially, if you focus on eating real food that comes from the ground or that used to moo, you’re going to be fine. Don’t think this is a free pass to eat all of the bacon you want though. Eat lots of vegetables and lots of high-quality lean meats. You shouldn’t chow down on ten hot dogs in a single meal just because you heard that meat is fine on paleo. One of the biggest reasons people see success on paleo is that the focus is on quality – not quantity.
Where Can I Find Delicious + Simple Paleo Diet Recipes?
Some of our favorite paleo diet recipes and cookbooks can be found below.
We also have a comprehensive index of paleo recipes here. If breakfast is your jam, check out five of our favorite paleo breakfast recipes or take a look at our list of over one hundred paleo breakfast recipes. You can also visit our sister site: paleobreakfast.com for some great simple paleo breakfast ideas.
The Best Paleo Cookbooks
If you want a physical copy of awesome paleo recipes or cookbooks – you can check out some awesome paleo cookbooks below.
We also have a comprehensive guide to the very best paleo diet cookbooks out there. You’ll never be short on paleo recipes with us around!
The Best Paleo Resources On The Internet
We have a big site with a ton of information about paleo, but one thing I always get asked is for “more.” Unfortunately, there are some bad resources out there. But, fortunately, there are a ton of great resources on the paleo diet.
We’ve gone through the hundreds of paleo blogs and resources and picked the VERY BEST paleo diet resources. Check them out.
- Robb Wolf – The author of The Paleo Solution, Robb Wolf is one of the most respected people in the paleo movement. His blog is a treasure trove of information.
- Mark Sisson – The godfather of the primal/paleo movement, Mark Sisson posts daily bombs on paleo and primal living, eating, and playing. Good, good stuff.
- Nom Nom Paleo – Michelle has been called “the Martha Stewart of Paleo.” She’s amazing, her recipes are downright delicious, and her photography is on point.
- PaleoDiet.com – PaleoDiet.com provides a wealth of resources. You just have to put up with poor organization and style. It’s not the best looking site on the web, but there’s a ton of info you can pick up from it.
- PaleoBreakfast.com – An index of simple paleo breakfast ideas.
- Paleo Meal Plans – A delicious, simple meal planning service. Check it out for less than $1/day.
- PaleoDiet.org – PaleoDiet.org is a clean guide to paleo resources.
- FITBOMB – This is a handy Q&A on the paleo diet. If that’s what you’re looking for, we have a really comprehensive paleo diet FAQ here.
- PaleOMG – Juli is hilarious and makes a ton of practical paleo recipes.
- Paleo Diet Food List – A clean and simple guide to what to eat and what to avoid on paleo.
- Nerd Fitness – Nerd Fitness is a big fan of the paleo diet. If you’re a nerd and you’re looking to get into shape, check it out.
- Outside Online asks “What the hell is the paleo diet?”
Also, like most things on the internet, you can look up the Wikipedia entry on the paleo diet (so, like our friend Michael Scott says, you know you’re getting the best information when you use Wikipedia).
“Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone in the world can write anything they want, so you know you are getting the best possible information.” – Michael Scott
And we’d be forgetting something if we didn’t mention ourselves, the Ultimate Paleo Guide – the premiere source of paleo diet information on the web. Remember, you can also check out our paleo resources page and our list of paleo diet blogs for a more complete listing of paleo diet resources around the web.
What Do I Eat For Breakfast On Paleo?
- You can fast. Here’s our entire 101 fasting guide.
- Eggs, bacon and coffee (my favorite go-to).
- Other healthy fats (avocados, butter and other tasty fats that are paleo-friendly).
You can also check out our great paleo breakfast sister site – paleobreakfast.com
Frequently Asked Questions
Some of the most frequently asked questions we get asked about paleo (and diet in general) are below:
What is the Healthiest Diet in the World?
There is no “one healthiest diet in the world.” However, recent studies are showing that diets low in sugar and high in fat have helped reverse many modern diseases including heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
Are Bananas Paleo?
Yes, but just be sure to watch the sugar content (especially on overly-ripe bananas). For more details see our comprehensive food list.
Can you have cheese on Paleo?
This is a tricky question – for our in-depth analysis see our dairy post. For more details see our comprehensive food list.
Can you eat oatmeal on Paleo?
No. Oatmeal is a grain and not paleo. For more details see our comprehensive food list.
Can you eat potatoes on Paleo?
Potatoes are a contentious issue in the paleo world. We dive deep on this here. For more details see our comprehensive food list.
Can you eat bacon on Paleo?
Yes. Bacon is paleo. Just make sure you eat high-quality stuff. For more details see our comprehensive food list.
Can you drink coffee on the Paleo Diet?
Yes. But be sure to drink it black. For more details see our comprehensive food list.
Why is Paleo Bad For You?
Like any diet that gets popular on Dr. Oz – people can not see the benefits of the diet if they choose to eat all “paleo snacks” or “paleo desserts” but if you stick to the basics (quality meats, vegetables and fruits), there are no downsides to paleo.
The #1 Paleo App on iTunes
Well, that’s it (or at least we think it is). If you have any questions, feel free to leave them below, check out our paleo diet FAQ, or send us an email.
The Tricky Details of Paleo
It’s easy to get tripped up by the details when you start eating paleo. While most of paleo is simple (see our paleo in 140 characters piece above), some parts of paleo can seem tricky. To better understand these trickier areas, check out the articles below.
- What The Hell Is A Legume?
- Is Dairy Paleo? The Bad, The Better & The Best Options
- Why Aren’t Grains Paleo?
Helpful and Practical Paleo Guides
Once you start to get into paleo, here’s some helpful guides on what to do when it comes to eating out, eating on the road and eating with kids – all while staying on your paleo plan.
- How To Eat Paleo On The Road
- How To Eat Paleo On A Budget
- How To Eat Out While Eating Paleo
- How To Eat Paleo With Kids
- Assess, Don’t Guess: Serving Sizes, Fat loss, And Performance
Criticisms of the Paleo Diet
As with any nutritional guidelines, paleo has it’s fair share of critics.
- US News – These guys rank paleo as one of the “worst” diets. Their categorization is a bit dodgy as Robb Wolf points out here.
- Web MD – This is an interesting look at the paleo diet. Spoiler alert: it likes everything about paleo except the cutting out grains part. *sigh*
- The Daily Mail takes on Celebrity Paleo Chef – Pete Evans
- This study compared every diet. They declared the “winner” simply eating real food (which is what the paleo diet is entirely based on).
- Huffington Post – This article answers the question, “is the paleo diet healthy or a hoax?”
- This article claims that paleo is “half-baked” and cites the book “PaleoFantasy” (Mark Sisson has a good rebuttal here).
- Here’s a study on the growth of the popularity of the paleo diet.
Anytime you read these articles it’s worth assessing where the author is coming from. Many have a bone to pick with paleo or begin all of their arguments stating that paleo believes something it does not. Read these smartly and as always, do what works for you.
No matter where you are in your paleo journey, we’ve got something for you. Here are the next steps you should take to take control of your diet.
If you need:
- To know where to start – Get our (FREE) paleo diet starter kit
- More paleo recipe ideas – Check out our paleo recipes
- A comprehensive breakdown of what to eat and what not to eat on paleo – check out our paleo food list.
- A thirty-day introduction to paleo, delivered by email – Check out our 30 Day Challenge
- Help planning out your weekly meals – Check out our monthly meal planning service
- Simple breakfast recipes that are paleo.
Paleo Meal Plan from Ultimate Meal Plans
If you want to dive into the Paleo diet in the simplest way possible, check out our service – Paleo Meal Plans. Every week, you’ll get a meal plan, recipes, and shopping list sent straight to your inbox. You’ll also receive access to our nutritionist and private Facebook community to provide all of the support and encouragement you may need to make the Paleo transition
Download Your FREE Paleo Starter Kit Today!
- 3-Day Paleo Diet Meal Plan
- Comprehensive Paleo Diet Shopping List
- 5 of Our Favorite Paleo Diet Recipes
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The Paleo Diet for Beginners
Claudia Totir/Getty Images
The paleo diet has been reported to eliminate bloating, clear up acne, eradicate seasonal allergies, free you from migraines, and even help you shed a few pounds. CrossFitters swear by it and celebs like Jessica Biel, Megan Fox, Blake Lively, and Gwyneth Paltrow have followed it. (Before you read on: No, the keto diet and paleo diet are not the same.)
But what exactly is the paleo diet, where did it come from, what are its benefits, what foods are allowed on the plan? Allow experts to explain.
What is the paleo diet?
The basic paleo diet food list calls for skipping grains (both refined and whole), legumes, packaged snacks, dairy, and sugar in favor of vegetables, fruit, meat, seafood, eggs, nuts, seeds, fats, and oils.
All the paleo diet info you need to know can be summed up in 10 commandments:
- Thou shalt not eat processed foods.
- Honor thy egg, nut, and (grass-fed) meat.
- Thou shalt refuse refined sugars and grains.
- Thou shalt give up gluten.
- Remember thy natural sweeteners (raw honey, dates, maple syrup).
- Thou shalt bypass beans and legumes-yes, that means you, peanut butter!
- Thou shalt avoid most alcohols. (Non-colored spirits, like vodka and gin, are best.)
- Honor thy coconut (flour, oil, water, etc.).
- Thou shalt vary thy veggies.
- Thou shalt not sip sugars.
Where did the paleo diet come from?
Only our cave(wo)man ancestors can know for sure when the paleo diet came into existence. The modern hunter-gatherer-inspired plan began in 1985 with a research study in the New England Journal of Medicine, says Loren Cordain, Ph.D., author of The Paleo Diet and professor emeritus at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO, who pioneered research about the eating plan. From there, Cordain and a few other scientists began investigating and writing papers and books on the topic. The paleo diet really picked up steam in 2008 thanks to, well, the internet and the rise of old-school workout programs like CrossFit (and a desire to eat in a similarly classic manner). “It spread like wildfire as people saw positive results and shared them online,” says Cordain. (It’s worth wondering: Did Cavemen Really Eat the Paleo Diet?)
What are the benefits of the paleo diet?
While eliminated bloat, no more acne, and a lack of migraines are certainly not guarantees, cleaning up your diet and focusing on whole, fresh foods is definitely a good idea. “Real foods in the right portions help you feel more satisfied because they help keep blood sugar levels even and your hunger hormones balanced,” says Diane Sanfilippo, a holistic nutritionist and author of Practical Paleo. (Related: Why Paleo Is the Most Popular Diet Choice Among Americans)
About 70 percent of the average American’s diet consists of processed sugars, grains, dairy, and vegetable oils (often hidden in favorite items like bagels, ice cream, and pizza, among other foods), too. And eating a paleo means avoiding those processed foods. “This forces people to shop the perimeter of the grocery store for real, living foods like our ancestors ate. The paleo diet is very sustainability-minded since it’s all about eating what’s naturally available,” explains Cordain.
Of course, the diet has its critics. “All of the foods allowed are nutritious—it’s some of what’s not allowed that worries me,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D., author of The Flexitarian Diet. “I love the focus on eating fruits and vegetables, giving refined sugar the ax, and ditching processed food, but restricting whole grains, potatoes, legumes, and dairy isn’t healthy.”
Clean out your kitchen.
Gather all the “no” foods on the paleo diet food list—grains, cereal, vegetable oils, beans, yogurt, cheese, milk, packaged foods, you get it—and toss them. Doing it all at once has an advantage. “It’s easier to avoid temptation if it’s not there,” says Nell Stephenson, author of Paleoista, Gain Energy, Get Lean and Feel Fabulous with the Diet You Were Born to Eat.
But if you prefer to baby-step your way into the paleo diet, that works too. Perhaps you cut out dairy the first week, eliminate refined grains during week two, skip all grains the next week, and so on until you’re following a paleo diet. Either way, be sure to restock your kitchen with whole foods so you have plenty to work with to design a paleo diet for beginners meal plan.
Pinpoint your motivation.
Many people turn to paleo in an attempt to help with medical issues, such as GI problems, autoimmune conditions, and allergies. (Related: What Going Paleo Did to My Body) Some simply want to feel better day-to-day or believe that it’s the healthiest way to eat. Your reason will help determine the guidelines you follow and what you want to be meticulous about, Sanfilippo says. And be strict about your personal rules for the first 30 days, Stephenson recommends. “This is enough time to start noticing all the health benefits.”
Follow the 85/15 rule.
After the first month, many experts recommend the 85/15 approach, meaning 85 percent of the time you’re strictly paleo, leaving 15 percent for non-paleo stuff, whether that’s a granola bar (you can opt for this paleo granola recipe), a hamburger (bun and all) at a cookout, or cocktails with the girls. Pay attention to how you feel after reintroducing things into your diet, Sanfilippo says. For example, if you have a scoop of ice cream and wake up bloated the next day, you may decide that future discomfort isn’t worth it. (Related: Why the 80/20 Rule Is the Gold Standard of Dietary Balance)
Cook Paleo Recipes
Because the diet is based on whole, fresh foods, it’s easier to whip up paleo recipes at home rather than eat in a restaurant where it’s harder to control what ingredients are used. Take this opportunity to experiment with new foods-maybe even challenge yourself to buy the weirdest-looking vegetable at the farmer’s market and ask the seller for advice on how best to prepare it. You can also search online or invest in some paleo diet cookbooks for recipe inspiration so your meals stay flavorful and aren’t just plain seared chicken breast with plain kale and carrots. (One fun paleo recipe idea? This loaded paleo buddha bowl.)
Expect a setback (or two).
“It’s totally normal to go paleo and slip back into your normal eating habits,” Sanfilippo says. “But don’t feel like a failure. It’s a learning process.” Find like-minded people following the diet through local groups, blogs, forums, and Facebook, and connect with them to help steer you back on track—and keep you there.
Become a food label decoder.
You know to skip doughnuts, cookies, and crackers, but some foods are surprisingly not paleo: peanut butter (it’s a legume); nut butters or dried fruit with added sugars; and soy sauce, malt vinegar, lunch meats, and many marinades and sauces, because they often contain soy, gluten, preservatives, and sugar. (FYI: Coconut aminos make a great paleo-friendly soy sauce swap.) Be sure to read the ingredients list closely when buying anything in a package.
Rethink your plate.
You’ve been taught to reserve half your plate for veggies, a quarter for lean protein, and the remaining quarter for whole grains. When you adopt the paleo diet, stop holding a place for grains: A balanced plate consists of a palm-sized portion of protein, a dollop of fat, and veggies, veggies, veggies (fill the rest of your plate with them). (Related: How Many Carbs Should You Eat In a Day?)
Make an oil change.
Instead of reaching for canola, corn, or soybean oil for sautéing, use coconut oil or lard. Really. These high-quality saturated fats are healthy to cook with because they are more stable and won’t oxidize when heated (oxidation releases damaging free radicals). And when it comes to lard, “animal fats-if from grass-fed cows-pack more omega-3s, as well as a type of fat called conjugated linoleic acid, which some studies suggest may help burn fat,” Sanfilippo says. Some experts also recommend butter from grass-fed cows, but many restrict dairy of any kind. (The choice is yours.) For cold applications, use olive oil, avocado oil, and walnut oil.
“Many people have restricted meat from their diet because they believe it is harmful to their health. You can eat meat—just make sure it’s high quality,” says Cordain. So say goodbye to processed meats such as bologna, salami, and hot dogs. Wild meats like bison, elk, and boar are the ideal choice, followed by pasture-fed meats and poultry, and lean grain-fed meat should be your last pick. For seafood, opt for wild-caught as often as possible. Sustainable, low-mercury choices are best. (Related: Easy Paleo Appetizers and Snacks for a Perfect Party)
Fool your sweet tooth.
Giving up sugar is a major hurdle during the paleo diet for beginners. If you love to have a treat after dinner, swap the cookies or fro-yo for a piece of fresh fruit. (For major sugar cravings, Sanfilippo says a paleo secret is a little bit of dried mango.) With time, your taste buds will adjust-and that Oreo you loved so much before might become too sweet now, Sanfilippo adds. Seriously!
Eat out with ease.
A business dinner or brunch with your best friend is still doable on the paleo diet. All it takes is a little ingredient sleuthing, Stephenson says. First, look at the menu ahead of time and pick one or two options that you can paleo-ize. That might be wild salmon with broccoli. (Request double the veggies in place of the rice pilaf.) At the restaurant, don’t be shy to ask questions about how things are prepared and request changes, if necessary.
- By By Jessica Girdwain and Karla Walsh
Avoid some of the pitfalls and stay on course by getting started on the right foot. Here you’ll find all you need to know about the Paleo Diet, and the best way to start making healthy and positive changes with a new way of life.
Getting a Handle on “The Paleo Diet”
It can be hard to enter into the world of Paleo, with so many different blogs, books, recipes, and interpretations of what Paleo even means. It’s important to develop your own understanding of what it means to you, and how you’re going to approach it.
What it is…
The Paleo diet is a way of getting back to our ancestral roots, before we started farming and agriculture and stopped hunting and gathering to survive. It attempts to emulate what we think our Paleolithic ancestors would have eaten, focusing on fresh, organic produce, lean, healthy meats, and nuts and seeds for healthy fat.
What it isn’t…
It isn’t a typical diet where you’re counting calories, carbs, or grams of fat. The reason it works is not because of these arbitrary numbers but because you’re cutting out a ton of bad things for you body, and replacing it with healthier options.
QUICK START – Want to start on the Paleo diet right now, without the hassle? to get the Paleo Grubs Book with over 470 easy-to-prepare Paleo meals, snacks, drinks and desserts, including a free 10 Week Meal Plan.
Foods You Should Eat – Here’s a list to get you started eating the foods that are “Paleo Approved”. Knowing these off the top of your head is essential for Paleo success.
Foods You Should Avoid – Avoiding the wrong foods is just as important as eating the right foods, so get familiar with what you want to refrain from while on Paleo.
Benefits of Paleo – Knowing why you’re doing Paleo creates a higher likelihood of sticking with it, so review the benefits so you know what sort of changes will be taking place.
Paleo vs. Primal – Once you start searching for Paleo info you’ll see a lot of Primal references. Here’s the difference between the two so you don’t get confused.
Deciding What Sort of Paleo Follower You’ll Be
Strict Follower – These Paleo followers go by the book and say that if Paleolithic man wouldn’t have eaten it, neither should modern humans. They will not allow grains of any kind, refined sugar of any kind, anything dairy, will seek out grass-fed meats and organic fruits and vegetables, eat wild game, and try to follow the protocol to the letter.
Loose Follower – Other Paleo followers take a more lax approach, and realize that in our modern world it’s not practical to eat exactly like a caveman, and they take some modern comforts into their Paleo approach. They might have some dairy now and then, or be content with pseudograins, or even have a non-Paleo meal once in awhile.
And of course there are a ton of Paleo followers that fall somewhere between being strict and loose, making up the majority of those that say they’re doing Paleo. No matter which way you decide to go, the Paleo diet will work for you because even if you only follow its basic tenets you’ll be eating much healthier food and cutting out a ton of the junk that surrounds you on a daily basis.
Mimic the Caveman Lifestyle – Here are 11 different ways you can be more like a caveman and enjoy the same athletic and fit physique. This covers everything from what to eat and drink as well as lifestyle changes you’ll want to make to be your healthiest version possible.
What to Expect While Doing Paleo
The First Month – The first month on Paleo can be the hardest, especially for those that have eaten a diet much different than the Paleo diet entails. Getting rid of sugar can be hard for those that have eaten a diet laden with the sweet stuff, and getting rid of bread and other grain-based foods can also be tough.
Beyond – After you get through that first month it’s smooth sailing for most. The diet kicks in, you start shedding pounds until you reach your naturally healthy weight, you have more energy than you thought you could have, you don’t struggle with food cravings before a meal or food comas after a meal. This is where the magic happens and where all of the Paleo believers out there got that belief. Make it your goal to get to the second month of Paleo and beyond so you can see the best results from your efforts.
Paleo Shopping List – Go to the grocery store prepared and you’ll come out with the things you need, while deftly avoiding the things you don’t. We’ve got it broken down by sections so you can get in, get out, and get on with your Paleo life.
114 Quick Tips for Paleo Dieters – Eventually you’ll run into trouble on Paleo, but with these tips you’ll be able to overcome just about anything, and keep on the track of success.
Paleo Diet Food Substitutions – No matter how long you’ve been doing Paleo you’ll still ask yourself “What can I use instead of…” Here’s a page full of different Paleo no-nos and what you should be using instead to stay on the healthy side of life.
Develop Your Paleo “Toolkit”
When first starting off you may feel inundated with all of the information that’s available. One trick is to set up a bookmarks folder on your browser labeled “Paleo” and start bookmarking your favorite recipes, blogs, and other resources so that they’re just a click away whenever you have a question or are in need of a recipe. It’s what I did when first starting out, and now I have a really helpful folder that I use daily to find new and exciting things about Paleo.
Paleo Diet Recipes – See everything Paleo Grubs has to offer with our handy visual recipe guide showcasing our favorite recipes and recipe collections for your browsing pleasure.
Ultimate Paleo Diet FAQ – This is an exhaustive list of frequently asked questions about the Paleo diet that can be a valuable asset to have when you need to know if a food is Paleo or not, and anything else under the sun.
100 Best Paleo Recipes – No matter which meal you’re trying to make, breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you’ll find an assortment recipes we’ve discovered. A great page to return to again and again for a new awesome recipe.
Don’t Miss the Good Stuff!
It can be hard to keep up with all of the amazing recipes and info we publish each week, which is why we make it super easy to never miss the best of what we offer with our Paleo Grubs Newsletter. We don’t waste your time, and keep it short, sweet, and to the point so you can get a debriefing and see if there’s anything that catches your eye.
Becoming a Paleo Blogger
Even if you’re just starting out with Paleo you can try your hand at Paleo blogging. You’re not the only one that’s starting from scratch, and other newbies would find your posts on going Paleo very informative. You could blog about making the switch from the Standard American Diet to the Paleo diet, the struggles you went through, and how you learned to cook your own Paleo meals. There’s a 3-step process outlined for you at our How to Start a Paleo Blog page. This is a way to make the Paleo diet a truly life changing event.
Hungry for More?
If you’re hungry to get started but still don’t know exactly where to go from here, try our 2-Week Paleo Meal Plan which has a full 14 days of menu-planning already done for you. All you have to do is plug into the system and before you know it you’ll be through the first two weeks of your new Paleo lifestyle. Includes breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, plus snacks and desserts!
Please note, if you are considering attempting any form of diet please consult your GP first to ensure you can do so without risk to health.
Weight loss and good health can be achieved by following a healthy, balanced diet. Our nutritionist approved plan helps you find your perfect portion size, guideline daily amounts and nutritionally balanced breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks:
A balanced diet for women
A balanced diet for men
Want facts and information on other diets? Read more from our health editor and nutritional therapist on other popular weight loss plans:
The Atkins diet
The Dukan diet
The 5:2 diet
This article was last reviewed on 8 July 2019 by Kerry Torrens.
A nutritionist (MBANT) Kerry Torrens is a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food magazine. Kerry is a member of the The Royal Society of Medicine, Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT).
All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.
Have you wondered what’s paleo? Looking for a Paleo 101 that will answer all your questions about the paleo diet? I’ve got you covered here!
In a nutshell, the Paleo approach to eating is based on the notion that for optimal health, modern humans should go back to eating real, whole unprocessed foods that are more healthful than harmful to our bodies. Here—in comic form—is my condensed “elevator pitch” explanation of the Paleo diet (from my cookbook, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans):
From Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2013)
Paleo is an ancestral approach that prioritizes eating real, whole, nutrient-dense foods. At its core, Paleo is about trying to eat real, naturally occurring ingredients that are healthful rather than harmful. Biologically, our bodies respond best to real, whole, nutrient-dense foods like plants, meat, and seafood—all of them packed with the nutrients our bodies evolved to thrive on. It was only after industrialized food production and lab-engineered edibles took over our diets that the ”diseases of civilization“ exploded. Today, wheat, soy, sugar, and highly processed foods continue to drive up rates of autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, and obesity. But by getting back to eating real food, we can stay healthier and happier.
Paleo doesn’t have to be super strict
I know that a lot of people still call this the “caveman diet,” but Paleo isn’t about slavishly and mindlessly replicating the actual diets of Paleolithic humans. Okay, a few Paleo die-hards may approach their diets this way, but that’s not the way I eat at all. In fact, there isn’t just one definitive, monolithic, one-size-fits-all “Paleo diet.” Some Paleo eaters choose to go super-low-carb, while others of us (me included!) are happy to munch on a baked potato or a bowl of white rice every now and then. There are Paleo eaters who can’t imagine life without dairy, and more orthodox folks who refuse to touch even a pat of butter with a ten-foot pole. The Paleo tent is big enough to fit a host of different approaches, but the core tenets of ancestral eating remain the same:
Prioritize whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense, nourishing foods
Avoid foods that are likely to be more harmful than healthful
Especially when regularly and heavily consumed, foods like grains, dairy, soy, sugar, and processed seed and vegetable oils can trigger inflammation, cause digestive problems, or derail our natural metabolic processes.
Physicians, biochemists, nutritionists, and other researchers are starting to come around to the benefits of ancestral nutrition, and people who adopt a Paleo-like approach to eating are reporting significant improvements in their general health, body composition, and energy levels. Most importantly, there’s evidence that folks who eat this way are reducing their risks of numerous diseases and disorders that are associated with the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.).
I know what you’re thinking: how can this be healthy? Many folks seem to think that eating according to a Paleo diet means going super-duper low-carb and consuming gobs and gobs of meat and animal fat. But for me, Paleo looks more like this:
Yes, high-quality proteins and fats are part of the equation, but so are lots of vegetables and even (gasp!) carbohydrates. It’s not like I dumped all the grains (which, let’s face it, aren’t naturally nutrient-rich) and processed junk off my plate and replaced it with bacon. Instead, I substituted with more vegetables and some fruit—and I replaced the low-quality, CAFO-raised, steroid-injected meat I used to eat with grass-fed and pastured proteins and sustainable seafood.
Have I convinced you to give Paleo a shot? Good.
My blog, cookbooks, cooking app, and podcast, are intended to help you translate the “rules of the road” into delicious, easy-to-prepare meals for you and your family. Here, you’ll see the way I eat on an everyday basis, and my recipes, too. In case you’re wondering, I cook entirely gluten- and soy-free, and steer clear of legumes and refined vegetable and seed oils.
For the most part, my eats are “clean.” For me, that means generally following the rules of the Whole30®. The Whole30 is a nutritional reset that gets you back to a clean dietary slate: Eliminate all grains, legumes, dairy, sugar, and chemically processed vegetable and seed oils from your diet for a month. Once a baseline of health is established, slowly reintroduce some of these foods (like dairy, white rice, and dark chocolate—not hyper-processed junk foods!) one at a time to see where you sit on the spectrum of food tolerance. We all share the goal of finding a lifelong template for optimal nutrition and health, but you just might find that your template allows for a wider range of foods than mine.
Certainly, if you’re on a weight-loss journey, suffering from an immunological disorder, or committing to a 30-day dietary reset (like the Whole30), a super-strict, orthodox approach to Paleo may be the perfect starting point for you. I’ve done a couple of these Paleo re-sets myself.
However, as I already mentioned, the Paleo template simply gives us a starting point from which to decide how to feed ourselves in the modern world. I make my own choices by weighing the health consequences of the foods I eat—and I also consider the gustatory pleasure of the experiences, too. Over the past few years, my attitude toward food has evolved. When I first adopted a Paleo lifestyle, I strictly followed the rigid dictates of the Paleo diet because this new way of eating made me feel so much better. I didn’t even think to question why it worked. But with time, I’ve learned that it’s more important to stay curious about the science behind the approach, and to be fully conscious of my food choices. I learned that I don’t need to strive for “Paleo perfection” as long as I’m mindful of what I’m choosing to put into my mouth, and why.
Plus, I’m a food fiend. As a modern cave-foodie, I follow these three basic rules:
1. Follow the Paleo roadmap as closely as possible.
Yes, there may be an occasional detour, and every now and then, some gastronomic off-roading can be fun and well worth the indulgence. But we need to keep moving in the right direction, which means avoiding dietary potholes like gluten, soy, added sugar, processed junk, and other inflammatory and gut-wrecking foods as much as possible.
2. Simple and quick does the trick.
Cooking becomes an overwhelming chore when we get too wrapped up in complicated, time-consuming recipes. To be practical and sustainable, ancestral nutrition has to be easy. As a working mom, I’m always on the lookout for shortcuts in the kitchen, and often rely on modern conveniences that cavemen never enjoyed, like pressure cookers, slow cookers, and food processors. (I also appreciate indoor plumbing, for what it’s worth.)
3. Last but not least: It better be crazy-delicious.
Too many folks think the Paleo approach to eating is about deprivation, and that all we eat is ground beef with a side of steamed broccoli. “I can’t go Paleo – there’ll be nothing I can eat,” skeptics say. But what they mean is that they can’t conceive of Paleo food being anywhere near as scrumptious as their weekly meals at the local greasy spoon, or as satisfying as the crinkly bag of half-eaten fluorescent cheese poofs on the floor of their car. To get people to maintain a Paleo lifestyle, it’s important to show how the food that fuels them can be healthy and insanely good.
Some final thoughts to keep in mind:
Paleo is not a weight loss cure-all.
If years of unhealthy eating have wrecked your metabolism and you’re carrying around extra body fat, switching to a Paleo diet will certainly help your body composition and overall health. But the point of eating Paleo is not to shed as many pounds as possible so that you can fit into the jeans you wore in high school. This nutritional approach is about optimizing your health and wellness – not transforming you into a waiflike size zero runway model with that special heroin-chic je ne sais quoi.
Stick with it for at least 30 days.
For many people, switching over to Paleo isn’t easy. Due to the sudden drop-off in dietary carbohydrates, folks who are used to mainlining pasta and sugar often report that they feel terrible for the first couple of weeks after going Paleo. (Some call this the “Paleo flu.”) But if you can make it through this initial period of sluggishness (which can last two or three weeks), you’ll come through the other end feeling like a million bucks. Trust me. I’ve been there.
Eat like a champ.
Don’t be afraid to try new recipes or experience new foods—including healthy dietary fats, fermented foods, and naturally umami-rich ingredients. The Paleo diet may feel restrictive at first, but if you have an open mind and adventurous palate, you’ll soon find that this way of eating offers infinite variety, flavors, and nourishment.
For any life change to truly take hold, it has to be enjoyable. I hope the recipes on Nom Nom Paleo will engage your palate and provide you with inspiration to make this way of eating as fun for you and your loved ones as it is for me and mine.
Looking for recipe ideas? Head on over to my Recipe Index. You’ll also find exclusive recipes on my iPhone and iPad app, and in my cookbooks, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2013) and Ready or Not! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2017)!
Dr. Jill Carnahan
Paleo diet is a shortened version of Paleolithic diet, and is also called the caveman diet or the stone-age diet. According to the paleo diet movement, Paleolithic humans—who lived in what we commonly call the Stone Age, a period roughly 2.5 million years ago up to about 10,000 b.c.—were healthier because they ate foods they evolved to eat, whereas modern humans eat foods their systems are not adapted to (e.g., sugary, processed foods).
The concept of consuming a diet based on what Paleolithic humans ate was first promoted by Walter L. Voegtlin in his 1975 book The Stone Age Diet. He suggested that there’d been little genetic change in human digestion since the Paleolithic era and yet large changes in human diet, much to the detriment of human health.
The man responsible for the more recent popularity of the paleo diet, however, is Loren Cordain. His 2002 book The Paleo Diet popularized the diet’s most common name and helped it become the nutritional phenomenon it is today. The thesis of the book was, again, that our digestive systems have changed very little since the stone age, and so we should eat like our ancestors ate if we want to be healthy.
Generally, the paleo diet emphasizes eating lean meats, lots of fruits and vegetables, and healthy, low saturated fats (e.g., nuts, avocado, oil olive). It avoids dairy, grains, starches, legumes, processed foods and sugars, and alcohol. The diet trended especially between 2012-14.