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 health. 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, which also means they'll 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. Some of the best nuts for the Paleo Diet include macadamia nuts, walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts.
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
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 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 LifestyleIt’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—or terpenes. 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 or relieving stress. 5 ,
Final ThoughtsOverall, 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.