The “Paleolithic” or “Paleo” diet (also sometimes referred to as the “Caveman Diet”) is based on the idea that our bodies are better adapted to what our human ancestors ate during the Paleolithic era. While we don’t have the predators, caves, and short lifespan of the caveman to contend with, the reality is that many of the foods we consume today aren’t very healthy for us. For some, a return to eating like cavemen is a way of restoring a balance. When done well, the paleo diet involves a change in lifestyle that can help you lose weight and become more active.
Learn about the paleo diet
There are a number of interpretations of the diet, with many small differences between them. They do agree, however, on the diet’s main tenets:
- Eating natural foods like meat, fresh fruits, and vegetables.
- Cutting out grains and starchy legumes, like potatoes and peanuts, as humans only began consuming these in earnest following the advent of agriculture.
- Getting rid of processed foods with chemical additives.
- get book like Paleo Grubs, Paleo Cookbook, or search book for Paleo diet.
Think about why you are adopting the paleo diet
Supporters of the paleo diet believe that by recreating the way humans ate during the Stone Age, they can recreate a healthy lifestyle. Following the paleo diet can help you lose weight, control blood pressure, and manage your appetite. If you have different dietary concerns, the paleo diet may not be for you.
A change in lifestyle, even something as simple as your diet, can mean a major shift in your personal life. Knowing what you want to accomplish can help keep you motivated and on track.
Prepare your kitchen
As you will be having more meats and vegetables, you’ll need somewhere suitable to store them. Make sure you have ample freezer space for meat, and a refrigerator to keep fresh vegetables cool.
- Cooking paleo meals does not require specialized equipment, so you should not need to purchase additional pots, pans, or appliances beyond what you already own.
Gather your basic ingredients
Within the limits of what you are able to consume as part of the paleo diet, you can make a range of different meals. The ingredients that are permitted as part of the paleo diet will vary slightly depending on which source you’re following, but the following can provide a general guide:
- Meats. These can be red meat, pork, poultry, venison, or any other kind of meat. Meat for a paleo diet should be grass-fed, not corn-fed. That better re-creates the conditions cavemen would have found their food, and avoids the sugars found in the animal feed. This distinction is more important than the particular type of meat you choose.
- Fish and other seafood. These contain healthy Omega 3 oils. Fish for the paleo diet should be wild, and not farm-raised.
- Vegetables, especially leafy green ones. Vegetables provide most of the fiber and carbohydrates that you will get on the paleo diet, so you should be generous.
- Fruits, which provide the natural sugars your body needs. These should be fresh, not dried, fruits. Most fruits that fit with the ethos of the paleo diet (that is, eaten by cavemen), contain much less sugar than most fruits available today. If you are diabetic, or have other restrictions on sugar intake, it may be better to avoid sweeter fruits like grapes, bananas, mangos, sweet cherries, apples, pineapples, pears and kiwi fruit, especially at first.
- Nuts and seeds. Remember that peanuts and cashews are not nuts, so instead focus on actual nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, and walnuts. Unsalted pumpkin or sunflower seeds are also good. These make good snacks, but are also high in sugars. Make sure you avoid salted and processed nuts.
- Oils. These should be natural, not processed oils such as olive, walnut, flaxseed, macadamia, avocado, and coconut. They are great for marinating meat, or providing a base for frying meats and vegetables.
- Grass-fed dairy. You should avoid processed dairy products like low fat or skim milk. Look for whole milk, or cheese and butter made from grass-fed animals. Unprocessed yogurt is also a good source of dairy, but avoid processed yogurt. Some paleo practitioners don’t consider dairy properly paleo, but it can be consistent with the diet as long as you stick to whole fat and unprocessed dairy products.
Control your intake
The paleo diet does not require you to eat meals on a set schedule. Instead, you eat when you are hungry. You certainly can eat three regular meals a day. If you are not hungry, though, you do not need to eat simply because it is time for a meal.
- Some paleo followers like to fast for extended periods between meals to better simulate the irregular eating schedule Stone Age humans would have followed. This is certainly not a necessary part of the diet, and being paleo does not have to mean fasting. The most important thing is eating the proper foods.
Start a paleo recipe collection
When you first start out, it’s likely you’ll still be able to use some of your cookbooks for basics such as salads and roasting. However, you’ll be confronted fairly quickly by all the elements you can’t use, such as salt and processed items. Expand your repertoire of caveman recipes and explore the many possibilities by building on the basics.
- Go through your existing cookbooks and adapt the recipes. You might like to compile a single book in a folder or in digital form to make it easier to refer to daily.
- Search online for caveman food websites and blogs. There are also books available for purchase about the caveman diet – take a visit to your local bookstore.
Don’t be completely tied to the scheduled diet
Cutting out grains and processed foods can be very difficult in the modern world, especially at first. Eating a slice of bread will not ruin your diet, and doesn’t make you a failure. That being said, if you are not seeing results, you may want to reevaluate your diet and see if you are cheating a bit too much.
- Some paleo dieters set aside a day during the week to eat whatever they want. This can help create better discipline.
- If you’re going to add a cheat food as a treat use something filling and nutritious such as a teaspoon of peanut butter on a banana, rather than grabbing a handful of cookies.
Drink lots of water
Water is the only really approved paleo drink, and it can be especially helpful to keep your body functioning, especially given you will likely consuming additional protein. If water isn’t enough, you can include herbal tea or freshly squeezed fruit juice. Avoid sodas and processed fruit juices.
- There are debates within the paleo movement regarding coffee and milk. Dairy is a later addition to regular human diets, but whole fat milk can be beneficial. Coffee contains caffeine, which can affect your body’s chemistry, but in small doses can be fine. Decaffeinated coffee is processed, and so should be out. Some paleo beginners find it helpful to drink decaf as they wean themselves off the drink.
- In small amounts, alcohol like beer and wine can be consistent with the paleo diet. While they contain sugars and additional carbohydrates, alcohol can also provide helpful oxidants. As a general rule of thumb, a glass of red wine is a perfectly acceptable addition to a meal, provided it is only done occasionally. Of course, always be careful when consuming alcohol and doing other activities.
Supplement your diet with occasional vitamins
While the modern paleo diet can supply most of the necessary nutrients, there are some potential weaknesses. If you are not getting all of these proper nutrients, consider additional supplements.
- Vitamin D. Unless your diet is rich in wild fish, and you get plenty of sunlight, you may need a Vitamin D supplement.
- Omega-3 Fish Oil. In general, you will want to maintain balance between Omega-3 and Omega-6 oils. Unless you are fully Paleo, 1 to 2 grams of high quality fish oil daily, containing Omega-3 oil, is a good supplement.
- Probiotics. Western or vegetarian diets can sometimes damage the necessary bacteria in your stomach. When starting the diet, you may need to supplement what you eat with strains of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium.
At its core, the paleo diet is about changing your lifestyle, not just your meals. Even something as simple as walking as much as possible can be helpful to losing weight and getting the most out of your diet. Paleo exercise involves natural movements (preferably without too much gym equipment) and occasional strength training.
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- Avoid extensive cardio workouts. These put extra pressure on your body, and require more carbohydrates.
- Crossfit is a common exercise program for paleo dieters, and can be helpful for people looking for a more intense workout. Crossfit gyms are also a good place to meet other paleo dieters.