What Can You Eat On A Paleo Diet?
A Paleo diet avoids any kind of processed food. Sugary drinks and snacks, grains, dairy products, food made with trans-fat, extenders, artificial sweeteners or additives are not eaten when on the Paleo diet. Instead, those undergoing a Paleo diet would eat non-processed food. This includes meat and fish, fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and berries, non-processed food oils, and herbs and spices.
What Is The Paleo Diet?
The Paleo diet tries to copy what our stone-age ancestors ate. Those who follow the diet believe that by trying to replicate our ancient diets, coupled with decent exercise, we can achieve better health
The diet consists mostly of whole foods, which are gathered straight from the source without any artificial ingredients mixed in. Packaged, canned, and processed foods are entirely avoided, as well as commonly grown grains such as rice, wheat, and barely. Most of all, sugar and all other kinds of artificial sweeteners should be cut from your diet.
Unlike other diets which follow a proportion of proteins/carbs/fat to follow, the paleo diet can be quite diverse. You can have both a high-fat meal plan and a high-protein meal plan and both would still be considered paleo meals. What’s most important is what not to eat while under the paleo diet.
What Are The Benefits Of Having A Paleo Diet?
Undergoing a paleo diet really triggers fat loss. It also makes you less hungry, as eating more protein and fats satiates your hunger more than processed carbs and sugar. With the removal of processed food from your diet, you might find that your meals will naturally become more diverse and you’ll be eating a more balanced diet.
What Is Processed Food?
You’ll be reading a lot about processed food when you read about paleo diets. To put it simply, processed foods are any kind of food that has been altered in some way during preparation. This includes drying, freezing, and canning. While these processes are not bad for the paleo diet itself, food producers usually add additives during these processes such as preservatives, sugars, or artificial flavouring which should be avoided while on the paleo diet.
How Hard Is It To Transition To A Paleo Diet?
Surprisingly, not that hard at all. A lot of the ingredients or foods that aren’t allowed in the paleo diet have easily accessible alternatives. For example, you may be craving for cookies. Traditionally, cookies are made with wheat flour and sugar which are both not allowed in the paleo diet. To make them into paleo desserts, you’ll just have to replace some of the ingredients. Most groceries have paleo-friendly alternatives such as almond flour and maple syrup or raw honey.
What Should You Eat On A Paleo Diet?
Non-processed Meat, Eggs, and Seafood
Meat and seafood, as long as they haven’t been processed, are a staple in the paleo diet. Pork, beef, chicken, lamb, and turkey are all accepted. And yes, eggs are fine too. Seafood, including shellfish, are also good to eat in the paleo diet. When given the choice, choose grass-fed meats over grain-fed ones as the grains fed could be processed, and in turn, those processed ingredients can end up in your body.
Fruits, as long as they are freshly picked, are the primary paleo snacks. While other diets would restrict you in the kinds of fruit you’re allowed to eat, the paleo diet doesn’t have any kind of limit. So, whether you enjoy apples, grapes, oranges, mangoes, avocados, berries or any of the hundred other fruits out there, you can enjoy them in the paleo diet (of course, as long as its fresh. If its canned, it is most likely added with preservatives and even sugar. In which case, you’d want to avoid those).
If you’re the kind of person who enjoys their leafy veggies, then you won’t have a hard time transitioning to the paleo diet. Cabbages, Broccoli, Spinach, Lettuce are all okay to eat on the paleo diet. Other vegetables such as carrots, onions, tomatoes, pumpkins, squash, and peppers are good too. There is some debate about whether or not tubers such as potatoes and sweet potatoes are considered Paleo. As such, it is best to be cautious if not outright avoid eating dishes with tubers in them.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts are welcome in the paleo diet. Seeds from pumpkins and sunflowers are allowed too. The only exception would be peanuts as they’re technically legumes. Do keep in mind that nuts are a rich source of carbs. If you’re trying to avoid weight, stay away from nuts even if they’re paleo friendly.
Oils are a bit tricky as technically all cooking oils come from vegetables. However, cooking oils such as those that come from corn or canola are heavily processed and should be avoided. Instead, look for the lease processed oils such as extra virgin coconut oil and olive oil. Palm oil is okay to use as well, just as long as it is not hydrogenated (if you’re unsure, consult the label).
What Shouldn’t You Eat On A Paleo Diet?
Processed Sugar and Sweeteners
Sugars and Sweeteners are your number one enemy in the paleo diet. They’re too processed and gives your body unnecessary bloat. If you see sugar (or any of its artificial equivalents), just pass on it. If you really need an ingredient to sweeten up something, consider mixing or dipping it in raw honey. Do note that while raw honey is natural (and thus paleo), it still sugary.
Milk and dairy
Milk, and by extension dairy products, are not considered paleo as it takes a lot of processes to make them edible for people. The usual milk available from groceries would usually come from grain-fed cows, which, as explained earlier, could be filled with artificial additivities. If you really want to keep milk in your diet, directly buy from organic farmers with grass-fed, pasture-raised cows as you can be assured that the milk will most likely be in its most natural state. From there, you can create your own cheese and butter. If you plan on drinking and storing the milk, however, be sure to either freeze it or pasteurize it.
Grains and legumes
The paleo diet tried to follow the food and diet that our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate. Grains and legumes are a product of settling down and agriculture. As such, the Paleo diet tries to avoid them as these are usually grown with fertilizers and pesticides which are not accepted in paleo.
Food that comes in boxes or cans, have flavouring or preservatives added, or are cooked for a lengthy amount of time should be off your diet list. These are the farthest from the ideal paleo foods and should not be considered at all.
Paleo Meals Ideas
Making a paleo meal plan is actually quite simple. As long as you put in the right amount of time and effort to create your paleo meals, you’ll be having an easy time!
For your paleo breakfast, Paleo-friendly bread (which is made from non-wheat flour such as coconut or cassava) is a great way to start the day! If you’re craving for something sweet like granola, you can also have a fruit platter instead. If you’re craving for some meat early in the morning, bacon and eggs are allowed every day! Just make sure your bacon is freshly cut by your butcher. Boxed bacon usually has some flavouring in them, which makes them non-paleo.
Because paleo doesn’t limit you as much as other diets, you can absolutely go crazy with all your paleo lunch ideas. A nice juicy steak is great for any day of the week! Want something with lots of greens? Salads topped with grilled chicken is easy to prepare and easily makes you full. Want something nutritious yet bursting with flavour? Grilled fish fillet will satiate those seafood cravings.
And your paleo dinner can range from extremely simple to a full-course affair. If you’re short on time, pan-fried pork chops are tasty and full of protein. If you want something a little bit more complex, you can try making paleo Shepherd’s pie. Potato isn’t paleo friendly, so you’ll be replacing it with cauliflower (which is a super versatile vegetable that can replace a lot of starches in most recipes).
Paleo Cooking Tips And Tricks
Shifting to a paleo diet can be quite difficult for some of us, as most of us are used to eating processed food. If you’re having trouble, it’s better to slowly integrate paleo into your diet. Replace chips and candies with vegetable sticks and fruits. Start cooking your own meat instead of buying pre-cooked meals. Buy a juicer and make healthy and thirst-quenching fruit juices if you’re wanting a soda.
Get a slow cooker. These magical devices can help you create paleo-friendly dishes without a lot of preparation. While our ancestors didn’t have access to such devices, it doesn’t necessarily mean that following a keto diet means living like our ancestors. Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, and cooking appliances such as slow cookers or roasters help immensely when preparing keto dishes.
Diversify your spice rack. Now that sugar and artificial flavouring is out of your diet, you’ll have to find new ways to add flavour to your dishes. A well-stocked spice rack in the hands of an experienced cook can create wonderful flavours that can’t be emulated by artificial flavouring.
You can substitute refined sugar with raw honey in most cases. Keep in mind that honey is still sugary, so you’ll still want to limit your intake.
Final Tips And Conclusion
The core idea of the paleo diet is easy to remember: to eat like our hunter-gatherer ancestors: Eat as much fresh fruit, veggies and meat as possible and avoid processed foods. The core rule is quite simple but can be a daunting prospect.
And don’t forget the other component of the paleo diet: Consistent physical activity. While it could be said that any amount of exercise is good for the body, the paleo diet is only complete when complemented with the right amount of exercise. Our ancestors spent their days walking and running to gather and chase their food. And emulating only half of their non-sedentary lifestyle would defeat the purpose of the paleo diet.