You probably have heard a little, or a lot, about the Paleo Diet. This no-nonsense approach to eating only foods that Paleolithic men ate is getting new followers every day. The science behind it is that modern man’s bodies are not equipped to eat today’s foods that are processed and filled with additives, preservatives and artificial everything. Most of what you eat today are foods that never existed hundreds and thousands of years ago. And if man did not eat it then, the theory is that they should not eat it now.
What You Can and Cannot Eat on the Paleo Diet?
The Do NOT Eat List:
- processed foods
- legumes (including peanuts)
- any refined vegetable oils
The DO Eat List:
- meats (even the fatty variety and preferably grass-fed)
- fruits (in moderation)
- healthy fats like coconut and avocado oil
In other words, only eat foods that come from the land or an animal.
Now that you know the dos and don’ts, you can start putting the diet into action. But how do you start? According to Meghan Little whose website Paleo Effect addresses this issue, the first thing you should do is clean out your pantry. What good is a massive diet overhaul going to do if you have nothing but forbidden foods staring at you every time you open the pantry or refrigerator door? By eliminating them right at the start, you get rid of temptation and the risk of cheating. Next, she advises to go cold turkey. Although rough for about two to three weeks, if you stay true to the diet, your body starts healing itself and all the cravings should drop.
Another interesting point that Little makes is that you should start your Paleo lifestyle on a Thursday as opposed to a Monday when most people begin any type of new program. Why? Well, let’s just say that your body’s digestive system is going to go through an extreme makeover—one that will involve many trips to the bathroom and make you feel a bit uncomfortable. Starting on a Thursday or even a Friday will at least give you the weekend to go through this part of the process without weekday activities like work getting in the way.
She also advises you to food prep like a crazy person (read: 10 Meal Prep Shortcuts That Will Save You Tons of Time). This means creating a menu for the week and cut, cook, store and freeze whatever you make so that you spend less time making your meals and more time enjoying them. And if you never cooked a meal before, now is the time to learn since Paleo recipes require a bit of work in the kitchen in order to produce delicious and healthy meals with foods you may not be familiar with...yet.
Finally, Little says you should ditch your scale. The weight will come off, that's a given. But weighing yourself every day is not necessary and may even leave you discouraged if you do not see an immediate loss. Keep the focus on the food and eating strict Paleo and before you know it, the weight loss will follow.
You need time to slowly change over your current diet to one that is considered Paleo. This may not be easy because you'll most likely be giving up foods that have become a staple in your everyday diet like your morning oatmeal, your peanut butter and jelly sandwich lunch, your many cups of coffee, and as well as birthday cake, holiday cookies and party treats, too.
If you find you're having difficulty giving up some of your favorite foods, try to find Paleo-friendly alternatives like making cauliflower rice instead of regular rice or replacing pasta with spaghetti squash. Peanut butter can easily be replaced with almond, cashew or sunflower seed butter. And there is a variety of nondairy milk, cheese and ice cream products that can be found nearly everywhere these days.
Why Go Paleo?
Eating a Paleo diet means eliminating many foods that can cause health problems and weight gain. People who have converted their diets to Paleo have reported:
- significant weight loss
- more energy
- better moods
- improved sleep
- better overall health
Some have even claimed that a Paleo diet can reverse certain autoimmune diseases. The low level of sugar you consume while eating a Paleo diet means that your insulin levels stay normal rather than having those erratic spikes that can damage your body’s systems. This often leads to greater health problems.
Should You Go Paleo?
That answer is dependent on your goals as well as your conviction. If losing weight in a healthy way is your goal, then the Paleo diet should work for you. If you want to improve your health and feel better, then this diet is for you as well. However, if you easily cheat, stray or give in to temptation when it comes to food, you may find that sticking to a Paleo diet is difficult. A certain amount of sacrifice exists when going Paleo, and having to give up many foods and drinks that you currently eat like bread, juice, coffee and pasta can pose a big challenge for some. Hopefully, though, the above mentioned tips should help the transition be less stressful and more natural.
What's helpful is that because this diet has exploded into a way of life for so many people, there are hundreds of resources you can use to help you along the way including magazines, websites, books and blogs. Many, like Paleo Effect, feature Paleo recipes for every meal including snacks and desserts. That's right—you can still have dessert. But these will be much healthier and more satisfying to eat because you know every bite you're putting in your mouth is good for you. So eat like a caveman (or woman) and see if going Paleo provides you the health benefits that so many have already claimed it has for them.