12 Do’s and Don’ts of Eating Paleo
Many people call eating paleo the “caveman diet.” When you eat paleo, you strive to only consume foods that our earliest ancestors would have eaten. Foods like lean meat, vegetables, seafood, berries, nuts, and natural oils are the focus of this diet. Ingredients like grains, dairy, and sugar are avoided.
Many people see great results from eating paleo. Whether your objective is just to eat better, lose weight, or improve your overall health paleo is a great option, but you should never start without doing your research first. Research gives you a fuller understanding of what you can and cannot eat, so you’re never stuck somewhere without a snack.
Here’s a quick guide to the paleo diet, and some common do’s and don’ts that often catch people off-guard.
12. DO Restock Your Fridge and Pantry
The paleo diet can seem extremely restrictive when you first start. Dairy, sugar, grains, and anything that’s processed is out. Instead, you should be eating meals made up of lean proteins, vegetables, and fats that come from natural oils like olive, coconut, or avocado. If you’re serious about going paleo for the long haul, you’ll want to first clean out your fridge and pantry so that you’ll never be tempted to take a shortcut.
Eating paleo means cutting out basically all modern convenience food. You’ll have to prepare all of your meals yourself if you want to stick with this diet, so make sure you aren’t tempted by keeping non-paleo food around.
11. DON’T Get Stuck Without a Stock of Recipes
One thing that’s absolutely essential when it comes to starting your paleo journey is having a stock of recipes ready so that you’re never caught off-guard by hunger. Eating paleo means that you aren’t able to enjoy convenience food, so it’s important to keep a stash of recipes ready for any eventuality.
Craving pizza? There are tons of paleo pizza recipes around, but by the time you find one, you may have gotten too hungry and ordered yourself a large, cheesy, very non-paleo pizza. Using Pinterest or an app like Paprika, allows you to have a huge cache of recipes at your fingertips 24/7.
10. DO Use Technology
Starting an all-paleo diet can be really confusing at first. For example, did you know that nuts are completely paleo, but peanuts, since they’re a legume, are not? It can be confusing to figure out what’s paleo, what’s primal (a similar diet), and what’s completely modern.
A really helpful new app is Paleo.io, a paleo support app which gives you a list of acceptable paleo foods. It even has a search engine, so you can type an ingredient into it and get an instant evaluation. Paleo.io is just one of a few paleo apps, so check those out before you start your journey for some extra support.
9. DON’T Stress About Missing Meals
Paleo meals tend to be very high in calories and protein – after all, the ideal balance of calories in the paleo diet is a pretty even split between fats, complex carbohydrates, and protein. This leads to meals that can feel extremely heavy, so don’t feel the pressure to eat three full meals a day. Just eat whenever you’re hungry, and make sure you have plenty of paleo-friendly snacks, like cooked veggies, meatballs, or nuts to tide you over between meals.
8. DO Meal Prep Ahead of Time
One thing that’s absolutely essential when starting the paleo diet is meal prep – not just meal planning. If you have plenty of time on your hands, maybe you’ll be able to cook every meal from scratch, but if you’re working a full-time job, you’re probably going to want to have things prepped in advance.
Set aside some time every weekend to prep food for the upcoming week, even if it’s just your snacks. Eating paleo means that you basically have no access to any kind of convenience food. Making your own snack-packs in advance allows you to always have paleo-safe food on hand.
7. DON’T Eat Too Much Protein
One mistake that many people make when they first start adhering to the paleo diet is consuming way too much protein. These people take the phrase “caveman diet” literally and use paleo as an excuse to only consume meat. In actual fact, it’s best to consume a 1:1 ratio of meat to vegetables – that way, you ensure that your intake of protein, carbohydrates, and fat is balanced.
Eating too much meat can harm your kidneys and increase your risk of osteoporosis. After all, our ancestors gathered as much as they hunted, so don’t miss out on the healthy veggies your body needs!
6. DO Ensure That Your Meat is Lean and as Unprocessed as Possible
Although the paleo diet is probably the closest we can come to eating the way our ancestors ate, we’ll never be able to completely mimic their diet. For one, they ate wild animals whose flesh was much leaner and richer in omega-3s than the meat we’re able to buy today. One way that we can get closer to our caveman ancestors is to buy meat that’s free-range, grass-fed, and organic, rather than choosing meat from factory farms.
5. DON’T Underestimate the Financial Burden of Going Paleo
Eating paleo can be a hard adjustment at first – especially on your wallet. Eating large quantities of meat tends to get expensive, especially when that meat is all free-range and grass-fed.
Using your freezer to batch cook and store meat that you buy on sale can be really helpful. You may also want to look around for a farm with a CSA that includes meat. There are several amazing farmers across the United States that use dry ice to ship their meat, so you can receive a box with custom cuts of meat within a day or two of placing your order.
4. DO Educate Yourself on Why Paleo Works
The paleo diet works because it takes sugar and simple carbohydrates out of your diet and replaces them with unprocessed complex carbohydrates, fats, and protein.
Our bodies are designed to burn fat, but lately, as the modern diet has become heavy in simple carbs and sugar, our bodies burn carbohydrates because it’s easier, then stores the fat as a reserve for later. However, this fat never gets burned because our bodies are never without carbs. The more we move away from eating simple carbohydrates, the easier it is to train our bodies to burn the healthy fat we’re giving it instead.
3. DON’T Do the Paleo Diet Without Any Exercise
It is possible to adopt the paleo diet without making any changes to your physical activity, but most doctors and nutritionists will highly recommend staying active while adhering to the paleo diet.
Think about it. Our ancestors ate this way because they were constantly on the move – hunting, walking, and probably fighting on a daily basis. Use the food that you’re eating to fuel your workouts. You’ll probably find that you have way more energy now that you aren’t eating foods like sugar and simple carbs, which spike your blood sugar without giving your body any nutrients.
2. DON’T Skip Taking Your Vitamins
It’s easy to categorize all the food that doesn’t fall under the paleo lifestyle as bad and unhealthy, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Dairy and legumes are two types of food that aren’t paleo-friendly, but are extremely good for you.
There is no consensus within the paleo community on supplementing your diet with vitamins. The only way that you can know for sure what your body needs is through nutritional testing. However, some nutritional supplements that people within the paleo community take regularly are fish oil, vitamin D, and magnesium.
1. DO Focus on Quality Over Quantity
The food that you’re eating should always nourish you – especially if you’re on the paleo diet. When you are grocery shopping and meal planning, focus on foods that are free-range, all-natural, and organic. These foods tend to be more expensive, but if they’re prepared properly, you’ll probably start feeling fuller earlier than you would have before you started eating paleo.
For example, eating one high-quality steak is always going to be better than consuming an entire package of hot dogs, even though they both technically come from the same animal. As long as you prepare great ingredients well, you’ll never be bored on the paleo diet.