What to Eat on the Paleo Diet

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The term “Paleo” or Paleo Diet has become quite the buzz word lately. It will give you a million Google hits, thousands of blog sites (like us!), and some of the most conflicting information you could image. Paleo living does not mean the same thing to everyone although I do see a commonality behind most of what I discover. Unprocessed and full of rich foods. But, the definitions of unprocessed and rich mean different things to different people.

I am telling you this as a precaution. Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet. Just because it looks like paleo and sounds like paleo doesn’t mean it’s paleo. Don’t believe everything you hear. Actually, I feel as though one of the basic principles behind paleo is that you don’t believe much of what anyone tells you. Mainstream doctors, the USDA and the media have been pushing so-called healthy recommendations on us for years. And what have we ended up with? A society that is fatter, sicker, diabetic, and on more medications than ever before. Things like the Food Pyramid-now referred to as My Plate-just don’t work for the majority of folks. With all of the amazing technology, crowd sourcing, medical miracles available don’t you find it odd that we’re in the state that we’re in? In a pursuit of the “magic pill” we’ve let true nutrition and natural medication get swept under the rug. There is no magic pill and even if there were, I wouldn’t want it. I’d probably have to take 50 other medications to treat the effects. Is anyone else disturbed when they hear the commercials for depression meds causing thoughts like suicide? Hmm…

As we dig deeper into the paleo lifestyle, Dan and I are learning. We’re testing, cooking, eating and seeing how our bodies react. Sometimes it’s good-sometimes it’s bad. I’m not saying that what works well for us will work exactly the same way for you and your family. I am saying that leaning towards this style of eating/living will most likely have positive benefits for you. You are the only person responsible for you. Your Doctor sees hundreds of patients and could never know the inner-most workings of you. We are all unique and different. There is only one you! Take charge and start experimenting.

Here’s a basic list of what we eat and what we try to avoid. You can find recipes for “Paleo Chocolate Muffins” and “Paleo Peanut Butter Ice Cream” but that’s not what I’m promoting here. I want to provide you with the basics of a super-clean paleo diet. You can experiment and branch out after you’ve got your foothold but for now I want to keep it clean. We will delve deeper into each category in other posts but this will help you get started.

Don’t over complicate things folks-I’m talking about eating real foods and avoiding fake foods.  Pin and post the image below and commit it to memory.

Eat:

Animal protein

  • seafood: salmon, tuna, scallops, crab, haddock, cod, etc. (Wild caught is best but farmed is okay)
  • ruminants: beef, buffalo, lamb, elk, venison, etc.
  • eggs: lots of eggs. They are a healthy and inexpensive protein.
  • poultry: chicken, turkey, duck, pheasant, etc.
  • non-ruminants: pork, wild boar, rabbit, etc.
  • some processed meat: yes you can eat bacon
  • Grass fed is best, organic is okay, and factory farmed will get the job done. If you cannot find or afford grass fed simply cut off or drain as much fat as possible from the animal. Meat, even factory farmed meat is better than the other processed junk you may be eating currently.

Vegetables

  • Broccoli, acorn squash, onion, kale, tomato, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, etc.
  • You’ll get plenty of carbohydrates from veggies and some fruits. Sweet potatoes are a great paleo friendly carb. Don’t limit yourself to a particular list of “paleo veggies” but do try to buy what’s seasonal and what looks good.

Fruit

  • Melon, apricots, apples, grapefruit, raspberries, blueberries, etc.
  • Fruit does have sugar and you can easily overdo it on fruits. If you’re trying to kick a sugar addiction I’d limit your fruit intake for a while. Tart fruits (green apples) have a bit less sugar that tropical fruits (pineapple/mango).
  • Fruits are best eaten as a dessert after a healthy meal full of protein/fat not as an in-between snack.
  • But seriously folks…don’t over think it. Reaching for an apple is better than reaching for a Snickers bar.

Nuts

  • Raw or dry roasted: almonds, macadamia, cashew, pecans, pistachio, etc.
  • Check the label and be sure they aren’t roasted in other junk seed oils. Ingredients should be nuts or nuts/salt only. Raw nuts are delicious and retain the micro nutrients better than roasted. Don’t over do nuts though. Over doing fat, even healthy fat may stall your weight loss or wellness goals.

Healthy fats

  • Coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, animal fats, ghee & clarified butter (from grass fed cows) for cooking.
  • Coconut butter, coconut milk, olives for eating.
  • Saturated fat is not the demon you think it is. Coconut oil is almost pure saturated fat but has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects and helps regulate insulin levels. Your body will use fat to burn fat.
  • Fat and protein is what will keep you satiated from one meal to the next. You need fat for every process in the body from cellular repair to hormonal balance. It will help keep your body on an even keel throughout the day.

Avoid:

Dairy

  • Milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, cottage cheese etc.
  • Some paleo folks do eat limited dairy (referred to as primal eating) but we’re choosing to limit it for now and see how we feel.
  • The only exception to this would be butter that comes directly from grass fed cows. If you must have your dairy, it’s best to stick to unpasteurized, full fat versions from grass fed animals. Pasteurization kills the bacteria and enzymes needed to properly digest it. If a cow is fed a steady diet of grains-you’ll be consuming grains through the dairy.
  • No, you don’t need to consume dairy to obtain calcium. Your body will use the calcium you do intake better without dairy.

Grains

  • Rye, wheat, “whole grains”, wheat flour, white flour, oats, barley, corn, rice, quinoa, etc.
  • Grains and gluten have serious detrimental effects on the body. They contain anti-nutrients that leach real nutrients out of the body. Also humans are not very good at digesting the outer shell of the grain. This leads to major irritation of the gut/intestinal lining causing various digestive issues, auto immune diseases and overall icky feelings. Cut out gluten for 30 days and then eat it three times on day 31. Come back and tell me how you feel!
  • Definitely try to avoid gluten. Cutting out gluten automatically cuts out most of the grain based foods but it’s also hiding in unsuspecting places like your favorite sauces/dressings. Check all your labels.

Soy

  • Soy beans, soy lecithin, hydrolyzed soy protein, soybean oil, soy protein isolate, tofu, soy sauce, miso, soy milk, etc.
  • The soy that we eat today is not the fermented soy that is enjoyed in traditional Asian countries. It’s an inexpensive crop that’s been squeezed, heated, and treated to give us all these so-called health foods. It’s one of the most processed foods around and it’s hiding in most all processed food. Soy beans are legumes but I feel that they are so bad for us that they deserved their own category.

Processed Food

  • Pringles, Kit Kats, Hamburger Helper, Crunchwrap Supreme, Ramen Noodles, gummy bears to name a few of my favorites.
  • Basically, if it comes in a package and has ingredients that you can’t picture in their natural state, then it should be avoided.
  • Breathe folks…you can survive and thrive without processed convenience foods! I promise. :)

Sugars

  • Dextrose, table sugar/sucrose, glucose syrup/corn syrup, corn syrup solids, high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, Splenda/Truvia/Equal/saccharin, etc.
  • If it’s an “artificial” sweetener than it should be obvious that it will do nothing but wreak havoc on your system. If you’re flooding your system with sweet chemicals all the time your receptors and hormones have no clue what’s going on. You’ll never know when you actually crave sugar and your body will stop using natural sugars (i.e. veggies/fruits as efficiently).
  • Occasional sugars that are okay: black strap molasses, raw local honey, unsweetened apple sauce.

Legumes

  • Pinto, black beans, garbanzo beans, peanuts & peanut butter, lentils, etc.
  • Beans beans the wonderful fruit the more you eat the more you….well you get it. If your body is reacting to beans or any food/drink in that manner than there’s a problem. Ancient cultures had this figured out long before Beano came along. They would spend hours soaking, sprouting and fermenting legumes (& grains & nuts) so that they would be easier to digest. I don’t have time for that and neither to the folks who put legumes in our food. Best to stay away.

Junk Oils:

  • Vegetable oil, canola oil (rapeseed oil), sunflower oil, cottonseed, safflower oil, corn oil, etc.
  • Junk oils are in most every processed food and are used by most restaurants as an inexpensive cooking oil.
  • Use these oils to power your car not your body.

Alcohol

  • Alcohol in it’s basic form disrupts and permeates the gut lining causing your body to react in negative ways (inflammation and insulin spikes). Also alcohol get’s processed down into simple sugars so if you’re having a pomegranate martini you’re dosing up with a super shot of sugar! Consuming anything full of calories and totally devoid of nutrients will only have negative effects.
  • Sipping on a occasional glass of tequila, soda and lime is not the most harmful thing you can do. But the key here is “occasional.” If you’re not feeling or performing your best, it may be time to kick the alcohol habit.

So there you have it folks. The basic run down of the paleo diet that we’re currently following. I know that some of you may be a bit overwhelmed at the lists I’ve provided, but please don’t despair. If you need to start small than start small. Eating just one meal a day following these guidelines will be a huge step in the right direction. Cutting out gluten isn’t easy but it’s one step that will have a big impact on your overall health. If you’re like me (obsessive) than go whole hog! Clear your cupboards and rid your fridge of any fake foods. You know what kind of person you are and what kind of changes you can live with. The key is starting somewhere and giving yourself the grace to fail and get back on board.

Small steps over a long period of time equate to major progress. Large steps do the same thing but can sometimes lead to backsliding and feelings of deprivation. We’ve all dieted in the past and you know what didn’t work. Do the opposite.

I encourage you to take a few minutes and read some of the labels on the foods that you have in your house-especially the ones that are touted as being healthy! Do you see any commonalities? Soybean oil, gluten, high fructose corn syrup, etc. Can you picture each ingredient in it’s natural state (i.e. growing or walking in a field) and can you see how it’s processed (butchered, caught, cut, etc.)? I surely doubt that our ancestors knew how to squeeze oil out of corn.

If you have any questions about transitioning to a paleo/ancestral diet please contact me or post to the Homegrown Paleo Facebook page. I’m just a normal person who, over time has made major positive shifts in the health of my family. I want to help and could obviously talk your ear off about this stuff.

Author: Julie @ homegrownpaleo.com

Blogging about our journey towards simple living and ancestral wellness.

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