Energy Crisis: Why Some People Experience Low Energy on the Paleo Diet

So, you’ve made the leap. You’ve decided to go Paleo. You have your pantry stocked. You’re excited. You’re ready to go. But, less than a week in, you have a problem.

You have no energy.

You’re sure you’re doing this diet properly. So why should you be dragging around like you’ve been drinking NyQuil?

There are actually a few reasons, and they are easily dealt with.

You’re in Transition

You have just made the decision to change your entire way of eating. Even if you’re moving from an unhealthy lifestyle to a healthy one, your entire body is in transition. It takes a lot of energy for your body to adjust the way it processes the food it’s receiving. Insulin levels, acid levels, the digestive process — all of it is going to change.

When you make a change like this, it can take an easy week for you to adjust to the change. Your body is not going to be taking incremental steps but large ones, and it’s going to wear on you. Stick with it, though. It’s going to get better.

The other part of this transition is mental. This is a lifestyle change. Part of it is going to be a change of the mind, and that also can be exhausting. You are going to second guess yourself. You are going to worry about social gatherings, restaurants. Paleo is a fairly forgiving, very relaxed way of eating, but we have been taught that dieting is a stressful situation. You are going to have to work to change your mindset. It’s a lot of work. You’re going to be tired.

Don’t worry. This will pass. Give it a week, then another. If you’re still low on energy, then there’s a different issue will try touching on. But, most likely, you’re merely adjusting to the changes that you’re putting yourself through.

You’re Not Eating Enough Fat

Did I say that right? Believe it or not, I did. I know that I touched on this in my article There are no rules in Paleo. This is not a low fat diet. Throw out what you’ve been taught about healthy eating and dieting over the years. There are fats that are good for you, and you’ve been somewhat misled by which fats those may be. Believe it or not saturated animal fats are much better for you than you realize. If you’re getting your meats and then trimming every once of fat from them as per other diets, you’re throwing away your energy.

The body gets fat to burn from different things, usually things like sugars and carbohydrates such as breads, cereals and pastas. The body breaks these down but cannot store them, so it turns them into fat that it can burn. On Paleo, though, you’re not eating these things. You need the fat — yes, they are healthy fats — to burn for energy instead. If you aren’t taking in those fats, then you’re not fueling your body with the energy it needs.

Stop trimming your steaks. Just enjoy them they way they are. And coconut oil is a great energy pick-me-up.

You Are Not Drinking Enough Water

I’ll confess to this being a problem for me. I need to keep up with my water. Because even if you don’t feel dehydrated, you very well may be, and that’s going to cause an energy crisis.

You should be drinking eight cups of water a day. That’s cups. Not glasses. Not bottles. Cups. That’s not a lot of water. But most of us don’t get that, even though we think we do. Stop thinking of black coffee or tea as “just like water.” They aren’t. All you need to do is find yourself with kidney problems once, and you’ll get off that idea that calorie-free beverages can be considered water.

If you’ve been drinking part of your water as water and part as calorie-free beverages, then you’re not getting enough water. You may feel healthy. You may feel like you’re hydrated. But between the transition to a new dietary lifestyle and only drinking part of your daily requirement of water, you may very well be dehydrating, and that’s putting just enough stress on your body to cause a problem.

I drink my water in bottles. Four 16 oz bottles a day is all it takes to get your water down, and it’s amazingly easy. And I’m never depriving myself of my morning coffee or and afternoon juice to drink all that water. There’s no measuring with bottles and you know you’re getting what you need, because, let’s face it, you ever actually put a full 16 ounces of water into a drinking glass. You might fill it to twelve and then leave half of it on the counter. I know I’m not the only one who does this.

Drink more water. It’s good for you. On the flip side of that coin, though, watch your salt intake. A lot of water but too little salt can also cause fatigue.

You’re Eating Too Many Meal Replacements

Paleo is a diet of food, not shakes. It focuses on whole, non-processed, real food. I have my favorite food bars and I’ve made my share of smoothies, but those have always been snacks to get me to the next meal if I find it’s going to be later than I’d planned. They are not meant to replace meals. If you find you’re going to actually miss a meal, you’re better off running into a grocery store and grabbing a couple of hard-boiled eggs and a banana than go grab a quick food bar. Take stock of how many of these things you’re eating and decide whether or not you’re eating too many. Then get back to real food.

You’re Not Eating Enough Carbs

Say what? Yep, this is a high protein, low-carb diet, but you do still need some of those carbs. In addition to all that meat and those eggs, you need veggies, and you need some Paleo-approved starches in the absence of the sugar and grains your body was accustomed to getting.

Make sure you’re getting plenty of starchy carbs like sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash, bananas and chestnuts. These are the items that will take the place of breads and rices. A little sweetness like bananas or dates are great, and I even occasionally have a honey stick for a quick energy pick-me-up.

You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep

We are a busy people. Even when we’re not working, we’re busy with something. Very few of us rest the way we’re supposed to. We don’t have set bedtime or set times to rise. We read or watch TV in bed, work on projects until ungodly hours and get up early for other busy things we want to do.

I’m not suggesting you give up things you like doing to stay in bed. I’m a very busy person, and I like it that way. What I’m suggesting is that you learn to schedule your time better. Somethings can be multi-tasked. Some things can’t. Figure it out. But start going to bed at set time and getting up at a set time. Straying from this on occasion isn’t the end of the world. But it can only be on occasion.

Your alarm shouldn’t have to get you up. I’m not going to advocate not setting it, but it shouldn’t HAVE to get you up. If you get the sleep you need and follow your body’s lead, you’ll find that you naturally want to go to bed when you’re at a certain point of tired, and you will naturally wake up where your body has the rest it needs.

Don’t fall prey to being told how many hours you need to sleep. Some of us sleep six or seven hours a night. Some sleep eight. If you are naturally up after six and a half hours of sleep every day, then that’s all your body needs. If you are low on energy or your body needs to conserve for some reason, you are naturally going to start sleeping longer or

Conclusion

Paleo is just like anything else. If you’re not doing it right, you’re going to feel it. Pay attention to your diet and see what you may be missing. Or just wait out that transition. It only takes a few weeks, and it will be over before you know it.

Paleo Meal Kits: Are They Worth It?

The mail order meal kit seems to be all the rage right now. It appears to be one of those “catching up with Europe” things, as meal kits in this fashion started in Sweden with Middagsfrid in 2007 and Linas Matkasse in 2008. HelloFresh, which was already going strong in Germany, jumped the pond in 2012, just as Blue Apron and Plated were getting started.

Now, with more than 150 meal kit companies active in the U.S. as of March 2017, there is something for every diet plan, and that includes the Paleo diet.

Sun Basket, a meal kit company out of San Francisco, and Green Chef, a Boulder, Colorado-based company that is a subsidiary of HelloFresh, both started in 2014 and offered meal kits for alternative diets such as vegan, Paleo, vegetarian and keto. Naturally, I had to take a look at both of these diets to see how their fare fared.

How It Works

The way these meal kits work is this: You sign up for meals. A box comes to your home with meals the way you request them, and by that, I mean that you tell the company how many people are eating. Each meal comes with enough for two people unless you are asking for a larger plan, which both companies offer.

Each Paleo box arrives with meals separated into bags, and the proteins underneath the bags resting on an ice pack. Both companies use sustainable materials and recyclable packaging. The bags will contain components of the meal — the vegetables, specific spices, sauces and in some cases oils or fats. While Green Chef tends to have most things pre-cut, you’ll do the cutting yourself with Sun Basket. Instruction cards will also let you know what you need to have on hand, from pans and measuring cups to olive oil and salt and pepper. And, because you are technically the chef here if you want to try a touch of cayenne in that chili sauce or a little turmeric with that ground lamb, you have that freedom. And, because the components of each recipe are separate, you don’t have to put the cashews in that stir-fry if you don’t want to.

Something to consider that I didn’t until it was too late is food sensitivities and allergies. I have a very strange allergy. I can’t touch shellfish…when it’s raw. As long as it’s cooked, I’m fine. So if I’m making a dish with shrimp in it, I buy cooked shrimp. So, when one of my Green Chef dishes came with raw shrimp, I was a little at a loss. I have, literally, never cooked shrimp in my life due to this allergy. Fortunately, it all came peeled and deveined, so my contact with it before I put it in the pan was mercifully short. Both companies offer alternatives to a certain extent, so, if you can’t have something like this, check the menu and see how you can change it.

Going to be out of town or have too many guests to waste good food like this on? Just skip the meal. But make sure you do it in time or you’re getting a box anyway. On the flip side of that very shiny coin, if you find out the family isn’t coming after all or you have to cancel your trip out of town, make sure you get on your account quickly to unskip, and they’ll send you your meals.

All of these meals are preplanned, so you can look ahead a few weeks to find out what you’re getting and decide what changes you want to make or if you want to skip a meal or maybe invite that boyfriend over (or girlfriend. We’re not particular here) for a great meal.

The Customer

I am not necessarily an average customer. Or maybe I’m fooling myself, and I am. Before I rate these boxes, let me explain who is ordering them.

I am single, and, barring some bizarre, misplaced miracle from on high, I will remain that way. I don’t have kids to feed. I don’t have a significant other. I am only cooking for myself. So when I set my deliveries to three meals a week, what I’m actually getting is six. That’s not necessarily going to be the way it works for people with families who need to cook for more than one person.

I work 40-55 hours a week. Do I want to stand and cook? Not always, but the fact I don’t have to plan the meal and gather the components is half the battle.

So, I will be rating these boxes from that perspective because, right now, it’s the only perspective I have.

The Meal Kits

Sun Basket:

Sun Basket offers Paleo, vegan, vegetarian, Mediterranean, and gluten-free meals. The selections I got in my box included a salmon dish with wild caught Keta salmon, red cabbage and orange slaw and a chili lime sauce for the fish. There was a steak dish with a mushroom pan sauce and Brussels sprouts, which I roasted and drizzled with maple syrup. Finally, there was ground lamb dish, köfte, with meat patties and a cucumber/sweet red pepper salad and tahini sauce. I have prepared all of these meals, and I would recommend every one of them.

Plenty of food. I’m not finishing any of these meals and then deciding to eat the other serving. There was more than enough food with each dish.

One of the added values of Sun Basket is that all of their “recipes” come in a little glossy magazine. What that means is that you get all that week’s recipes in your box. Not just the Paleo recipes, but the vegan, the vegetarian, the Mediterranean. Now, keep in mind these aren’t conventional recipes. There is no “1 cup of this” or “1/2 lb. of that.” You get your meals pre-measured. But, any enterprising cook could take a look at the recipes and piece together some of them to experiment.

 

Green Chef:

Green Chef offers the same options as far as alternative diets that Sun Basket does, as well as omnivore, carnivore and keto. The box is virtually identical to Sun Basket’s, and both of these companies offer fully recyclable packaging.

My Green Chef meals were a shrimp and vegetable stir-fry, a Greek-inspired pork meatball dish with cauliflower “rice” sauteed with artichoke and kalamata olives and a chicken and roasted vegetable dish that I have not yet cooked. The two I have eaten were wonderful meals with plenty of food and great on flavor.

Green Chef does not come with the same glossy book full of instructions and recipes, but it comes with an instruction card for each meal. The stickers holding the bags of food closed are a particular color and the instruction card is colored to match so there’s no mistaking which ingredients should be in front of you.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

What are the benefits to these meal kits? The biggest is convenience. The meals come planned with everything needed to prepare a perfectly Paleo meal. Both meal kits use organic foods, though Sun Basket does charge extra for the organic meats. Both meal kits outline exactly what is in the kits, just not the measurements. For example, if there is a packet of spices, the recipe card or book with list exactly what spices are in the packet. They may also recommend spices from your own cabinet that might change the flavor slightly. Sun Basket’s instructions also feature a “Kids Can” section for families, listing things children can do to help prepare the meal like peel oranges, stir cooking vegetables or manning the time for specifically timed food items. Both sets of instructions are set up in such a way that no time is wasted. While one item might be simmering, you’re working on another. The food is healthful and flavorful. I can honestly say nothing was bland. Both kits also encourage you to be your own chef. Don’t like spicy, don’t add this. I don’t like cashews, and I’m allergic to walnuts, so I took those things from two different meals and didn’t add them. I gave them to my father, who is a big fan of both cashews and walnuts.

Another benefit is the fact that you’re cooking. I had never roasted Brussels Sprouts. I’d never made “rice” with artichoke and kalamata olives. Will I be able to do that without the meal kit. I will now, but I don’t think some of the dishes or cooking options would have occurred to me if I hadn’t been using a meal kit. Unless you are the chef of an international-styled restaurant, you’re going to be stepping out of your comfort zone a bit. You are going to learn something.

Menus for both of these boxes are posted with plenty of time for you to decide you might not want something. Say you see something two weeks ahead that has roasted beets, and you wonder what horrible person would feed someone beets Everyone knows beets are a part of a secret society plan to cull the population. (Are too! Prove me wrong!) But I’m looking ahead, and I manage to evade certain death by choosing a different dish without strategically included beets.

Cons:

Is there a downside to meal kits? Yes, there are downsides that don’t necessarily include beets. If you are looking for something convenient that will keep you from having to cook, this is not it. You will be slicing and dicing and frying and mixing and toasting and roasting. It’s not going to keep you off your feet.

The sites are okay. They aren’t necessarily that user-friendly. They want you to get on and order not surf around. They aren’t hiding anything, they just make the website to have a single purpose. Yes, there are FAQs. Yes, there are other areas to explore…a little. But, every time I was on either of the sites, I had to do a little nosing around to remember how to get answers, alternatives or another payment option.

The final downside is the cost. For three two-person meals per week, I will pay $78.95 for Sun Basket and $84.95 for Green Chef. That comes to $11.99 for each of six meals for Sun Basket and $12.99 for each of six meals for Green Chef. Each company charges $6.99 for shipping and handling. As far as cost goes, these boxes are only dinner. You still have to shop for breakfast and lunch. To decide if this is reasonable money, you will have to figure your grocery bill and add in meals eaten out for convenience. Do they come to $11.99 plus shipping (about $13)? Meal kits are not cheap.

Finally…

Are they worth it?

Yes…to an extent.

I’m not going to give a straight answer here. Yes, even as expensive as they are, I think the pros still outweigh the cons, particularly for those new to Paleo who have no idea how to make a paleo meal. Even for someone like me, who has been eating Paleo-ish for a year and has no problems coming up with meal plans, these meal kits are a fantastic opportunity to do something with my food I would never have done otherwise. I’m learning I have a few favorites I didn’t know about, that I prefer my cauliflower rice fresh as opposed to frozen, that I like roasted Brussels sprouts and that I like feeling like a professional chef standing in my kitchen mincing garlic, toasting pine nuts and coarsely chopping cilantro. That’s why I’m going to commit to getting boxes twice a month, but no more.

Try a box or two or three. I can personally say the food is terrific and flavorful.

Where you go from there is entirely up to you and your finances.

Paleo on the Go

Paleo done best is at home with fresh food that you prepare yourself. Unfortunately, that is not always a reality. Trips, travel schedules, business meetings and long hours can cause you to slip back into your old ways. Don’t worry about it. It doesn’t have to be the end of the world.

But it also doesn’t necessarily have to happen. With a little pre-planning and foreknowledge, you can be prepared to Paleo on the go.

Be Prepared

It’s not always the case that the boss comes in, says, “We need you at this place, like, yesterday,” puts you on a plane without so much as a change of clothes, and you find yourself out of your element. Most people have the chance to plan.

If you know where you’re going and where you’re going to be staying, you’re already ahead of the game. Get a hold of the hotel. Find out if there’s a refrigerator. Most hotels these days have a fridge, microwave and a coffee pot, particularly if it’s an extended stay hotel. Ask about their breakfast. Even a cold continental will have things like hard-boiled eggs and fruit.

Keep in mind that most hotels will not allow you to cook in the rooms. It’s not what the rooms are for and cooking in the rooms is very often against fire codes. It’s not something you want to do anyway. Hotel rooms aren’t great places to try to wash dishes. If you’re driving to your location, though, precooked food will go into the microwave nicely. And don’t forget the fridges are small. A lot of little Tupperwares take up a lot of space. I put my prepared meals into Ziploc storage bags. They take up much less space.

It wouldn’t hurt to take along a small pack with paper plates, paper bowls and plastic flatware. Not all hotels have those on hand, and it’s a little frustrating to realize you have food to eat, but nothing on which to eat it.

Fresh is Best

If there is a grocery store nearby, grabbing a few days worth of fresh food is not hard. Places like Safeway and Kroger stores have shredded rotisserie chicken, so you don’t have to buy a whole one. The produce department is a great place to look, and there are now Paleo foods in the freezer section. You’re going to want to pick up things like juice for breakfast because the juice in most hotels is full of sugar. Bottles of water are wise purchases because you don’t have to worry about the quality and flavor of the tap water. One 16.5 oz bottle of water will make one of those little pots of coffee in the room, and, of course, you’re going to want to be drinking it as well. I don’t tend to recommend deli meats, but high-end roast beef is good for a day or two. Peel and eat shrimp is also a great one to take along.

Know Your Snack Options

Two weeks after I started eating Paleo I was living in my car. Because it was a circumstance I knew was coming, I had a chance to prepare for it. I had already started looking for Paleo snacks to take to work or to eat in lieu of candy bars. Once I had to move into my car, I already had a good idea of what I was going to buy to eat. Items like Lära Bars replaced candy bars, RX Bars stood in occasionally for lunch. I tested jerkies (Epic is good, and so is Old Trapper) and fruit sauces like GoGo Squeez. I could have two hard-boiled eggs, some jerky and a Bolthouse Farms smoothie for breakfast for next to nothing, and because I was living in my car during the winter, I could put food in the trunk of my car and it would keep nicely.

What do my homeless adventures matter to you? The items I learned I could eat and stay Paleo are great pack-along snacks to have in your hotel room, your briefcase, and your rental car. They can help you keep to plan when everyone else is munching on candy bars or granola bars during the business meeting. And when you just can’t live without the chocolate, Ghirardelli’s Intense Dark chocolates fall in line with both the Paleo and Keto eating plans. Just sayin’.

Hot Food

Okay, I get it. You’re not going to just want to eat food heated in the microwave. Once in a while, you’re going to want something that feels a little more “real.” One of my biggest problems with hotel living is the fact all of my food is nuked or reheated. Yes, I definitely want hot food sitting in front of me rather than a frozen meal or prepackaged finger food.

Go ahead. Do it. Hit a restaurant. If you’re concerned with staying on plan, look for something basic and not covered in cheese or sauce. A small steak with a salad is a great option, and, if you need more, throw in a potato or, better yet, a sweet potato, if you can get it. A place like Denny’s and Perkins where you can piece together your own breakfast are great as long as they don’t have a problem with substitutions. Can you have more bacon instead of hash browns or fruit instead of pancakes? Don’t want to leave your room. Try my favorite go-to. Dominos Pizza’s plain wings and a Caesar salad. The wings have nothing on them and are baked in the pizza oven rather than deep-fried. There are always options.

Don’t Sweat It

It’s getting easier and easier to find items that fit the Paleo lifestyle, and if you can’t find that, fall back on Keto. They are very similar. But, really, in the long run, don’t sweat it. Do the best you can with what you have and remember that Paleo is not about what you can’t have. It’s about what you do have.

The world will not end if you miss a Paleo meal. Neither will your diet.


Could Paleo be Bad for You?

As with any item, idea or plan, there are going to be naysayers, people have every reason to give you why you’re getting or doing something wrong, and you should be getting it or doing it their way. 

Paleo is no different. 

Go to your search engine and type in “why paleo is bad,” and Google will be happy to provide you with pages of articles explaining why Paleo is one of the worst diets you can be on. If you’re new to the lifestyle, it can be a little unnerving to see all this “proof” from experts that you’re making a big mistake. 

Don’t worry. You’re not. 

Where did the Paleo Diet Come From?

Paleo is short for Paleolithic, in reference to a specific point in history where, theoretically, we were all cavemen. Fast forward a few dozen millennia, and we are all eating junk out of boxes because it’s faster than actually cooking in our society of double incomes. 

Some credit the Paleo diet to Colorado Dr. Loren Cordain, a college professor specializing in exercise physiology or to Australian celebrity chef Pete Evans, but the fact is, this diet has always been around. There are tribes in remote areas that still eat this diet and have since the beginning of time. What Dr. Cordain and Mr. Evans did was bring it to the public’s attention. 

What do the Experts Say?

The restriction on grains deprives you of B vitamins, fiber, iron, magnesium and selenium. 

I’m going to assume, with that argument, that grains are the only place you can find the above vitamins, minerals and nutrients. The fact is, Paleo is full of these things without the need for grains.  Let’s take a look at where those eating Paleo get what they need.

B Vitamins

Red meat

Eggs

Seeds (specifically sunflower and almond)

Dark leafy greens

Fruits (specifically citrus fruits, avocado and banana)

Fiber

Dark Leafy Greens (specifically kale, collard greens and spinach)

Broccoli

Cabbage and Brussels sprouts

Beets understudy

Sweet potatoes and yams

Berries

Coconut

Nuts and seeds (specifically almonds and pumpkin seeds)

Iron

Red meat

Pork

Poultry

Seafood

Peas

Leafy greens

Dried fruits (cranberries, figs, raisins, apricots, etc.)

Magnesium

Spinach

Almonds and cashews

Dark chocolate

Avocado

Selenium

Seafood

Lean meats 

Poultry

Eggs

Nuts (specifically Brazil nuts)

Seeds

That is a lot of non-grain foods that cover those vitamins. And these options are not foods that will cause inflammation for those with osteoarthritis and autoimmune problems. 

The restriction on dairy causes deficiencies of calcium and vitamin D

This is another argument that can be countered by checking out what foods also have calcium and vitamin D. 

Calcium

Sardines

Leafy greens (specifically collard greens, turnip, bok choy)

Almonds (Almond milk has half again the calcium of regular milk)

Vitamin D

Fatty fish (tuna, mackerel, salmon)

Beef liver

Egg yolks

Mushrooms

Sunlight

Yes, sunlight. If you can get 30 minutes of good sun without sunscreen, you can get your daily allowance of vitamin D from the sun. There are, of course, a few problems with this method if skin cancer runs in the family. And the rule of thumb is that you aren’t getting any vitamin D if your shadow is longer than your body. Honestly, I’d stick with the food method and wear sunscreen in the sun. 

The high intake of red meat and saturated fats can increase LDL cholesterol and increase the risk of colorectal cancer

Even those who oppose Paleo have to admit that not all saturated fats are created equal. (Read more here)In fact, many have been forced to admit that naturally occurring saturated fats are actually good for you. The fats in red meats, coconuts, butter and fish are beneficial, but items like canola oil, vegetable shortening and stick margarine (the “healthy” alternative to real butter) are bad for you.

Studies showing that red meat leads to colorectal cancer have been flawed.(This study says evidence is weak, at best.) The controls for the tests were very loose, and some studies relied on the memories of people to recall what they’d eaten over a lifetime. One study “followed more than 72,000 women for 18 years found that those who ate a Western-style diet high in red and processed meats, desserts, refined grains, and French fries had an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, and death from other causes.” The emphasis here is mine. These women were eating desserts, refined grains and French fries, but it was the red meat that was blamed for the cancer. Go figure. 

There is another problem with this reasoning that Paleo is bad for you. Who said you have to eat a high intake of red meat? Take a look at the food lists I reference for the vitamins and minerals. There is pork, fish, shellfish, poultry. The idea that Paleo mavens eat large amounts of red meat is misguided and foolish. We eat all kinds of meat. We don’t limit ourselves to red. 

The fact is, the Paleolithic people ate what was convenient to them. Those living along the coasts tended toward fish. Those living more inland would tend toward wild game such as squirrels, rabbits, deer and buffalo. Yes, some of them ate more red meat than others. So what? Hunter/gatherer tribes existing today still live like this. In the Amazon, they eat macaws, turtles, monkeys and, in some places, tarantulas. In Africa, tribes eat antelope, zebra and even large predatory cats. The Pacific islanders eat terns, fish, sometimes whales. Just because we eat a meat-based diet does not mean we limit ourselves to red meat. 

The Paleo diet is bad for diabetics.

Again, this is reaching. (Read this story.) The paleo diet is naturally low-glycemic and has been shown to help diabetics as well as those with osteoarthritis, lupus, rheumatoid disease and autoimmune deficiencies. My own doctor specialized in arthritis and gout, and she advised me to go on a Paleo diet, not only for my osteoarthritis, for which she was treating me, but also because I was borderline diabetic and I wouldn’t have to juggle two different diets. 

Some of the Experts Reasons to be Anti-Paleo are…Interesting.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Calling some foods good and some foods bad can cause low self-esteem in dieters.

Hello? Doesn’t every diet call some foods good and some foods bad? The reasoning given for this statement is that if a dieter falls off the wagon and eats a “bad” food, they feel bad about themselves and they develop low self-esteem. This is the reality of, literally, EVERY DIET ON THE MARKET!! 

And most people on Paleo don’t think of foods as good or bad. It’s just that they do eat this and don’t eat that. 

Most of us don’t hunt for our food.

These experts clearly never coupon and sale shopped with their mothers when they were kids. All day, five different stores, a kit full of coupons and an armload of sales fliers. No, many don’t hunt for their food. We can pick it up on the sales rack. What difference does that make? It’s the same type of food (For what it’s worth, I grew up in the ‘80s on game meat in the winter and trout in the summer. Some of us still hunt for our food.).

We have many food choices available.

Yes, we do. And we are making a choice. 

It can get expensive.

It can get expensive. Any diet or change of culinary lifestyle can get expensive. With nutritionists pushing organic foods that cost a fortune, anything we put in our mouths is going to cost more than we want to pay. That doesn’t make the diet bad. 

It’s difficult for vegetarians.

No, I am not kidding. A licensed nutritionist actually made this argument. Yes, a Paleo diet would be difficult for a vegetarian. That’s why vegetarians go on a vegetarian diet. 

The lifespan of a caveman was only about 30 years.

I would argue that it was probably closer to 25, but the fact is, the caveman’s diet was probably the only thing going for him. He did not have medicines and disease or infection prevention, and predatory animals were a lot bigger and more aggressive back then. 

Completely cutting out carbs will make you cranky and weak. 

I know several Paleo and Keto bodybuilders who would disagree. 

There is nothing wrong with the Paleo diet. It’s one of many healthy choices people can make. For those dealing with various forms of inflammation and pain, as well as high blood sugar, it’s a fantastic choice. It is, obviously, disputed by many experts in the nutrition field. Without fail, every one of them recommended getting dietary advice from the governments approved plan…the same government that declared pizza a vegetable. 

That’s all I’m going to say about that.

 

 

Paleo Schools of Thought

Let’s complicate matters a little. It’s only a little, and it’s just by way of giving the first-time paleo dieter a few choices.

There a few different schools of thought where Paleo is concerned. If you are confused by what “hunter/gatherer” means, that’s okay. It doesn’t always mean the same thing to everyone. There are nomadic tribes out there that spend seasons in one place, and, because they do, they tend to eat things that earlier nomadic peoples who were migrating may not have. There are certainly more agrarian items on their diet than a caveman would have had.

So, what are the two main Paleo schools of thought?

Caveman Diet

This is also sometimes referred to as Primal. It’s pretty simple. If it would be on a caveman’s diet, it’s Paleo. Eggs. roots such as onions, carrots and beets. Leafy greens like dandelion, kale and Swiss chard. Whatever mighty beast Mr. Cavman managed to down with his spear. Whatever fish he managed to trap. Whatever rodent or bird he managed to snare. Grill these over a fire or eat them raw (We’re talking raw veggies here. Cook the meat unless you’re into sashimi or steak tartare.). Drink lots of water. They most likely knew of plants to make teas with for different aspects of their lives. Energy. Sleep. Nausea. Don’t let the ignorant caveman image fool you. People who have to survive in certain ways are amazingly adaptive.

Given the primal nature of this particular group of people, food preservation is not going to be something they specialized in. They acted in many ways like the animals they were hunting. They killed what they needed, ate it all and then got up to hunt again another day. That’s not to suggest you need to take daily trips to the store if you decide to go caveman, it’s just something to know when you consider how they ate. The caveman version of Paleo is going to be far more restrictive than what people do now. They didn’t grind tree nuts into flour, they ate them raw. What they ate had a lot to do with where they lived. Primal peoples living in the South Pacific were eating diets of seafood and coconuts. Primal people in the mountains of just about any continent were killing some kind of deer, trapping birds and were probably less into vegetation than peoples who were lower down in the valleys. Primal people ate what they had available.

Hunter/Gatherer Diet

This is what most of us consider Paleo. No grains, no dairy, no sugars. Just meats, veggies, fruits, nuts an lots of water, coffee and tea…and creativity. We’re the groups that takes that simple nut and figures out how to make flour with it so we don’t have to deprive ourselves of the things we’re getting away from. I mean, if you can find a healthy way to have a piece of chocolate cake, what’s stopping you?

The Hunter/Gather peoples tend to spend time in one place for a while. Think of the Native Americans. Many of them stayed in wintering grounds where food was easy to get during the hard times, but they also naturally preserved and stored food. In the spring the would pull stakes and head for their summering grounds were they ate a different kind of food and got ready for the move in the winter. While they hunted and gathered often, it wasn’t necessarily every day like the caveman. 

This lifestyle can still be witnessed in nomadic peoples in Central Asia and Africa. Pacific Islanders who are hunter/gatherer societies may never leave the island they live on. Some of our current Paleo practices come from these peoples who live both permanently and semi-permanently in different areas. We occasionally have fermented foods. Ghee is something favored by Paleo mavens, but it is made from butter, something not necessarily on the Paleo food lists because it is dairy. These people are more likely to dry fruit, make jerky, bake starchy breads from roots like taro. Cavemen don’t have recipes. Hunter/gatherers just might. They have a little more time on their hands for recreational living than the cavemen did.

What These Lifestyles Had in Common

These two groups of peoples had one thing in common that is important to remember.

They didn’t live fat-free.

They ate animal fats. They ate the fat from egg yolks. Those who stayed in one place long enough or who had milk-giving animals drank whole-fat milk. Coconuts are high in fat. So are certain insects and larvae.

The Paleo life is not fat-free. I cannot stress that enough. But I’m also not encouraging a reckless lifestyle. Animal fat is not necessarily bad for you. Neither are certain oils like olive, avocado and coconut oil. I cook in butter on my Paleo diet, and that is also not non-fat.

If you are eating a diet with no grains and no sugars, your body needs the fat. That’s what it burns for energy. When I tried to make my diet low-fat and then complained to the doctor who recommended it, she told me to eat the fat. She asked me, “Do you really think the cavemen trimmed their steaks before they ate them?”

The answer is no, they didn’t.

The caveat here is that, over the centuries, we have invited in some problems. Heart disease. High blood pressure. Thyroid problems. Ulcerative Colitis. Gout.


Most Paleo practices will work with these problems, but not all of them. If you have medical problems, talk to your doctor about how to adapt this way of eating.

Are You A Caveman Or A Hunter/Gatherer?

The way you do Paleo is up to you. Some people like the stricter guidelines of a caveman or primal diet. And there are others who would never make it that regimented and are thrilled to have a diet with adapted recipes of their favorite snacks, desserts or meals. The hunter/gatherer formula seems to work better for beginners, but there are no rules here. Try on this lifestyle the way you want to. Ease into it, or go all-or-nothing.

Paleo Is Paleo Is Paleo…Not!

Clearly, there are some differences. Some of us eat a little dairy. Some of us don’t. Some eat only straightforward, unadulterated foods. Some of us still want cookies, cakes and ice cream. Fortunately, one of Paleo’s schools of thought provides for that. The other is hardcore. Take your pick.

It’s your life.

The Best Tools for Your Paleo Kitchen

Now that you have a general idea what you’re supposed to eat in this new lifestyle and how to stock your larder, it’s time to start thinking about some basic tools with which to begin your new life. While it’s a little early to be thinking about fancy gadgets — you’re going to want a better idea of how you really want to eat before that kind of investment — some good old tried and true standards are going to be the best tools for your Paleo kitchen.

Ninja

When I moved in with my parents, my mother was using what she called a Ninja. I called it a blender. The difference between her term and mine is a great deal. I’m thinking $10 blender that only manages ice if you’re lucky. What she has is a fantastic blender, a food processor that does her slicing and dicing as well as shredding, and a 16-20 oz. smoothie maker. Nothing stops this thing. It has settings for straight blending, cutting or shredding. It has a special intuitive pulse setting. It goes from blender cup to blender jug to food processor very easily, and I have not once used this thing and been disappointed in it. I was getting along fine without a Ninja in my life. Now I’ll look at a meal project and say, “Yeah, I’ll just grab the Ninja. Smoothies. It makes them. Shredded carrots. Ditto. Want applesauce? No problem. I make my chili with peach purée. Purée has never been easier. It’s definitely worth the buy and can easily be purchased on Amazon.

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Stovetop Pans

Sauté pan: My mom uses stainless steel. She loves them. She takes excellent care of her pans, cleans them well, and uses them all the time.

I hate them.

Give me non-stick any day. I honestly tried my mom’s pans. I actually didn’t have a choice if I was planning to cook, but that’s beside the point. When I was finally working again, I went to the store and bought myself an 8″ nonstick sauté pan. This is for eggs, panfrying meat, sautéing veggies. It does everything Mom’s pans do but better. Okay, Mom doesn’t think so, and you may not, either. Whether it’s stainless steel, aluminum, non-stick or cast iron, you’re going to need a sauté pan. Get the size and type that you prefer. There is no right or wrong here.

Sauce pan: Not everything I cook is done in my saute pan, though I do give it a good effort. Soup, chili, sauces and even eggs will go in the sauce pan. Again, I don’t need a large one. It’s only me. In this case the pan is stainless steel, and again, it’s my mother’s, but I love this steel pan. I can do a quick sauté of my meat or of garlic and onion before cooking the rest of my meal.

Soup pot: What do I need a soup pot for if I have a sauce pan? More than just soup. I need it for stock (which, I’m not going to lie, my mother makes). Mom is not always going to be around to make bone broth for you. Invest in a good soup pot. It will come in handy.

Oven Pans

Broiler/roaster: If I put meat in the oven, it’s going under the broiler. I don’t do it because I want something non-fat. Paleo is not exactly a non-fat diet. I do it because it tastes good. It’s often a convenient way to cook when you have every burner on the stove in use. And if you’re roasting something for hours, nothing beats a good roaster than will fit two chickens and veggies to boot.

Muffin tins/bread pans: No, you aren’t eating grains, but these pans do a lot more than just bake bread. Muffin tins are great for mini quiches that will go in the freeze and check out this great banana bread recipe for the bread pan. If you have these pans, don’t throw them out because breads and sugar are out. Use them.

Cookie sheets: See the comment above. I have a wonderful chocolate chip cookie recipe on this site I have baked poultry cutlets and veggies on cookie sheets. Keep a hold of them.

Slowcooker

I can’t say enough about having a crock pot or about this one in particular. It can be programmed for a 10-hour cook time rather than just six or eight hours, and it immediately shifts to “Keep Warm” when the cooking is over. I can fit a good-sized chicken in it or a large roast, or enough food to feed a (very) small army. My slowcooker has always been utilized more in the winter, a season when getting home from work is not always going to be in the time I want due to traffic or weather or traffic because of the weather. What I’m never doing is sitting in traffic biting my nails because I know I was suppose to be home to turn off the slowcooker an hour ago. I know it’s switched over to “Keep Warm,” and my dinner will still be good eating when I arrive.

Get Some Good Knives

You’re going to need one that will cut through raw meat with no problem. You’re going to need a good paring knife. And you’re going to need a good vegetable knife for any slicing and dicing your Ninja doesn’t do. Make them sharp. Make them last. In my Paleo kitchen, the knives are the only thing I use as often as the pans.

Start with the basics. As you progress into your diet, you will discover what else you may want, be it electric skillets, kettles or gadgets. Only you know how you’re going to enjoy your Paleo meals. Only you know how you’re going to want to cook them. Make your kitchen a comfortable and convenient place for you — specificially you — to work so you can make use the tools you choose.

Kelli’s Paleo Pantry Essentials

Living Paleo is no different from living not Paleo. If you get hungry, you walk into your kitchen and take food out of your fridge your freezer or your pantry. You cook it or you nuke it, but the fact is, it’s there to prepare.

You’re going to do better with the Paleo lifestyle change if you have the materials to make that change at hand. This isn’t something you want to do by finding a recipe and going to get the supplies for that recipe, only to do the same for other recipes. You’re going to want a few staples on hand so you can be a little more spontaneous than that.

What is your pantry going to look like? Different from mine. Just because we’re following the same lifestyle does not mean we’re going to do it the same way. You may prefer fish and poultry while I prefer heavier-flavored game meats. You may want to eat a lot of salads while I prefer my veggies sautéed. You may drink tea while I drink coffee.


One of the free resources I offer is a pantry list. It’s very important to have a pantry you can work from. There are a few things that are top-of-the-list important for me, though. These are my Paleo pantry essentials.

Inside My Paleo Fridge

Obviously, you’re going to be shopping for fresh meats, veggies and fruits to eat, but the pantry items on my list are more about preparation and spontaneity. These are things my fridge cannot be without.

Eggs — I eat a LOT of eggs. I always have two in the morning, In the summer, when I’m more likely to eat cold meals, I’ll have two hard-boiled eggs at lunchtime. Believe it or not, eggs are good for you, particularly the yolk, which is full of all kinds of vitamins and the vital nutrient choline. They also can help give your meal staying power so you’re not wanting to nosh unnecessarily.

Salsa — I keep a bottle of mild Pace picante sauce in my fridge for impromptu “chili” which is usually a meat, sweet potatoes, a veggie and “chili stuff,” which, for me, tends to be salsa, peach puree, spices and cayenne. Pace is paleo friendly.

Maple syrup — Real maple syrup is a sweetener for me and I always have some on hand. I cook with it, bake with it and, occasionally, I actually put it over pancakes.

Butter — I know this seems out of place given Paleo’s ban on dairy, but I still use butter daily for cooking. We’re talking about real, unsalted butter, not substitutes. Grass fed is best. Almost all of my pan frying and sauté is done in butter.

Stocking a Paleo Freezer

Your freezer is going to have some meats and veggies in it, but there are a few things you don’t want to miss.

Cauliflower rice — I was skeptical of cauliflower rice when it became popular, but I love it. I use it as…well…rice. I’ve made fried rice, I’ve put it in soups and stews, and I’ve just added it to dished for a little extra texture. It’s great to have in a pinch.

Fruit — I got a wild hair and made a blueberry mocha smoothie. How? I had the materials. Frozen fruit is fantastic to have as part of your stock and smoothies made with frozen fruit don’t need ice to water them down. Keep your favorites on hand.

Chocolate — True dark chocolate is good for you, and sometimes it’s just what you need for that sweet tooth. Dark chocolate bars (70% – 90% cocoa) in the freezer can be a great bonus, and Ghriardelli has a great 60% chocolate chip that’s great for mixing with nuts and fruit for a snack. If you decide you want Paleo chocolate chip cookies or to try your hand at Paleo hot cocoa, having the materials on hand never hurts.

Paleo Pantry Staples

This is the area where I tend to have more stock than anywhere else. I keep cans of olives, jars of fruit purées, boxes of bone broth and nuts. But what is most important to me here is baking supplies.

Flours — True, you’re not supposed to have any grain flours on this eating plan, but there are others. I highly recommend keeping almond flour on hand. Of the alternative flours, I find that it’s the one that behaves the most like regular wheat flour. For those who can’t have tree nuts, coconut flour and cassava flour are also handy. Be aware that if you use some of these flours slowly, they may need to be stored in the fridge or freezer.

Honey — This is another sweetener for me, but I sometimes use it as a topping as well. Bananas with a little honey and cinnamon make a great snack.

Arrowroot starch — Cornstarch is out, so if you like gravies and stews, makes sure you have arrowroot on hand. Tapioca starch also works really well.

Spices — This is a big one. I can’t tell you how many people have asked me how I can stomach such a bland diet. I’m not sure what brand of Paleo they were on, but there is nothing bland about it. I love food with Mediterranean or Middle Eastern spices. I’m usually putting a touch (too much) of cayenne in my meals. I eat Garam Masala on my sweet potatoes. There is no reason for this lifestyle to be bland.

Bottled water — Why? Because you should drink about 8 cups (not glasses) of water a day, and that’s about four bottles. They’re handy. Just open one up and drink at your leisure. If you’re someone who knows they don’t drink enough water, this is a great way to get some down.

What’s on My Paleo Shopping List?

Paleo is clean eating. That mean fresh food, not prepackaged with all kinds of preservatives, salts, sugars and grains that you don’t need. I like my veggies sautéed, so I buy leafy greens like spinach, sweet peppers, onions, zucchini, broccoli and asparagus. I prefer bacon for breakfast, but ground turkey or chicken with lots of poultry seasoning makes a great substitute sausage. Because I’m single, I can grab packs of breakfast steaks, chicken thighs and fish portions, separate them and freeze them in portions.

But I’m also on the go a lot. I grab Paleo-friendly snacks like GoGoSqeez, Epic bars and Lära bars. If i’m on the road, I always have beef jerky, and Epic makes some great uncured jerkies. I do whatever I need to do to keep from pulling over and hitting McDonalds. Having something handy in the car helps cut back on Bacon Double Cheeseburgers.

Conclusion

Really, when you get down to it, Paleo living looks exactly like non-Paleo living. The ingredients are just a little different. Start slow. Start small. Don’t go whole hog until you know you want the whole hog. Then make sure that your life isn’t disrupted by the fact you’ve just rolled out of bed wanting pancakes, and you don’t have the supplies to make the.

Any questions? Feel free to ask in the comments below.

The Problems with the Paleo Diet

Let’s be honest. A “diet,” basically without rules? That’s got to be too good to be true. This is just another one of those scams that sucks you in with promises and then disappoints you in the end. Right?

No, it’s not, but let’s face it. Most things that sound too good to be true are. I will be the first to admit there are some problems with the Paleo diet. I would be less and honest if I didn’t. 

It’s Restrictive

Say what? Didn’t we just go through an entire article on how “not restrictive” this diet was? No rules, remember? 

That’s not entirely true. I said there were a few rules. Check it out. Here’s a handy link so you can go back and see for yourself. 

It is a restrictive diet, just not in the same sense most people view restrictive diets. There are things you aren’t supposed to eat if you’re going to live Paleo. Bread, dairy, sugar, legumes. All of them off limits. 

The restrictions is just one of the reasons I don’t recommend going into Paleo cold turkey. You’re giving up a lot. Once you get going, you won’t miss it all that much, but you still have to get past that “giving it up” point. What do you give up first? What is going to be the hardest?

Picture from Wikipedia Commons

The hardest for me was the dairy. Despite the fact I’m allergic to milk, I love cheese, and I have a serious weakness for ice cream. Cheese is one of things that makes me Paleoish, though I don’t eat anywhere near as much as I used to. And, if I walk into a Starbucks and order a latte or mocha, I get it fat free (I still go whole milk with Frappuccinos, and then I can’t breathe for the next two days). I also find that depression is best medicated with a pint of ice cream. If my misery wants an almond milk flavor I’ll get it, but Ben and Jerry’s is a huge pharmacy, and the almond milk selections are too few.

Get rid of one at a time. Get rid of the easiest one. Legumes? How many beans do you really eat? Or is it breads? Whichever it is, get rid of it first. And after you’ve been a week, maybe two, and you’re comfortable with that decision, get rid of the next easiest thing to give up. 

It’s Time Consuming

One of the complaints I have on a fairly regular basis is that it seems like I’m always cooking. Always. Cooking. And, until I can talk myself into being one of those meal prep people, I just don’t see that changing. 

Picture from Wikipedia Commons

When you eat Paleo, the bulk of your diet is fresh foods. As in, they need to be prepared before you can eat them. When I get up in the morning, I cook breakfast. Sometime around 1 p.m., I cook lunch, and I am often simultaneously cooking my dinner. There is a reason for the two meals together. I go to work at 5 p.m., and I need to take something with me. I don’t seem to be as slammed on my days off — yes, I’m still cooking three meals, but I don’t have to cut my day short to get to work. 

If you love to cook, great! I’m pretty ambivilent. But, once in a while, it will occur to me that I cook a lot. 

One of the benefits of this is that you can season your foods or cook them to YOUR preference. What spices? What herbs? How hot? How rare? The world is your oyster, which I hate and don’t eat, cooked or raw (Seriously, what’s up with that?).

It Can Get Expensive

When I was a young wife, I was often encourage to buy in bulk. What I always heard was, “It’s cheaper in the long run.” I hear the same thing about healthy living (of all kinds. We’re not just talking diet here). “Yes, it’s expensive,” they’ll say. “But you’ll be healthier in the long run, and you won’t have health problems when you’re a senior.” That fact doesn’t put money on the budget for groceries. 

A steak and sweet potato is going to cost more than a box of macaroni and cheese. Trout fillets and baby spinach is going to set you back more than Stouffer’s frozen lasagne, and it’s going to feed fewer people. Any time you choose to eat clean and not go with the processed stuff, it’s going to cost you. I’m not going to lie. One of the biggest benefits I have is that I’m single and not trying to feed a family. The fact is, though, there are families that eat this way. It can be done. 

The cost will change the way you eat. One of the things I have done in the way I set up my breakfasts is that I have two proteins. I have whatever meat (bacon, sausage, left-over chicken) and a secondary protein, which would be my eggs. It stays with me longer and I eat less at my other meals. For those who go the whole five or six small meals route, you’ll probably have better luck with eating less food over the course of the day than those of us who do three squares. 

Yeah, it’s a lot of money, but waking up day-to-day and realizing I’m pain-free makes it priceless. 

Why Am I Telling You This?

I know this all seems contrary to what I’ve talked about in my past articles. There’s a reason I’m doing this, though. 

All of my life people have showed me something good, something I wanted or wanted to do. The offering was there, and all the benefits were being echoed back and forth. 

Then there was the moment of truth. No one told me there was great chasm between me and the prize, and all of hell filled it. And here I had the people who talked me into whatever I was going to get or do handing me a Super Soaker and telling me to go for it. That chasm of hell was always the one thing they left out. 

I’m not going to tell you it won’t be hard. For some, it will be harder than others. There will be those who are fireproof. Some will try and fail and try again. That was me. And there will be some who try and fail and decide it’s just not for them. 

It’s Worth It

If a “diet” with no rules sounds too good to be true, rest assured, it is not. I’m letting you know know that you can see it on the other side of this little valley full of sacrifice and inconvenience, and all you have to do is figure out the best way through it. 

Here’s your Super Soaker. 

There Are No Stinkin’ Rules…okay, there’s a few.

The question I’ve been seeing a lot is “What are the Paleo diet rules?” I think it’s a valid question. After all, doesn’t every diet have rules? Aren’t there things you are NOT supposed to eat if you follow a paleo diet?

Well, yes. That’s the short answer. Even with its restriction, Paleo is not very restrictive, and particularly not the way I do it because I am, after all, just “practically Paleo.”

Yes, Paleo has some restrictions, but really, they only set the parameters so you know what it is. After that, there is really not much in the way of rules when it comes to the Paleo lifestyle.

The Rules

Paleo is grain, dairy and sugar free.

There. That’s it. Those are the rules, and even those can be bent to a certain degree.

This is not a “gluten-free” diet, although, just by virtue of the fact you aren’t eating grains you are gluten-free. No, this is grain-free. So, those non-glutenous grains that people eat instead are no-nos. This is hard for us. We, as a pretty agrarian society, eat a lot of bread. We eat a lot of rice. We think corn is a vegetable. You want to see what I’m talking about? Walk into any restaurant and try to order something that does not have grain. It’s not easy. Everything has bread. The salad has croutons. The side dishes are corn. Every breakfast comes with muffins, toast or pancakes. Dinner meats sit on beds of rice pilaf. We use these things as fillers to keep us from getting hungry too soon. It’s everywhere. And by grains, I’m including pseudo and ancient grains like amaranth and quinoa.

Legumes. Say what? Yep. No beans. No peanuts. No lentils. No chickpeas. No soy. There are a few things we call legumes that are okay. Peas. Nuts other than peanuts. It has to do with phytic acid. It’s not that they have it. Other foods permitted by Paleo have phytic acid. In this case, though it has more to do with how the phytic acid in legumes affect the body. That’s why some legumes (sugar snap peas, nut, green beans) are allowed, but most are not.

Dairy is out. Same restaurants. How many cream sauces or gravies are there? Think about how much food we coat in cheese. How much is swimming in butter (We’ll be talking about butter.)? Coffee comes with a side of cream whether you use it or not. We are not a diary-free society. We have even found ways around lactose intolerance. I’m not one of those people who think milk is bad (I’m allergic to it, but that’s totally beside the point), it’s just not Paleo.

If you thought we used a lot of grain and dairy, you haven’t yet considered how much sugar we, as a society, use. I’m talking anything processed — sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, corn syrup — and that includes artificial sweeteners. The best rule of thumb is this: If it’s processed, don’t use it. That doesn’t leave much. Honey. Maple Syrup (The real stuff. Don’t be thinking Aunt Jemimah and Log Cabin). Bananas are a great sweetener.

What’s Left?

What does that leave? Everything else, and that’s a lot. Any meat. Yep, any. Fish, bird, pig, cow, sheep, rabbit, deer, bear, crustacean. I’m not kidding. If it has meat that you can eat, it’s fair game. Is it lean? Eat it. Fatty? Have a ball. Organ rather than muscle meat? Yep, it’a all good.


Then there are vegetables. All of them. Real veggies, I mean (Corn is not a vegetable. See the grain rule). Squash, leafy greens, sweet potatoes, peppers. They’re all good.

Then there are fruits. Yep. Eat them up. Like berries? Have them. Peaches? Go for it. Like munching apples? Have at it.

Eggs are Paleo. Not egg whites. The whole egg. Stop separating them and throwing away the yolks. This is good food!

Nuts. This is one of those things that breaks the legume rule. Nuts are good for you. They make a great snack, and almond flour and almond milk are your friends.

Chocolate. Do I have your attention? Chocolate is good for you, but it’s got to be specific. Good dark chocolate. Not semi-sweet. Dark. The darker the better. I try never to go below 70% cocoa, but I have had chocolate chips that are only 60% cocoa. I tend to hang out around 90% cocoa.

When Do You Eat?

Another short answer. You eat when you’re hungry. Do you like breakfast at 10 a.m. Have it then. Are you hungry two hours later? Great! Eat! Starving? Eat a lot. Not so hungry? Don’t eat so much. The rule here is that you eat when you’re hungry, and you stop eating when you’re full. There is no trying to stuff down a meal or snack when you don’t feel like eating because you have a plan to stick with. There is no starving between meals because it’s not time to eat yet.

People who know me know I like to eat big breakfasts. Not big, HUGE. I may not eat again until 1:30 p.m. or 2 p.m. That’s okay. It’s just how I do things. But I’ve had days when I’ve gotten up and decided I just wasn’t hungry. I munched down a hard-boiled egg and a banana and went on my merry way. How do I quantify that? How do I keep up with my calories? I don’t. There is no measuring in Paleo unless you’re following a recipe, and there is no counting calories. There is only eating when you’re hungry and not eating when you’re not.

Cheat days? I don’t have them. I eat my Paleo meals and go about my life. Party at work? They’re serving cake? Have a piece. No. Seriously. Have a piece of cake. You haven’t cheated. Don’t forget, this isn’t a diet. When you’ve enjoyed your cake, go back to your regular Paleo lifestyle. There is complete freedom here.

Organically Speaking…

There is a lot of talk about where our food comes from. Should we only be eating organic food? What about GMOs? What if I don’t have a Sprouts or Whole Foods near me?

I shop at Walmart.

My life is topsy-turvy crazy. I have been homeless. I have lived in a hotel. I have worked mostly entry level jobs, and, when I have a decent paycheck, my bills take all my money. I can’t afford organic. I can’t afford Whole Foods. But I can afford Walmart. And with Paleo becoming more and more mainstream, even places like Walmart are carrying Paleo-friendly foods. The fact is, though, if you’re eating just food and not a lot of processing, you can get your food pretty much anywhere.

I may one day be able to shop organic at Whole Foods. The fact I can’t now, though, doesn’t stop me from eating Paleo.

A little bit at a time.

Don’t go home and throw away all the food in your cabinets. Like anything else, you have to ease into this. Some manage it faster than others. As you run out of something, replace the food with good, clean foods and just move forward. There’s no plan. There’s no rules…well, almost no rules.

Just live.

Starting the “It’s Not a Diet” Change

Okay, maybe it’s a diet in the most scientific use of the word. It’s the word you look up when you find a baby bird and need to know how to feed it. What is the bird’s diet? In the world of Paleo, diet falls under that same heading. This is the way our ancestors ate. They weren’t trying to lose weight, they were trying to survive, and they did it with the resources they had. When we talk about primal and Paleo diets, we’re taking the idea of the original diet all the way back to the cavemen. Yes, their diet would differ by region and resources, but the idea is still the same. Paleo is not a diet in the modern sense of the term. It is a lifestyle, and it can be very hard to change lifestyles.

Start Slow

When I was first told I needed to adopt a Paleo diet for my osteoarthritis, I went whole hog even though I didn’t know, really, what I was getting into. I thought it would be easy. After all, I had already dropped (or mostly dropped) two of the three Paleo restrictions. I am allergic to lactose, so I had already stopped drinking milk, and I had stopped buying bread when I lived in a shelter because I didn’t have a place to hide if from my hyperactive kitten who loved crinkly bags and would tear open my bread bags. Certainly I could just drop the refined sugar, and I would be on my way to a healthier, pain-free me. I didn’t bother reading anything about the lifestyle. I totally had this.

Except I didn’t. Inside of two weeks, I was miserable. I had no energy. I learned that bread-free and grain-free are two different things. I learned that, as a nation, we put grain and cheese on, literally, everything. And we put sugar even in things that don’t need sugar. I couldn’t figure out where my energy was supposed to come from. And, while I understood that I was supposed to be making a lifestyle change, I was treating it like a diet.

Forget Low Fat

One of the hallmarks of the American weight loss diet is low-fat food. It is so ingrained in our thinking, that the minute we suggest a change in the way we eat we subconsciously start thinking of ways to cut the fat. I was no exception. When I followed up with my doctor and told her the problems I was having, particularly with energy, she had me give a rundown of what I was eating. I explained everything from drinking water to eating salads to trimming fat. She stopped me there and asked why I was trimming the fat from meat. What she told me next changed the course of my diet (ahem…lifestyle change.).

“Do you really think the cavemen trimmed their steaks before they ate them”

I was essentially trimming the energy I needed from my food and throwing it away. Then I spent the days complaining that I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I don’t trim my meat. I eat bacon. I don’t limit myself to egg whites. And, while Paleo is a non-dairy diet, I do cook in butter (I did mention only practically Paleo, right?).

Stop Drinking Your Calories

This is actually a big one, and certainly was for me. I drank a lot of soda. I drank a lot of Starbucks. I drank a lot of juices. Now, unless the drink is a very specific part of my meal, I only drink water, black coffee or tea. While that doesn’t seem all that interesting, that’s just my day-to-day hydration. There are times that I will forgo a piece of fruit for a smoothie or cup of juice. Once in a while, I’ll decide to spoil myself with a non-fat latte. Or, if I feel like I want a soda, I’ll grab and Izze (Check out what I have to say about those here.) Honestly, it’s not as hard as it sounds.

Stop Counting Calories

Stop. Just don’t. And stop measuring things unless you’re making a specific recipe. Eat when you’re hungry, just make sure it’s not dairy, grain or sugar. When I get up and have breakfast, it goes something like this:

“I’m hungry, what’s to eat? I’ll have a couple of eggs, and look! Bacon! I’ll have a few strips of that. I think I’ll sauté some zuchini and have an orange, too.”

I’ll cook that all and have a cup of coffee with it. How much do I eat? As much as it takes for me to not be hungry. Some mornings that’s a breakfast steak, a sweet potato, two eggs and a banana. Other days it’s a hard-boiled egg and a tangerine. Some days I won’t have lunch until nearly 2 p.m., other days I’ll be snacking all day on fruit, nuts, veggies and beef jerky. There is no specified time to eat. There are no hard and fast rules. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re not, don’t. It’s as easy as that.

Baby Steps

No lifestyle change is going to work if you stop the old one cold turkey and make an abrupt change. Don’t throw out the dairy, grain and sugar and expect to suddenly be Paleo. You’ll be setting yourself up to fail. Years of habits can’t be broken overnight There needs to be creation of entirely new habits and that takes time, 30 days, according to some experts. Start slowly and feel yourself out. How is this lifestyle going to work best for you. If you are someone that just HAS to have hard and fast rules, take those 30 days to make those rules that you want to stick to. There’s no need for detoxes or cleanses to start. Just slowly replace processed foods with clean foods. Slowly change habit into better habits. Making a decision is one thing. Implementing it can be a whole different animal. Don’t just grab it by the horns. It’s easier to sneak up on it first.