You keep hearing about the Paleo diet, but do you know how to actually follow it? It’s not as scary as it might seem. Here’s how to go Paleo in a few steps.
When you first heard about people going Paleo, maybe you thought it was all about meat. The stereotype is that followers of the Paleo diet tend to eat like dinosaurs or cavemen – all meat, all the time, not much else.
But that’s not actually the case. The definition of the Paleo diet? Eating more protein and fiber than you are probably used to and getting healthier in the process.
In other words, you eat super healthy food in its whole state that you already know is really good for you, from protein to beef, chicken and fish to produce to healthy fats (think avocado and almond butter and olive oil).
You’re taking the whole gluten-free thing a whole step further and you’re not going to eat any grains whatsoever. And you’re definitely cutting out the typical junk food you’ve been used to eating.
If you want more energy and to just generally feel amazing every single day, which you probably do (because who wouldn’t?), then you definitely want to follow the Paleo diet.
But if you’re sad about saying goodbye to gluten-filled treats and sugar, don’t be. You might just find this whole Paleo diet is just what you need. Here’s how to go Paleo.
The first rule of going Paleo? You definitely overhaul your cupboard and fridge and throw out any and all processed foods. That goes for sugar, too.
You probably know that you shouldn’t eat processed food on a regular basis, but if you truly want to follow the Paleo diet, then you have to walk the talk.
Why do you want to avoid this stuff? Because processed food has tons of ingredients that you really don’t want to put into your body, from sugar to way too much salt.
The thing is that when you go Paleo, you have to rely on your own kitchen and your own cooking skills since you can’t exactly just heat up a box of processed tomato sauce and make a pot of pasta and call it a night.
But it doesn’t have to be hard. Make easy meals based on simple components like salmon, a sweet potato, and some broccoli and you’ll be good to go.
When people first go Paleo, they’re super confused about what to eat first thing in the morning. After all, you’re probably used to eating a pretty standard breakfast, from toast with peanut butter to a bowl of granola and milk.
But a Paleo breakfast is much different. It’s got more protein and healthy fats and less refined carbs (aka white bread). But don’t worry, you can definitely make a Paleo breakfast. Think eggs and steak or bacon with some sweet potatoes and greens. Easy.
If you think that you’re going to feel much better starting the day off this way, you’re absolutely right. And since you know you need breakfast to function and focus, that’s music to your ears.
If you think that the Paleo diet is about protein, well, you’re totally right. But it’s about choosing the right proteins. A true Paleo diet plan includes a variety of protein sources from chicken to fish to beef, and the idea is that the beef should definitely be grass-fed (aka the animals feed on grass, not grains).
If that’s out of your budget, though, don’t worry – it’s generally believed that it’s okay to start smaller and buy what you can.
Unfortunately, we’ve been pretty terrified of fat since the 1980s. It’s like we’re all living in a horror movie and fat is the evil demon everyone is running from.
But we don’t have to be afraid of fat anymore. In fact, fat is totally your BFF. Go for avocado, nut butter (peanuts aren’t Paleo so you want to get into almond butter), nuts, and good quality oils like olive oil. Salmon counts too. As long as you include a fat source at each meal and learn the proper portions, you don’t have to worry about going overboard.
So why should you eat fat? You will not only feel better and have a great time focusing right now but the long-term health effects are pretty awesome, too: you can stop yourself from getting anything from dementia to mental health problems and heart disease.
The stereotype is definitely that following the Paleo diet means not eating any carbs at all. That couldn’t be more wrong.
Yeah, you’re not going to eat bread or pasta, but it turns out that veggies actually have carbs. Yes, really.
Potatoes (both white and sweet) totally count as healthy carbs, and Paleo people definitely go nuts over plantains and all kinds of squashes.
You can also work apples, blueberries, and bananas into your diet. Compare these stats: one sweet potato has 26 grams of carbs, one banana has 27, and 1 cup of blueberries has 21 grams.
Experts definitely agree that you need carbs in order to be healthy, since they help you with sleep and they keep you in a good mood and they help your thyroid, too.
But everyone is different so the best way for you to follow a Paleo diet is to see how many carbs work for you. You’ll know when you feel really good and energetic and just feel like it’s all working well.
Going Paleo is actually all about following a new healthy lifestyle. It’s not all about steak and bacon and eggs (although, of course, those foods totally are a part of it, too).
The idea of the Paleo diet is that you have to make it work for you. So that means there are tons of gray area foods, from dairy to rice. If you can eat those foods and feel good, then you should definitely eat them.
If you find they make you feel sick, then cut them out. Basically, listen to yourself and you’ll never be steered in the wrong direction.
Following the Paleo diet also means making sure you get enough sleep every single night. The cool part is that all these things totally work together.
So once you cut out the sugar and junk food from your diet and start eating whole foods that are really good for you, you will definitely naturally see a difference in your energy levels and how well you sleep.
But another huge part of being Paleo? That would be learning how to deal when you have a stressful time at work or something’s going on in your personal life.
Making a change in your lifestyle is always tough and tricky at first. You question whether you can really handle it or if you should go back to your old gluten-eating and pizza-loving ways.
But you can absolutely handle the Paleo diet because you can make decisions that work for you. And the truth is that once you see how great you feel, well, you won’t ever want to look back.
Do you follow a Paleo diet? Have you ever wanted to try it? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!
Aya Tsintziras is a freelance lifestyle writer and editor. She loves coffee, barre classes, 90s television and pop culture. She is a food blogger at A Healthy Story and shares gluten-free, dairy-free recipes and personal stories.
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