If I’m being completely honest, I must admit that it was a bit daunting for me when hubby and I went paleo. He made the transition before I did. After feeling chronically ill for close to a week, he didn’t know what else to do, so took matters into his own hands and started eliminating things from his diet. He started feeling better almost immediately and we knew there was something to what he was doing. I supported him whole heartedly, but I wasn’t sure if, how, or when to make my own transition. I spent a week or so pouring over posts and articles (which is where I found that paleo was basically what my husband had done). We started watching every video from The Paleo Way and I even started a Pinterest board specifically for all things paleo (anyone else a Pinterest addict?).
A little more than a week went by before I realized that I was already ½ way to being fully paleo. I had spent so much time learning new recipes and foods to support my husband that the only time I wasn’t following a paleo lifestyle was when I was at work. So, that settled things and I fully embraced the lifestyle! We purged the pantry and the fridge, gave the unopened items to the neighbors, and restocked with our new foods!
While I look back at the transition now and realize that my worry was a little silly, there are some things I wish I would have known to help ease the transition and alleviate my fears. If you’re new to the thought of “going paleo”, these top 10 tips will hopefully help you decide to make this change to an excitingly new lifestyle.
1. Ease into the transition
As part of the paleo lifestyle, you will be cutting out whole (inflammatory) food groups. This can be a bit overwhelming, especially when you’ve been used to eating a certain way your whole life. And for some people, jumping into it all at once can be a recipe for failure. Since the goal of the paleo diet is to improve your health (first and foremost), we don’t want you to fail! As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day; nor do you have to build your new paleo food pyramid all at once. Start by cutting out one inflammatory food grouping at a time. Personally, I would start with eliminating grains since they are so inflammatory and make up a large portion of our diet. However, if you feel that removing legumes or dairy would be easier, do that. No matter how you decide to start, try to eliminate something new every week (or two). See this post if you’re not sure what to eliminate.
2. Purge the pantry….and the fridge
The reason most diet changes fail is because there is temptation to go back to the old ways. And if the breads, pastries, pastas, and sugary sauces and treats are staring you in the face every day, it’s that much more likely that you’ll give in. Clean it out. Give it to the neighbors (like we did). Or better yet, donate it to your local food bank. This act helps to fix the change in your mind. It mentally creates a clean slate and makes room for all of the exciting new foods you get to put in the empty space!
3. Don’t feel you MUST go organic and grass-fed
The paleo lifestyle does put emphasis on consuming grass-fed meats, wild caught fish, and organic everything. And for good reason. Grass-fed beef has been shown to have a better ratio of good Omega 3’s to inflammatory Omega 6’s. Wild caught fish have a lower occurrence of mercury. And organic produce is exposed to fewer pesticides and chemical fertilizers. You are what you eat. Unfortunately, these options also come with a larger price tag that a part of the population cannot afford on a regular basis. If you can afford the somewhat higher grocery bill, I encourage you to do so. Your body will thank you. But if you can’t afford it, THAT IS OK. I can’t emphasize that enough. And in complete transparency, there are some weeks that I can’t afford it either! The bills are just too close together and there is too much that needs to be restocked in the pantry. So, we just go with the “regular” options. Just by switching to a paleo way of eating is going to benefit your health tremendously.
4. Yes, you can still eat out at restaurants
Just because you’ve cut out grains doesn’t mean you also have to cut out date night. Most restaurants have options on their menu that fall within a paleo diet, or they will modify your order (think burger with a lettuce wrap instead of a bun). And with the rise of food allergies and sensitivities, a number of restaurants have started catering to special dietary restrictions, which works very well with paleo. And if you’re not certain if an item contains an ingredient you’re avoiding, just ask your server. You may find that sometimes the server doesn’t know, so see this as an opportunity to educate them, as well!
5. Shop the outer loop of the grocery store
I’m sure you’ve heard this one before you even knew what paleo was. And it makes sense. All of your fresh produce, butchered and deli meats, and eggs are along the outer walls. I found that grocery shopping became less traumatic once I went paleo, as I get claustrophobic in crowds. The only time I need to actually venture into the aisles is if I need more coconut or avocado oil, canned coconut milk or coconut aminos, or need to restock some of my frozen veggies. But don’t be afraid to explore those aisles. Just as restaurants are starting to cater to more dietary needs, so are grocery stores. You can find coconut and almond flours in the baking aisle, along with coconut sugar and stevia. And don’t forget, that’s where the coffee is (yes, you can have coffee on paleo, my fellow coffeephiles)!
6. Balance your plate
One of the biggest misconceptions regarding the paleo diet is that you eat nothing but meat. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The biggest emphasis with paleo is to eat LOTS of veggies (especially leafy greens), followed by a moderate amount of protein, and healthy fats. One hack that stuck with me was to fill half of your plate with vegetables, add two palm sized portions of a healthy protein, and finish the plate with a bit of healthy fat (avocado, olives, etc.). Of course, this is for a standard sized dinner plate, not a plate the size of your steering wheel. And try to do this at each meal. You can always switch up the some of the vegetables for a little bit of starch or fruit throughout the day, too. Add a bit of sweet potato to your steamed kale, or save a little room on your plate for a mango or banana for dessert.
7. Fat is not a bad thing….as long as it’s the right kind
For ages, we have been told that it is imperative to avoid fats, and if you must cook with fats, use “heart healthy” canola oil or another vegetable blend. We’ve been led to believe that saturated fats are evil. What you don’t hear is how vegetable oils are high in inflammatory Omega 6’s, and we want a lower ratio of those Omega 6’s right? Because they are inflammatory. Saturated and monounsaturated fats, on the other hand, are more stable and leave less room for oxidation. Of course, it’s everything in moderation, but your brain and body need these healthy fats to function. Don’t be afraid to eat an avocado or an egg yolk. Your body will love you for it!
8. Don’t be afraid to experiment
When it comes to paleo cooking, the sky is the limit! What can’t you do with cauliflower, nowadays? Don’t be afraid to try new things. Take my husband and me, for example. We love Asian cuisine and I had a mountain of recipes that were our comfort foods. When we switched to the paleo lifestyle, I no longer used soy sauce. How was I going to make yakisoba or katsudon? I finally broke down and tried coconut aminos and the dishes I used to make were even better than before! The misconception for some is that paleo is nothing but bland meat and vegetables. That couldn’t be further from the truth. With substitutions like coconut and nut milks, almond and coconut flour, spiralized vegetables, and all of the same spices and herbs that you used before, there is no reason that you can’t recreate your favorites!
9. Incorporate movement
I can’t count the number of times that I have heard someone heralding the weight loss benefits of paleo, and that adding that enticing little disclaimer that you can lose weight without exercise. Don’t get me wrong; it’s true. But let me give you an alternative. Add a little movement….please! Paleo can be so much more about the weight loss. It can be a healing of the mind, body, and spirit if you let it. I can also tell you first hand that once your body begins to reset, your energy levels are going to increase. If you’re not moving, what are you going to do with all that extra energy? I’m not saying that you have to go out and run a marathon, but incorporate a daily walk, do some yoga, roll around on the floor with your kids, get a little dance on in your chair at the office. Whatever it is that you do, just move!
10. Don’t think of paleo as a diet
The saddest thing for me is to see people that are just doing a form of the paleo diet as a way to lose weight. It really is great for that, and hurray for them! But now that they’ve reduced their inflammation, healed their bodies, and lost the weight….sigh….they plan on going back to that inflammatory way of eating once they get to their goal weight. It makes my heart heavy because as a society, our health is declining rapidly; and something as simple as changing your way of eating can jump start your body’s own healing process. And it’s so much more than that! It’s about quality of life, sustainability, humane farming practices, and giving a little bit back to the earth. Stick around and explore all of these areas with me!
11. BONUS TIP!! Don’t wait “until Monday” to start
I know I said 10 tips, but I couldn’t let this one slip by!
So many people are “going to start their diet on Monday”. And that’s OK, but make sure you start! Take the time to mentally prepare yourself and get to it. And if you happen to slip up and give in to that bagel or piece of cake somewhere along the way, that’s OK too! But do not figure it’s a lost cause, eat whatever happens to be in your path for the rest of the week, and resolve to begin again on Monday. Nothing is a lost cause when it comes to your health! Accept that you slipped up and just get back to it. Really. Not much damage is done from a meal that is off course. Once your body is used to the paleo way of eating, it will even remind you of how bad those foods are. You may feel a little achy or lousy the following day. It’s just letting you know that by following a paleo lifestyle, you are making your health a priority!