The Paleo Diet
The paleo diet is designed to resemble what human hunter-gatherer ancestors ate thousands of years ago.
Although it’s impossible to know exactly what human ancestors ate in different parts of the world, researchers believe their diets consisted of whole foods.
By following a whole food-based diet and leading physically active lives, hunter-gatherers presumably had much lower rates of lifestyle diseases, such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
This article is a basic introduction to the paleo diet, providing a simple meal plan and other essential information.
Paleo Diet Meal Plan
There is no one “right” way to eat for everyone and paleolithic humans thrived on a variety of diets, depending on what was available at the time and where in the world they lived.
Some ate a low-carb diet high in animal foods, while others followed a high-carb diet with lots of plants.
Consider this as a general guideline, not something written in stone. You can adapt all of this to your own personal needs and preferences.
Here are the PALEO basics:
Eat: Meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, healthy fats and oils.
Avoid: Processed foods, sugar, soft drinks, grains, most dairy products, legumes, artificial sweeteners, vegetable oils, margarine and trans fats.
Foods to Eat on the Paleo Diet
Base your diet on whole, unprocessed paleo foods:
- Meat: Beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, pork and others.
- Fish and seafood: Salmon, trout, haddock, shrimp, shellfish, etc. Choose wild-caught whenever possible!
- Eggs: Choose free-range, pastured or omega-3 enriched eggs.
- Vegetables: Broccoli, kale, peppers, onions, carrots, tomatoes, etc.
- Fruits: Apples, bananas, oranges, pears, avocados, strawberries, blueberries etc.
- Tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, etc.
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds etc.
- Healthy fats and oils: Coconut oil, Macadamia Oil avocado oil, olive oil and many others. (A mix of many different oils and fats is always advised!)
- Salt and spices: Sea salt, garlic, turmeric, rosemary, etc.
Try to choose grass-fed, pasture-raised and organic if you can find it in your area. If not, just make sure to always go for the least-processed option.
Foods to Avoid on the Paleo Diet
Avoid these foods and ingredients as much as you possibly can:
- Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup: Soft drinks, fruit juices, table sugar, candy, pastries, ice cream and so on. I think you got a picture – sometimes hard to stay away from, but you’ll thank your self down the road.
- Grains: Includes breads and pastas, wheat, spelt, rye, barley, etc.
- Legumes: Beans, lentils and many more.
- Dairy: Avoid most dairy, especially low-fat (some versions of paleo do include full-fat dairy like butter and cheese).
- Some vegetable oils: Soybean oil, canola oil, vegetable oil (mix of various oils blended together) cottonseed oil, corn oil, grape seed oil, safflower oil, palm oil and others.
- Trans fats: Found in margarine and various processed foods. Usually referred to as “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oils.
- Artificial sweeteners: Aspartame, sucralose, cyclamates, saccharin, acesulfame potassium. Use natural sweeteners instead.
- Highly processed foods: Everything labeled “diet” or “low-fat” or that has many additives. Includes artificial meal replacements.
A simple guideline: If it looks like it was made in a factory, don’t eat it. One way you can easily detect highly processed foods is, that they tend to have a tonne of certificated printed on the box.
If you want to avoid these ingredients, you must also start to read the ingredients list, even on foods that are labeled as “health foods” or “super foods”
Modified Paleo Diets
Over the past few years, the paleo community has evolved quite a bit.
There are now several different versions of the paleo diet. Many of them allow some modern foods that science suggests are healthy.
These include quality grass-fed butter and even some gluten-free grains like rice.
Many people now think of paleo as a template to base your diet on, not necessarily a strict set of rules that you must follow.
Keep in mind, a healthy life-style and a balanced diet is the best diet-plan in the long run.
The foods and beverages below are perfectly fine in small amounts:
- Wine: Quality red wine is high in antioxidants and beneficial nutrients.
- Dark chocolate: Choose one that has 70% or higher cocoa content. Quality dark chocolate is very nutritious and extremely healthy if consumed in moderation.
Want to find out more about wines and how they fit your diet? Or even book a wine class or wine tasting ? Checkout SommWine’s offers and get ready for a season of online wine tastings (social distancing guaranteed 😉
What to Drink When You're Thirsty
When it comes to hydration, water should be your go-to beverage.
The following drinks aren’t exactly paleo, but most people drink them anyway:
- Tea: Tea is very healthy and loaded with antioxidants and various beneficial compounds when not over-processed. Maccha Green tea is best. Focus on freshly ground and not factory-made.
- Coffee: Coffee is actually very high in antioxidants as well. Studies show that it has many health benefits. Again, focus on fresh and small batch roasted coffee.
How to Make Restaurant Meals Paleo
It is fairly easy to make most restaurant meals paleo-friendly.
Here are some simple guidelines:
- Order a meat- or fish-based main dish.
- Get extra vegetables instead of bread, fries or rice.
- Ask them to cook your food in coconut oil.
Simple Paleo Snacks
There really is no need to eat more than three meals per day, but if you get hungry, here are some paleo snacks that are simple and easily portable:
Simple Paleo Shopping List
There is an incredible variety of foods you can eat on the paleo diet.
This simple shopping list should give you an idea of how to get started:
- Meat: Beef, lamb, pork, etc.
- Poultry: Chicken, turkey, etc.
- Fish: Salmon, trout, mackerel, etc.
- Eggs Organic Eggs when possible
- Fresh vegetables: Greens, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, onions, etc.
- Frozen vegetables: Broccoli, spinach, various vegetable mixes, etc.
- Fruits: Apples, bananas, pears, oranges, avocado
- Berries: Strawberries, blueberries, etc.
- Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts
- Pumpkin Seed Butter
- Coconut oil
- Macadamia Nut Oil
- Sweet potatoes
- Condiments: Sea salt, pepper, turmeric, garlic, parsley, etc.
It is a good idea to clear all these delicious yet unhealthy temptations from your home, including sugary sodas, pastries, cookies, crackers, bread, ice cream and cereals.
The paleo diet is modeled after the diets hunter-gatherers are likely to have followed. While there is no “one fits all” way to follow the paleo diet, the basic idea is to avoid processed foods and focus instead on healthy, small batch, artisanal whole foods.
Paleo-friendly foods include meat, fish, eggs, seeds, nuts, fruits and veggies, along with healthy cold-pressed fats and oils. Avoid processed foods, grains and sugar.
You can also base your diet on paleo foods, adding in a few modern healthy foods like grass-fed butter and gluten-free grains.
To get started on the paleo diet, check out the sample menu and shopping list above. Stock your kitchen and pantry with these healthy, paleo-friendly foods.