A few months ago, after a fair bit of research, I decided to give "Paleo" a try. If you follow me on instagram you may have seen me post my meals and feelings about it each day. For me, it was a simple transition in my daily mealplan (since I was already gluten free) and after the first week I fell into a pretty good rhythm with it. Since then I've had a lot of people ask me for tips on "going paleo" so I thought I'd put together a big blog post for you in case you are one of those people! Let's dig right in. Starting with "What is Paleo?" Paleo is taken from the word "Paleolithic" referring to the period of time before the development of agriculture. This was a time when ancient humans were believed to live on what they could hunt or gather. So it is believed that these ancient humans lived on fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and the meat and fish they hunted. From this, we get the modern "Paleolithic Diet" or "Paleo Diet".
But I don't like to call it a diet. Because that implies that we are doing it for a limited time with the sole purpose of losing weight. While that might be some people's motivation, mine was more of a lifestyle shift with the purpose of feeling better and being healthier overall. So for the purpose of explaining what I do, I'm going to call it the "Paleo Template" ;)
A common misconception about eating Paleo is that all you eat is meat all day every day. It's easy to be confused. You see lots of meat-heavy dishes if you search for Paleo on Pinterest or google and this nutritional template is very popular among men who like the idea of a "meat and potatoes" type of mealplan. (Except white potatoes, aren't paleo... sorry dudes.) But the key to the success (and nutritional benefits) of eating Paleo is like anything else: balance and moderation. Hunter/Gatherers didn't live on bacon and french fries, and neither should you.
To make sure that I ate in a balanced way when I went Paleo, and how I suggest others begin their Paleo journey, I decided to enlist the help of the 21 Day Fix Mealplan that I love so much! This plan gives you colored containers for each food group. You are allotted a certain number of servings of each container a day (based on your height/weight/activity/goals) and you just fill up the container and eat what fits. It's so easy that I think every single person needs to abide by it! I digress...
I followed the 21 Day Fix mealplan guidelines and TWEAKED them to work with Paleo guidelines. What are those guidelines? Put very simply, you eat what you could hunt or gather back in the Paleolithic day. So... lean meats, fish, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits. What is not accepted as Paleo?
FOODS TO AVOID ON THE PALEO TEMPLATE:
Refined Sugars & Artificial Sweeteners
Processed Foods (including Junk Food)
Hydrogenated Oils/Vegetable Oils
Pseudograins (like buckwheat or quinoa)
Okay let's talk about these for a minute. Obviously paleolithic man didn't have sugar or sugar substitutes so those are easy to understand. Grains came with agriculture so those are out too. Legumes came with agriculture too so you'll have to pass on the beans and peanuts. Processed foods weren't around so count them out, same with vegetable and hydrogenated oils (if it says anything like "buttery spread" just don't even touch it) and alcohol came later too. Now there are a few foods I like to call "fringe foods" which means that they are debated among Paleo participants. These are dairy, cashews, white potatoes, and pseudograins.
Why did I include Shakeology in the fringe foods? Well it's because regular Shakeology contains whey protein. Which is technically a dairy derivative. Vegan Shakeology contains oat protein which is technically a grain derivative. In my opinion, either one is still waaaaaayyyyyy better for you than anything else you could do so the positives outweigh the fringe technicalities. I have stayed on it and still seen INCREDIBLE results since going paleo.
You will have to make your own decision reguarding these items. People who subscribe to a paleo diet but eat dairy are called "Primal" if you want to do some research. The reason dairy is left out is because while animals were around, Paleolithic humans did not have the tools or capacity to be making anything like butter or cheeses or creams. White potatoes are a plant so why can't you eat them? Well you can, obviously, no one is forcing you to do anything. But the reason they aren't considered paleo is because of the labor involved in harvesting them. They are more likely a crop then something that Paleolithic humans stumbled upon. Also, if nothing else, they don't have a lot of nutritional benefits so it's worth it to avoid them. Cashews are a nut right? So why are they a problem? Technically, cashews are a legume (like peanuts) so to a strict Paleo person they'd be out. Make your own decision on this one. And lastly, pseudograins like quinoa and buckwheat. These are technically not grains, but they behave like them inside your body. So the choice is yours.
"What's left?!" You might be thinking. What can I eat? A LOT actually! Here's some of my meals...
Okay, so maybe you're thinking about giving this whole Paleo thing a try. But you're so confused. Where do you start? How do you figure out what to eat? And how do stay balanced and avoid living on bacon and steak alone? Don't worry friends, I've got you covered! Here is a sample week's mealplan using the 21 Day Fix as a guide. These are all meals I have eaten since going Paleo so you know they are actually good! This is based on my serving allowances in 21 Day Fix. If you're in a higher bracket and have more servings you would just either eat bigger meals or add in more food in your day. I wrote out each meal's ingredients in the color container they would correspond to so you can easily see VISUALLY how to combine your containers into a day's worth of amazing meals!
It is super simple to tweak the 21 Day Fix to work with a Paleo mealplan. All you have to do is replace your YELLOW container with something Paleo-friendly. On the 21 Day Fix, yellow is your carbs/grains. So to make an easy swap what I did is to replace 1 serving of yellow a day with sweet potatoes. And my 2nd serving of yellow with almond milk in my smoothie. See how delicious and amazing your week can be? And you can see here that a day in the Paleo life is not all meat all the time. In fact, it's actually a LOT of vegetables! I even included a few Chipotle runs to show you that you can make this work and not be chained to your kitchen! Here are the recipes needed for the mealplan above:
PALEO PANCAKES (just substitute almond meal/flour for cashew meal if you like)
DRESSING 1: combine 3 parts olive oil to 1 part balsamic vinegar
DRESSING 2: combine 3 parts olive oil to 1 part champagne vinegar, add in diced shallots, and pepper
DRESSING 3: combine 3 parts olive oil to 1 part champagne vinegar, add in some dill if you like
Now to make things even EASIER for you, I put together a grocery shopping list for you based off this mealplan (who loves ya?!) Just print it out and take it with you to the store. Now here's the secret. Don't feel chained to this. If you don't like something I listed (like spinach) swap it out for something you do like (like spring mix). Make it work for YOU and your tastes.
Want to do this with my help, with the full 21 Day Fix program (daily workouts and Shakeology) and with the support of my online fitness challenge group where you'll have daily coaching from me, daily motivation and accountability, and the opportunity to ask me questions as you go? You're in luck! My August challenge group starts workouts on August 4th! Click the banner below to register.*
If you already have a Beachbody coach that you are currently working with, or if you are already a coach outside of TeamBTFP, you are unfortunately not eligible to join my August challenge group. But please feel free to connect with me here, on Instagram, and on FB for more paleo fix inspiration!