pa·le·o di·et /ˈpeɪlioʊ ˌdīət/ noun
a diet based on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans, consisting chiefly of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit, and excluding dairy or grain products and processed food.
You may have heard about the Paleo eating plan from your neighbor, you child’s soccer coach, the guy who cuts your hair or your trainer at the gym. New diets, fad eating plans and fitness gimmicks are always a hot topic of discussion, but these days it seems like everyone is talking about the Paleo diet. What exactly is the Paleo diet? Where did the idea come from? What can you eat? What foods are forbidden? Are there health benefits? What about side effects? Is it hard to keep up the eating plan? We have some background information, tips and tricks to help you determine if paleo eating is right for you.
Paleo Eating: The Basics
The Paleolithic diet is sometimes called the Paleo diet, the stone-age diet or the caveman diet. It is considered by some to be a dieting fad, but following the Paleo plan actually takes its inspiration from the eating patterns of humans thousands of years ago during the Paleolithic era, a period in human history also referred to as the Old Stone Age. Although we cannot know for sure the exact foods consumed by humans during that time period, it is safe to assume that fresh and whole foods were the main source of nutrition simply because that is what was available at the time to nourish the body. And proponents of the Paleo diet believe that a diet based on whole foods – when combined with exercise and an active lifestyle – means a life free of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other so-called “lifestyle diseases”.
Many Paleo eating plans, websites and resources give extensive lists of foods to eat and foods to avoid, but simply put, the Paleo diet includes meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts and roots and avoids legumes, sugar, grains dairy products, some oils, salt, alcoholic beverages and coffee. Some newer Paleo plans or guidelines lists will allow grass-fed butter and full-fat dairy in moderation as well as other foods that are not technically on the eating plan. But remembering to avoid processed foods is the most important thing when adopting a Paleo diet.
Before beginning any new diet or exercise program, it is wise to consult your doctor to discuss your specific health details and concerns. Following the Paleo diet can lead to overall improved health and weight loss, but certain individuals should be aware of the risk of nutritional deficiencies such as lack of calcium. When in doubt, please check with your doctor!
Focusing on eating whole foods is not a new concept. The Paleo nutrition focus is similar to other currently popular eating plans such as the Mediterranean diet and Keto eating. All of these eating plans focus on more whole foods and fewer processed foods to provide nutrition and good fuel for the body. Whether following Keto, Paleo, vegetarian or another eating plan, there are many eating plans available today that are more nutritious and healthful than the well-known standard Western diet, which is full of high-fat, high-sodium, high-carbohydrate processed foods like chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, fast food and the many other unhealthy options so readily available today.
The Paleo eating plan isn’t just about copying the food consumption patterns of an earlier time period. It is really more of a complete diet and lifestyle change. Yes, we should eat nutrient-dense and whole foods that are free of toxins that provide good fuel for our bodies. But we should also exercise regularly, strive to get an adequate amount of sleep, learn to manage stress effectively and make ample time for family, friends and fun. Focusing what you are eating, how much you are eating and how that food fuels your body can lead to an overhaul in your lifestyle…a change for the better!
Paleo Eating: The History
Although following a Paleo eating plan has been popular over the past several years, it is actually an idea that has been around for quite a while. Gastroenterologist Walter L. Veogtlin – the author of the somewhat controversial book called “The Stone Age Diet” – first extensively researched the concept of a Paleo diet in the 1930’s. His book was published in 1975. Voegtlin touted a whole foods focused diet that did not include dairy or grains, but instead focused on nutrient-dense meats and plant-based foods. Voegtlin claimed that our Paleolithic ancestors could help the modern man learn how to eat more healthfully.
The diet gained attention again in 1988 when Dr. S. Boyd Eaton – a professor of anthropology at Emory University – wrote a book called “The Paleolithic Prescription”. Eaton believed that today’s highly-processed foods and poor eating habits are the cause of many modern diseases and health concerns. Like Veogtlin, he also supported a whole food based eating plan.
Paleo Eating: The Lists
As a general guideline, here are the two simple facts you need to remember for Paleo eating success: eat whole foods and avoid processed foods. If something looks like it was made in a factory, do not eat it!
It is okay to eat:
Meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, eggs, herbs, spices and healthy fats and oils.\
You should avoid:
Processed foods of all kinds, sugar, artificial sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup, sodas, gains, dairy, legumes, vegetable oil and margarine.
What to drink:
No matter what eating plan you are following, it is important to consume plenty of water each day. Some Paleo diet followers also enjoy tea – especially green tea - which is very healthy and full of antioxidants and other health benefits. Coffee has similar health benefits to tea. While coffee and tea are not truly part of the Paleo eating plan, most people following Paleo enjoy them in moderation – without cream or sugar – with no negative health results.
Wine: high-quality red wine is high in beneficial nutrients and antioxidants. Dark chocolate: choose a chocolate with a high cocoa content…70 percent or higher. Dark chocolate has similar benefits to red wine. But remember to indulge sparingly!
With all foods listed above, try to seek organic, grass-fed or pasture-raised options, if available. Just remember to try to eat the least processed foods you can find at your local market or through grocery delivery.
The above lists may seem restrictive to you at first. But do not consider the Paleo eating plan a diet…consider it a planned way of eating or a lifestyle change. Using the Paleo lists and principles as a guide, develop a Paleo framework that drives your nutrition and nutrient choices and guides your meal planning, shopping lists, lifestyle decisions and more.
Paleo Eating: The Menus
It’s time to get serious! Clear your home of sodas, cookies, crackers, bread, ice cream and other processed foods so you can focus on a diet of simple, nutrient-dense, healthy and whole foods. But after clearing out your refrigerator, cupboard and pantry, what will you eat?
Below is a sample Paleo meal plan. This gives you an idea of what several days of eating from a Fresh Meal Plan Paleo menu might look like:
Breakfast: banana and walnut pancakes accompanied by grapes and turkey bacon
Lunch: Bacon bison burger with fresh tomato, lettuce and pickles accompanied by roasted sweet potatoes
Dinner: Seasoned grilled chicken with fresh arugula, roasted plantains, broccoli and other fresh vegetables
Breakfast: New Orleans scrambled eggs accompanied by fresh fruit
Lunch: fire roasted pork taco salad with lettuce, tomato, cilantro onions accompanied by roasted plantains
Dinner: chicken enchilada bowl with zucchini, squash, roasted cauliflower rice and onions.
Breakfast: Blueberry muffin French toast accompanied by turkey bacon
Lunch: loaded turkey chili with fresh vegetable sides such as spinach, broccoli and peppers
Dinner: cranberry thyme turkey accompanied by roasted sweet potatoes and fresh green beans
Sounds delicious, right? Paleo eating is somewhat similar to traditional “home cooked” foods, but you will notice that the above menu does not include legumes, grains or dairy. And the Paleo meal plan above is gluten free, too. Paleo meals are full of lean proteins - like chicken, turkey, salmon and bison – as well as fibrous vegetables, fresh fruits and nutrient-rich nuts and seeds. Paleo meals are low in complex carbohydrates, sodium, cholesterol and saturated fat and do not include artificial additives, preservatives or added sugar.
A wide variety of sample Paleo shopping lists and free paleo meal planners are available online. Your local library, bookstore and many online resources feature many Paleo cookbooks available for your reference. And many meal kit and meal delivery services even offer Paleo menu options, which makes following the meal plan even easier.
When developing a paleo meal plan, just remember to keep it simple. Partner well-seasoned, carefully-prepared, clean meats with fresh sides such as simply prepared, flavorful vegetables and fresh, seasonal fruits. Depend on a simple list of favorite foods and easy to prepare and eat sides and snacks. Paleo eating doesn’t have to be complicated, but it will most definitely be delicious!
Paleo Eating: The Benefits
Eating Paleo can promote weight loss by cutting out specific foods, such as highly processed and refined carbs, dairy, legumes and grains. Paleo eating plans help followers to consume fewer overall calories while keeping you feeling fuller longer. Satisfying your hunger is achieved through the consumption of lean proteins, vegetables and smaller amounts of fruits and nuts. These foods keep you full longer than processed foods do, because they take longer to digest and are also full of complex and complete nutrients to nourish your body.
Following a Paleo eating plan leads to improved cardiovascular health and better metabolic health in people of all ages. American standard diets are full of processed foods that lead to obesity, overall body inflammation, fatigue, a wide variety of illnesses and much more. Some people following the Paleo eating plan will experience weight loss, but some may not. Whether you lose weight or not following the Paleo eating plan, when you eat a more whole foods based diet you will enjoy an overall increased feeling of wellness.
Healthy and Fresh: The Paleo diet is one of the healthiest and freshest eating plans you can follow. Since those following this eating plan are consuming meals made of real, fresh and whole foods they are automatically not consuming the sodium, sugar, preservatives and other additives that are not good for the body. As a result, the food not only tastes better, it is much better for your body!
Healing properties: Many of today’s health challenges can be directly tied to poor food choices. And many experts believe that consuming a diet full of fresh, whole and healthy foods is a simple way to help the body heal from a variety of issues such as autoimmune diseases and intestinal concerns. The whole, complete and nutrient-dense foods featured in a Paleo diet work to heal and support the body instead of stressing it. Paleo foods also help to regulate the immune system and provide the body with the fuel it needs to heal.
More nutrients: Since the Paleo diet eliminates processed food and focuses on fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts and healthy fats, this eating plan provides more high quality, complete nutrients for your body. Highly processed foods are very nutritionally empty. And processed foods are digested very quickly and also do very little to nourish the body. Foods like grains and legumes can also irritate and stress the digestive system. But Paleo approved foods nourish the body and even heal the digestive system to allow you to more effectively process the foods and nutrients you do consume.
Weight loss: Many people begin a Paleo eating plan because they want to feel better and lose weight. The Paleo diet is known for helping people enjoy noteworthy weight loss, although not everyone loses weight on the plan. Removing sodium, sugar and processed foods from your diet helps your body heal more quickly, improves your metabolism, nourishes your body and contributes to better overall digestive health. The simple and nutrient-dense foods featured in Paleo eating plans are the reason for these significant changes. Highly-processed foods are digested very quickly and leave you feeling hungry and un-satisfied because they do not contain useful nutrients. Giving your body what is needs and eliminating what is harmful can contribute to weight loss and has other benefits, as well.
Paleo Eating: The Cautions
When people begin a new eating plan, they are usually very enthusiastic at the beginning and very ready to experience the positive results promised by a certain way of eating. But it is important to remember that you probably will not experience the benefits of Paleo eating right away. When you first begin the Paleo eating plan, your body may feel worse before you are able to enjoy the benefits of the eating plan. Your body needs time to adjust to the different types of food being offered for fuel. After weeks or months or years of relying on sugar and carbohydrates for energy, your body may complain with aches, pains, fatigue or other withdrawal-type symptoms.
When changing eating plans or adjusting to a new diet like Paleo, many may experience a variety of odd or unpleasant symptoms including stomach upset, intestinal distress, headaches, fatigue or weakness. It is important to consult your doctor before starting any new eating plan. You medical history and health concerns may mean that certain eating plans are not right for you. Please consult your doctor if you have any questions.
Paleo Eating: The Bottom Line
By now, you have probably concluded that there is no perfect diet or eating plan that is the correct fit for everyone. The same can be said about the Paleo diet…it’s simply not for every body. But if you decide to try the plan, know that the Paleo diet can be adapted to meet your lifestyle, your personal preferences and your needs. Just remember the basics. Meats, fruits, vegetables and a detailed list of other approved items provide complete nutrition for your body. Processed foods, grains, sugar, dairy and other “no” foods can leave you feeling unwell, lethargic and may event lead to illness.
Combine Paleo eating plan healthy eating habits with intentional, regular exercise. This combination will reduce your risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses and lead to an overall feeling of improved health. Different people try Paleo eating for different reasons, resulting in experiences that vary widely. But overall, many Paleo followers report positive changes in their bodies, moods and energy levels.
Success with the Paleo eating plan takes a lot of dedication, a little bit of research, some careful menu planning and some creative thinking. Make good use of cookbooks and online resources. The Internet is full of free Paleo meal plans, suggested shopping lists and much more. A meal delivery service offering Paleo compliant foods might also be right for you.
If you’re ready to give the Paleo diet a try, one way to easily follow the eating plan is to sign up for the Fresh Meal Plan Paleo collection of meals. Fresh Meal Plan offers a wide variety of plan-approved breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack foods, all of which can easily be ordered online. Then meals are delivered directly to your door at a convenient time that suits your schedule.
Fresh Meal Plan knows Paleo
(of food) recently made or obtained; not canned, frozen, or otherwise preserved.
not previously known or used; new or different.
Each Fresh Meal Plan Paleo meal is delivered right to your door…talk about simple! When you use the Fresh Meal Plan complete meal delivery service, no meal planning is required. And each Fresh Paleo meal includes 30 to 40 grams of lean protein, which is great for people seeking better nutrition to fuel their body for regular exercise and the challenges of a busy life.
For people looking to dramatically increase their muscle mass, Fresh Meal Plan’s prepared Paleo XL plan has double the grams of protein in every meal.
Lean protein Paleo foods, such as seafood, nuts, seeds, meat and poultry, are often rich in other crucial vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, iron, vitamin D and zinc, to list a few. Additionally, protein helps with blood clotting, fluid balance, the immune system, vision, hormone production and enzymes.
Planning a Paleo diet can definitely be stressful. Even though there are a ton of free Paleo meal planners and sample menus online and cookbooks available featuring plan compliant recipes, weekly Paleo meal plans and Paleo shopping lists, healthy eating the Paleo way can get overwhelming. There are a lot of “do’s” and “don’ts”.
With Fresh in your fridge, we do all of the planning and preparation for you, which means no Paleo meal planning is required! When you use Fresh Meal Plan as your Paleo food source, you simply choose your meals online, then we deliver healthy and fully-prepared Paleo meals right to your door! Depending on how many Paleo meals you sign up for, you will have a set price each week. All you have to do it heat and eat.
At Fresh Meal Plan, we want to make healthy eating simple. Our Paleo meals can supplement your own shopping, cooking and food preparation, or we can provide a complete, three-meals-a-day Paleo-compliant meal solution that has you covered for every meal, every day of the week. At Fresh Meal Plan, we strive to create exceptional variety with our Paleo plans, and our delicious and diverse meals feature excellent flavor by using only natural herbs and spices.
Fresh Meal Plan menus have been developed by a five-star chef. And we use the finest, freshest, farm-to-table ingredients in all of our meals, including our diverse Paleo offerings. Our menu is always evolving, so you’ll always have plenty of delicious, plan-compliant food choices.