I’m sure you’ve heard of the Paleo Diet by now. I’ve been mostly-Paleo for a few years now and am loving it! There are so many great health benefits to following this way of eating. So let me tell you a little bit about what Paleo is and is not, and how you can implement this way of eating too if you choose.
What the Paleo Diet Is Not:
“Not another fad diet!” This is probably what a lot of you are thinking when you hear the word “Paleo.” But, in my opinion, it is NOT a diet, it is a healthy way of eating.
A diet is a short-term eating plan, usually focused on cutting down calories and adjusting macros for a specific purpose, like losing weight or building muscle. You follow the plan until you reach your desired outcome.
Diets are not necessarily a bad thing, when you have a goal you wish to achieve. But, they can be hard to follow, and a lot of times when people break a diet, they swing the total opposite way, add back in tons of calories and gain back most of the weight they just lost.
The Paleo “diet” is meant to be followed long-term, making adjustments as needed to make it fit your dietary needs. It is not super restrictive. There is no counting and tracking calories or macros. Thank goodness, because I HATE tracking macros. It’s so time consuming and did not develop a healthy mindset for me when I tried it.
What the Paleo Diet Is:
Paleo is a lifestyle. It is a way of eating that focuses on the way our ancestors (the supposed cavemen) ate. Since you do not have to restrict your calories, carbs, or fat, you won’t be hungry still at the end of the day like you may be with other diets. I feel satisfied after every meal I eat. Not super full and bloated feeling, not hungry still, but SATISFIED.
How My Beliefs Differ from Others in the Paleo Community:
Just a disclaimer – I do not agree with everything many leaders in the Paleo community suggest. The Paleo diet is supposed to mimic the diet of the cavemen from the Paleolithic era. It is suggested that these cavemen hunted and gathered their food because this was the time before farming and agriculture. I’m sure there have been people in history who lived in caves and did hunt and gather their food, but these people were not the half-man, half-ape people that we think of when we hear “cavemen.”
I am a Christian and believe that God created the world and everything in it. Genesis 1:1 says “In the beginning, GOD created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:27 tells us “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God, created he him; male and female created he them.” This was the sixth day of creation. We did not evolve over millions of years, as evolution suggests.
Benefits of the Paleo Diet:
I do believe that people a long time ago, in Bible days until even our great-grandparents time, ate much healthier than we do today. Before we had all these modern-day conveniences to make food bigger and faster, like growth-hormones, Round-up, farming machinery, canned and boxed food, and fast-food, people had to work hard to hunt their meat, gather fruits and nuts, plant, wait for their crops to grow naturally, harvest, and cook their food from beginning to end.
Back in those days many of the chronic illnesses that we have today were not around. Back in the 1920s, the leading cause of death was from infectious diseases like measles, bronchitis, and tuberculosis. Now we have vaccines and antibiotics to prevent or treat those diseases. Instead, today the leading causes of death are cancer and heart disease. I believe the increase in those types of deaths has a lot to do with our modern-American diet.
Food is made up of three macros – protein, fats, and carbs. Many diets focus on getting those three in the right balance. However, Paleo focuses more on the micronutrients the vitamins and minerals that are IN those macronutrients.
Many processed, convenient foods are void of micronutrients and do not contribute to a healthy lifestyle. The Paleo diet focuses on eating foods that fuel and nourish our body. The nutrient-rich food that Paleo includes contributes to overall health and wellness.
Eating Paleo can help with:
- blood sugar regulation
- keeping you satiated
- lowering inflammation
- preventing diseases
- sleeping better
- improving complexion
- promoting weight-loss,
- and more!
So…why not try Paleo? In my opinion, you won’t regret it! There are so many benefits! So, what’s the downside? For me, it took time to learn what exactly to eat and not to eat. I didn’t go Paleo overnight, and I wouldn’t suggest you do either.
What To Eat:
Focus on eating whole, real foods as close to nature as possible.
- Vegetables – best when organic, local, and in-season
- Fruits – best when organic, local, and in-season
- Meat – best when grass-fed/ pasture-raised
- Seafood – best when wild-caught
- Eggs – best when free range
- Nuts and Seeds
- Natural Sweeteners – organic, raw Honey and Maple Syrup
- Healthy Fats – Coconut Oil, Avocado Oil, Olive Oil, Ghee, Tallow, Duck Fat, and Lard
Cooking meals that are Paleo does not have to be complicated. I love that about this lifestyle. I can literally just choose what meat I want to cook and what vegetables to go with it. Then just decide how you want to cook your food, what seasonings to add, and what oil to cook it in.
What Not to Eat:
- Unhealthy/Processed Trans Fats – Vegetable Oil, Corn Oil, Canola Oil, Soybean Oil, and Crisco
- Processed Foods – choose foods made by God not made by a factory
- Dairy (if you do choose to include dairy choose grass-fed, organic dairy)
- Sugar and Sugar Substitutes
- Fast food
- Soda and Other Sugary Drinks
Why I Eat Paleo:
I started eating mostly Paleo in 2017. At the time I wanted to lose a few pounds and clear up my eczema. After trying cream after cream and nothing actually healing my eczema, I learned that diet can play a huge part in eczema and other skin issues and autoimmune conditions. I read about Paleo, listened to Podcasts about Paleo, purchased a few Paleo cookbooks, and got started.
I have stuck pretty close to Paleo ever since. At first, it was difficult giving up bread. But now, I don’t miss it at all. Bread was mainly just a vehicle for my sandwiches. I’ve learned that I can use lettuce to hold fillings and add more nutrition.
Since “going Paleo” I have not gotten sick as much as I did before. I am a teacher and I get exposed to all kinds of germs. Every year I would get a few colds, bad allergies, another virus or two, bad menstrual cramps, and headaches.
However, In the past two years, I’ve gotten sick only once or twice a year for a short period. My menstrual cramps have disappeared. In the past few months my headaches have been gone too (I followed the 21 Day Sugar Detox by Diane Sanfilippo, and it helped so much!).
My energy has increased, I feel better overall, and my eczema is gone! Read more about how I healed my eczema here!
I don’t know about you, but I want to do all I can to live a healthy life and not develop a heart condition, cancer, diabetes, or any other chronic illness. I decided that, even more importantly than losing a few pounds and looking good, I want to feel good and be around for a long time.
How I Implement the Paleo Diet:
As I said, I did not go Paleo overnight. I slowly took out the “bad” stuff and added in more of the good, nutritious stuff.
I took out soda first. That wasn’t too difficult, since we didn’t buy soda regularly. Soda was just a fun drink to get when we went out to eat or were on vacation. Then I took out gluten, after I found out it was a trigger to my eczema. This one was more difficult since gluten is in a lot. Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley. So basically, bread, pasta, and most processed food was out. It made eating out more difficult at first. I made sure to not get sandwiches or pasta and choose simpler meals, like salads (without the croutons) or a meat and vegetables plate.
Then I switched the oils I was using. Vegetable oils are in so many things, so it took me a while to switch all my salad dressings, condiments, and oils for cooking. I am also budget-conscious. I didn’t want to throw out and replace everything all at once. So, some things I finished using, and then replaced with healthier alternatives. Again this one is difficult and not always possible at many restaurants.
I stopped eating at fast food. Before starting this lifestyle, I would stop at Taco Bell once a week on nights when my husband was working (He is a HUGE help with cooking dinner.). Now we go out as a family once a week, and we choose places that serve higher-quality food. Instead of opting for fast food for convenient quick meals, I make sure I make extra food on nights when I’m not so busy, so I have enough for leftovers when I am busier.
I switched the coffee creamer I was using to a coconut milk or almond milk concoction I made and cut out all dairy.
I switched to eating more eggs, vegetables, fruit, and meat for breakfast, instead of cereal, oatmeal, or toast. This spinach, mushroom, and bacon frittata is one of my favorite Paleo breakfast foods to prep on the weekend and eat on throughout the week.
Do I eat 100% Paleo all the time? No.
I did at first, but have slowly added a few things back in. Now that I’m feeling a LOT better and my eczema rarely flares us, I don’t mind eating non-Paleo foods every once in a while.
Occasionally I’ll add in some white rice to dinners or have oatmeal for breakfast. When I do have oatmeal, it’s not the little packets with sugar and other stuff added. I make organic oatmeal and add my own things, like collagen peptides, fresh fruit, and nuts.
For Christmas, I did have 1 or 2 of my mom’s famous Bon-Bons. For my boys’ birthdays, I made cakes (they were gluten-free, but definitely not sugar-free). Last night, I might have gone to Chipotle and added cheese and sour cream to my bowl. I am more intentional about what I eat now though. Before even going into the restaurant, I made the decision that I am definitely not having gluten, but I will have some rice and dairy.
I try to think about what the effects will be after I eat whatever I’m about to eat. How will this affect my eczema? Is it worth it? Will I get a headache from eating this? I would say I am 95% Paleo at home, and when I go out to eat or go to a family gathering I stick to gluten-free, but probably only 80% Paleo.
I’m definitely not perfect. My diet is “evolving.” My mindset is evolving too. I am constantly learning and adjusting what works for my body. I’ve learned to implement more balance into my diet to be able to maintain this lifestyle for the long term.
How You Can Implement Paleo:
I recommend doing what I did and making switches slowly. Take out one non-Paleo thing at a time and add in a healthier alternative.
Start trying to make as much food as you can from whole, real foods. When you go grocery shopping, do the majority of the shopping from the perimeter of the store. Buy mostly whole vegetables, fruits, and meat. Try to get less food from the middle aisles.
When you do get packaged/canned products, look at the labels. Find things that do not have vegetable oils, sugar, grains, or legumes.
If you don’t have lots of time during your week for cooking meals, spend a few hours on the weekend doing some meal prep. I spend some time on Sundays making spice blends, salad dressing, mayonnaise, kombucha, bacon, and something for breakfasts (like egg “muffins”) to help the week run more smoothly and not have to spend as much time in the kitchen on busy days. Read more about how I meal plan and prep here.
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If you are budget-conscious, don’t worry about buying the highest quality meat and organic fruits and vegetables right away. You don’t have to be PERFECT, just do the BEST you can do as your budget and time allow.
Have you tried Paleo? If so, what benefits have you experienced? If not, I recommend giving it a try for 30 days and see how you feel.