Step-by-Step Guide to the Paleo Diet
June 19, 2019 / Chuck McPherson
The Paleo diet involves eating only foods that were available during the Paleolithic era more than 11,000 years ago.
Many people would naturally question the wisdom of taking nutritional advice from cavemen and hunter-gatherers. After all, nobody is suggesting we copy other things from that period, such as using stones to create fire. However, as it turns out, the Paleo diet offers potential benefits over our modern diet.
What is the Paleo Diet?
The Paleo diet essentially provides a response to the unhealthy aspects of the modern Western diet. It promotes the eating of unprocessed foods like whole fruits and vegetables (particularly root vegetables), raw nuts, free-range chicken, and grass-fed meat. It excludes processed foods like dairy, grains, legumes, sugars, salts, processed oils, alcohol, and coffee.
The Paleolithic diet has been around since the 1970s but was popularized by American scientist Loren Cordain’s books on the diet in the 2000s. The Paleo diet is essentially a competitor to other low-carb alternatives to the modern Western diet that have become popular this century, such as the Keto diet and Atkins diet.
What to Eat on the Paleo Diet
The Paleo diet involves a diverse range of foods from meat, fish, and eggs, to fruit, vegetables, and nuts. The one thing all these foods must have in common to be considered a part of the Paleo diet is that they must be un-processed (or have gone through as little processing as possible).
The Paleo diet prioritizes these foods:
- Grass-fed and organic meats, e.g. chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, and pork.
- Wild-caught fish and seafood, e.g. salmon, trout, and shellfish.
- Free-range or pastured eggs
- Vegetables, e.g. carrots, tomatoes, peppers, onions, broccoli
- Root vegetables or tubers, e.g. sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, yams, turnips
- Fruits, e.g. apples, bananas, oranges, and wild berries
- Nuts and seeds of most varieties
- Unprocessed salts and herbs, e.g. sea salt, garlic, rosemary
What Not to Eat on the Paleo Diet
The purpose behind the Paleo diet is to avoid the foods that appeared after the agricultural revolution. Followers of the Paleo diet should try to exclude foods that are processed or contain artificial sweeteners or trans fats.
When on the Paleo diet, do your best to avoid the following:
- Grains, e.g. bread, pastas, wheat, barley
- Legumes, e.g. beans and lentils
- Dairy, and particularly low-fat dairy products
- Vegetable oils, e.g. sunflower oil, corn oil, grapeseed oil
- Sugars and corn syrup, e.g. soft drinks and fruit juices
Pros of the Paleo Diet
There is a scientific case for the Paleolithic diet, according to a 2014 paper in the Annual Review of Public Health by Yale University’s David L. Katz and Stephanie Meller. According to the authors, intervention studies have shown that the Paleo Diet offers various benefits over the Western Diet in terms of both body composition and metabolic health. In other words, it could be good for achieving weight loss.
There is also an anthropological case for adopting the Paleolithic diet, the authors note. The argument goes as follows. Zoos feed animals in captivity the same foods as their counterparts in the wild. Therefore, there is no good reason why human beings should be the one species that abandon their “native diet”.
Cons of the Paleo Diet
The arguments against the Paleo diet are also part-scientific, part-anthropologic. On the scientific front, certain studies suggest it is not as effective in achieving weight loss as some people would believe. Other studies have shown it can lead to deficiencies in certain nutrients, such as calcium (although it’s worth pointing out that while the Paleo diet excludes dairy, it does include many calcium-rich vegetables such as broccoli).
On the anthropological front, Katz and Meller noted the argument that many of the plant foods and nearly all the animal foods consumed during the Stone Age are now extinct. The modern Paleo diet requires the consumption of grass-fed post-Agricultural Revolution animals like cows and not of grass-fed Paleolithic Era animals like mammoths, or so the diet’s critics say.
Easy Paleo Meal Ideas
The Paleo diet might seem challenging, but the truth is it includes a diverse range of foods. All the Paleo diet requires is a bit more thought about what you put into your mouth at each meal.
Here’s how the average day might look with the Paleo diet:
- Breakfast – Free range eggs with a side of tomatoes and avocado, plus a cup of herbal tea.
- Morning snack – Fresh seasonal fruits such as peaches or apricots.
- Lunch – Chicken Caesar salad with organic chicken breast and a free-range hard-boiled egg on a bed of lettuce, dressed with lime juice, garlic, and olive oil.
- With Lunch – Pure fruit and vegetable smoothie made from oranges, bananas, spinach, and blueberries (with no added sugar or sweetener).
- Afternoon snack – Mix of raw almonds, walnuts, and cashews.
- Dinner – Wild salmon with oven-baked broccoli and sweet potato.
- Dessert – Fruit salad with slivered almonds.
Paleo Diet Meal Plans
Sun Basket offers a range of healthy meal plans, including a high-protein Paleo diet plan. Sun Basket’s Paleo plan includes sustainably raised meats, seafood, and eggs, along with plenty of fresh fruits and veggies. It never includes antibiotics, added hormones or sugars, gluten, grains, soy, or dairy. Best of all, each recipe comes with one of Sun Basket’s own signature sauces.
Each meal in Sun Basket’s Paleo meal plan is carefully curated to contain just the right amounts of calories and proteins. Every meal contains about 550-800 calories per serving, 20-25 grams protein, and at least 5 grams fiber. In addition, Sun Basket’s Paleo recipes are rich in omega 3 and all those good types of fats that come from olives, nuts, seeds, and avocados.
Salmon and braised fennel with charred orange and green goddess dressing (Sun Basket).
Who said the Paleo diet need be boring? Green Chef offers a dedicated Paleo meal plan with five new recipes every single week, so you constantly have new meals to look forward to. With Green Plan, subscribers get fresh Paleo-friendly ingredients delivered to their door daily along with easy-to-make recipes. Meals plans are for two or four people.
When we checked the Green Chef website, we saw the following Paleo meal options: Kenyan chicken curry with cauliflower “Rice”, kale, toasted coconut, and almonds; Greek sausage and sautéed kale salad with artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, figs, and pine nuts; Creole barramundi with sweet potatoes, bell pepper, collard greens, and spiced aioli; Grilled garlic-herb steaks with green beans, bell pepper, and a creamy walnut sauce; and Grilled cumin-spiced pork chops with veggie skewers, cabbage slaw, and creamy chimichurri sauce.
Grilled garlic-herb steaks with green beans, bell pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, and creamy walnut sauce (Green Chef).
Home Chef offers a broad menu for all tastes rather than menus for specific diets. Because it has such a wide range of recipes, Home Chef is a good choice for anyone looking to design their own menu based on the Paleo diet. We checked what Home Chef was offering and found many meals and recipes that would qualify as Paleo-friendly.
With Home Chef, users can mix and match customizable meals to create up to 26 weekly choices. Home Chef offers plenty of great recipes based on sustainably raised meat, fish, and poultry that qualify as Paleo.
Pecan-Crusted Chicken with BBQ-spiced carrots (Home Chef).