By Kara McCartney
“I wish Paleo wasn’t nicknamed The Caveman Diet.” I once said this to my bosses, Bill Staley and Hayley Mason, authors of Make it Paleo, Gather, and The 30 Day Guide to Paleo Cooking. Hayley replied, “I wish it wasn’t called Paleo.”
Believe it or not, Paleo isn’t a lifestyle where you hunt your own food and cook it over a campfire. Instead, it’s focused on eating real food, such as meat, fish, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Processed foods, including grain and sugar, and foods that are difficult to digest, such as cultured dairy and legumes, are eliminated. Beyond losing weight, Paleo helps regulate blood sugar (did you know a piece of bread raises your blood sugar more than a tablespoon of white sugar?) and burns fat, rather than sugar, as an energy source.
If you’re considering a Paleo diet, here are a few guidelines to help you get started:
1. Clean out your fridge. Before you begin, purge your cupboards, pantry, and fridge of all “non-Paleo” foods. Processed foods are the number one “no-no” in Paleo, so be wary of anything that comes in a wrapper. Throw out candy, artificial sweeteners, soda, and all grain products (or donate it to a local food pantry). This would include grain products that are gluten free, such as corn, rice, and even your beloved oatmeal. Next, toss all legumes (including anything containing soy) such as beans, lentils, and peanuts. Lastly, do one final sweep to see if you left anything behind; corn, gluten, and soy are notorious for hiding in other foods-even beer!
2. Change how you grocery shop. Always read the ingredients before you make a purchase. When grocery shopping on a Paleo diet, you’ll rarely walk down the grocery aisles in the middle of the store. Shop the “perimeters” of the store, focusing on fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, meat, and eggs.
3. Learn the tricks of the trade. Hands down, the two biggest complaints we receive from those just starting Paleo are 1) time and 2) money. Paleo isn’t about gourmet meals or shopping strictly at high-end specialty stores. Here are a few tricks to make converting to Paleo easier:
- Join a CSA or shop local farmers markets to find high quality meat at steep discounts.
- Shop in season when purchasing fruits and vegetables.
- Set one day per week aside to “meal prep” rather than cooking from scratch each day.
- Buy “specialty” ingredients (such as coconut oil) online if you can’t find them in a store.
The bottom line is not to feel overwhelmed thinking you have to buy top-notch ingredients 100 percent of the time. Just be able to justify the investment of your purchase. If you’re complaining about your new grocery bill, but still spending $4 per day on a latte, well….that’s not even food!