There is no one right or wrong Paleo diet, I actually don’t like to call it a diet as it can give the impression that it is a short term approach to lose weight and then revert back to what you use to eat. Paleo is much more than that, it is a lifestyle that involves eating fresh unprocessed foods, getting quality sleep and relaxation and getting the body moving more, as it is not designed to sit for hours a day.
The foods that you eat when following a Paleo lifestyle include meats, chicken, fish and eggs for protein sources, ideally these will be from grass fed free range animals. If you are just starting out just do your best to source quality foods, but if you can’t do that just start where you can and you can gradually change later. This is not a high meat diet and you are better off having smaller portions of quality meats, and for anyone who is vegetarian it is possible to be a Paleo vegetarian by cutting out all the highly processed soy foods and cereals.
For quality fats you can eat foods like nuts and seeds, avocado, fish, eggs, coconut oil, macadamia oil and quality olive oil. Fat is a very important factor for everyone and the scientific research shows that the low fat diets that have been promoted over the last 30 years is the cause of many of the chronic illnesses we experience today. The saturated fats from grass fed meats are also not going to lead to heart attacks and contains essential fatty acids, however fats from grain fed animals have a higher omega 6 content which can promote inflammation and should be avoided or minimized.
The Paleo way of eating is lower in carbohydrates than a typical food pyramid style diet, but it does not have to be a low carbohydrate diet. Carbohydrates from refined foods high in sugars and processed grains lead to inflammation, insulin resistance and are a leading cause behind diabetes, cardiovascular disease, auto-immune conditions, Alzheimer’s and other chronic health problems.
Healthy carbohydrate sources include vegetables either raw, cooked or fermented, fruits, nuts and seeds.
There are lots of foods to eat with a paleo lifestyle but there are also some to cut out, these include cereals and grains, industrial processed oils like soybean, vegetable and Canola oil which are found in nearly all processed foods, soft drinks and other sugary drinks like energy drinks and processed dairy products. I recommend cutting out dairy as a trial but some people tolerate dairy like cheese, yogurt and raw milk
If you are just starting out, or if you want to read more about these topics I recommend checking out these resources and books based on science and research, but still easy to read and understand.
http://www.primalbody-primalmind.com/ by Nora Gedgaudas
So now you know the basics of what to eat and not to eat, I understand it can still seem a bit overwhelming making massive changes to your current diet (and your family’s). There are a couple of different approaches that I recommend and in the end they can both work, you just have to adopt the approach that fits in with your lifestyle the best.
Is the slow gradual approach and this can be started by just cutting out gluten containing grains like wheat, rye and barley which are quite inflammatory and I find that people experience the biggest benefit from doing this. This is also often the hardest step as these foods can be addictive in both a psychological and physical sense as peptides from wheat can react with the opioid receptors in the brain which is what makes them addictive. However if you cut them out 100% after 1-3 weeks the craving go away and you do not miss these foods, but if you continue to have them even just a couple of times a week often the cravings will remain.
The next step is to cut out the sugars which are in many processed foods and drinks.
Once you have cut out the sugary processed foods you will have already dramatically reduced your intake of the industrial processed oils which are high in trans fats and promote inflammation (yes they can be even found in juice!). Eliminate all the industrial processed oils like soy bean oil, canola oil, rice bran oil and vegetable oil … if you new how they were made you would never eat them again!
This process may take one month if you do one new thing a week or it may take several months as you step by step improve your lifestyle and your health, by the time you get to this stage you should already be experiencing many health benefits like improved sleep and energy, less pain and inflammation, improved digestion and the elimination of other symptoms. The final step is following what I recommend in option two.
Is the jump in the deep end approach and quickly learn to swim! Plan to cut out all grains, sugars, processed foods and dairy for 30 days and replacing these foods with quality meats, vegetables, fruits, fats and water.
If you have chronic health issues this stage is best done under the guidance of your health practitioner, one that understands that a higher fat diet is not going to lead to a heart attack, or that you need grains for energy. This is the fast track approach and while many people have safely followed this approach if you are on medications for diabetes or other chronic health conditions you will need to monitor this as your need for these medications will reduce, many people are eventually able to stop many of their medications.
A couple of great resources for the 30 day challenge are
After the 30 days is over you can reintroduce some foods one at a time to see how your body reacts to them, like dairy, rice or legumes. If you find that you get a negative reaction eliminate them from your diet, if not you maybe able to tolerate small amounts of these foods. It is not necessary to be strict paleo 100% of the time but you are better of having some sushi rather than Tim Tams which contain artificial flavours, colors, sugars, industrial processed fats all in one product. There are some fantastic paleo “treats” that you can make yourself if you need the occasional sweet.
Whichever approach you take don’t spend too much time procrastinating or making excuses, just take one approach and start!!!
There are many great websites and books out there that provide lots of information and great recipes and here are some links to my favorites, and when PeteEvan’s new book which has just been released will be added to the list.
http://paleoparents.com/ great for families and they have an inspirational story
http://paleoforkids.net/ another great one for families
http://eatdrinkpaleo.com.au/ a great Australian resource
http://paleofoodies.com.au/ another Australian site that is more than just food with articles on fitness, lifestyle, where to get good produce and paleo friendly places to eat
http://www.themerrymakersisters.com.au/ a great place for recipes, especially if you have a sweet tooth
While many people will be able to navigate the paleo lifestyle by themselves if you have health problems the guidance of a practitioner experienced in the paleo lifestyle will make or journey easier and more successful. It is possible that a more specialized program maybe necessary like the GAPS diet, FODMAP diet or a Nutritional ketosis program which your practitioner will be able to guide you through.
If you have any questions or need any help please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael is head consultant at Planet Naturopath - Functional Medicine and Nutrition Solutions. As Seen