People argue that we should be eating paleo because our ancestors ate that way. I’m talking the WAY back ancestors, like the cavemen in the caves who ran amongst herds and killed their prey with their hands, raaaawwwrrr. Well, I don’t really care about that. It’s light years in the past and we’ve evolved since then. A lot of it is speculation; I mean, how do we REALLY know all of it, fossils?! I care about the reality, the hard evidence, the FACTS. And the fact is that paleo reduces inflammation in the body. Inflammation of… everything. Heads up, people, inflammation is the new silent killer of humans. Eliminating the food groups listed below will achieve this. It will also make your body run like a fine-tuned machine. For reals. You’ll feel like you’re a porsche-y engine at all times of the day. Your digestion will be perfect. Your stomach will feel flat. Ever feel bloated after eating a meal? Yes, come on. Always, right? Well, na-nee-na-nee-boo-boo, I NEVER FEEL BLOATED. EVER. Unless, of course, I put my paleo eating on pause.
I don’t mention the fact that I eat paleo to people I’ve just met unless there’s specific reason that I need to. I’m not like, “Hey, nice to meet you, and by the way I don’t eat bread or pasta anymore but I promise I’m still a fun, hedonistic, and worthy person!”. This lifestyle’s popularity is warranted. I predict this way of eating is where food is going. Just saying. The why’s of why I think this are plenty and will be discussed in a later, most detailed post. Because I get asked this question almost daily, right now I just want to talk about what “can” and “cannot” be eaten because most people have no idea. Two years ago, my bread, cupcake, pasta, and brownie munching brain didn’t. Compliance to this way of eating (with a few indulgences here and there, of course) yields your best body and your best mind. I promise.
If you’re unfamiliar with the paleo diet but want to get acquainted with it (you should), take a deep breath, and prepare to have a mini-aneurism as you learn that you CANNOT eat:
ANY AND ALL GRAINS
All flours, rice, wheat, oats, rye, barley, pasta, tortillas, bread, breadcrumbs, panko, cake, cookies, pizza, quinoa, corn (corn is not a vegetable!), wraps, tortillas, polenta, millet, amaranth, teff, delicious baked goods, etc. This includes gluten-free flours and goods, they’re still grains!
Cheese, milk, yogurt, especially cow’s milk, buttermilk, and anything made from dairy.
Lentils, All beans, chickpeas, peanuts (tantrum inducing, I know), peanut butter, peas, hummus, and other spreads made from beans.
ADDED SUGAR & ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS
This includes any and all refined sugar, cane sugar, honey, molasses, evaporated cane juice, high fructose corn syrup, agave (newsflash: agave isn’t healthy), brown sugar, raw sugar, turbinado sugar, and then the artificial ones like splenda, truvia, monk fruit sweetener crap, among so many others. A good rule of thumb is that if you’re adding it to food to make it sweeter, artificial or not, it’s out.
The elimination of booze is a huge bummer for some people, but we’re staying sober for the most part.
So all those veggie burgers you’ve been eating thinking they’re healthy? We’ve been fooled; they’re not. Soy is the most genetically modified ingredient out there along with corn, and it appears in everything from vegetarian crap, canned fish and meats, edamame, tamari, miso, soy milk (duh), and even CHOCOLATE. Check ingredients.
Canola, vegetable, safflower, soybean, grapeseed, all these oils are a no-no. Although they are AWESOME for searing, they are highly processed in factories, cause inflammation, and are kind of like the gasoline of oils. They’re used in almost every restaurant, dripping from all of your food. Delicious.
ALL PROCESSED FOOD
So…all those edible food-like substances that come in a box or packet or can or bag or whatever that line our grocery stores, they’re out. Bye bye.
Soy sauce isn’t made from soy, it’s made from wheat. Exit.
MSG & OTHER CRAP
Many seasonings, soups, sauces, packaged foods, broths, chips (Pringles and cheese puffs, among others), and bouillon cubes have MSG added to them. So does the most of the food at Asian restaurants. Even SAZON COMPLETA. If you’re Latin or from Miami, that is a stiff kick in the groin. It’s okay, we can make our own. MSG stands for mono-sodium glutamate, soo yeah, it has gluten. And it’s a chemical. It’s used to make foods more palatable and addictive. Awesome! It’s unarguably delicious, of course, but I don’t care. It’s garbage. And garbage, along with all of these chemicals that inhabit so many of our foods, belongs in… where else? The garbage. Our bodies are not dumpsters.
Be aware and cognizant and be sure to check ingredients. Always. check. ingredients.
At this point, most people have serious anxiety because everything they eat is listed above. Freak-outs happen. Most of us don’t realize the emotional attachment that we have to food. Taking away foods that give us comfort (most of which, sadly, are the above ones) is akin to having an appendage amputated. We NEED IT TO SURVIVE! We think we do, but we reeeeally don’t. “BUT WTF DO YOU EAT?” is the question I get most often. I’ve listed the foods we should be eating in the order we should be eating them. Please see the super dire options below:
Seriously, all meats. Beef, lamb, bison, pork, goat, mutton, sausage, veal, and venison. In all forms. Cured meats are cool, unless of course, they have added sugar or other unpronounceable junk. Thank the heavens above.
Chicken, turkey, hens, pigeons, duck, goose, ostrich, yup.
Salmon, tuna, cod, herring, halibut, trout, mahi-mahi, branzino, mutton, tilapia, swordfish, snapper, lobster, shrimp, clams, mussels, grouper, carp, oysters, herring, prawns, scallops, sardines, among others. Canned is fine and dandy, too, but remember to check ingredients.
If you eat eggs, eat them more. Eat them whole, please. I’ve said it before, I want an egg-white omelette as bad as I want an STD. Never in this life on this planet. Stop being scared of cholesterol, stop subjecting yourself to eating rubber, eat your delicious yolks. Rejoice.
Note: although protein is more than cool, if we buy processed meat in the form of (some) deli meats, meatballs, sausages, etc, this does not mean they are fine to eat. Often times they have breadcrumbs and junk in them. These should only have meat, vegetables, herbs, and seasonings in the ingredients list.
We should be eating unlimited amounts of mostly green vegetables including spinach, arugula, romaine lettuce, iceberg lettuce, butter lettuce, endive, radicchio, watercress, kale, bok choy, swiss chard, mustard greens, collard greens, dandelion greens, celery, scallions, onions, shallots, leeks, garlic, artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, sugar snap peas, green beans, radishes, jicama, kohlrabi, celery root, daikon, tomatoes, tomatillos, turnips, eggplant, mushrooms, peppers, turnip greens, seaweed, okra, fennel, cabbage, cucumbers, zucchini, and summer squash.
We should still eat, but eat less of the super starchy ones (ESPECIALLY for fat loss): beets, carrots, rutabaga, cassava, taro, yucca, yams, squashes, sweet potatoes, potatoes, sunchokes.
A good rule of thumb is that we should remember to eat plenty of vegetables that grow above ground, and limit (unless super active) the ones that grow below ground. Easy!
Since we’re cutting out grains, (but still eating carbs depending on our activity level), we should be replacing it with fat. Fat is so good and delicious, and we can feel full and satisfied with less. Eat some fat with each meal: avocados, coconut, coconut milk, coconut oils, olive oil, avocado oil, olives, macadamia oil, pistachio oil, palm oil, walnut oil, sesame oil, bacon fat, chicken fat (schmaltz), lard, duck fat, tallow, and ghee.
NUTS & SEEDS
Nuts are slippery territory; it’s easy to overeat these salty and tasty nuggets of fat. Although nuts are paleo, I don’t eat much of them. They feel heavy in my stomach, maybe because I eat up eating globs of almond butter and handfuls of macadamia nuts when I do. Make sure to be aware of your portions of: almonds, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, pine nuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, and any and all nut butters made from the aforementioned are okay. Tread carefully.
Fruit is the other land mine. Although the earth makes it and we’re told we should be eating FIVE servings of fruit a day, fruit is still sugar in our bodies. We shouldn’t be eating more than 1-2 servings depending on our fat loss goals (if any). Some men can eat tons of fruit and be okay. Everyone is different. Fruit can trigger sugar cravings, and fructose, the primary sugar in fruit, makes us gain fat because it raises our insulin levels. This isn’t to say to not eat it, as fruit is jam-packed with vitamins and minerals, but just be cognizant as you eat:
Apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, cherries, cranberries, figs, grapefruit, grapes, guava, honeydew, kiwi, lemons, limes, lychees, mangoes, nectarines, oranges, papayas, passion-fruit, peaches, pears, persimmons, pineapples, plantains, plums, pluots, pomegranates, raspberries, rhubarb, star fruit, strawberries, tangerines, & watermelon.
This also goes for dried fruit. Dried fruit is nature’s candy. A sprinkling of raisins or a few dried apricots are fine, not eating handfuls and handfuls of:
Raisins, golden raisins, cherries, dates, figs, apricots, cranberries, gojiberries, etc.
SPICES & HERBS
This is how we flavor. Go crazy with them.
A few last words:
Concerning meals: a meal should be about 4-6 ounces of protein, lots of vegetables, and some fat. Eat fruit sometimes. Learn to listen to your body. You should be eating 3 meals a day. Throw out the many meals a day to ramp up your metabolism mumbo-jumbo. Eat until you’ve had enough and then stop.
Snacks: people are obsessed with snacks, and if we are eating enough at meals, we shouldn’t need to snack. Eat a few bites of leftovers, some raw veggies, fruit, cured meats, or nuts. Although Lara Bars and other tasty foods are snacks in our minds, we still need to be mindful.
Eating habits: we should still be paying attention to what we are eating. Just because we’re eating healthy foods doesn’t mean we can binge on foods or eat literally unlimited amounts of them. Take on your good eating habits throughout the process.
Calories: know that just because something is “paleo” doesn’t mean we can eat unlimited amounts of it. When I first started, I thought that paleo food would somehow just digest in my body and I wouldn’t gain weight just because it was “natural” and “whole”. WRONG. Calories still matter. They don’t matter AS MUCH because we’re eating nutrient dense foods and our bodies will naturally know when to stop eating them if we listen. But eating slices of paleo bread, paleo cookies, bananas with fistfuls or almond butter, coconut butter, or unlimited nuts and dried fruit is noooo bueno. Be cognizant. A treat is still a treat, weather its paleo or not.
Paleo grey-areas: A lot of people argue that things like butter, dairy, dark chocolate, red wine, potatoes, and white rice are “paleo” because they are “good for us” and not really disruptive to our guts. It depends on the person! None of the aforementioned foods are terrible, but some people do better than others. I think in order to reap the full effects, we should do a strict 30 days without these, and then add them back in to see how we feel.
So are you scared shitless, yet? That’s the best sign you should give something a try. Go eat some bacon.
We cannot make sustainable change with food, our bodies, or our surrounding habits until we honestly explore and get curious about our relationship with each of them. Mindset change is not easy, but so, so worth it.
Being healthy starts with learning to cook simple foods in easy, delicious ways with approachable and practical recipes and techniques.
Our health begins with properly nourishing our bodies with nutrient-dense foods. I believe in bio-individuality: each person requires different types and amounts of food to feel their best. Learn how to eat intuitively for the rest of your life!