Unless you’ve been living under a rock (no pun intended, I promise), you have probably heard about the Paleo diet. It’s been all the rage the last year or so, but I honestly haven’t paid too much attention to it. I thought for sure it was a passing fad that would be popular for a few months, then fizzle out. And in my world, it kinda had until about 6 months months ago, when I heard a co-worker of mine mention that she was eating Paleo. She brought it up because we were discussing new snacks and she couldn’t taste test any of them because of Paleo.
Not only did her comment interest me because I realized it was still a “thing”, but I also it got me thinking… why was she eating Paleo? I’d always considered the Paleo diet an actual diet – like you did it to lose weight. But what confused me is I didn’t think she needed to lose any weight, so this perplexed me more. Sadly, I never had the opportunity to ask her what lead her to eating Paleo. These unanswered questions took me took the Internet, desperate for answers to some burning questions. Below are all the things I learned about Paleo, plus some added input from a good friend of mine who’s been following Paleo much longer than I have.
What is Paleo?
In a nutshell, the Palo lifestyle is about eating like we did back in the pre-historic era – back when you were either a hunter or a gatherer. This means anything we could hunt or find is fair game. Everything else that’s around today – not so much. Basically, if the cavemen didn’t eat it, then you shouldn’t be eating it either. Your diet focuses primarily on wholesome foods like non-starchy fruits and vegetables, protein, and healthy fats (including omega-3’s and 6’s). Bread, grains, starchy vegetables (like potatoes), sugar, and dairy aren’t necessary to live and therefore aren’t consumed when eating Paleo.
WHY CHOOSE PALEO?
I chose paleo because I wanted to remove starches from my diet. Even though I love starches, I know they aren’t the best for you. Starches are made up of glucose molecule chains, which are then broken down during digestion. Glucose is easily absorbed into your bloodstream and used for energy. Why the big deal then? Well, if there’s too much glucose in your system, the excess is stored as glycogen in your liver and muscles and the additional glucose is converted to fat. That’s right – you heard me. The very thing we’re trying to shed, we create! So…if I know that I only need a certain amount of starches (aka glucose) during a day, I’m going to avoid putting too much in my body so I don’t just tack on the unnecessary fat!
A friend of mine followed the Paleo diet because after losing a good amount of weight, she was looking to build muscle. Like me, she realized that in order to achieve her goal, she’d have to give up carbs. Because this lifestyle is more fat and protein dense, she knew it would help he gain the muscles she was looking for. And get this – after just three months, she lost 15 lbs. and gained muscle, thanks to her diligence to working out!!
Another great aspect to the Paleo diet that I personally love is that you don’t have to count calories. Can I get an AMEN?! I know that a lot of people swear by this method and Weight Watcher’s has made a ton of money off this, but I seriously get too frustrated trying to keep track of all of those numbers! Trust me – I’ve done it. I did Weight Watcher’s twice and lost the weight, but when I tried it again last year, I just didn’t have the energy to do the calculations. With Paleo, you focus on balanced meals. At every meal, include a good source of protein (my go-to’s are eggs, chicken, fish, or pork), a heaping serving of vegetables, and some fruit.
WHAT CAN I EAT AND NOT EAT?
To keep things simple: if the cavemen could eat it, you can eat it. Otherwise, it’s off limits.
WHAT DID YOU LIKE THE MOST?
I liked that I could enjoy healthy fats (like nuts and avocado), as well as a variety of protein. Starches like bread, potato, and rice don’t keep me full. Chicken, eggs, and other meats do the trick! Plus, you’d be amazed at how filling vegetables are.
Another thing that my friend pointed out was the variety of flavors this lifestyle offers. Unlike typical “diets” where you just don’t season, the Paleo lifestyle encourages you to try new combinations. One of her favorites: using a high fat oil like bacon grease to cook your food in.
WHAT DID YOU DISLIKE?
I personally disliked not having Greek yogurt. I’m lactose-intolerant, so you would think I would be fine not having yogurt. Wrong. Greek yogurt is an amazing source of protein and I’ve grown accustomed to eating it every afternoon (or night) with fruit as an extra special treat for myself. I definitely noticed a different in my mood and focus due to missing this protein.
My friend’s pain point was the meal prep, which can always be troublesome. It doesn’t matter how simple of a recipe I choose – I always manage to make a mess. If you wanna keep it simple, you can by just eating a protein, veggie, and fruit for every meal. But that gets old – fast. And when you get bored of something, you tend to go back to your old habits. But we don’t want to do that when it comes to our health, so it’s important to mix things up a bit!
Wanna know a secret? Find at least two recipes that use the same protein and/or key ingredients, that way you can prep this in bulk! For example, make spaghetti squash with marinara and meatballs, and use the extra meat for meatloaf or stuffed bell peppers!
WHAT WAS THE MOST DIFFICULT?
I would have to say not putting anything in my coffee. Every once in awhile, I like slipping some almond milk and sugar into my coffee. I definitely wasn’t able to give up my coffee, but removing that extra sweetness was hard for me at first.
Another good point is that buying grass-fed meats is definitely more expensive than whatever is on sale at your local grocer. As with most healthy eating lifestyles, you have to plan and budget so as to not break the bank!
WHAT DID YOU MISS THE MOST?
For both of us, we missed breads and sweets! I only tried this lifestyle for a week, but it was also the week before Christmas!! I know, what was I thinking?! Abstaining from all cookies and treats that week was especially difficult. However, there are some amazing alternatives out there, which are made using coconut and almond flours. Take, for example, these coconut pancakes!! Same delicious taste, just with a few different ingredients!
A Sample Day
Proteins mixed with fruits or veggies. It’s always a smart idea to start off with protein, since this will give you energy and keep you filling full!
Protein takes center stage again, but this time with a lot more help from raw veggies!
Fruits & nuts were my go-to snacks. You’ve always got time for some healthy fats!
You guessed it – more proteins with veggies. I also have a starch with dinner, so I learned to incorporate sweet potatoes and cauliflower rice into my meals!
Uh, hello chocolate – what more could you ask for?!
Things I Learned
- I don’t really need bread to survive.
- I really like Brussels sprouts – I could literally eat them with every meal!
- Anything made with coconut flour is the BOMB.
- Do not try to peel a butternut squash with bare hands – you could have an allergic reaction where your skin starts to peel (like mine did)!!
- Vegetables really do fill you up, so much so that you don’t really miss the carbs.