Are you just beginning your Paleo journey or have you already made the change? Not sure how to maintain it? Going Paleo means giving up many of your favourite foods and turning conventional ‘healthy’ nutrition guidelines upside down. This can be challenging for Paleo beginners and experienced Paleo followers.
The basic Paleo guidelines of eliminating grains, legumes, processed foods, dairy, and sugar while focusing on eating vegetables, fruit, meat, seafood, eggs, nuts, seeds, fats, and oils seems easy, however it can be challenging to stick to it. No more reaching for a quick pick-me-up snack or grabbing a pizza for dinner at the end of a long day.
Here are 10 tips to help you become a 21st century caveman without stressing.
1. Be prepared
Keep your fridge and pantry well-stocked with Paleo-friendly food and snacks such as hard-boiled eggs, nuts and seeds. Keep some tins of salmon and sardines in the pantry and some frozen vegetables on hand so you can put together a quick easy meal when required. There are also commercially available Paleo snacks which can be useful in an ‘emergency’.
2. Cook extra
When you cook dinner, make extra for lunch the following day or to freeze for later. That way when you don’t feel like cooking there’s a healthy ready-made meal waiting. Making meals in bulk or buying meat in bulk and freezing is economical, time-saving and helps you stay on track as well.
3. Read product labels
Not all packaged foods are out, some do fit within the Paleo guidelines. Check for sugar, soy, peanuts, gluten, preservatives, artificial flavours and colours. As a guide, if there are ingredients you haven’t heard of, or it has a long list of ingredients, leave it on the shelf. Once you start reading the labels, you’ll probably be shocked at what you have been putting into your body.
4. Rethink the healthy food guidelines
You probably remember the ‘Healthy Eating Pyramid’ from a few decades ago. Now forget it and learn the Paleo Food Pyramid! Your plate should contain a palm-sized portion of high-quality protein, a small amount of fat and the rest of the plate should be filled with a variety of seasonal vegetables.
5. Try 1 or 2 new recipes each week
You can find lots of fabulous Paleo recipes online or invest in some good Paleo cookbooks. As well as making it easy to put together a Paleo meal in the right proportions, this will provide inspiration, avoid boredom and help you to plan your meals in advance.
6. Look for Paleo versions of your favourite dishes
There are plenty of suitable substitutes for non-Paleo foods. Using flours such as almond or coconut means you can make Paleo-approved sweet treats, try coating chicken with ground nuts for a delicious alternative to breadcrumbs. Make zucchini or sweet potato noodles, try spaghetti squash and cauliflower rice.
7. Plan meals in advance
Spend some time planning your meals and do some prep ahead of time especially for week-day meals. If you know what’s for dinner and some of the work is done, it makes the temptation to eat junk easier to resist. Get yourself a few “go-to” recipes which you can put together quickly.
8. Get rid of processed and packaged food
Clean out your pantry and fridge of all the bad stuff. Give it to a friend or charity if you don’t want to throw it out. Another option is to ease into Paleo more slowly by eating up what you have then replacing with the good stuff.
9. Have a plan before eating out
Check menu online or ring the restaurant to discuss if the options seem limited. Many menu items are almost Paleo and just require a small change such as swapping the rice for extra vegetables. Ask your waiter or waitress about ingredients, get them to check with the chef if they aren’t sure. Restaurants these days are usually happy to make changes to accommodate dietary requirements.
10. Relax and enjoy the journey
Don’t try to be perfect! The occasional glass of wine, or piece of cheese doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It’s all about making choices which make you feel great and finding what works for you. Be aware that you will fall off the wagon from time to time, the most important thing is that you get back on.
Remember Paleo is not about living like a caveman, rather it’s about returning to the diet of our ancestors in a modern setting. They ate whole, unprocessed foods and so should we. It’s about using the good things of our 21st century life and eliminating the bad things.
If you’re looking for some help and inspiration along the way, a great resource to get you started is the Paleo Hacks cookbook. Check it out here.