There are a lot of questions from fans and readers who have been following me since before I went paleo, and that is usually something along the lines of “what are the first steps to going paleo?” “What sites/resources do you recommend for going paleo?”
So today I dedicate this post to helping you find your way if you’ve been thinking about going paleo. These tips are short, concise and will help you figure out what your first steps should be. Without further ado, I give you my Top 10 Tips for Going Paleo:
10. Start Small
If the thought of giving up processed foods, grains, dairy, sugar, legumes, and refined vegetable oils all at the same time scares the crap out of you, start be removing one at a time. Start with the baby step of removing processed foods. Feel better without all the packaged, unpronounceable ingredients? Start removing grains next (thereby removing gluten, a big irritant for a lot of people). Remove each component for a minimum of one week before moving to the next one. You’ll start to feel amazing after the first two weeks, I promise.
9. Commit and Plan
Get rid of all the non-paleo junk in your house that may tempt you as you slowly ease into the lifestyle. Look for hidden sugars, grains, unrecognizable ingredients and especially refined oils. Donate unopened packages to food banks if you can or for food drives at your children’s school. I sometimes have a hard time donating food that I wouldn’t eat myself, but I know most people aren’t as critical as I am of their food, so donate away! Plan out your week of meals each Sunday so you can shop and prep in advance if you need to. Knowing what every meal will entail and what you’ll need for pack lunches makes life a breeze compared to “winging it”. Failing to plan means you are planning to fail.
8. Remember, This is Not a “Diet”
Commiting to the paleo diet means not considering it a “diet”. If you are serious about it after the first experimental weeks, commit to it and welcome it as the way of life you plan on continuing for as long as it works for you. Looking at it as a diet is asking for failure. Don’t look at foods as things you “can’t” have but as things you “won’t” or “shouldn’t” have. Look at it as a choice you are making to feel and look better. Once you’re in, paleo becomes a lifestyle. You see everything as being “paleo” from foods, to hair products to the way you renovate your house. The word “paleo” is merely a way for people in the community to recognize others of the same mentality. For most of us, it is less about “what our ancestors ate” (who the f$#% cares?!) and more of a way to eat better, live better and be better. This is a movement people, call it a cult if you want to, but it’s a good cult.
7. Transition your kids as slowly as you are (they might not even notice)
Kids want to eat what they have access to. As a parent, you can steer your child in any direction you want to right from the first meal in their mouth. Will it be mushy rice-based cereal or will it be a fresh, ripe and gorgeously green avocado? My kids both started differently, one the normal cereal based route but with all homemade baby foods and breastmilk until 22 months while the other started on organic veggies and avocado plus breastmilk. They both LOVE eating paleo and will go so far as to ask if something they are about to eat has gluten or sugar in it. That being said, they have a lot of wiggle room in their diets as we don’t want to be seen as too restrictive or pushy. We give them the guidelines and only offer paleo foods at home (with the occasional treat) and they know when they are out at school, parties or relatives houses that they can eat what is offered (within reason). They have never complained and see paleo as just their “normal”.
6. Get recipes from blogs
Blogs, recipe sites, Amazon, book stores, friends. All of these places offer recipes, tips, guidelines, advice and more on the lifestyle and the various offshoots of it. Blogs, like this one, are filled to the brim with free recipes and advice and they are all over the internet. A lot of the top paleo blogs will link to other top paleo blogs, which can lead you to the best of the very best in terms of recipes, advice and more. Some of my favourites include, but are not limited to:
The Paleo Mom
Primal Palate (The Food Lovers Kitchen)
Against All Grain
The Urban Poser
Nom Nom Paleo
The Clothes Make the Girl
Jimmy Moore’s Livin’ La Vida Low Carb
Mark’s Daily Apple
5. Stock Up
Keep your house stocked in paleo foods for your fridge, freezer and pantry and cook more than you need for a meal so that you always have something quick to eat that isn’t processed foods or nuts. Nuts are great but they should not be a regular snack as they contain as much or more phytic acid as grains and they are extremely calorie dense, making them a poor choice for people looking to stay slim or achieve a healthy weight. Keep fruit, coconut, dried meat, cut vegetables, hard boiled eggs, olives, leftover meals etc. in the fridge for easy pickins. Buy large quantities of fruits and vegetables when they are on sale. Dry, vacuum seal, freeze or can to keep your own produce as long as possible. Make sure there is always something at hand for kids and adults alike or you’ll be scrambling for something quick and easy or skipping meals, neither of which is a good option.
4. Make friends in the “paleo” community
Find people that eat like you do. Tell everyone you are “going paleo” and see what other people are saying. As soon as we went paleo, so did a good portion of our families and friends, or they at least gave it a try. Doing it with other people is the safest way to go. Not only can you support each other with your choices or when you are feeling like giving up, but you can also share awesome resources you discovered in your community and even have dinner together once or twice a month to really share that community spirit. There’s just something special about sharing this lifestyle, and it’s an amazing feeling when you all feel great about your food choices together.
As amazing as it is, it’s also fun to have a treat here and there. There is a lot of derision in the community about what constitutes a paleo “cheat”, but I think that is something each person has to decide for themselves. I feel like a big pile of crap when I eat gluten, so I just avoid that altogether. If I’m going to a movie, do I skip the giant bag of buttery popcorn? Hell no, that’s a treat. At Christmas, there will be chocolate and lots of it. Some of our friends go all out, hamburgers with buns, real cake made with flour. Judge not, lest ye be judged, I say… Experiment: have some sugar, or pastured heavy cream, or cake, or popcorn or grass fed butter or whey protein after a really big back squatting session. Do what makes you happy and then forget about it. Do NOT feel guilty when you cheat. There is no wagon, you haven’t stepped off of it when you eat something “non-paleo” and you shouldn’t punish yourself with excessive exercise. Feel good about the other 90% of the time and feel good when you cheat the other 10% of the time (or 20%…).
2. Make Farmers Your Friend
Go in on a quarter of a cow, pig, lamb or buy chickens in bulk from your local farmers. Get to know them, introduce yourself, visit their land and see what the animals do all day. Ask about what they eat, what they supplement with, if the animals receive GMO or non-GMO feed, are the pastured, free-range, organic? How much do you have to buy to get the lowest price? Can four of your friends go in on a cow together? Do you have enough freezer space? Is cutting, wrapping and delivery all included? Did the animals get “finished” on something other than their normal fare? Are hormones or antibiotics used, and if so what are their policies regarding them? How far in advance do you need to order? Do they operate all year long or are they small scale (usually only selling in spring and fall)? These are all very important questions to know. Go to farmer’s markets, ask questions at local butcher shops and retail stores. Find Facebook pages and like them. Get yourself into your local food scene.
Not everyone can eat a “strict” paleo diet. Some do low carb, some do autoimmune, some cheat with gluten filled pastries, some won’t touch the stuff even on cheat days. Some can eat like a horse and not gain weight and some start packing on the pounds with all the dense foods. After the initial 30-90 days of eating paleo, start adding foods back in to see if you tolerate them. If you tolerate dairy, add some back in. If you tolerate legumes, have hummus once in a while. Do what workd for you, but just stick to the main principles for the majority of the time to reap the full benefits that paleo has to offer. A good rule of thumb is: “100% Paleo, 80% of the time”. Some things you can do to maximize your lifestyle: Add good quality Himalayan pink salt to your morning water, add supplements you think you might be missing (I take calcium, magnesium and Vitamin D), add protein shakes and extra carbohydrates if you work out heavily, research ways to make yourself feel the best you can be. Some of us have been eating such crap for so long we have no idea what it feels like to feel good.
So there it is in a nutshell. The paleo diet is fantastic and I will never eat any other way, it’s just really that good. It’s not a “fad”, it’s not a “Hollywood” diet and it’s not going anywhere. Do yourself a favour and just try it out for a month to see the differences your food can really make.