Getting Started on Paleo: What’s in & What’s out
Getting started on a paleo diet can be daunting, especially given the confusion surrounding what you can and can’t eat. Going gluten free can be difficult enough on its own – and then there are the finer details. Are peanuts ok? What about corn?
While we don’t worry too much with small details (hey, we enjoy a little peanut butter! 😉 ), if you’re wondering what constitutes a ‘strict’ paleo diet, we’re here to clarify! Today we’re taking a look at what’s in and what’s out on a paleo diet. For a more extensive list, be sure to download our free paleo diet food list below!
I’ll also add that going paleo generally doesn’t happen overnight (though it can do!). So if you’re having a tough time at first, don’t sweat it! Changing long-standing food habits can be uncomfortable at first and it takes time for your palate to adjust. Before going paleo, a typical day of food for me included muesli, white bread sandwiches, 2 minute noodles, Milo (shoutout to all our Aussies!), choc-chip cookies and ice cream. Heck, my favourite food was spaghetti bolognaise!
Today, I’ve come to a place where I don’t really ‘miss’ or crave these foods anymore, and on the rare occasion that I do there’s almost always a healthier substitute. My point here is that if I can do it, you can do it too!
So, what is paleo all about?
You may have heard of paleo as the ‘caveman diet’, a diet attempting to mimic the food choices of our Paleolithic ancestors. During this period prior to the dawn of agriculture, humans relied on hunting and gathering to secure their food. As a result, many of the foods that we are familiar with today – grains, wheat, bread – simply weren’t consumed (and much less formed the base of their diet!).
While we’re not particularly fond of the whole ‘caveman’ visual (we are not trying to literally BE cavemen, nor can we get our hands on the exact foods that were available at that time), applying an ancestral perspective to diet can be incredibly helpful for informing our food choices today. In our current age of pop-tarts and cronuts, many of us have simply lost touch with what real food is! It’s really no coincidence that many of us are feeling lethargic, overweight and unwell. We believe that reclaiming our health starts with returning to more natural and traditional ways of eating.
For us, eating paleo is all about maximising nutrient density by focusing on natural foods that our bodies are designed to eat. In doing so, paleo essentially cuts out processed ‘filler foods’ (hello bread and pasta!) that contain little-to-no nutrition and that can cause chaos in the body in the form of inflammation, blood sugar dysregulation, insulin resistance and gut dysbiosis (to name a few!).
In a broader sense, paleo is also about understanding where our food comes from and how it was grown or raised. By making more conscious food choices (local, organic) we support the health of ourselves and the planet. Personally, we are disgusted by factory farming and inhumane animal treatment – so opting for ethically raised animal protein where possible is important to us!
What is paleo NOT about?
There are a few misconceptions floating around when it comes to paleo. For one, paleo is NOT about consuming your weight in bacon. We’re not exactly sure where this bacon obsession came from – but here in Australia, ethically raised, naturally fed pork is difficult to come by. For this reason, bacon really doesn’t feature much in our diet!
Paleo is also not by definition a ‘high protein diet’, and in fact places large emphasis on consuming a wide variety of vegetables and plant-based foods. On a similar note, paleo is not necessarily a ‘low carb’ or ketogenic diet (it can be, but it is not necessarily). Though generally lower in carbohydrate than a Standard American Diet, there are plenty of grain-free and gluten-free sources of carbs on a paleo diet!
What can we eat on a paleo diet?
So by now you might be wondering, what exactly can we eat on a paleo diet?
There’s an abundance of delicious foods that you can enjoy! You’ll notice that fermented foods, bone broth and organ meats are included on our paleo diet food list. Though they may take more effort to prepare, these foods are extremely nourishing and we would urge you to include them your diet!
Enjoy all the following foods:
- All vegetables: green leafy vegetables, non starchy & starchy vegetables
- All fruits
- Organ meats: liver, kidney etc.
- Animal protein: beef, chicken, pork, game meats, seafood
- Nuts & seeds: almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds etc.
- Nut flours (in moderation): almond flour, hazelnut flour, coconut flour
- Fats: coconut oil, tallow, olive oil, ghee
- Fermented foods: sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha
- Herbs & spices
- Condiments: coconut aminos
Gluten-free flours such as potato and tapioca flour can be used for baking – however, keep in mind that these are still processed and refined foods and should be used sparingly!
What’s excluded on a paleo diet?
The following foods should be excluded on a paleo diet:
- Refined sugar & High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Vegetable oils: sunflower oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil, margarine
- Grains: wheat, rice, barley, oats, rye, spelt, corn
- Wheat products: wheat flour, bread, pasta, biscuits
- Legumes: lentils, chickpeas, beans, soy, peas, peanuts
- Processed foods: candies, biscuits, soda, doughnuts etc.
- Artificial colours & flavours
- GMO foods
Grey Area Foods
Here’s where things get a little bit shady. Strictly speaking, dairy is not considered paleo as it was not consumed in the Paleolithic era. However, many people choose to include dairy on a paleo diet, and it can be a healthy addition assuming you are not intolerant or sensitive. Generally, the best course of action is to eliminate dairy for a period of time (e.g. 30 days), then reintroduce it and note how your body responds!
Similarly, “pseudograins” such as quinoa may be included in small amounts but should not become a staple in the diet. Though technically not grains, these foods contain high amounts of anti-nutrients and displace healthier foods (like a plate of veggies!). Simply put – there are healthier things you could be eating!
- Dairy: yoghurt, cheese, butter, ghee
- Pseudograins: quinoa, buckwheat, chia seeds
Want to get a more detailed idea of what you can enjoy on a paleo diet? Don’t forget to download our free paleo diet food list below! Keep this list handy in your kitchen, or when you’re planning your next shopping trip!
Grab our printable list of paleo approved foods!