At first glance, the Paleo diet seems very simple. Only eat what a caveman would eat. Nothing processed, no frozen meals or convenience foods. It focuses on what you could gather or hunt as a caveman. Things like local fruits and vegetables, lean meats and fish, nuts, and seeds. The main tenet of the diet is to get people away from their ‘dependence’ on grains like pasta, bread, and cereal. As well, the diet restricts sugar to only that found naturally in fruit and vegetables.
Like many other low- or no-carb diets, the Paleo diet uses ketosis as a weight loss tool. By restricting carbohydrates to almost nothing, the body is forced to break down fatty acids to burn for energy. This is known as ketogenesis and it can be very harmful to the body. Ketogenesis causes the body’s pH levels to shift which can cause ketoacidosis, which is also known as diabetic shock.
What can you eat on the Paleo Diet?
- Lean meats (grass-fed and organic is best)
- Locally-grown fruits and vegetables (including sweet potatoes)
- Fish and seafood
- Eggs, nuts, and seeds
- Healthy fats (olive, flaxseed, coconut oils)
What is forbidden?
- Cereal grains (wheat, barley, rye etc)
- Refined sugar and salt
- Dairy products
- Potatoes and legumes because of their high starch content
- Anything processed
Tips on Following a Paleo Diet
The Paleo diet puts a big emphasis on intuitive eating. There is no scheduled times for eating, no calorie or points counting, and a lot of freedom to eat whatever you want from the list of allowed foods. Generally the recommendation is a portion of protein (eggs, fish, meat, poultry) approximately the size of a deck of cards, and as many fruits and vegetables you want with it. In the Paleo diet you eat when you’re hungry, and don’t when you’re not. It can be difficult for someone who is used to eating all the time to figure out when he or she is actually hungry, but this is part of the intuitive eating process.
If you’re eating the Paleo diet to lose weight, it is a good idea to watch your intake of fruit and nuts. Fruit has naturally occurring sugars that would interfere with the ketoacidosis weight loss, and nuts are high in calories, so both should be limited if weight loss is your goal. If your goal is to maintain weight or just start eating better, these foods, along with vegetables are allowed in an unlimited supply.
Eating out can be difficult while on the Paleo diet, but not impossible. Take time to study the menu in advance, and figure out what substitutions can be made to best fit into the Paleo diet. Add extra steamed vegetables instead of fries, ask for your burger without the bun, or trade the croutons on your salad for more nuts and seeds. Three small changes that can help you stay on your Paleo diet.
You should always speak to a healthcare professional before drastically changing the way you eat, as the Paleo diet certainly isn’t for everyone. Done properly, it can be a healthful way to increase your vegetable and fruit consumption while decreasing processed foods and grains.