The premise behind the paleo diet is to eat like our ancestors did: if you can’t grow it or kill it, you don’t eat it. Basically you can eat meat, vegetables, some fruit, nuts, healthy fats and a few legumes. No grains, no dairy, no sugar. Supporters say it just makes sense: eating the way we did when we were hunting and gathering cuts out all the processed food that has led to our nation’s health problems. Opposers say that by shunning grains and dairy, you miss out on some essential nutrients.
My mom was the first to try out the diet, and she said she’s never felt better (she looks pretty great too). So I decided to spend a majority of last summer on an almost 100% paleo diet (I couldn’t bring myself to cut out ketchup and other condiments. Or coffee). Since then I’ve abandoned it, but my sister just lost 10 pounds on a one-month paleo challenge as well. All in all, here’s what I thought:
What can I eat?
- Meat – any kind (poultry, fish), preferably organic and grass-fed/free range/wild caught
- Eggs – again, cage-free recommended
- Vegetables – the green kind are the best, but any are accepted (crazies try to tell you which ones are better than others. In my opinion – veggies are veggies)
- Fruit – these are supposed to be limited, berries are #1, followed by the others
- Nuts and seeds – priority goes to almonds, walnuts (rather than peanuts or cashews)
- Healthy fats – avocado, butters, nut butters, coconut oil, coconut milk
- Others – sweet potatoes, squash
- Water, coconut water, organic green tea. That’s it.
- Raw honey and coconut palm sugar for a sweet tooth, but in moderation
- Olive, flaxseed and a few other kinds of oils
So, why should I do it?
It will kill your cravings! Coming from the girl with a bigger sweet tooth than Derrick Rose, trust me: cravings gone. After eating paleo for about a month, I decided to treat myself to my all-time favorite ice cream while on a road trip. After eating a few bites, it honestly was not appealing at all. I went down as the first time in history I’ve ever thrown away ice cream. Although the first few days are really hard, you WILL feel better soon and your cravings for carbs and sugar disappear once your body gets used to not having them.
You will feel great. I noticed a drastic difference throughout the day in my energy level – I no longer had to turn to my 3 p.m. caffeine fix. My mom and sister both said they felt worse in the first week, but after, they vouched for more energy and generally feeling better. I also did crossfit almost five times per week while on the diet, so the protein helped build muscle.
You might even lose some weight. One of the best things about the paleo is that it automatically cuts out all processed and genetically-modified foods. It forces you to eat mostly lean meat and vegetables, and by setting a restriction there’s no temptation to cheat. It will also force you to eat healthy when going out. I went to Outback Steakhouse during paleo and was fine with skipping the delicious warm bread, and ordered ahi tuna with a sweet potato and veggies.
What are the down sides?
The cost! Especially if you abide by the organic veggies and free-range/grass-fed/wild caught recommendation, your grocery bill will add up. Still, non-organic options are better than anything that comes in a box. You can do a version of paleo for cheap, but it will still be more expensive than your normal diet. But can you put a price on good health!? (If you’re a college student, yes).
So. Much. Meat. One of the biggest complaints about this diet is that you incorporate meat into almost every meal. If you’re not a meat lover, paleo may not be for you. Add to that the fact that if you’re not careful, you could be consuming too much fatty meat. I found myself buying skirt steak (I never eat red meat), turkey jerky and a LOT of turkey burgers, when normally I would only eat chicken and fish.
Little satiating fiber. Without filling fiber in grains, you might not feel as instantly full as you would with them. I found myself eating a lot more than usual on the diet, but it may be because I was sitting at a desk all day with only my work to keep me occupied – therefore I’d mindlessly snack on a few too many walnuts. If you normally are able to limit your food intake, the protein in meat and fiber in veggies will keep you full.
Paleo food blogs I love
SO: In my experience, the paleo diet did magical things to my cravings and made me feel great. I decided it wasn’t for me because I’m not much of a meat eater, and I felt like I overate. Not to mention the price. However, I would recommend everyone give it a try to open your eyes to the horrible things processed food does to our bodies. If anything, try cutting out ALL sugar and processed foods for two weeks – you’ll be amazed. I’d say the positives outweigh the negatives, even if you only do it for a month. As for me, I can’t be without my Greek yogurt, quinoa and oatmeal.