It’s highly unlikely that you haven’t heard about the Paleo diet by now. More and more cookbooks are lining bookshelves in stores all over the country. There are countless numbers of blogs and websites on the Internet. Articles are published nearly every day that discuss its pros and cons. The Paleo diet is not without its controversies, but it’s hard to deny that it is increasing in popularity.
At a very basic level, the Paleo diet means ditching processed foods and replacing them with whole, fresh foods. Grains, soy, dairy, refined sugars, and legumes are not allowed. This means no cereal for breakfast, no sandwiches for lunch, and no pasta for dinner.
So what’s left to eat? Well, a lot of food, actually. The Paleo diet encourages the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, high-quality meats, eggs, and healthy fats like avocados and olive oil. Still, even though Paleo followers enjoy a wide variety of food, people new to the diet don’t always know where to start. Below are a few tips and things to remember to help make your transition a little less daunting:
- Start slow. Some people find it too challenging to fully transition to eating Paleo all at once. If you are one of those people, you may find it easier to start by making one substitution per week. During the first week, replace the rice you usually eat with dinner with a serving of mixed vegetables. The next week, swap out your breakfast cereal for a couple of scrambled eggs and some avocado. Continue making small changes like these until the forbidden food groups are no longer part of your diet. Taking baby steps will make the transition a lot less overwhelming.
- Plan your meals in advance. Many people who eat Paleo cook a week’s worth of meals on Sundays and freeze them for a later day. However, if you don’t want to cook all of your meals ahead of time, you should at least plan out what you want to eat each day. This will help you stay on track if you’re tempted to order takeout or you want to munch on potato chips because you don’t know what else to eat.
- Get some exercise. Many people who eat Paleo are Crossfit athletes. There are plenty of others who are not. You don’t have to participate in strenuous activity if you are unable or unwilling to do so. Go for a walk after work, play a game of tag with your kids, or follow a gentle yoga routine. Just get your body moving. The health benefits of following a Paleo diet can only be enhanced by adding a little extra activity to your day.
- Follow the 80/20 rule. Many Paleo advocates support the 80/20 philosophy. If you are strict with your diet at least 80% of the time, you can give yourself a little bit of slack the other 20% of the time. That’s not to say that you can eat an entire pizza or a whole carton of ice cream once a week just because you feel like it. But if you want to indulge in a small treat once in a while, it's okay to do so. Just make sure you get back to your diet plan at the next meal.
- Eating Paleo isn’t an exact science. Not all Paleo eaters eat the same food all the time. This diet is all about figuring out which foods make you feel your best. For example, you may feel better eating a higher amount of carbs from foods like sweet potatoes even though someone else feels better eating fewer carbs. Don’t be afraid to experiment until you find what works for you. You’ll be much happier and more successful this way.
Like any other lifestyle change, switching to a Paleo diet requires some planning and a little bit of effort. But it doesn’t have to be a difficult transition. Following the tips above will help make the transition more manageable and ensure you remain successful for the long term.