“So, I’ve decided to give this paleo thing a try, but what beloved foods of mine will I have to give up, and what else will I not be able to eat?”
Well my friend, the first word of advice I can give to you is to stop focusing on what you won’t be eating, and instead think about all the real, fresh and delicious foods you will be eating. You probably think that you will be eating grilled chicken breast and broccoli every day for the rest of your life, so let me assure you, that could not be further from the truth. There is such a variety of foods under the paleo rainbow that I encourage you to try and play with. Be open to try new things, and never judge a food until you try it. Who knows, your new favorite food may just be Brussels sprouts or fermented veggies!
The list below contains all of the basic, paleo-compliant foods. These basics are just the beginning and start of all the endless possibilities that you, yes you, can cook and create!
Meats: Meats are important to our diet because they are complete proteins, meaning that they contain all nine essential amino acids, which are “essential” to proper growth and function of the body. There are various types of meats I encourage you to explore, but try your best to buy grass-fed and free-range, organic meats. Buying local is a great way to get your quality meats, as the animals are most likely treated without hormones and are raised in a humane environment.
Fish: Just like meat, fish is a complete protein. While more expensive, it is a great addition to your diet. Make sure your fish is wild-caught rather than farm raised. Since fish that are farm raised are crowded together and have no room to move, they contain higher levels of antibiotics and toxins, as well as a lower percentage of the healthy nutrient, Omega 3. Also, farm raised fish just doesn’t taste as good as the fresh, wild caught fish.
Whole Eggs: Ditch the whole “high cholesterol” stereotype our society has put on eggs. Eggs are probably one of the best sources of protein not only because they are a complete protein, but because they also contain B Vitamins and Iodine, and eating the whole egg (not just the whites) is the only way to get these benefits. The best eggs to buy come from free-range chickens. Not only are they more pure and safe, but they also taste much more fresh. Still not convinced? Try reading “Eat the Yolks.”
Fruits: The obvious reason to eat fruit is that it is nature’s candy. Each different fruit has its own benefits, but the best to eat as far as nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants goes are berries. Who doesn’t love a bowl of fresh, juicy berries? Eating 3-4 servings of fruit per day is ideal for most people, but if you are diabetic and/or are trying to lose weight, you may want to watch your fruit intake a tad more.
Vegetables: Vegetables are the hardest food to get in, and even I will admit it, but they are extremely important and are a huge part of the paleo diet. If you are doing paleo right, you should be eating more vegetables than vegetarians! Our bodies need vitamins, and the best way to get them is through a variety of vegetables, not a pill. There is a huge rainbow of vegetables, each one with a different taste and texture. I love to experiment and try different vegetables, and I encourage you to do the same.
Nuts: Cashews, Almonds, walnuts, pecans, macadamias, and pistachios, are you eating them? Nuts are an awesome source of good fats, and my favorite way to eat nuts is in the form of nut butters. Do you like peanuts? Well, I’ve got some bad news for you: peanuts aren’t actually a nut, they’re a legume! I highly advise you to stay away from peanuts. Since they are a legume, they contain the same gut irritating lectins as beans do. Aside from that fact, peanuts are highly susceptible to toxins such as aflatoxin, a carcinogen that often leads to cancer. Think you’ll miss your beloved peanut butter? Try Sunbutter, which is sunflower seeds, ground into a butter. It tastes very similar to peanut butter and is a perfect replacement!
Seeds: Sunflower, hemp, flax, pumpkin, and chia seeds are little superfoods that aren’t noticed as often as their relative, the nut family. Seeds also contain protein and fiber, and each different seed has their own unique benefits.
Good fats: Erase your mind of all the bad reputations that fats have been given; good fats are essential to the human body. Fats provide proper cellular function, energy, and healthy skin and hair. The good fats you should be eating are olive oil (not for cooking!), coconut products, avocado, nuts, and seeds. Animal fats such as ghee, butter, lard, tallow, and bacon are also acceptable as long as they are from antibiotic and hormone-free sources.
Safe Starches: Carbohydrates are needed for proper energy, but choosing the right carbohydrates is key: sweet potatoes, plantains, taro and squashes are some safe starches for you carb lovers!
Sweeteners: We all need a little bit of sweetness in our life. While refined sugar is not the way to go, opt to use honey, maple syrup, and coconut palm sugar for your sugar needs. Another option is stevia, which is a no-calorie sweetener derived from the stevia plant and is completely harmless. Be careful when using stevia, as it is far sweeter than sugar and it should never be used cup-for-cup as a replacement. Use too much, and you’ll end up with a sickly sweet mess!
Grass-fed, full-fat, raw dairy: Dairy is very controversial in the paleo world. Some say it’s paleo, other say no, and even I am unsure of the right answer. I say that if you are able to tolerate it, it may not be a bad idea to include a small amount into your diet. If you are going to have your dairy, quit buying the low-fat milks and fat-free Kraft cheeses; these are not foods. The real dairy that you should be buying needs to come from grass-fed cows and should be raw and unprocessed. You won’t find this kind of dairy at your nearest Target, you will need to check out your local farmer’s markets for the best quality, fresh dairy products from cows and goats.